Winter storms are in full effect, and one bad storm could cause serious damage to your home. Snowstorms and winter weather can cause large insurance claims, especially for houses that aren’t fully prepared against the strength of Jack Frost. Here are some tips to help you prepare your home for winter and help you reduce the chances of structural and property damage from water, wind, snow, ice, and more, while also keeping your family safe, warm, and healthy.
Winterize your house.
Just a few minor changes to your home before a storm can help you better prepare for the winter months full of storms and cold temperatures. Some ways to get your home winter-ready:
- Clean your gutters to prevent ice dams.
- Add extensions to your downspouts to ensure you don’t get pools of snow and ice along the foundation of your home.
- Ensure your roof is in good condition. If it looks like there are any missing or cracked shingles, water spots, or other areas of wear and tear, call a roofer for a consultation. Your roof is one of your greatest defenses against snow, so make sure it’s strong and sturdy.
- Weatherstrip all windows and doors. If you can see light through cracks or feel any air moving near windows or doors, they need to be sealed or resealed to prevent wind and snow from coming in.
- Clean your chimney. Once it’s clean, inspect it for any damage or openings. Snow and ice can easily fall down the chimney and cause water damage in your home if there are any cracks in or around your chimney. If inspecting your chimney is beyond your skillset (and it is for many of us!), you may want to call in a professional chimney sweep to make sure your fireplace is in tip-top shape.
- Insulate the walls and attics. You want to make sure you’re not losing any heat, both to keep your heating bill down and also to ensure your home is warm enough to prevent freezing, burst pipes, and other potential damage. You can try insulating the attic yourself with the right DIY gear or call in a professional. (Remember, heat rises, so leaks in your attic could radically increase your gas bill.)
Get a generator.
If you live in an area that tends to lose power due to high winds, rains, storms, flooding, or because of location, a reliable generator is a worthwhile investment. Not only will it let you have some power during major power outages (some lasting even days), but it can also help prevent your pipes from bursting from the cold, your fridge and freezer food from spoiling, and even your house from being burglarized (because thieves are drawn to dark houses). Because of these awesome benefits, some insurance companies may even consider a generator as a safety asset that could make you eligible for a discount on your home insurance premiums.
Note: Do not use a gas generator indoors. Either install a generator outside or get a portable generator made specifically for interior use.
Create a winter home emergency kit.
The last thing you want is to get stuck inside in the cold without power… and without all your emergency gear on you. Along with your regular emergency kit, you’ll want some winter-specific items like blankets and an indoor shovel in case you get snowed in. Keep this kit easily accessible in the case that the power goes off and you’re rummaging in the dark looking for it.
Here are some items to put in your winter emergency kit:
- 3+ gallons of water
- Non-perishable food items
- Blankets (lots of them!)
- First-aid kit supplies
- Hypothermia and frostbite care guidelines (see these helpful guidelines from MayoClinc)
- Battery-operated NOAA weather radio
- Batteries (charge up external batteries before an incoming storm)
- Flashlights and lanterns
- Sand or ice melt (for icy surfaces)
This winter storm safety checklist from the Red Cross lists the supplies and info you need in the case of an incoming storm. It might seem like overkill, but you never know if it could save your life.
Cut back the trees around your home.
One winter insurance claim we see is a tree falling into your home. This is not only a serious safety hazard, but it can also do massive damage to your structure and property. Unfortunately, winter storms with powerful winds and heavy snowfalls are notorious for knocking trees down—much to the dismay of surrounding homes, structures, and cars.
The best way to prevent falling trees or branches is to have an arbor specialist take a look at your yard. They’ll be able to determine which trees are dead or dying and are at the greatest risk of being knocked over. They can also safely cut back any branches that are near your home.
A tree trimming could end up being a lifesaver for your family—and your budget. We know a situation where a huge tree from a client’s backyard fell right through their roof and into their kitchen, destroying their kitchen sink, counters, roof, walls, and deck. Worse yet, it was during a snowstorm, and snow kept falling into their house causing even more damage. You can bet they had a tree expert come out the following week to take a look at all the other trees in their yard to prevent that from happening again.
Check your smoke and CO detectors.
During a winter storm, your house is probably locked and sealed, keeping you and your loved ones safe inside. However, if you’re locked in long enough, you could be at a higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or accidental fire (especially if you’re using candles in a power outage instead of battery-operated lights). Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and are working properly. This could literally save your life—and your entire home—in the case of smoke or CO2 issues during a prolonged winter storm.
Know what your home insurance covers.
When it comes to storm damage, you want to understand what your homeowners insurance covers to make sure you have the right protection in place for winter weather. Most standard policies will cover the basics, but you will likely need to purchase flood insurance separately, for example. You may also need to raise your limits on certain coverages to ensure your entire structure and all of your belongings are fully covered.
Most damage from winter storms, like burst pipes and even spoiled food in your fridge, can be covered under your homeowners insurance… with an important caveat being these damages did not occur due to homeowner negligence. That means you need to take certain steps to ensure you’re preparing and maintaining your home against the potential dangers of a winter storm, otherwise your insurance may not cover any incidents. For example, if you didn’t keep your house warm enough and a pipe burst, your insurance may not cover any damages because it was caused by neglecting to heat your house. You are responsible for your home first and foremost, so take a few extra steps to show your home some love before a winter storm rolls through.
Note: Don’t forget about liability insurance. You could be responsible for medical bills (and more) if a delivery person slipped on an icy walk, or an icicle fell from your roof and hit your guest on the head, or if someone is shoveling your walkway and they hurt their wrist. There are a lot of winter liability risks to be aware of, especially during a storm, so make sure you’re not skimping on your personal liability limits. Find out if you have enough liability insurance here.
Are you ready for a winter storm? Is your home sealed with all the essentials? Does your home insurance have adequate limits to protect you? If you’re not confident about the answer to these questions, reach out to one of our licensed agents at (844) 824-2887
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