Fall Home Maintenance

Your Guide to Fall Home Maintenance

Fall Home MaintenanceFall is upon us!

Today is the first day of the fall season and if you’re like me, you might be thinking to yourself, “Maybe I should actually start working on fall home maintenance before the first snowfall this year.”

Now that you’ve thought about it, you’ve taken that first crucial step! Next, you’ve got to make that list of all of the things you plan to do … then put that list in the drawer by the phone, with all of the other lists and junk you throw in there when you’re cleaning off your countertops.

In all seriousness, good fall home maintenance will save you in the long run on home repairs and energy costs by helping you catch small problems before they become big ones.

Midwest Insurance Group has put together a list of some tried and true tasks to put on your fall home maintenance list. See the end of this post for a downloadable list to start checking off.

Always check with the manufacturer before performing work and hire a contractor for the work that you’re uncomfortable performing yourself.  See the end of this post for a downloadable list

Fall Home Maintenance – Outside of the Home

  • Drain your hoses and in-ground sprinkler systems to prevent damage from freezing. If possible, lay hoses out on an incline to help with drainage. If you’ve got an air compressor and an adapter, you can speed this process up.
  • To prevent freezing and cracking of outdoor spigots, turn off the water supply for the outside and let any water drain out. You can also take the extra step of wrapping the spigot with pipe insulation.
  • Check your doors, windows and siding for damage, holes or cracks and shrunken weather stripping or putty. Any place on a home where two different building materials meet (ex: where siding meets the concrete foundation) should be checked to prevent further damage from winter weather.
  • Check all vents for debris and clear them.
  • Look for worn out painted surfaces and water damage. Treat or repaint as necessary.
  • Drain or run the gas out of your lawn equipment and run antifreeze through your pressure washer. If you’ve got a riding lawn mower, disconnect the battery and bring it inside for the winter. The cost of getting your small engine up and running after leaving old gas in the tank over the winter can cost you upwards of $100. While you’re at it, make sure your snow blower still starts up and give it an oil change and any needed maintenance.

Fall Home Maintenance - Cracked Driveway

  • Check your driveway for cracks and make repairs as necessary to keep those cracks from getting larger from ice.
  • Hire someone to clean out your chimney and have your wood burning stove pipes inspected
  • Clean the leaves and debris out of your gutters and tighten any loose brackets. If you’re uncomfortable with the height you’ll be work at, hire a professional
  • Have a professional inspect your roof for damaged shingles and possible leaks.
  • If your window screens are in need of repair, now is as good a time as any to make repairs.
  • Clean your garage and check the weather strip on the bottom of your garage door. If the weather strip is stiff or cracked, replace it. A tight seal will help to keep the wind and mice out of your garage.Fall Home Maintenance - Raking
  • Rake the leaves.
  • Apply a fall fertilizer to your lawn.
  • Make spring planting in the easier by cleaning up your landscape in the fall. Now is also a good time to trim back shrubs, bushes and dead tree limbs.
  • Wash your windows inside and out.
  • Clean and store outdoor furniture.

Fall Home Maintenance – Inside the Home

  • Schedule your annual furnace maintenance and duct cleaning and replace your furnace filter.
  • Add a piece of foam insulation behind the wall plate of electrical outlets and light switches located on outside walls. This will help prevent cold drafts.
  • Take a peak up into your attic. If you see any dark spots on the ceiling, you may have a leak in your roof. Any dark spots in your insulation could be a sign of an air leak into your attic.
  • Test your smoke detectors, replace the backup battery and clean the dust off of the covers.
  • Check doors and windows for air leaks and seal them up with caulk or insulation.

Fall Home Maintenance – Don’t forget your autos!

But wait, there’s more!   Your home isn’t the only thing you should prepare for blustery winter weather. Making sure that your autos are prepared may spare you severe winter headaches or even spare your life! Here is a list of some common maintenance tasks to help minimize winter problems:

Fall Home Maintenance – Automobiles

  • Take your car in for a tune-up.
  • Every two years, your cooling system should be flushed and new antifreeze added. If you can’t remember when you last had this done, now is a good time.
  • Have your battery and charging system tested.
  • Make sure your heater and blower motor are working properly.Fall Home Maintenance - Preparing Your Auto
  • Inspect and replace your windshield wipers. Consider ‘ice free’ wipers.
  • Start purchasing windshield washer fluid rated for freezing temperatures.
  • Check with your auto manufacturer for recommendations on winter oil weights.
  • Have your brakes inspected or serviced.
  • Check your tire tread depth. A good rule of thumb if you’ll be driving on snow covered roads this winter is to replacement your tires at 5/32” tread depth left. At that level or less, you’re taking a big risk!
  • Along with your standard items like jumper cables, put together an emergency kit for the trunk of your car including a shovel, road flares or signs, a flashlight, windshield scraper, hat & gloves and even a bag of sand for traction if you get stuck. Disposable heat packs are another great item along with some food, bottled water and blankets in case you find yourself stranded in a winter storm.

Fall Home Maintenance Now you have few things to work on over the next couple of months to reduce the chances of winter damage to your home to help to ensure safer driving through the snow. Remember: Always consult the manufacturer and if you’re unsure, a little money spent on your local contractor now may save you a lot this winter and spring.

Download the printable Fall Home Maintenance Checklist here.

Insuring a College Student

Insuring a college student: Finding the right coverage for a college student can be a challenge. 

StudentWhat every parent should know: Hauling your child off to college is a landmark in your child’s future. The collegiate stepping stone is momentous and sets precedence for years to come. Unfortunately, most parents and children are unaware of their updated or new insurance needs during this chaotic time.

 

Protecting Your Student’s Belongings:

Dorm rooms are a new and exciting place for your son or daughter. However it’s imperative that you speak with your agent regarding the rules and various limitations your coverage may have concerning the valuables your child will be housing in their dorm room. Generally, homeowner’s policies will consider a dorm room an extension of your home. However, when insuring a college student who has a vast amount of electronics, furniture or various other high valued items – you may want to consider purchasing additional coverage. Although your daughter’s or son’s belongings may be covered while living in a dorm room, if your child lives in an apartment or off campus, your homeowners insurance will not cover their possessions. Purchasing renters insurance is a simple but valuable asset when it comes to added protection, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, prices range from only $15 to $30 per month. In addition to covering possessions, renters insurance will provide liability coverage, just in case anyone is injured in the residence.

Changing Auto Coverage:

Having your son or daughter keep their vehicle at home may not only be safer, but it could save money. If your child moves more than 100 miles away from home, your car insurance premiums could decrease by as much as 30 percent. Contact Midwest Insurance Group to learn more and save money while continuing to preserve your child’s coverage.

Keeping Your Child Healthy While On Campus:

If your child plans on being a full time student, taking 12 hours or more per semester, they likely can stay on your health plan during college. Although these rules and regulations can vary significantly by state, and the coverage could become complicated if your child attends school out-of-state. For instance, you may have a managed care plan, in which the plan can contain geographical parameters. These parameters may hinder your child’s ability to access an in-network health care provider close by. If your child participates in intercollegiate athletics, injuries are a real possibility and your child may not be covered. Before you send your child off to college, be sure to check your policy and the schools policy for athletes. There are a few options if you find your child not having adequate coverage under your plan for any reason. Many universities offer their own health plans, although some have considerably high deductibles and low coverage maximums, while other universities will not offer coverage for any condition present prior to attending school. Otherwise, an individual policy can always be considered. It’s important to know and understand your options prior to an injury occurring, learn more today.

Plan Ahead:

Although no one wants to think of the worse, it is important to find out if your child would be able to finish his or her college degree if something were to happen to you. Another way of insuring a college student is by buying life insurance not only replaces the income you would have been earning, but it would also ensure your child’s ability to complete his or her college education.

Insurance Questions to Ask When You Have College-Aged Children:

  • Will my child’s belongings be covered if his/her dorm is subject to theft, fire or other disasters?
  • Will my child’s belongings be covered if he/she lives in off-campus housing?
  • What happens if he/she gets seriously injured while at school?
  • Can I get a discount on my auto policy if my young driver is away at school and rarely uses the family car?
  • Do I have to change my auto policy if my son or daughter brings the car to school?
  • Will my intercollegiate athlete be covered under my family health plan if he or she is injured during practice or a game?
  • Does my child need to be a full-time student to be covered under my health plan?

Count on Us:

If your child is going off to college, or you’re just curious what coverage you do have, contact us at (262) 646-5777 to learn more. You could save money while maintaining protection for your child while he or she is away from home.

If a Tree Falls, Who Pays?

Tree WindEvery year, storms are responsible for felling countless trees and limbs. Unfortunately, some of those fallen trees damage homes and other property.

Cleaning up the damage from a storm can be a difficult task, both physically and emotionally, and things can become especially tense when you discover that it’s your neighbor’s tree that damaged your house.

To make matters worse, many homeowners are surprised to discover that if a neighbor’s tree falls on their house, it’s usually their own homeowners policy—not their neighbor’s—that will cover the cost of the damages. What follows are general guidelines for who pays what in various situations, but you should also check your homeowners policy for coverages and exclusions.

Your Property, Your Policy

Generally speaking, if your property is damaged, you are responsible for the damages. It doesn’t matter if the tree or limb came from your property, your neighbor’s property or even municipal property.

Keep in mind that a windstorm isn’t anyone’s fault; it’s an act of nature. If a tree does damage your property during a windstorm, your policy will cover the damages. After all, that’s why you purchased a homeowners policy—to protect yourself against unforeseen losses like a tree damaging your house.

Their Property, Their Policy

It might seem unfair that if it’s your neighbor’s tree that damages your home, you should have to pay. Fortunately for you, that standard applies both ways. If a storm rolls through and your tree falls and damages your neighbor’s house, his or her insurance is going to cover the damages.

Negligence and Liability

So far, these scenarios have been fairly straightforward, but what happens when it wasn’t a storm that fell the tree?

Instead, your neighbor’s tree was hollowed out from years of disease, and he’d neglected to do anything about it. In fact, it was so diseased that you expressed your concern to your neighbor that it might topple over and damage your property. Unfortunately, one day, that’s exactly what happens. What then?

Your insurance carrier is still going to be the one paying your claim. However, if you can prove your neighbor knew that the tree was diseased and that he or she neglected to fix it, your insurance carrier would probably attempt to collect from your neighbor’s insurance. If your carrier is successful, you could be reimbursed for your deductible.

Remember, though, this rule also applies the other way. If you have diseased or damaged trees on your property and they damage your neighbor’s house, he or she can try to prove your negligence. Your property is your responsibility, so it’s best to inspect your trees every year for signs of disease or damage. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, consider having a professional arborist examine your trees.

Other Structures

If the tree doesn’t damage your house but instead damages your fence, are you still covered? Generally, you are.

Most homeowners policies distinguish between two different kinds of structures on your property. The “dwelling” refers to your house and any attached structures (like an attached garage), as well as any fixtures attached to the house. “Other structures,” including detached garages, sheds, fences or gazebos, are also insured, but typically only for 10 percent of the coverage on your dwelling.

Vehicles

If, in the aftermath of a storm, you discover that a tree has fallen on your car, your homeowners policy doesn’t apply. Instead, you’ll be looking at your auto policy.

If you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, your auto insurance carrier will pay for the damages, after you pay your deductible. The same rule would apply to a guest’s car. Hopefully, he or she took out comprehensive coverage, too.

Removal and Cleanup

What if the tree fell but didn’t hit anything? Would you be covered for removal costs?

If the fallen tree blocks a path to your front door or driveway, then many homeowners policies would pay for removal. Generally, the maximum coverage is around $500.

If the tree simply falls in the middle of your yard, your policy likely wouldn’t cover it. Unless the fallen tree damaged insured property, there is no loss to file a claim for.

Replacement

Replacing the trees themselves can be more complicated. Trees that have fallen due to wind damage may or may not be covered, so it’s best to check with your broker.

Most policies offer limited coverage for trees that have fallen due to fire, lightning, explosion, theft, vandalism, malicious mischief or aircraft. Amounts and exclusions will vary, so it’s important to read your policy and check with your broker if you have any questions.

Making Sure You’re Covered

Hopefully, your trees grow and endure. In the event that they fall, it’s important to know that you’re covered. Contact Midwest Insurance Group, LLC today to make sure that you have sufficient coverage for whatever might blow your way.