“Why are my walls sticky?”: The strange but common concerns of British householders

A study by London home maintenance firm Aspect has revealed the kind of home maintenance problems that have prompted people in the UK to seek answers from the internet. It seems that they include why their shower was making them ill, why their electrics smell of fish and why their toilet seat is turning purple.

The team compiled their findings by monitoring Google’s autocomplete suggestions, which are based on previously entered search terms between 6 and 13 January.

Those living in larger houses are mainly concerned about what its value is, whereas people living in smaller properties tend to be concerned with 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?" A few were more like laments than actual questions, such as "my apartment smells like onions".

When it comes to structural questions, these varied from "Is my roof safe to walk on?" and "Why are my walls wet?" to "Is my floor sinking?" But these were relatively sensible when compared with "Is my ceiling supposed to wobble?", "Why are my walls sticky?" and the alarming "Is my floor going to collapse?"

A major area of concern is electrical safety – understandably enough, given that, along with boilers, this is one of the domestic systems that can pose a danger to life. People inquired into why their electrical system smelled of fish, whether their fuse box was legal and if it was, why was it clicking?

Plumbing is another mysterious area. Alongside the questions that most of us have had at one time or another – "Is my boiler pressure too high?" – Aspect’s researchers noted "Why are my taps vibrating?", Why is my bathwater green? and "Why are my drains gurgling?"

When it comes to bathroom fixtures and fittings, it seems that people are having surprisingly surreal experiences, including toilet seats turning purple and sinks yellow.

The question of purple toilet seats is tackled by Aspects experts. They say: "Nobody really knows why, but pregnant women sometimes find their toilet seat turns a purple or blue colour. It’s also been speculated that some medications can cause the skin to leave a blue or 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."

Nick Bizley, Aspect’s director of operations, commented: "Although some of the queries are quite obscure, it’s a positive sign that we’re so curious about our homes and what makes them tick. As long as people take the relevant health and safety precautions – especially concerning ladders and tools – and they don’t tackle any tasks that involve safety regulations, like gas or electric work, it can be extremely rewarding to figure out and fix our own home maintenance problems. There’s a lot of great advice online to help with this too.

"It’s also a good sign that so many of the queries – such as "is my roof safe to walk on?" or "are my windows energy efficient?" suggest that the UK has a healthy curiosity about safety and energy efficiency."

Image: Aspect’s home maintenance infographic

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  1. “Is my floor going to collapse? sounds like a perfectly valid question to ask to me if you’ve noticed something wrong with it.

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