When preparing for winter’s arrival, most people immediately think of snow tires and protection from wet and icy roads. But what about your home? Although you may take great care in winterizing your car with snow-tires, anti-freeze, wiper fluid, flashlights and blankets, what kind of prevention have you taken regarding your house? If your home is not properly winterized, it can easily become a source of both property and liability claims. Take steps to bring your home up to par before the first snowflake falls.
First, make sure your coverage is adequate to minimize the risk of a wintertime claim:
Winter Insurance Checklist
- · Is your homeowner’s coverage sufficient? If your house was recently upgraded, it may not be.
- · Is your vacation property coverage adequate? What if someone uses the property in your absence and is injured? Will your coverage pay for damage that may occur while it is unattended all winter?
- · Do you own a snowmobile? Many high-end snowmobiles require insurance above and beyond what most homeowners think about.
- · Are you planning a winter vacation that requires expensive items such as fine jewelry for a trip to France, or snow skis and equipment for Vail? Be sure your personal property endorsements measure up.
- · How about your college student? Is he renting an off-campus town home? If so, you should think about liability insurance for that dwelling, as well as all the winter hazards that apply to the family home.
Next, think about minimizing wintertime hassles, and avoiding needless claims that can be easily avoided.
Winterizing Checklist for Your Home
- · Take time to clean or replace heating filters before turning the systems on. Make sure your units have been professionally serviced. If you don’t have smoke alarms, install them now. You may also want to consider carbon monoxide alarms.
- · Inspect storm doors and windows. Cracked gaskets or cracked glass? Make the repairs.
- · Remove or cover and seal window air conditioning units until spring.
- · Examine the sidewalk in front of your house and all walkways and handrails to make certain they are in good repair. Maneuvering through snow and ice is hard enough without having to step gingerly on broken pavement or to remember not to grasp shaky handrails. Also, having everything in good repair may help limit your liability in the event of a mishap.
- · Is your snow blower and other snow removal equipment in good working order? Hire neighborhood help to clear your walkways if you are unable to do it yourself. Keeping walkways clear will help ensure that no one is seriously injured on your property by winter weather conditions.
- · Check around doors and windows for cracks. If you find small gaps, fill them in with caulk. Consider hiring a contractor if bigger problems surface.
- · Remove leaves, acorns, sticks and other debris from gutters before the first freeze. This will ensure that heavy winter rains and snow melt can flow freely and not damage your roof or walls. You may also wish to install gutter guards to keep all that debris from getting into the gutters next year.
- · Survey your plantings. If snow covered branches would endanger any part of your house or cars, trim them back. Consider the walkway, too, so pedestrians will not risk injury while walking in front of your house during or after a storm.
- · Examine the insulation in attics, crawl spaces, and basements. If too much heat is escaping, it can cause ice and snow to melt too quickly to be properly carried away. If the melt off seeps into the roofing, it can cause significant damage or even collapse. If the insulation in your basement or crawl space is sufficient for your climate, you can avoid the inconvenience and damage of frozen or burst pipes. In unfinished spaces with pipes running through them, such as garages, wrap the pipes with heating tape.
- · During the winter, set interior temperatures to at least 65 degrees. Letting indoor temperatures drop below 65 degrees could risk pipes freezing behind the walls.
- · Learn where shut-off valves are for all plumbing. Include both the valves within each room and the main valve. If your pipes do freeze, the more quickly you turn off the water, the less chance of pipes bursting.
- · And last but not least, take similar precautions with your vacation home. Make sure all pipes are drained and the toilet empty so expanding ice cannot crack the porcelain.
Where winterizing your home is concerned, the effort to prevent problems before they occur is well worth the expense!