Home insurance liabilities change with the seasons. Make sure that you are ready for winter insurance risks and the challenges cold weather may bring your way.
Review Your Insurance Policy
Damage caused by winter storms and blizzards caused roughly $3 billion in insured losses in 2018, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That’s more than triple the previous year. Wind and hail was the leading cause of homeowners’ losses from 2013 to 2017, followed closely by water damage and freezing.
Try to make a habit of reviewing your insurance policy and updating your documentation, including photos, to reflect your home’s condition before the winter. This gives you an opportunity to refresh your understanding on what is included and, accordingly, what actions you might need to take to protect your home.
Most home insurance policies will provide coverage for wind or falling debris that may cause damage to your home.
Damage caused by flooding – which can occur in the winter if the temperature spikes – is not within the scope of a standard policy. Flood insurance must be purchased separately. Note that in insurance terms, a “flood” has a very specific definition and is excluded from a homeowner policy; however, water from a leaking pipe, for example, is typically protected if purchased as part of a policyholder’s coverage.
Check these tips to make sure your home insurance is ready for winter.
Top Winter Insurance Claims
A wide range of home damage may result from winter weather. But a few scenarios are by far the most common or severe. Here are some of the biggest:
- Ice dams. When cold weather persists, an ice dam can form on the edge of your roof, blocking melting snow from falling away and refreezing as temperatures drop. This cycle of melting and refreezing can drive forming ice under shingles and the subsequent melting can then cause leaks inside your home, resulting in severe water damage to walls and ceilings.
- Roof and siding damage. Heavy snowfall, sleet, hail and perilous winds make the winter weather unpredictable. Because roofing and siding bear the brunt of this impact, they comprise a significant portion of the homeowner losses over the winter months.
- Frozen pipes. The most common winter insurance claims stem from how the elements affect your home’s exterior, but don’t forget about your plumbing. When pipes freeze, they can burst, causing significant water damage. The most severe instances happen when homes experience a power outage, resulting in a loss of heat over a significant period of time. So if you plan on being away from home for an extended period of time, it’s good idea to shut off the water to your home and drain your pipes.
What You Can Do to Prepare for Winter
- Fight back against ice damming. Add extra insulation to your roof to let the indoor heat melt the snow and ice slowly from the inside out. If your roof is prone to ice damming, use a roof rake shortly after a storm to clear as much snow off as you can, even if it’s just around the gutter line. Do not climb onto the roof; if you need a more thorough cleaning, hire a contractor.
- Insulate your pipes, doors, and windows. By adding insulation to your hot water pipes, you can minimize the chances those pipes will freeze over and blow. Similarly, air leaks near doors or windows should be eliminated with weather stripping or other door draft stoppers. Keeping the cold out of your home’s interior goes a long way too.
- Keep an eye on your trees. Fallen tree branches are one of the most likely – and most damaging – forms of debris you’ll face during cold weather. To prevent any damage, trim back any trees that are too close to your home or driveway.
- Inspect your ducts and plumbing. Your furnace and heating ducts need to be in working order to prevent or minimize winter damage. Reach out to a professional if needed for a thorough inspection. Moreover, monitor your property accordingly; disconnect, turn off and empty all water pipes before leaving your house for the season.
AAA provides homeowners insurance and much more. Go to AAA.com/Insurance to talk to an agent today.