Maintenance tips, page 2

Bush fires

Home Maintenance Tips CoverIf you live in an area where bush fire or grass fires are a danger, you should contact your local fire authority for advice on keeping your home, as well as yourself, safe.

Use the following checklist to help minimise fire risk:

  • Keep ground fuels, such as long, dry grass, dead leaves, branches and thick undergrowth, cleared from around the house;
  • Make sure gutters are clean of leaves and sticks;
  • Roofs should be firmly fixed and free of dry leaves and sticks;
  • Prepare a fire break around your house. For example, a well maintained lawn can act as a good fire break;
  • Install screens and shutters on windows and doors and, if possible, enclose sub floor spaces;
  • Remove flammable items from around the house including woodpiles and other items such as paper, boxes, crates, hanging baskets and wooden garden furniture;
  • Keep propane gas tanks vented and well away from the house;
  • Inflammables such as petrol should not be stored in breach of local authority limits and must be in proper containers;
  • Make sure your fire brigade's telephone number is kept near your telephone.

Check water supplies and fire fighting equipment

  • Ensure hoses are long enough to reach all sides of the house when attached to the tap;
  • Use heavy duty hoses with wide spray nozzles;
  • During a fire, mains water could be in high demand. It is advisable to reserve water supplies from a tank, dam or swimming pool. Try to store water in the winter months;
  • Fit gate valves to water tanks and to portable pumps. These valves should be compatible with equipment used by the fire brigade;
  • Check portable petrol and diesel pumps regularly to make sure they start easily;
  • Install a sprinkler system in your garden.

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Gas and electrical

Make sure your utility services are in good order and report gas leaks immediately to your gas supplier. Electrical fuses or light globes that blow regularly could indicate a wiring problem that needs fixing. In older homes, deteriorating insulation can create danger for electrical wiring. Check when replacing light fittings for any sign of disintegrating insulation.

If you are renovating, ensure new wiring is installed so that extra appliances don't overload the existing system. If your home is old, you should also have the wiring checked to ensure it complies with current regulations.

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Sanitary fittings and water pipes

Galvanised iron water pipes are common in many older homes and have a limited lifespan. If your water pressure drops significantly, it could be a warning sign that your pipes need replacing. All pipes over 25 years old should be checked regularly for signs of deterioration. A pressure test can be undertaken by your plumber to confirm leaking pipes.

Leaking shower recesses cause rot and other structural damage so take a close look for any signs of cracking in wall or floor tiles. Tile grout that is in poor condition will also allow water tot pass through the recess, and fix cracked shower screens and leaks around the screen will also need fixing.

Musty smells or dampness anywhere in your house need to be checked. Take a look under the floor for leaks or ponding as your insurance policy may not cover damage that occurs from a fault being left unattended.

To prevent damage from a burst hose, dishwashers should be connected to the water service with solid copper pipe rather than a rubber hose. If your dishwasher is connected with a hose, check it every few years for signs of deterioration.


Pool owners must take special safety precautions. The pool area must be properly fenced with child proof locks, and gates must never be left propped open. Also ensure anything that could be used to climb over the fence is kept stored away. Children must never be left unattended while using or playing near the pool.

Patios and steps

Take simple steps to make sure paved areas are maintained to prevent slips or falls. Trim overhanging trees and shrubs, and regularly sweep rubbish from pathways. Drain surface water to prevent pooling.


Glass in doors and windows should comply with impact safety requirements to help prevent injuries should someone fall through. Clear glass should be marked with a motif or other decorative treatment so the glass is visible.

Prevent glass fractures in the shower by ensuring hot water doesn't run directly onto a glass shower screen. This is particularly important when the glass is cold.

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Is your house unoccupied?

Protect your home from thieves and vandals if you are leaving it unoccupied. Notify your neighbours that you will be away and give them your contact details in case of an emergency. Arrange for your garden to be maintained and make sure all mail is redirected and your newspapers and milk cancelled.

Ask a neighbour to clear junk mail from your letterbox and notify the police that you will be out of town. Check that all doors and windows are securely locked and shut off the utility services at the main switch.

If your home is unoccupied for more than 60 days, you must normally notify your insurance company.

Help with maintenance

Need help or advice with property maintenance or referrals to reliable tradespeople? The Veterans' Home Maintenance Helpline is a toll free information and referral service with experienced operators at the other end to link you to reliable sources of help and advice on all home maintenance matters - from changing a fuse to installing a new bathroom.

Helpline can also arrange inspections to identify current or future maintenance problems and where possible, it will link you to Government subsidised services.

Call 1800 80 1945 for information. Property maintenance and home inspection advice is available during business hours, while advice on property emergencies is available 24 hours a day.

Helpline advice is free, but charges apply for any work undertaken by tradespeople including call out fees. The Helpline does not give financial or legal advice, nor is it able to answer questions about pensions or other Veterans' Affairs matters.

Contact your local Defence Service Homes Insurance office on our toll-free number from anywhere in Australia on 1300 552 662 or write to the addresses listed on our contacts page for more information.

Home maintenance helpline

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