When you think of winter, do you immediately think of snow tires and protecting yourself from wet and icy roads? Most people do. But what about your home? Most people take great care winterizing their cars — tires, anti-freeze, wiper fluid, flashlights and blankets. How many give the same consideration to their houses? Poorly winterized homes can be a source of both property and liability claims unless they are brought up to par before the first snowflake falls.
Follow the winterizing hints below to make sure your coverage is adequate — just in case — and to minimize the risk of a wintertime claim:
WINTER INSURANCE CHECKLIST
- Is your Homeowners coverage sufficient? If your house was recently upgraded, maybe not.
- What about your vacation property? What if someone visits it in your absence and is injured? Do you have enough coverage for damage that might result while it is unattended all winter?
- What about your snowmobile? Some very powerful snowmobiles require insurance above and beyond what most homeowners think about.
- Taking a winter vacation that requires expensive items — jewelry for that trip to Europe, skis for Aspen? Be sure your personal property endorsements measure up.
- What about your college student? If he or she is renting off-campus, think about Liability insurance for that dwelling also, as well as all the winter hazards that apply to the family home.
Once you’ve got your insurance needs squared away, think about minimizing wintertime hassles, and avoiding needless claims that are easily prevented.
WINTERIZING CHECKLIST FOR YOUR HOME
- Remember your vacation home! Make sure all pipes are drained and the toilet empty so expanding ice cannot crack the porcelain.
- Check for dirty filters in all your heating systems; clean or replace filters before turning the systems on. Make sure your units have been professionally serviced. Consider installing both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Check your storm windows and doors before installing them. Cracked gaskets? Get them fixed. Cracked glass? Ditto.
- Remove or cover and seal window or through-the-wall air conditioners until spring.
- Check the sidewalk in front of your house and all walkways and handrails to make sure they are in good repair; maneuvering through winter is difficult enough without having to step gingerly on broken pavement or to remember not to grasp shaky handrails. Plus, having everything in good repair might help limit your liability in the event of a mishap.
- Make sure your snow blower and other snow removal equipment is in working order. Line up neighborhood help to clean your walks if you are unable to clear public sidewalks as soon as snow hits. Having cleared walkways will help ensure no one is seriously injured on your property by winter weather conditions.
- Check around windows and doors for cracks. Have a contractor repair cracks and gaps, or, if they’re small, fill them in with caulk.
- Before the first freeze, remove leaves, acorns, sticks and debris from gutters so heavy winter rains and snow melt off can flow freely and not damage your roof or walls. While you’re at it, you might install gutter guards to keep all that garbage from getting into the gutters next year.
- Survey your plantings. Trim trees if ice- or snow-covered branches would endanger any part of your house or cars. Consider the walkway, too, so pedestrians will not risk injury walking in front of your house during or after a storm.
- Check the insulation in attics, basements and crawl spaces. Too much heat escaping can cause ice and snow to melt too fast to be carried away efficiently. If the melt off seeps into the roofing, it can cause damage or collapse. If the insulation in your basement or crawl space is sufficient for your climate, you can also 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, keep interiors at 65 degrees or more. Pipes run though the walls, which can be a lot colder than the air in the rooms. Letting indoor temperatures drop below 65 degrees could risk pipes freezing behind those 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.