Spring can be a great time to clear out clutter and start fresh. But, while you’re organizing closets and cleaning out cabinets, don’t forget to also tackle some basic home maintenance. Just like a car, some parts of your home need regular maintenance to keep them in good working condition for years to come, especially after a rough winter. These checklists may help make it easier to tackle spring home maintenance projects.
Roof and Gutters Checklist
Rough winter weather can leave behind damage to your home’s roof or gutters and downspouts, according to HomeAdvisor. Below are a few steps you should consider taking after the ice, snow and frigid temperatures have moved on:
- Clean gutters and downspouts: Clear any debris out of your gutters that may have accumulated and ensure all the downspouts are directed away from your home. You should check for potential clogs by waiting for a rainy day or using a hose to fill the gutters and see if water exits the downspouts. If the gutters overflow, or water does not exit the spouts, you may have a clog. BobVila.com says smaller clogs may diminish after flushing the downspout with a hose, but tougher ones may require the use of other tools (such as a plumber’s snake). Taking these precautions may help you avoid water backing up towards your home and causing damage when the spring rain arrives, says the Insurance Information Institute (III).
- Check gutters for damage: Inspect your gutter system for damage, such as holes or cracks, that may have been caused by freezing and thawing of ice.
- Check for roof damage: Visually check the condition of your roof by looking for any damaged or missing shingles, says the III. It may also be a good idea to check your attic for any signs of leaks or moisture. If you find any problems, you’ll want to have them repaired — it’d also be a good idea to contact your insurance agent to see if your homeowner’s policy might help cover repairs.
Tip: Remember to use caution when working on your gutters or roof, especially if you’ll be on a ladder. If you are not comfortable inspecting and cleaning these parts of your home, contact a professional for help.
Air Conditioning System Checklist
Gear up for warmer weather with an air conditioner tune-up. Depending on where you live, you may not need to run your AC until summer hits — but it might be a good idea to get ahead by cleaning the unit and making any necessary repairs before then. Here are a few steps you should take, according to Angie’s List.
- Inspect the unit’s panels: Your air conditioner is surrounded by panels to enclose and protect its electrical system. Inspect these panels to ensure they’re still secured properly and haven’t sustained damage from harsh winter weather.
- Clear away debris: Remove leaves, twigs and other vegetation that may be on or around the air conditioning unit. You will also want to check the interior of the unit for any lawn debris that may have made it’s way inside. If not removed, debris may limit the efficiency of your AC — or even cause damage once the air conditioner is turned on, says the American Society of Home Inspectors.
- Change the air filter: The HVAC system’s air filter may have gathered debris and dust during winter. It’s a good idea to swap in a new one before you turn on your home’s A/C for the season and change it out regularly.
Tip: Although you may be able to perform some maintenance yourself, it may be a good idea to schedule a professional tune-up. They will be able to check your unit for any other potential problems and can help you with any needed repairs.
Home Exterior Maintenance Checklist
The winter season may have caused some wear and tear around the exterior of your home. Below are a few items you may want to inspect, according to HomeAdvisor:
- Siding: Take a walk around your house and look for any siding damage. Be sure to repair any pieces of siding that are extremely weathered or cracking. If you have painted wood siding, peeling or loose paint should be scraped off, sanded and repainted.
- Windows: Check for peeling or cracked caulk around the seals and repair as necessary. Repair or replace any screens that have holes to help prevent bugs from entering your home, and ensure winter wind hasn’t loosened any screens from their fasteners.
- Deck: Consider resealing your deck if it’s showing a lot of age — HomeAdvisor states that wood decks should be treated every six years at a minimum. You should also ensure there aren’t any deteriorating or loose boards.
- Foundation: If you have a brick home, inspect the mortar and see if any cracks need to be repaired. If you have a basement, inspect the walls and floor for cracks or other damage. If you can fit a nickel into any cracks, you may want to have a professional inspect the area to determine if repairs are necessary.
- Landscaping: Trim back shrubs and trees away from your home after winter has ended and throughout spring. This will help keep your home’s siding from getting scratched or damaged. It may also be a good idea to make sure landscaping is trimmed away from the home’s outdoor air conditioning unit as well, if you have one.
By setting aside time to get your home’s exterior ready for spring, you can ensure any potential issues following the winter season have been remedied — giving you more time to enjoy the new season ahead.
WITH SPRING TIME JUST AROUND THE CORNER, MELTING SNOW AND ICE WILL CAUSE HEADACHES FOR SOME. JUST SOME TIPS TO AVOID THOSE HEADACHES.
Remove large accumulations of snow from areas where it could melt and enter your home.
Shovel snow away from the perimeter of your home. Snow accumulation near your foundation, windows, and doors can leak into your home once it starts to melt. This can cause damage to your foundation and personal property, both indoors and out. Remember to clear decks, patios, and driveways that slope toward your home, too.
Clean snow and debris from ground drains and gutters.
Make sure drains near your home and gutters are unblocked. Ice and compact snow can create dams that keep water from draining. Don’t forget to clear your street storm drain of snow and debris, too.
Consider where snow will go when it melts.
The combination of melting snow plus rain can create extreme runoff conditions. When shoveling snow on your property, think about which direction it will drain when it melts. You may want to dig channels to divert water to the nearest storm drain.
Do not get on a ladder and do not attempt to climb onto your roof to remove snow.
Getting on ladders or your roof any time of year is a risky proposition, even more so when snow is involved. In extreme circumstances, if ice dams need to be removed from your gutters, call a licensed and insured professional specializing in this service.
If you see the snow melting and dropping off the edge of your roof, that’s a good sign. It indicates ice dams are probably not developing.
Know what’s covered by your insurance policy.
Not all household water damage is treated alike – freezing pipes may be assessed differently than seeping snow. Read your insurance policy carefully and call your insurance agent to determine what’s covered. They are there to help!
If you do incur damage inside your home because of melting snow, it’s important to take quick action. At the first sign of dampness inside your home, call immediately for professional help before long-term damage.
Your home is likely your most valuable asset, and a homeowners insurance policy is an important part of protecting your home and your belongings. If you have a mortgage on your home, your lender probably required you to get a homeowners policy. Even without a mortgage, homeowners insurance is still your best bet to protect your investment.
But do you even know what’s in your policy? Would you know your coverage in the event of an emergency? Are you underinsured? About two-thirds of American homes are underinsured, estimates Nationwide, some by up to 60 percent. Experts say three out of five American homes are underinsured by an average of 20 percent. Don’t wait until you file a claim to find out you either lack coverage, or are underinsured and responsible for paying a lot of money out-of-pocket.
Despite how important it is, many of us haven’t taken the time to properly review this contract, but here’s how you can finally tackle that chore.
Understand the basics of homeowners insurance
The basic job of a homeowners policy is to protect your home and possessions from certain perils, such as wind, hail, fire damage and theft. It also offers liability protection, which protects your assets from liability claims, medical expenses and other damages if people are injured on your property.
Most common types of homeowners policies
The type of home you own will usually dictate the coverage type you have. You can read more about the usual eight types of homeowners policies, but here are the three most common options:
Review the declaration page
While the majority of insurers use fairly standard forms to compile their homeowner policies, there can be differences. Each policy will spell out certain things that are covered and others that are excluded, but they can vary from company to company. The forms can vary, but in most cases, the layout of a policy is fairly consistent. The declaration page should be reviewed carefully. It summarizes your coverages, as well as your personal and home information.
Information included on the declaration page:
- Policy number
- Policy period – the period of time the policy covers
- Name and address of the policy owner
- Address of the insured premises
- Name of mortgagee – usually your mortgage company
- Coverage types and policy limits that apply to your policy
- Deductible amount for the policy
- Home-rating information
- Discounts received
- Premium amount
Give the declaration page a thorough reading. Review the personal information for errors, and check that it reflects the proper coverage levels, as well as any additional riders you may have added.
Overview of your property coverage
When it comes to homeowners coverage, you need enough insurance in the event that you need to cover the cost of the following after a disaster:
- Rebuilding the structure of your home
- Replacing your personal property
- Paying for the cost of additional living expenses (if you need to live somewhere else while your home is repaired or rebuilt)
- Covering the cost of personal liability claims
Section I coverage A – Dwelling
A homeowner policy is broken into two parts; section I details your property coverage, and section II describes the liability coverages offered by your policy.
When it comes to the structure of your home, you should carry enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home, not the market value of your house.
An insurance agent can help you determine appropriate coverage levels in your area, but here’s a quick calculation:
(Total square footage of your home) X (local per foot building costs) = Approximate coverage amount.
You can get your local costs by contacting a real estate agent or a building association. The cost of the land is not added into your calculations, but you do need to factor in current construction costs.
Also, add in the cost of any upgrades you have made (that would cost more than the average per square- foot costs) or any unique materials you have used and would want to replicate.
Section I coverage B – Personal property
In most cases, personal property coverage is a percentage of your policy limits. The majority of policies cover personal property at 50 to 70 percent of the amount of structure coverage you have.
Do a detailed home-inventory list to determine if this will be enough. High-value property, such as jewelry, art, guns and coin collections, are usually limited to $2,500. If your items exceed this amount, it’s wise to purchase a rider to up the limit on these types of items.
Section I coverage C – Loss of use
This component of a homeowners policy will pay for additional costs that you incur when it is necessary to live away from your home due to damage from a covered peril. The coverage will pay for up to 12 months of the necessary difference in living expenses required to maintain your family’s current standard of living.
For example, if you normally spend $1,000 of groceries and dining each month, but your displacement causes the grocery and dining bills to increase to $1,400, your insurance will pay the additional $400.
This coverage will vary by insurer, but most policies offer 10 percent of your home coverage with additional coverage available for a price.
Additional information in Section I
After reviewing these sections in detail, have a look at the additional information that is included.
- Additional coverage: This spells out any additional coverages that are included with a policy. Examples of these are temporary repairs, landscaping replacement amounts and even debris removal. Carefully review this section to make sure it includes everything you might need.
- Losses insured: This section spells out exactly what perils are covered, as well as any other conditions that must apply for a loss to be covered.
- Losses not insured: Review this section in detail, and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Common exclusions include mold, fungus, flooding, earth movement, acts of war/terrorism and nuclear hazard.
Section II – Liability
The liability portion of a homeowners policy protects you against lawsuits for property damage or bodily injury that you or members of your family cause to other people. Examples of this would be a guest slipping on an icy sidewalk, tripping down your stairs or being bitten by your dog.
The liability portion of your policy covers the following:
- Injured party’s medical bills
- Legal fees
- Any damages awarded to the injured party
Most homeowners policies offer a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage, but this is often not enough to cover all expenses. Industry experts recommend carrying at least $300,000 to $500,000.
If you’re in a position when you think it would be beneficial to have additional personal liability insurance, you can look into an umbrella policy. Umbrella insurance provides extra liability protection above the limits of your car and home insurance policies. It covers damage claims that you, your dependents or your pets cause to others, and it kicks in once claims exceed your home insurance and auto insurance liability limits.
Because insurance policies are written in a legal language, all homeowner policies come with a section dedicated to defining certain words. Here are just a few definitions you should be aware of when reading your policy:
Replacement cost: Not understanding this term can be an expensive oversight. This simply means that your policy pays for the full amount to replace your dwelling or property, up to a maximum dollar limit. In other words, it doesn’t matter if your TV is 15 years old, you are getting reimbursed for the cost of a brand new one.
Actual cash value: This is the flipside of replacement cost. This type of coverage takes depreciation into account when calculating your payout. This means you are getting a much smaller check for that 15-year-old TV. Actual cash value does result in lower premiums, but it could end up leaving you with a large gap between the amount of the check you receive and how it costs to refurnish your home.
Deductible: While most of us understand the concept of deductibles, homeowner policies can have specialty deductibles.
In some states the wind or hail deductible can be a percentage of your coverage instead of a set amount. As an example, a 10 percent wind deductible on a home insured for $300,000 puts the deductible at $3,000.
Insured: This spells out who is covered by your policy. If you have a pet, verify that the pet falls under this definition. This can be important if Fido bites someone, as the victim could sue. Many insurers exclude certain breeds, so verify your pet is covered.
If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to call our office (920) 388-2890. we hope this explains how to read your Homeowners Insurance Policy better.
Milder temperatures greeted New Year’s Ever revelers locally. However, the folks at the Weather Channel promise bone chilling weather during January and February.
Special challenges for home maintenance and your health come with snow and freezing weather. Take precautions for the coming cold to avoid potential problems and Homeowners Insurance claims.
As Temperatures Fall, Your Home and Health Need Extra Care
Frozen pipes, carbon monoxide, and ice dams wreak havoc during the coldest months of the year. The right counter measures can prevent headaches and claims.
Everyone likes to save energy. However, money saved keeping the thermostat low could disappear if frozen pipes burst and flood your home. Your Homeowners Insurance policy in most cases pays to fix the damage – after you pay your deductible.
When the weather dips below freezing, keep your thermostat no lower than 65 degrees. The heat and letting faucets drip keep the water in your home moving, decreasing the potential for frozen pipes.
Outside your house, you’ll want to keep walkways and downspouts clear of ice. In addition to averting falls, clearing melting ice may protect your home from exterior flooding. Water that seeps into your basement or crawl spaces generally isn’t covered by your Homeowners Insurance.
While you are outside, be mindful of your physical condition. Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Today notes that heavy snow and cold temperatures make snow shoveling one of the most strenuous winter activities. Even using a snowblower can lead to strains, sprains, and serious injury.
If you do not exercise regularly or have health conditions, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggests checking with your doctor. Hiring someone to clear your snow may be better for your health.
For those who shovel or blow snow, wear layered, water-repellent clothing. Don’t wait for the snow to pileup before clearing. Push, rather than lift snow and take frequent breaks. Again, be mindful of your physical condition and how you feel. Snow clearing is not a contest.
No matter how much snow we receive in 2019, these recommendations can keep you and your home in tip top shape. In the event you need to file a claim, know that the Novak Agency will be with you every step of the process.
Summer is near and with that comes the increased use of swimming pools. Before you jump in, make sure the pool you’re using is safe and that there are rules in place. The National Safety Council reports that 600 children and adults drown annually in swimming pools; of those, half in home pools. In addition, more than 2,000 children in that age group are treated in hospital emergency rooms for submersion injuries.
Make a slash in swimming pool safety by following these 11 tips to protect your loved ones:
- An adult who is a strong swimmer should watch children at all times
- Infant and toddler — adult in the water holding the child
- Older child — adult in the water paying constant attention and avoiding distractions like talking on the phone, texting, socializing or drinking
- Never allow a child to swim alone, regardless of their swimming ability
- Install a fence that completely surrounds the pool area to prevent children from entering on their own; fences should be climb-resistant, at least four feet high and be self-closing/self-latching
- Install an alarm on the door of your house leading to the pool and the pool gate itself to alert adults if someone is entering the pool
- Become CPR certified (check your local hospital for courses) and post instructions near the pool
- Always keep a stocked first-aid kit nearby
- Expose your children to water safety and swim lessons at a very young age (check your local recreation department, YMCA or Red Cross for class information)
- Never keep strollers or bikes near a pool
- Enforce pool rules for children and adults to follow
- “No running on the pool deck”
- “Stay away from drain covers”
- “No diving in the shallow end”
- “Always enter the pool feet first”
- Inexperienced swimmers should always wear a life jacket in the water
- For additional protection, install a power safety cover over the pool when not in use.
- Never use a pool that has missing or broken pool drain covers; if someone does become stuck to a drain, pry a hand between the person’s body and the drain to break the seal instead of trying to pull their body away from the powerful suction
Tips to Save on Home Heating Costs This Winter
It’s no secret winters in the northern Wisconsin are frigid. Keep the chill outside by following these helpful tips to reduce your energy bills without sacrificing comfort.
Make your home more energy efficient
According to the Department of Energy, making your home more energy efficient can save 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill. Just think of what you could do with that savings!
- Conduct a home energy audit — hire a professional or use the Department of Energy’s do-it-yourself energy assessment to help identify problem areas http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits
- Make sure your attic and ceilings are sufficiently insulated as heat rises and if it’s not stopped by insulation, it will escape through your roof
- Furniture should not block floor vents or radiators
- Consider installing a programmable thermostat (ideal for those away from the home for set periods throughout the week); according to energystar.gov/, proper usage can save around $180 every year in energy costs (again, more money in your pocket!)
- If you have a wood fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when it’s not in use
- When purchasing new appliances, consider ones with energy star label; not only do they operate more efficiently but some may be eligible for federal tax credits (visit energystar.gov http://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits for more information)
Windows and Doors
Proper maintenance of windows and doors is key to improving energy efficiency in your home. According to popularmechanics.com, seven to 12 percent of a home’s heat loss occurs around windows and doors.
- Add or replace weather-stripping around doors — the cost is inexpensive and typically easy to install or replace
- Repair or replace broken or cracked window and door glass
- Open curtains and blinds during the day so sunlight can warm the room and close them at night as they act as a second barrier against cold winter air
- If replacing your windows or new construction, consider thermopane windows as they can increase the energy efficiency of your home up to 70 percent
Hot Water Savings
- Insulate your hot water heater as this may help hot water stay hot longer without using extra energy
- Install a low-flow showerhead; many homes built after 1992 have this so if you have an older home consider the update
- Run the dishwasher or washing machine when it’s full; turning on either machine when only half full wastes hot water.
- Wash clothes in cold water
- Clean the lint filter in your dryer so it functions efficiently
To learn more about home heating, check out this infographic [hyperlink: http://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-heating] courtesy of the Department of Energy.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, shedding a light on an important matter many small business owners may not be aware of. Cybercriminals are targeting smaller businesses with 250 or less employees because many do not have the appropriate security measures in place to protect themselves against fraudulent activity.
A security breach can be detrimental to a small business; the average loss is $38,000.1 Because this loss is so significant, 60 percent of all small businesses will close within six months of a data breach.2
With these cyber-attacks happening at random and within minutes, can your business afford not to be prepared?
How are cyber-attacks happening?
Cybercriminals are sophisticated in their approach to steal a company’s information, identity or customer data. Their tactics span from filing a fraudulent business registration to deploying phishing and malware schemes to gain access to confidential information.
What can I do to help minimize my risk for an attack?
Here are some actions small business owners can take to help minimize their risk for an attack.
- Install firewalls, anti-virus, anti-malware/spyware on all computers – refrain from using mobile devices when not connected to a secure network
- Monitor financial accounts daily – all banks have online account access with the option to receive call/text alerts on account activity. If possible, go paperless with statements
- Use strong/unique passwords – passwords should be at least eight characters long, include capital letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t repeat passwords or reuse them for personal accounts
- Review banking agreements – understand how much time your bank allows you to report fraudulent activity
- Watch for phishing schemes – the IRS, government agencies, credit card companies and financial institutions will never ask you to verify information through an email. If you receive an email asking for this information, do not respond, click on any links or open any attachments
Importance of cyber coverage
No matter the size of a cyber-attack, consequences can be expensive. Plus, a business must respond quickly to help protect impacted individuals and the business’s reputation. This is where the importance of having Cyber Liability coverage comes into play. Cyber insurance is not spyware — it does, however, help clean up the large mess after a data breach. If attacked without the proper insurance coverage, business owners are responsible for loss of income, restoration of computer hardware and data, computer and funds transfer fraud, notification expenses, credit monitoring services, damages to individual persons or companies, PR consultation and regulatory fines, penalties and expenses, etc.
Would your business survive if you had to cover these expenses? Costs for coverage can be less than you think and customized to fit your needs.
Start by implementing these safety precautions today and contact our agency to review your cyber liability coverage options.
The Novak Agency gives you 3 Important Reasons to have Renters Insurance
Every dollar you take home is important and you do your best to spend them wisely. When purchasing a house, most people borrow from a bank and are required by the lender to buy insurance. However, when you rent, that check and balance isn’t in place to remind you of the risks of being uninsured. In fact, an Insurance Information Institute (III) poll completed in 2014 showed that only 37 percent who rent a house or apartment are insured.
Did you know that if you rent, your landlord’s insurance will only cover the costs for damage to the building and not your personal items? Renters insurance is well worth the investment. Check out the three ways that renters insurance protects you – the renter.
Coverage for your personal possessions-It doesn’t seem likely that you could ever lose your “stuff”, but it can happen to even the most careful person because well, unexpected things happen. Then what? Well, renters insurance may reimburse you for loss of, or damage to your personal possessions from causes such as fire or lightning, windstorm or hail, explosion, vandalism or malicious mischief, theft, falling objects, weight of ice, snow or sleet, water damage resulting from utilities and electrical surge damage. Some policies even include a limited amount of off premises coverage for when you travel.
Liability protection -If you’re sued because you, your family member or your pet cause someone to suffer bodily injury or incur property damages, a renters insurance policy gives you protection. How? The policy pays for your defense attorney and any damages awarded – up to the limit of your policy. A standard policy typically provides at least $100,000 of liability coverage, with more available for additional premium. Your renters policy also provides compensation to someone who is actually injured while in your rental unit. Most policies allow between $1,000 and $5,000 in coverage.
Additional living expenses- Where would you stay if your property was damaged by fire or storm and you had to move out temporarily? A renters policy may provide you with additional living expenses (ALE) so you can live elsewhere if your rental is damaged or destroyed by a disaster. The ALE pays for meals, hotel bills and normal expenses (laundry, utilities, etc.) you incur while the property is repaired or rebuilt. Make sure you know how much coverage you have and what the limitations are. Some insurance companies provide coverage for a specific amount of time and others have a financial cap.
Protect your personal property and your savings by contacting us to discuss your options for renters insurance today. Ask about discounts you may be eligible for. The benefits far outweigh the cost and you’ll sleep better knowing you’re covered.
Novak Agency, Inc.