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Q&A with Handy Mac: Ceilings and home insurance

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Jane has a ceiling problem

Hi, my ceiling collapsed, so I had it replaced. Can I claim on insurance?

A: The rule of thumb regarding insurance is that you contact the company first before you get the problem fixed. The insurers might have their own preferred service providers.

Jane came home from holiday to find her ceiling on the floor of her study.

The collapsed ceiling was in an extension to the house, which is showing signs of subsidence. The extension had been built before Jane bought the house.

So first, if you are buying a home, check if alterations have been done. Are they on the approved plan and have they been built properly? Many of the queries coming into the column relate to badly built extensions.

The way in which the extension is joined to the main house is vital.

However, I did not believe that that was the cause of the ceiling collapse, so I dragged my bad back up a ladder to have a look through the trapdoor to investigate the ceiling void. I did not go further as it was immediately obvious that there was no underlay under the roof tiles – it had disintegrated and what was left was lying on parts of the ceiling that had not been replaced.

As I have said before, the underlay is not there to prevent water ingress, but is there to stop wind uplift which happens in the roof void if not sealed. In this case, the plastic underlay had failed, probably a cheap one was used and not installed properly. A strong wind then gets into the roof void, causing an uplift on the ceilings which will lead to the collapse of the ceiling.

Other areas of the extension are also showing signs of the ceiling starting to fail. I have asked Jane to monitor the ceilings when strong winds are blowing.

The moral of the story here is to investigate properly when buying a property; don’t just look at what you can see, look and ask about things you can’t see, starting with the roof void. If you don’t have the knowledge, spend money on someone who does – it could save you thousands in the long run. The company HouseCheck comes to mind.

*Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:

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