Insurer Zurich says residential outbuilding fires rose by 16% last year compared with 2019.
Trendy neighbours may have bought fire pits and pizza ovens during lockdown, or worked from home in a shoffice – but the risk of an expensive blaze grew.
Insurer Zurich has warned that outbuilding fires – in sheds, garages and conservatories – rose by 16% last year compared with 2019.
It said the popularity of conversions to home offices, gyms and domestic drinks bars increased the fire risk.
Three-quarters of areas in the UK recorded more fires, the data shows.
Phil Ost, from Zurich, said: “Aside from storing gardening tools, our sheds and garages have become a haven to escape the stresses of family life and for others, a place to work.”
“But as they take refuge in their garden sheds and garages, it appears to have sparked a rise in accidental blazes.”
In April, a survey by another insurer, Aviva, suggested that one in 10 of those asked worked from a converted shed, garage or summerhouse – a proportion expected to rise to 13%.
The popularity of so-called shoffices has risen, with some people spending significant sums for a luxury cabin.
The word garage also become the most popular search item on property website Rightmove, and planning applications to convert them rose sharply.
However, analysts said some people risked invalidating their insurance if they failed to inform their insurer about a new line of work, if it created extra risks.
While some insurers have allowed people setting up in business at home to extend their cover at no extra cost, some people may need to buy new policies or pay larger premiums owing to the extra risk.
There is also the risk that expensive equipment might bust insurance limits in existing policies if stolen or damaged.
Electrical equipment, as well as popular lockdown purchases such as pizza ovens and fire pits, added to the existing fire risks created in gardens by mowers, barbecues, and paint thinners.
Data collected by Zurich from UK fire authorities showed that there were 3,681 residential outbuilding fires recorded in 2020, compared with 3,170 the year before.
Warnings have also been issued about property moved to self-storage units while people are working from home.
Some warehouses have gone up in flames, with devastated customers speaking of how they have been unable to replace their lost belongings.
Stuart Bensusan, from insurance specialist Surewise, said: “It highlights the importance of thoroughly vetting any storage facility you use and taking the necessary steps to protect your possessions while they are in it.”
“Many consumers have complete faith in storage units, and unfortunately it simply never crosses their minds that something might happen to their unit, or the whole building. This leads to many customers being under-insured or worse having no insurance cover at all.”
Many storage unit operators offer insurance, but customers may shop around for cheaper deals, and some may have cover included through their home insurance policy.