Prevent losses and paperwork hassles by running interference on these common claims:
Among the costliest of the claims are burst washing machine hoses, which along with refrigerator and hot water tank leaks, account for millions in claims. Rubber hoses on many washing machines eventually leak, and water damage often goes undetected, particularly since the laundry room is usually in a low-traffic area of the house. Anytime you get water into carpeting, walls, any type of material that absorbs water, you have the makings of a catastrophic problem. Anything related to water could lead to consequential problems with mold.
Replacing rubber hoses with steel-encased hoses also eliminates the need to change rubber hoses every three years. Leaks around the tub can lead to water-saturated walls or floors, which often aren’t covered by insurance. That’s why recaulking once a year is suggested. Once you’ve cleaned out old caulk, we recommend wiping down the tub with 10 percent bleach solution to kill any mildew that’s behind it. Homeowners who neglect bathroom water seal problems typically set themselves up for pricier, more extensive fixes. A telltale sign of toilet seal leaks is water that gathers around the base, Replacing the flap at the bottom of the tank is cheap and easy.
Maintain Pipes – Wrap pipes with heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages that frequently have exposed pipes. Also, check for cracks and leaks. Have them repaired immediately to prevent much costlier repairs.
If your hot water heater is getting up there in years, it’s especially important to check for leaks and rust. Turning off the water supply valve before weekend getaways can reduce the wear and tear.
Keep the house warm – The temperature in your house should be at least 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes from freezing.
Fridge and roof leak fixes – In the kitchen, refrigerators often leak from their water-supply lines. Plastic ones also can become brittle. Inspecting metal lines for leaks and crimps and replacing damaged plastic ones can cut down on the risk.
The roof and attic should be inspected annually. Homeowners also can stave off roof leaks that result in spots on the ceiling or upturned shingles by cleaning gutters regularly and inspecting the flashing that’s used to seal penetrations such as chimneys and skylights.
Remove leaves, acorns, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming — a condition where water is unable to properly drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls. You may also consider installing “gutter guards.” Available in most hardware and home stores, gutter guards are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and direct the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
Trim trees and remove dead branches – Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break – damaging your home, car or injuring someone walking on your property.
Fire and burglary prevention – As for fire prevention, homeowners can cut the risk by rerouting electrical cords from under throw rugs and high-traffic areas. Checking for overloaded outlets and contact with baseboard heaters is also wise. Cords that are designed to connect lamps and things like that are not rated for abrasion resistance.
Checking for unattended cooking or candle fires is another no-brainer fix that’s especially important around flammable holiday decorations. One solution is to place accent candles in a fireplace.
Lastly, thieves often find garage door openers tucked away on the driver’s side visor or in the door pockets, allowing them entry into the house. Investing in a garage door opener that functions electronically similar to a key can stem that risk. Along with common sense, devices with rolling code technology can enhance security and mitigate losses.
Check heating systems – The proper use and maintenance of furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves can prevent fire and smoke damage. Have furnaces, boilers and chimneys serviced at least once a year. Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly and consider installing a carbon dioxide detector.
Consumers can prevent chimney and fireplace fires by having the debris cleaned from the flue annually and only burning dried hard wood such as oak, maple or ash. When you have a metal fireplace, they tend to burn cooler than a brick fireplace, so there’s more condensation and faster buildup of wax on chimney liner and it’s harder to clean. A common rule of thumb is to clean the fireplace once per cord of wood burned.
Make sure steps and handrails are in good shape – Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice. Make repairs now to prevent someone from falling and seriously being injured.
Get to know your plumbing – Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent the pipes from bursting.
Hire a licensed contractor – Have a professional survey your home for any structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired immediately so further damage will not occur during the winter. Also, find out about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump-pumps and other methods can prevent damage to your home and belongings.
Take special care if you plan to be away from home – If you are not going to be in your home this winter for an extended period of time, have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting. Also, hire someone to check on your home on a regular basis. If there is a problem, it can be fixed quickly — lessening any damage. Activity at your home will also reduce the likelihood that it will be burglarized.
Standard homeowners policies cover winter-related disasters such as burst pipes, ice dams, wind damage caused by weight of ice or snow.
Damage to homes caused by flooding is usually excluded from most standard homeowner policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program. Ask your insurance professional about flood insurance, as well as specific advice about winter-proofing your home.
The price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the size of your house and the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some ways to save money:
If one or two insurers turn you down, don’t despair. You do have other options. If you are buying a new home, ask the real estate agent, mortgage lender or builder for names of companies that write in your area. If it’s an existing home, find out from the previous owners who insured the house.
If you still can’t get insurance, check out the Delaware Insurance Fair Plan web site or call (800) 462-4972. Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plans were created in the 1960s to make insurance available in areas that had abnormally high exposure to risks over which they had no control. These plans are insurance pools that sell property insurance to people who can’t get coverage in the voluntary market.
FAIR Plan policies may cost more than private insurance and may offer less coverage, but they offer insurance protection where none would otherwise exist. All FAIR Plans cover losses due to fire, vandalism, riot and windstorm. About a dozen states have some form of a standard homeowners policy, which includes liability. In California, the Plan covers brush fires. Georgia and New York provide wind and hail coverage for certain coastal communities.
In order to qualify for FAIR Plan coverage, you must make improvements that limit the risk of fire, theft or water damage, such as upgrading your electrical wiring, heating or plumbing systems, repairing your roof or improving security. If you do not correct conditions that make your home prone to losses, the FAIR Plan administrator has the right to deny insurance coverage.
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