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Winterizing Your Home

The leaves have fallen, the days are getting shorter, and the weather's getting colder. Soon the snow will fly, and you're looking forward to snuggling on the couch with a good book in front of a warm fire. But before you get too comfortable, make sure that your house is ready for the winter.

The protective blanket of your homeowners insurance

Your homeowners insurance policy can save you from severe financial loss if your home is damaged or destroyed. It can also provide you with compensation for liability claims and medical expenses that result from property damage and personal injuries suffered by others on your property. Your policy can protect you from the following winter scenarios:

  • A tree limb is blown down in a blizzard and shatters your picture window.
  • A package delivery person injures his wrist when he falls on the slippery sidewalk you hadn't shoveled and sanded.
  • A cold snap freezes the water in the pipes in your basement laundry room, making them burst.
  • While you're away, your neighbor comes over to feed your cats. As she enters the house, the accumulated ice over the entryway falls on her head, giving her a concussion.
  • Leaves clogging your chimney catch fire, and the smoke damage stains the wallpaper in the upstairs hallway.

Adequate homeowners insurance would compensate you for these damages to your property and protect you from liability claims resulting from these injuries to others.

If you need more blankets

Your level of liability coverage under your homeowners insurance policy should be sufficient to protect all of your assets. If the standard amount offered under your policy is insufficient for your needs, there's a couple of things you can do.

In most cases, you can increase your existing insurance policy's liability limits. If doing so does not provide adequate coverage, you can buy a personal liability umbrella policy. Once the limit on your homeowners (or automobile) policy is reached, the umbrella policy takes effect, supplementing the liability coverage offered under your homeowners (or automobile) policy.

Things you can do to help yourself

Here are some things you can do to minimize the chance that your home will be damaged or someone will be hurt on your property during the winter. Although some of these tips are storm related, many of them should be done before winter hits.

  • To ensure sufficient heat and minimize the risk of fire, make sure that your furnace is clean and works properly. Also, make sure that the pipe bringing fuel to the furnace doesn't leak.
  • Ice and snow can weigh down trees or limbs; if the boughs break, they could damage your home or vehicle, or injure someone. Trim them before the storm season starts.
  • To prevent water from building up and freezing in your gutters, clean dead leaves and other debris from them. While you're up there, clean out the chimney and install a screen over it to prevent future clogging.
  • Repair cracked or peeling caulking to reduce the possibility of water seepage freezing in the door or window frames. Doing so will also keep out the cold air, reducing your heating bills.
  • Keep snow and ice from building up around any exterior doors. If you do, the doors will close completely (saving heat) and won't rot or warp from water damage.
  • Insulate exposed pipes near exterior walls.
  • Promptly shovel your sidewalks and driveways after a storm. Salt or sand them to help prevent falls.
  • Keep sidewalks and driveways well lit so people can see where they're walking.
  • Keep stairs, outdoor steps, bannisters, and handrails in good repair.
  • Clear excessive snow or ice from your deck to prevent its collapse.
  • Attach heating strips to the edge of your roof to help prevent ice and snow buildup. If possible, clear your roof of excessive ice or snow to prevent both water damage and injury from falling accumulations.

Once you've winterized your home, you can feel more at ease when you settle down with that book on the couch before the fire.