Protecting Your Home from the Elements: 10 Tips for Homeowners
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Regardless of where you live, weather can take a toll on your home. The damage it does can be costly: From fires to floods, hurricane winds to hailstorms, major weather events cost property owners billions of dollars per year. In addition to out-of-pocket costs for repairs, weather damage reduces the value of homeowners’ biggest investment.
Failing to protect your home against weather damage isn’t a risk you want to take. Here are the many ways you can protect your largest investment against unpredictable weather and keep your equity intact.
Buy the Right Insurance
If you assume your homeowners’ insurance policy covers natural disasters and weather-related events, you’re in for an expensive surprise. Most homeowners’ insurance companies don’t cover flood, earthquake, or landslide damage, nor do they cover mold, sewer backups, or other problems that arise from these events. And while most homeowners insurance policies offer some wildfire coverage, they’re simply not enough for homeowners in high-risk areas.
For added protection, homeowners should understand their region’s risk for weather events and purchase additional coverage accordingly. These are some types of insurance homeowners should consider:
Flood insurance: Homeowners concerned about floods and mudflows can purchase flood insurance from insurers backed by the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. In some areas, flood insurance is required.
Earthquake insurance: Earthquake insurance can be expensive, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what homeowners stand to lose in an earthquake.
Sewer backup insurance: Both earthquakes and floods can lead to sewer backups, but don’t expect your earthquake or flood insurance policy to cover it. Protecting against this damage requires an entirely separate policy.
Difference in conditions coverage: A difference in conditions policy is a type of gap insurance that protects against landslides, mudslides, and other events that are not covered by other insurance policies.
Extended replacement coverage: This policy add-on is a smart move for homeowners in wildfire-prone areas. With extended replacement coverage, homeowners insurance will pay beyond the policy limit to cover the costs of replacing a home.
Prevent Weather-Related Damage
Insurance isn’t a replacement for preventive measures. Not only is it possible for repair costs to exceed your policy’s coverage limits, but most insurers refuse to cover damage if they believe negligence is involved. Protecting your investment is a must!
In addition to keeping your home well-maintained, these are steps you can take to protect your home against weather-related damage:
Remove dead and diseased trees near homes, outbuildings, and powerlines.
Install a backwater prevention valve to prevent sewer backflows.
Install a battery-powered basement sump pump to remove groundwater seepage.
Correct landscape grading issues to ensure water flows away from the home.
Elevate HVAC and electrical equipment above base flood elevation.
Retrofit walls, foundations, and masonry to better sustain earthquake damage. If you own a mobile home, have an earthquake-resistant bracing system installed.
Replace — or at least, repair — roofing with non-flammable materials like asphalt, slate, or tile shingles to add to your home’s value.
Maintain a non-flammable buffer zone around your home. Remove fuel sources such as organic mulches, dead vegetation, firewood, and propane tanks within 30 feet of the home and reduce fuel sources such as low-hanging branches and dense vegetation within 30 to 100 feet. However, try not to eliminate all vegetation as this makes it easier for embers to reach your home.
Install exterior sprinklers with your own independent water supply, such as a pond or water tank, around the property.
Create a non-flammable barrier between wooden fencing and the home.
In addition to taking these steps, be sure to compile a detailed home inventory so that if you do need to file a claim, you receive the maximum reimbursement for your loss. While it’s possible to take a written inventory, many homeowners find video to be more convenient and more comprehensive. There are also apps designed to make inventorying easier for homeowners. While taking all of these steps might seem like overkill, you’ll be grateful you made the effort when your home and finances remain intact after a major weather event.