If you’ve ever wondered if your shower was making you ill, why your electrics smell of fish or why your toilet seat was turning purple, you’re not alone. Lots of people have the same questions.

While they may sound like odd things to ponder, they’re actually some of the most commonly asked home maintenance questions in the UK, according to a new study.

Experts at London home maintenance firm Aspect analysed Google search data from the past year to discover the issues that cause the most concern (and confusion) to UK residents. The results revealed home maintenance problems ranging from the unusual to the frankly bizarre concerns.

The research also revealed that the type of concerns people have about their home depend a lot on the kind of property they live in. People living in houses typically made searches related to the specifics of home ownership, such as “why is my house not selling?”, “is my house listed?” and “is my house in a conservation area?”

But people living in smaller properties tended to be concerned with ongoing maintenance issues.. The most commonly entered searches for people living in flats were “my flat is so cold”, “is my flat making me ill?” and “why is my flat so dusty?”. People living in apartments searched for “my apartment smells like onions”, “why is my apartment so cold?” and “is my apartment making me sick?”

As far as the maintenance issues go, the questions suggest that the average UK resident has a healthy curiosity in the condition of their home. Here’s a list of some of the questions posed with some answers that might help resolve these issues.

Your Roof…

Is my roof slate or tile?

You can typically tell the difference by looking at your roof; slates are normally grey-green and rectangular, fitting adjacently. Tile roofs may be red or brown and can come in a range of different shapes. Tiles typically overlap, whereas slates don’t.

Is my roof leaking?

Signs that your roof is leaking include discolouration to the ceiling and walls on the top floor or in the loft, damp around the upper parts of walls and of course any signs of dripping.

Does my roof have asbestos?

Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1985, so if your house was built after then it’s unlikely, although asbestos cement was used up until 1999. It’s hard to tell with a visual examination as asbestos is contained within insulation tiles. Always seek professional advice and NEVER attempt to remove asbestos yourself.

Is my house suitable for solar?

Assuming your roof faces south, possibly. The ideal pitch angle for a roof to house solar panels is between 10 and 60 degrees.

Is my roof leaking or is it condensation?

A leak will usually be a consistent flow of water, triggered by rainfall or ice and snow. Condensation forms in your loft or attic space when moist air is trapped by your insulation.
covered by insurance? Most roofs are covered by buildings and contents policies. Always check the small print.

Is my roof suitable for solar panels?

See above

Is my house south facing?

A quick way to check this is to look at your home on Google Maps.

Is my roof strong enough to walk on?

It’s never worth trying to find out. Only trained professionals with the right safety gear should attempt this.

Why is my roof leaking?

There are number of reasons for a leak, including loose or damaged slates and tiles, damaged guttering, corroded or damaged roof flashings and weather damage.
covered in moss? Moss typically grows on roofs where the loft is is poorly ventilated.

Why is my roof sagging?

There are a number of reasons including; framing issues, rot, weakened beams, or extra pressure from snow.

Why is my roof green?

Damp conditions and poor ventilation can cause moss and algae to build up on your roof.

Why are my gutters dripping?

Dripping gutters could mean there are holes or cracks, a blockage, the edges aren’t sealed properly, or the fasteners have loosened.

Why are my gutters so loud?

The noise could be caused by a blockage, loose fasteners, or the downspout is sitting at the wrong angle.

Why is my guttering overflowing?

If your guttering is blocked with leaves or other debris, it can cause a blockage and water won’t flow easily. If the blockage is big enough, the gutters will completely overflow.

Your Ceiling…

Is my ceiling artex?

Artex ceilings have a white, brushstroke textured finish. They’re created with Artex, a branded surface coating for interior walls and ceilings.

Does my ceiling have asbestos?

Asbestos was added to Artex to strengthen it before it was banned in 1999. Ceilings plastered pre-1985 are likely to contain asbestos. If your house was built between 1985 and 1999 it might contain asbestos, but houses built after 2000 will be asbestos free. If you’re unsure, you should have your ceilings tested by a professional before disturbing it or replastering.

Is my ceiling going to collapse?

There are many indicators including sagging and dropping, visible cracks on the ceiling, cracking sounds, doors and windows out of alignment or unable to close, and bends in the roof support.
plaster or concrete? Even if your ceiling doesn’t look like it’s made of concrete, there could be concrete underneath the plaster. It’s best to ask an expert if you’re unsure.

Is my ceiling supposed to wobble?

No. This is a sign your ceiling could be damaged or unstable, so should be checked by a professional.

Why is my ceiling wet?

Condensation might appear if the air in a room is warm and damp. This can be prevented by improving ventilation.

Why is my ceiling leaking?

Water will follow the easiest route, so the source of a ceiling leak might not be obvious at first. There are many potential causes including plumbing problems, roof damage, an issue with the room above, and more.

Why is my ceiling cracking?

Ceiling cracks can be cosmetic or a sign of something more serious. Very fine hairline cracks are often a problem with the paint or the plastering. Other cracks are caused by problems with the roof, building structure, or foundations.

Why is my ceiling making noise?

Cracking and creaking sounds can be a sign your ceiling is unstable or under a lot of strain.

Why is my ceiling damp?

A damp ceiling could be caused by condensation, or penetrating damp from the building’s structure.

Why is my ceiling turning black?

Black stains on a ceiling may be black mould, caused by damp. This can be dangerous if left untreated, so it’s important to get a professional in to check the stains.

Your Windows…

Why are my windows wet?

Condensation on the interior glass during winter occurs when warm air touches the cold glass. Condensation between the window panes generally means the seal is damaged or has failed and needs replacing.

Why are my windows so cold?

Cold windows can simply be a result of particularly cold weather outside. A damaged seal can also let cold air in.

Why have my windows steamed up outside?

Condensation or fog on external double glazing usually isn’t a bad sign – it demonstrates your windows are doing their job and keeping the cold and damp out.

Why are my windows fogging up?

Windows will fog up on the inside if there’s a lot of moisture in a room. This is common in bathrooms and kitchens, which need to be well ventilated to let moisture out.

Are my windows FENSA registered?

You can find out if your windows are FENSA registered at fensa.org.uk/fensa-certificate

Why are my windows leaking air?

If you think your windows have become less efficient and let cold air in, a technician can test them for you and give you an accurate assessment.

Are my windows energy efficient?

The glass, space between panes, and frame materials can all affect energy efficiency. Signs of inefficient windows include seal damage, interior moisture and condensation, air leaks, and old weatherstripping.

Are my windows double-pane?

If your window has two panes of glass, it’s double-paned.

Are my windows under warranty?

You’ll need to check warranty details on your original paperwork from the company who fitted the windows.

Your Doors…

Is my door a fire door?

A fire door closes completely with no gaps, is labelled as a certified fire door, sealed tightly around the door frame, and has all hinges firmly fixed in place.

Is my door UPVC or composite?

A UPVC door is made entirely from plastic, while a composite door is made from a few different materials pressed together.

Is my door fire rated?

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) label doors with a certification. You can find the different ratings at firesafe.org.uk/fire-doors/

Does my door inswing or outswing?

An inswing door opens away from you, while an outswing door opens towards you.

Is my door hollow?

If the door’s stained, it’s likely to be solid core. A painted door is generally hollow core. Price is also a good indication, as hollow doors are cheaper to make.

Why is my door creaking?

A creaking sound will probably be coming from the hinges. The wood could have expanded or contracted, or the hinges might be out of alignment, stiff, or old.

Why is my door latch sticking?

The latch might be sticking inside the door, have become misaligned, or be completely stuck.

Why is my door not locking?

There could be a problem with the key or the lock itself. To find out for sure, a locksmith is the best person to ask.

Why is my door handle stiff?

If a door handle is sticking, it’s usually a problem with the latch jamming or being obstructed by something.

Why is my door handle loose?

The screws holding the door handle in place have probably come loose.

Why is my door hard to open?

Wood shrinks and expands in different temperatures, so the door can start sticking in the door frame.

Your Walls…

Why are my walls wet?

Condensation builds up on walls when there’s lots of moisture in the air.

Why are my walls damp?

Damp in the walls usually comes from the structure or foundations of the house.

Why are my walls black?

Black stains could be black mould, caused by damp. This can be dangerous if left untreated, so it’s important to get a professional in to check the stains.

Why are my walls cold?

Cold walls could mean your house isn’t well insulated.

Why are my walls turning yellow?

Lightly coloured alkyd paint can sometimes discolour if it doesn’t get enough light exposure.

Exposure to ammonia, cigarette smoke, and excess cooking oil can also turn light coloured walls yellow.

Why are my walls sweating?

The ‘sweat’ is probably condensation, which builds up on walls when there’s lots of moisture in the air and poor ventilation.

Why are my walls mouldy?

Mould is caused by damp in the brickwork or structure of the house. This can be dangerous if left untreated, so it’s important to get a professional in to check the stains.

Why are my walls sticky?

Cigarette smoke can build up on the walls and leave a sticky residue. More unusually, leftover wallpaper paste can sometimes reactivate and feel sticky to the touch.

Are my walls insulated?

The simplest indicator is usually how warm your house feels. If you’re spending a lot on heating but don’t feel much benefit, insulation could be an issue. A qualified professional can do more thorough tests to check your insulation.

Are my walls plaster?

If you turn the power off at the mains and unscrew a plug socket from the wall, you should be able to see what your walls have been lined with. Always ensure the electricity is switched off before doing this.

Are my walls cavity or solid?

Houses built after the 1920s usually have cavity walls. It’s also possible to tell from the pattern of the brickwork outside. Solid brick wall patterns often alternate between the long and short sides of the brick.

Are my walls asbestos?

If your house was built before 1980, it could have asbestos in the walls. Before you redecorate or renovate, ask a professional to check for asbestos.

Are my walls load-bearing?

Load-bearing walls carry the structure of the house from the roof to the foundations. This includes exterior walls and walls at right angles to the floor joists. If you’re not sure, ask an expert to check it for you.

Your Floor…

Is my floor laminate or wood?

Natural wood has a random grain that constantly changes and never repeats, while laminate is more uniform. Wood is also more easily damaged, so if there are scratches, dents, or water marks, it’s likely to be real hardwood.

Is my floor laminate or vinyl?

Vinyl is glued down in one sheet and completely synthetic, while laminate is installed in slats and uses some natural wood. Vinyl is also water resistant, while laminate can experience water damage.

Is my floor strong enough to tile?

It’s not safe to test this yourself, so you should contact a professional before installing a tiled floor.

Is my floor waxed?

If you can feel the texture of the grain when you rub your hand across the wood, it’s likely it’s waxed. To be sure, you can gently rub an area of the wood with white spirit. If there’s wax, the cloth will be slightly discoloured.

Is my floor sinking?

Some floors are naturally uneven, but any sudden changes could be a sign of subsidence.

Is my floor level?

You can test this yourself with a long spirit level.

Is my floor going to collapse?

Only a professional can definitively answer this question, but a bouncy floor, sudden unevenness, and cracking can be a bad sign.

Why is my floor so cold?

Non-carpeted flooring can be a lot colder to the touch. Even carpeted flooring can be cooler than the rest of the room as heat rises, and gaps underneath doors can create draughts.

Why is my floor damp?

Concrete is porous, so the flooring on top can sometimes let water through. Damp in the brickwork or structure of the house can be dangerous if left untreated, so it’s important to get a professional in to check your flooring if it’s persistently damp.

Why is my floor creaking?

Creaking floors are usually a problem in older houses, but not always. It’s often caused by the floorboards rubbing against the support joists underneath but can also occur when newly laid floors are fitted too tightly.

Why is my floor wet?

If there’s no obvious leak, it could be damp in the brickwork or structure of the house. This can be dangerous if left untreated, so it’s important to get a professional in to check for the source.

Why is my floor uneven?

An uneven floor is usually a result of the soil changing or foundation settling.

Your Plumbing…

Why are my taps stiff?

If a tap handle has become difficult to turn, it could be because the mechanism needs cleaning, or a part has become worn over time.

Why are my taps not working?

If you’ve ruled out a problem with United Utilities, there could be a blockage, frozen pipe, or a problem with the mechanism.

Why are my taps noisy?

A noisy tap could be a sign there’s too much pressure building up, the washer’s faulty or doesn’t fit.

Why are my taps vibrating?

There are a few potential causes, ranging from a faulty washer to pressure build-up.

Why are my taps spluttering?

A spluttering tap suggests there’s an airlock in the pipes. If it stops quickly, it’s probably because United Utilities had a local job to do. If it persists, it’s best to call a professional.

Is my tap water safe to drink?

Unless you’ve been advised against drinking it by United Utilities, your tap water is safe to drink.

Why is my tap water making me ill?

Tap water in the UK is unlikely to be making you ill. Water can, however, taste very different in different areas.

Is my tap water water recycled?

UK tap water comes fresh from underground sources, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.

Is my tap water hard or soft?

The hardness or softness of your water depends on where you live in the UK. You can find more details at scaleguard.co.uk/hard-water-areas.html

Is my tap water fluorinated?

Fluoride is found naturally in most water supplies, but water supplied to some areas of the North West have added fluoride.

Why is my sink leaking?

You need to identify where the leak comes from to find out the reason. Common causes are a faulty drain line, a loose connection, or normal wear and tear.

Why is my sink blocked?

Kitchen and bathroom sinks can become blocked fairly easily with regular use. Food, hair, soap and other debris are usually the main culprits.

Why is my sink gurgling?

Gurgling noises are usually caused by blockages or extra air in the pipes.

Why is it gurgling when I flush the toilet?

This is a sign your pipes aren’t vented properly.

Why is my sink backing up?

If your sink has a blockage, it won’t drain properly because the water can’t flow freely.

Why is my sink/bath/toilet turning yellow?

The minerals in hard water can gradually turn white sinks yellowish in colour.

Why are my drains gurgling?

Gurgling noises are usually caused by blockages or extra air in the pipes.

Why are my drains smelling?

A nasty blockage can sometimes create a bad smell, depending on what’s caught in it.

Why are my drains backed up?

A blockage can prevent water from flowing freely, so it could overflow.

Why are my drains draining slow?

A blockage can prevent water from flowing freely.

Are my drains adopted?

Your drains might be unadopted if you live on a site with multiple properties, e.g. a block of flats. You can ask your local authority to adopt the drains as long as all parties agree to pass over responsibility.

Are my drains blocked?

There are various signs of a blockage including; overflowing, water draining slowly, a bad smell, and gurgling noises.

Are my drains gurgling?

If your drain makes a noise it could be caused by a blockage or extra air in the pipes.

Where is my stopcock?

Your stopcock will probably be underneath your kitchen sink. It looks like an old fashioned metal tap.

where is the stopcock in a Victorian house? In older houses, the stopcock might be in your front or back hall. One of the best ways to find out is ask your neighbours where theirs is.

Your Heating…

Why is my central heating ticking?

Clicking or ticking noises can be caused by air bubbles trapped in the water, pipe expansion, or pipes knocking against another surface.

Why is my central heating noisy?

A noisy boiler could be ‘kettling’. This means hard water is building up and creating limescale inside the boiler.

Why are my radiators cold at the bottom?

This suggests water isn’t flowing freely through the radiators, possibly caused by a blockage or because your radiators need bleeding.

Why is my heating so loud?

A noisy boiler could be ‘kettling’. This means hard water is building up and creating limescale inside the boiler.

My heating is not hot enough?

There could be many reasons why your radiators aren’t hot enough. There could be a blockage, a problem with the pipework, or the pump.

If your radiators are hot but your house still isn’t warm enough, the problem is more likely to be poor insulation.

Is my central heating pump working?

A faulty pump can create leaks, noise, and stop your radiators from heating properly. A plumber will be able to diagnose the issue accurately.

Is my heating gravity fed?

A gravity fed boiler (also known as conventional central heating) uses gravity to heat the water. While it’s heating, cold water falls to the bottom of the heater and hot water rises to the top, until it’s all thoroughly heated.

This is a common type of boiler. If you’re unsure what you have, your original manual or order form should tell you if it’s gravity fed or not.

Why is my heating making me ill?

Central heating can cause sinus problems for some people as it dries the air in a room.

Generally speaking though, your central heating is unlikely to cause any major health problems.

Is my central heating sealed or vented?

A sealed system absorbs pressure as water in the system is heated and expands. A vented central heating system lets that pressure out.

If you’re unsure, your original manual or order form should tell you what system you have.

Is my central heating pressurised?

All central heating systems need to run at a certain pressure. You should be able to read the pressure on a dial on the front of your system.

Why is my boiler not working?

Boiler problems can be caused by low pressure, a faulty pump, a problem with the pipework, freezing pipes, or a faulty valve or thermostat. The pilot on older boilers can sometimes go out and need to be manually reignited.

Why is my boiler leaking water?

A boiler leak suggests there’s an issue with a valve or seal. This can be caused by rust, general wear and tear, or possibly structural damage.

Why is my boiler flashing I9?

Different boilers will have different reasons for a flashing light. If in doubt, check the manual for an explanation. If you can’t find your manual you can often find them by entering your boiler details online.

Why is my boiler beeping?

If your boiler is beeping, it’s probably trying to alert you to something. Check the manual to find out the possible reasons and look for error codes on the display.

Why is my boiler buzzing?

Buzzing or humming could mean different things depending on the source of the noise. A professional will be able to diagnose if it’s an issue with the boiler itself, the mechanism, or the pipework.
noisy? A quiet gurgle is usually normal, but if your boiler is persistently noisy it could suggest a fault. A professional will be able to diagnose if it’s an issue with the boiler itself, the mechanism, or the pipework.

Why is my boiler pressure high?

High pressure could be caused by too much water in the system, a fault with the pressure release, parts expanding naturally as they heat up, or an issue with another integral part.
ticking Clicking or ticking noises can be caused by air bubbles trapped in the water, pipe expansion, or pipes knocking against another surface.

Why is my boiler kettling?

This means hard water is building up and creating limescale inside the boiler.

Is my boiler gas or electric?

You can check the manual to find out.

Is my boiler compatible with Hive?

If you tell Hive, or your energy supplier, the model number, they should be able to tell you if it’s compatible.

Is my boiler Nest compatible?

If you tell Nest, or your energy supplier, the model number, they should be able to tell you if it’s compatible.

Is my boiler pressure too high?

The pressure reader on the front of your boiler should indicate the right level of pressure. If it’s pointing to numbers in the red, the pressure might be too high.

Is my boiler still under warranty?

Check your original receipt and paperwork to find out if it’s still in warranty.

Is my boiler safe?

Only a professional can tell you for sure. If it has no faults, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be safe.

Your Bath/Shower/Toilet…

Is my shower electric?

An electric shower will be separate from your main water heating system. If you’re unsure, the manual should explain what type of shower you have. If the shower head is connected to the bath taps, it’s most likely not an electric shower.

Is my shower fibreglass or acrylic?

If the shower’s surface is cold to the touch, even when the room is warm, it’s likely to be fibreglass. Acrylic will feel warm.

Why is my shower is making me sick?

If you clean your shower head regularly, it should stay relatively free of bacteria.

UK tap water comes fresh from underground sources, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, so is safe to bathe in unless United Utilities advises differently.

Is my shower drain clogged?

There are various signs of a blockage including; overflowing, water draining slowly, a bad smell, and gurgling noises.

Is my shower valve upside down?

Different sides of a valve have different functions, so an upside down valve might cause some problems. If you’re unsure, a professional will be able to check for you.

Why is my shower leaking?

There could be a problem with the shower head, the pipe leading to the shower head, or even the structure of the shower area itself. If you’re unsure, a professional will be able to find the source of the leak for you.

Why is my shower cold?

There are a few possible reasons why your shower might be running cold. If you’re getting hot water in other areas of the house, it’s probably an issue with the shower’s mechanism. If you’re not getting any hot water, it’s likely to be an issue with the boiler.

Why is my shower not working?

Water supply can be affected if United Utilities are doing a job in your area. If could also be an issue with low pressure, the valve, or a blockage.

Why is my shower so weak?

If you’re experiencing weak pressure everywhere in the house, the pump in your boiler may not be working. If it’s just the shower, there could be a blockage.

Why is my shower losing pressure?

You may be losing pressure because of a blockage, an issue with the pipework, or a problem with the boiler itself.

Why is my shower blocked?

Minerals in water can create blockages. If you haven’t checked your shower head for a while, there could be some build-up.

Why is my shower pump pulsing?

Rather than being a problem with the pump itself, it’s likely there’s a blockage making the pump work too hard.

Is my bath enamel?

Cast iron baths are usually coated in enamel to make them more comfortable. Compared to acrylic, enamel baths are heavier, harder, and scratch resistant. An iron bath makes a more resonant sound when water hits it, a plastic bath makes a duller sound.

Is my bath too hot?

If the temperature of your bath is making you sweat, feel uncomfortable, or light headed, it’s too hot.

Why is my bath water green?

Green/blue water suggests a problem with copper piping. Elevated copper levels can cause health problems, so it’s important to have this fixed by a professional as soon as possible.

Why is my bath water yellow?

There are a few reasons why your bath water could be yellow. United Utilities could have done recent repairs, rust has loosened from your pipes, or there’s iron in your water.

If this persists, you should ask a plumber to check for issues.

Why is my bath water cold?

There are a few possible reasons why your water might be running cold. If you’re getting hot water in other areas of the house, it’s probably an issue with the bath’s water supply. If you’re not getting any hot water, it’s likely to be an issue with the boiler.

Why is my bath water not draining?

A blockage can prevent water from flowing freely.

Why is my bath water brown?

Brown water suggests rust, minerals, or sediment has found its way into your bath water. This can be unsafe, so it’s important to get it checked by a professional if it persists.

Is my toilet leaking?

The source of a leak might not be immediately obvious, but if the water level is lower than usual in the bowl or the tank, there could be a leak.

Is my toilet blocked?

If your toilet is filling up rather than flushing properly, it’s likely there’s a blockage.

Is my toilet running?

A running toilet will sound like the toilet is constantly refilling with a steady stream of water.

Is my toilet flange too high?

If the flange is too high, your toilet might not be fitted properly. As a general rule it should be 1/4 of an inch above the floor.

Why is my toilet seat turning purple?

No one really knows why, but pregnant women sometimes find their toilet seat turns a purple/blue colour. It’s also been speculated that some medications can cause the skin to leave a blue/purple mark on plastic. Of course, if you’ve been wearing a new pair of jeans, it could be that the dye has stained your backside and it’s rubbed off.

Is my toilet running?

Your toilet could be running because of a fault with the flapper chain, fill tube, or float and fill valve.

Is my toilet cistern leaking?

A leaking cistern could be a sign your toilet isn’t fitted properly, the cistern is overflowing, or the toilet keeps running.

Why is my toilet seat coming loose?

If the seat is newly fitted, it might not be attached properly. If it’s been fitted for a while, normal wear and tear can loosen it.

Your Electrics…

Is my fuse box illegal?

As long as it’s never been tampered with, your fuse box should be perfectly legal. If you’re unsure, call a professional to check for you.

Why is my fuse box beeping?

A beeping fuse box is relatively unusual. If it persists, you should check with a professional.

Why is my fuse box buzzing?

Buzzing or humming could be a sign of a loose connection. Instead of investigating yourself, call a professional to check for you.

Why is my fuse box tripping?

If your fuse box trips, it’s because it’s detected a fault and has turned off the power for your own safety. If it keeps tripping, you’ll need the help of a professional.

Why is my fuse box clicking?

A clicking fuse box is relatively unusual. If it persists, you should check with a professional.

What is a consumer unit?

A consumer unit is another name for a fuse box, which controls your home’s electrical supply.

Are my electrics safe?

As long as they haven’t been tampered with or damaged, your electrics should be perfectly safe. If you have any concerns, always call a professional electrician to investigate for you.

Are my electrics earthed?

If you’re unsure whether your electrics are earthed or not, always call a professional electrician to investigate for you.

Why are my electrics buzzing?

Buzzing or humming could be a sign of a loose connection. Instead of investigating yourself, call a professional to check for you.

Why are my electrics tripping?

If your fuse box trips the lights, it’s because it’s detected a fault and has turned off the power for your own safety. If it keeps tripping, you’ll need the help of a professional.

Why do my electrics keep tripping?

If your fuse box trips the lights, it’s because it’s detected a fault and has turned off the power for your own safety. If it keeps tripping, you’ll need the help of a professional.

Why do my electrics smell of fish?

If a connection is damaged, it can start to smell a bit fishy. Always call a professional electrician to investigate for you.

Aspect was founded over a decade ago and now has well over a hundred tradesmen. The company helps thousands of Londoners every month with a variety of home maintenance problems.

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Daniel Peacock

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