With the winter season well underway and some cities like Minneapolis, Detroit, New York City, Boston, Milwaukee getting pretty harsh winters, homeowners should take some basic steps to protect their homes from weather-related damage. If you sometimes wonder why you should do anything if you already have insurance, consider the fact that you still have a hefty deductible in case of damage. Additionally, a lack of basic preventative measures on your part may actually end up causing your claim to be denied. Lastly, not all weather-related damages are covered by your home insurance policy. Instead of taking chances with your most important asset, follow a few simple steps to winterize your home and prevent damage from occurring in the first place.
The main thing to do when preparing your home for the winter is to actually keep winter outside. That means you need to ensure that any potential entry points for rain, wind, and snow are properly sealed to prevent unwanted intrusion. While the home insurance policy will cover damage to your home that is caused by windstorm or hail, it will not cover your personal property from the same peril unless the sheer force of the wind or hail damages your home and forces its way in. If it’s a matter of cracks and gradual intrusion or seepage over time, your policy will deny coverage for any damage to personal property. In addition to the property damage issues, keeping the winter weather outside will also go a long way to reducing your heating expenses. The U.S. Department of Energy provides good information on detecting and sealing air leaks.
After ensuring your home is properly sealed, you should give your heating system the once-over. Waiting until the first large storm to find out that your heating system is not functioning properly can mean some very chilly nights. It’s important to make any necessary repairs prior to a system malfunction. Also keep in mind that damage caused by continual or repeated leaking or seepage of water from your heating system will not be covered by your home insurance policy.
If you plan on using your fireplace during the winter for some added warmth and atmosphere, be sure to have the chimney inspected and cleaned as necessary. Creosote deposits inside your chimney can catch fire and spread to other parts of your home, placing your entire house and family at risk. You also need to make sure that your flue is working properly to prevent any carbon monoxide from accumulating within the house.
While a collapse of your roof from the weight of snow or ice is covered by your home insurance policy, damage to most other parts of your home is not covered. For example, if your swimming pool, hot tub, patio, deck, and other structures are damaged as a result of the weight of snow or ice, the home insurance policy will specifically exclude coverage. Therefore, you must remain diligent throughout the winter to prevent an over accumulation that will result in uncovered damages. Additionally, even though damage to your roof is covered, it’s certainly not good practice to allow too much snow and ice to build up. After all, would you prefer to deal with an insurance claim and a collapsed roof or would you rather avoid the damage in the first place?