Will your insurance cover these winter domestic disasters?


This article is reproduced with permission from Nerdwallet.

Whether it’s dropping temperatures or a blizzard of blackout, winter weather can wreak havoc on a home. But you can prevent disaster with preventative measures.

Here are four common types of winter-related home damage and how you can prevent it, and how home insurance works if you can’t.

1. Burst water pipes

If your kitchen faucet isn’t working on a cold winter morning, you could have a frozen water line. Frozen pipes can burst and cause accidental water damage, which can be costly to repair.

To prevent pipes from bursting, let your faucets drip on colder days, which will keep the water in the pipes from freezing. Use sleeves or newspaper to cover pipes in spaces exposed to colder temperatures, such as basements and attics. If a pipe freezes, immediately turn off the water, then use a heating pad or hair dryer to thaw the frozen water.

But don’t worry if a pipe bursts. “Almost all [home] the insurance policies will cover damage resulting from a broken pipe, ”says Steve Wilson, senior underwriting manager at Hippo Insurance. After you’ve paid your deductible, your home insurance will pay up to your policy limits. Your home coverage will cover the cost of home repairs, while your personal property coverage will cover damaged property.

Keep in mind that in order for an accidental water damage claim to be approved, homeowners must take steps to reduce the risk of this happening, such as keeping the house temperature at a minimum of 55 degrees during the weather. cold. If water damage occurs, homeowners should take steps to mitigate further damage, such as turning off the water faucet.

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2. Ice dams on the roof

An “ice dam” forms on a roof when snow melts and refreezes near gutters or edges of the roof. When the ice begins to melt again, water can seep under the roof shingles, which can lead to mold and leaks. And the following icicles hanging from your roof can be enchanting, but a heavy icicle could tear out a gutter.

An ice dam can cost you dearly.

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Your home insurance likely covers damage from ice dams, but extra precautions could prevent it altogether. Make sure your attic is sufficiently insulated by sealing off any areas where hot air could escape from your living areas. This will keep your roof cool, which will help prevent an ice dam from forming. Have a professional inspect your roof to see if solutions such as heating cables and rubberized shingles can prevent ice dams from forming. You should also keep all gutters free of debris so that the slush can drain properly.

Do not climb on your roof to scrape the snow. This could damage the shingles and weaken your roof over time.

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3. Fallen tree branches

Large tree branches that extend over a house could be a problem in winter. “We’re going to have tree branches that break off and fall on homes or fences… from the weight of the ice,” says John Merkle, head of real estate claims at Country Financial.

If an icy branch falls, your home insurance policy’s home coverage should cover necessary repairs to the home, while your other structure coverage will pay for things like a damaged fence or shed.

Merkle recommends pruning your trees regularly to completely avoid the problem. In fact, an insurer could deny a claim if the damage is deemed to have resulted from lack of maintenance over time.

4. House fires

House fires are a common cause of insurance claims in winter, as people light candles and their fireplaces. These tips can help prevent unwanted flames:

  • If you lose electricity, use flashlights instead of candles and turn off all electrical devices.

  • Keep Christmas trees hydrated so they don’t dry out and become a fire hazard.

  • Never use your stove to heat your home.

  • Keep portable heaters at least 3 feet away from any flammable items and unplug them while you sleep.

  • Install a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace and have it cleaned once a year by a professional chimney sweep.

Your home insurance will cover fire damage as long as the fire was unintentional. If you have to stay somewhere else because of the smoke or the rebuilding, loss of use coverage in your insurance policy can help pay for hotel bills and additional living expenses. Keep all receipts in case your insurer needs a record of what was spent.

Know your insurance limits and exclusions

Talk to your insurance agent or company about what’s covered and not covered by your home insurance policy to be prepared in the event of a disaster. You can also consult the declarations page provided by your insurer for a list of what is covered and the exclusions section of your policy for anything that is not.

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Anything else to check? Your personal property limits. Some items, such as jewelry or antiques, might have lower limits than other goods. If you have a lot of valuables, you may need extra coverage.

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Ben Moore writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]

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