How to Safeguard Your Home from Fall Hazards

As temperatures grow even colder, we try to advise homeowners to remain vigilant. “In many areas of Wisconsin, fall can bring short-notice freezes that catch homeowners off guard.  These can cause a variety of damages to homes with varying degrees of insurance coverage.”

We researched many national insurance experts to compile a checklist for your fall home preparations. 

Check your home’s structure

The primary consideration as we move into colder weather should be broken or loose shingles, and soft or sunken areas, that indicate a structural weakness. As wind and rain hammer the roof throughout the season, these red flags issues can become emergencies very quickly. Check under the roof in the attic for signs of dry rot, mold growth or water damage, and deal with any issues promptly.

It’s especially important because you could be on the hook for damages. Water damage from leaking windows, chimneys, or vent pipe flashing may not be covered by insurance due to lack of maintenance, aging or wear and tear.

Also prioritize the structural foundation of your home for fall preparations. Repair caulk around doors and windows that may be showing deterioration.

Disconnect hoses and turn off outdoor water

The temperature drops in autumn, and if you don’t disconnect your hoses and turn off the water to your outdoor spigot, you may run into a flooding problem due to a frozen pipe. Burst pipes are usually covered by home insurance, but save yourself the hassle by preventing the pipe from bursting.

Pipes can freeze in colder late fall days, leading to bursts and costly repairs. Most policies cover the property damage repairs, but will likely exclude the repair to the underlying plumbing problems, this is based on the cold weather damages many restoration companies have seen in the past.

Clean your gutters

Fall weather differs, depending on where you live in Wisconsin, but in Northeastern Wisconsin frequent rainfall during spring and summer, and with deciduous trees where the change in season causes their leaves to fall, one way you can be proactive about potential hazards is to clean your gutters.

With all their colorful splendor, falling leaves can create a significant hazard. Gutters can collect debris from fallen leaves, twigs and pine needles over time, which cause blockages that direct water into the home. This buildup, if left untreated, allows mold and mildew to develop, which can slowly decay a home’s exterior or roof.

That could have significant effects on your home insurance. Preventable damage like mold or mildew that develops and rots a home’s exterior isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, so it’s important to routinely clean out gutters —even if you have gutter guards installed, they don’t completely protect against debris building up eventually.

Clean chimneys and schedule service for your furnace

Furnaces should be serviced prior to the start of the heating season. Have chimneys inspected and cleaned before firing them up for the cool fall nights.

Keep fire extinguishers accessible, charged and ready for use and test all smoke detectors monthly and change the battery annually or as needed.

Ensure proper ventilation and insulation.

In colder temperatures, there can be moisture condensation in attics if there is inadequate insulation and ventilation. This often leaves to mold buildup that will require remediation. Insurance companies do not cover claims related to condensation.

Check your coverage.

Most homeowners are unaware that most flood policies do not cover basements, below-grade spaces. Below-grade areas include rooms with 4 walls below the ground level. That includes traditional basements, sunken living rooms, the portions of a split-level home that is below ground level, and crawl spaces. https://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance

At the end of the day, it is important to call us to discuss potential fall risks. It is also important to be aware of any exclusions your policy might have. For example, most standard homeowners policies will cover damage caused by hurricanes except for flood damage. Flood insurance is a separate policy that would need to be purchased if you have a greater exposure for flood.”

It’s advice we should all consider as fall ushers in a new season of risks.