As the season shifts from fall to winter – whether you own or rent - it’s a good time to make sure your home is prepared and protected against the elements.

Common winter home calamities

Accidents, property damage, and injuries occur no matter how cold it is. Winter storms caused an estimated $1 billion in insured losses in 2016. Here are a few of the most common weather-related risks:

  • Heavy rainfall. This can cause roof leaks and water and sewer backups. Install a sump pump with a battery backup and backflow valves on toilets, drains, and sewer connections.
  • Heavy snowfalls and ice storms. These can damage roofs and clog gutters which may lead to ice dams, water intrusion, and mold. Trim weakened tree branches that could snap under the weight of dense snow or ice, and remove snow buildup from roofs to avoid leaks and ice dams.
  • Wood-burning stove and fireplace. Buildups in chimneys and stovepipes can lead to structure fires. Clean out your stove or fireplace before each use, have your chimney inspected and cleaned on an annual basis to ensure all parts are in working order. Consider an annual check-up on your home furnace to make sure it is functioning properly.
  • Unchecked ice build-up on sidewalks, driveways, and exterior stairs. These can lead to medical and negligence claims. Regularly shovel and salt these areas, add handrails to staircases, and install exterior lighting to improve visibility.
  • Wrongly-placed and overloaded Christmas trees. These can contribute to house fires and serious injuries. Place trees on a level surface to prevent tipping, don’t use light strings with frayed wires or broken sockets, and keep trees away from fireplaces, space heaters, and candles.
  • Exposed pipes. These could freeze and burst causing extensive water damage within the home. Consider wrapping exposed pipes with insulation, seal cracks and holes leading into your home, and turn off external water faucets during the winter months. For homes in extreme climates, consider turning off the water supply to outdoor water spigots.

Insurance factors to consider

Regularly reviewing your insurance policy to ensure you have the coverage you need is critical to protecting what you value most. In some cases, making simple changes around your house or apartment could qualify you for additional discounts from your insurer.

  • Have you put on a new roof, installed new windows, or done other home remodeling? Construction and materials costs continue to rise, and it’s important to ensure these additions are reflected in your level of coverage.
  • Do you store a boat, RV, or other property at a location away from your home? Similar to a landlord’s policy, the facility may cover the structure and not your possessions, so verify what they cover. Check to see if your homeowners insurance covers off-site storage or whether you will need a separate policy.
  • Adding fire-prevention devices could save you money on your insurance. Place a smoke alarm outside of each bedroom, test them monthly, and change the batteries every year. (Tip: Tie this activity into a specific date each year so you’ll always remember.) Also, place fire extinguishers near fireplaces and in your kitchen, and ensure everyone in the household knows how to use them.

What you can do

  • Complete an updated home inventory so you have a better idea of your possessions and their value.
  • Contact your insurance agent to review your current coverage and ensure it has kept pace with the changes in your life. Also consider bundling your auto and homeowners/renters insurance with the same insurance company to take advantage of multi-policy discounts.

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