What is the first thing you think of when you discuss homeowners’ claims?
Being in California, I naturally think of our biggest claim which is wildfires. If you lived in other parts of the country, you may automatically think about tornadoes, hurricanes, or some other catastrophic loss. There really isn’t much you can do about any of these major risks but there are many other common homeowners’ claims that are entirely preventable.
Washing machine mishaps – It is recommended that avoid loose or damaged washing machine hoses by replacing them at least every three years but inspect them regularly. Though most homes have an area set up for your washer and dryer that makes this difficult, if possible, situate the washing machine in a way that you can detect water problems right away.
Bath tub/shower grout and edge leaks – Over time, grout can decay and crack which allows water into the wall or floor. This leads to rotted wood and worse yet, black mold. Water that flows into your tub or shower needs to stay there and ultimately travel down the drain as intended. Inspect seals and repair them right away if necessary. If you’re not sure, call in a professional. It is recommended that the area around the tub, shower, and toilet gets resealed at least one time per year.
Toilet issues – This has to do with issues regarding the toilet, not with issues you may have on the toilet. If the toilet starts wobbling, it may have been improperly installed or the seal may have worn out. Heavy people using the toilet put more stress on the seal around the base of the toilet. Always check for water around the base of the toilet. If you discover a leak, call a qualified expert right away. This is one of those times that you shouldn’t do it yourself.
Refrigerator water supply leaks – The water and plastic lines that extend from your fridge can cause a lot of damage to your kitchen quickly. Check the lines for kinks. If you are not 100% sure, it is prudent to call in a professional which can save you thousands of dollars.
Roof leaks and collapses – Basic roof maintenance includes cleaning the gutters and replacing worn shingles. You should also trim tree branches away from the house including the roof. This helps avoid rubbing on a windy day and is also prudent to avoid fire reaching the house. Look for warning signs that the roof or building structure may be experiencing stress or even be in danger of collapse. Signs of this include cracking of the structure, cracks that develop in the interior and/or exterior walls, unexplained cracked or broken windows, unusual popping or creaking sounds, and doors or windows that no longer open and close properly.
Chimney and fireplace fires – Though problems are more prevalent in cold weather areas, it is still a good idea to maintain a regular chimney cleaning schedule.
Hot water heater leaks – Inspect the heater for any small leaks. They become big leaks quickly. Also inspect the heater and area around it for moisture, mold, mineral buildup and corrosion. It is recommended that the water heater gets flushed twice per year to avoid sediment buildup. Many manufacturers estimate the lifespan of a water heater to be 8 to 12 years. Replacing an old water heater when it is old is much less expensive that a water claim. Once a water heater is five years old or older, you should have a qualified technician inspect it at least once every year. Try to avoid Uncle Jake as being that “qualified technician”.
Electrical fires – To avoid electrical fires; check for loose-fitting plugs. Replace missing or broken wall plates so that the wiring is not exposed. Make sure that cords are not frayed or cracked, placed under carpeting or place in high traffic areas. Never staple cords to a wall, floor, or another object. Extension cords are for temporary use only and are not meant to be used as a permanent solution. If an appliance blows fuses on a regular basis, trips circuit breakers, or give you a shock, unplug it and have it repaired or better yet, replaced. If you hear popping or sizzling sounds behind walls, immediately shut off fixtures and call in a professional.
Cooking or candle fires – Cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires followed by heating equipment. Any fires should be monitored closely. Unwatched, even a simple candle can cause a house fire that destroys the entire structure.
Garage door opener theft – This one really intrigued me because the solution is so simple yet who thinks about this? A garage door opener left in the car outside give a thief easy access to your house. Don’t have it visible in the car for a potential thief to see, especially while you are away for an extended period of time.
Furnace issues – Though we don’t use our furnaces nearly as much as those in cold weather areas do, make sure the furnace is in good working condition. Have a professional inspect it on a regular basis and make repairs to it if necessary. Remember, when an appliance in the house wear out, homeowners’ insurance does not pay.
Theft and vandalism – Our house was burglarized a few years ago and from experience I can tell you that the pain, fear, and feeling of being violated goes on for years. To avoid this, consider installing a security system and/or outdoor video cameras. Get a dog to protect the property (the problem with this is that a big bad guard type dog may be on the insurance company’s list of prohibited dogs. Call us before buying a dog to make sure). Increase the amount of light around the property. Remember when those bright security lights that are on motion sensors were the rage? Still a good idea in my mind. Here’s a no-brainer; lock the doors to the house when you leave.
Dishwasher leaks – Sounding like a broken record, check all hoses for signs of wear and tear every three months. It is also a good idea to run the dishwasher with two cups of vinegar in the bottom. Stop the dishwasher mid-cycle, let it sit for 20 minutes, and then restart it to end the cycle.