When the first Covid lockdown hit, workers in Britain chose to turn their hangars into offices – ‘shoffices’ – and bars, but the trend led to an increase in outbuilding fires.
Data from insurer Zurich’s access to information requests revealed that fires in hangars, garages and verandas increased by 16% in 2020 compared to the previous year.
The increase has been attributed to the popularity of converting residential outbuildings into offices, bars and home gyms. Planning requests for garage conversions have increased by a quarter over the past year as people increasingly work from home and spend more time indoors.
In April, a poll by another insurer, Aviva, suggested that one in ten respondents worked in a converted shed, garage or summer house. More and more people are willing to pay for expensive conversions to luxury sheds, as the word “garage” has become the most popular search item on the Rightmove real estate website. In addition, pan applications to convert them have greatly increased.
Phil Ost, Head of Personal Lines in Zurich, said: “In addition to storing gardening tools, our sheds and garages have become a refuge from the stress of family life and for others a place of work.
“Homeowners across the country have converted outbuildings into everything from bars and yoga studios to gyms and offices.
“But as the British take refuge in their garden sheds and garages, it appears to have sparked an increase in accidental fires. “
The largest increases in outbuilding fires, in the 33 of the 45 UK regions that responded to demand for FoI, were recorded in Lancashire, with an increase of 58%, and in Lincolnshire, at 50% .
Ost said: “Likewise, the huge increase in the number of people buying pizza ovens and fireplaces, which carry a fire hazard if not extinguished properly, could also explain the surge in outbuildings leaving. in smoke. “
During the first lockdown, fireplaces and pizza ovens also gained in popularity, adding to the existing fire hazards created in gardens by mowers, barbecues and paint thinners. Outdoor pizza oven sales also increased 306% year-on-year from March to April 2020.
Warnings have also been issued of goods being moved to self-storage units while people are working from home, with some warehouses set on fire.
Stuart Bensusan, of insurance specialist Surewise, told the BBC: “This underlines the importance of carefully monitoring any storage facility you use and taking the necessary steps to protect your belongings while they are there. find.
“Many consumers have complete confidence in storage units and unfortunately they just never think that something could happen to their unit or the whole building. This leads many clients to be underinsured or, even worse, to have no insurance coverage. “
Many storage unit operators offer insurance, but customers may look for cheaper deals, and some may have coverage included in their home insurance policy.