Williamson Insurance Blog Archive
Home Insurance Blog Articles
October 25, 2017
4 Tips for Fireplace Safety
With fall upon us and winter quickly approaching, many are looking forward to fireplace season. Whether for the warmth and heat or the ambiance of the dancing flames on a chilly day, fireplaces are a welcome part of any home—but it's important to operate them safely.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireplaces are the cause of nearly one-third of all home fires involving heating equipment. Here are some important fireplace safety tips.
- A common cause of chimney fires is buildup of creosote, a flammable residue that sticks to the walls of chimneys. Have your chimney cleaned annually by a certified chimney sweep to remove creosote, and be sure it is also inspected to look for loose mortar and bricks, cracks in the chimney or liner, and other problems.
- Make sure your chimney is fitted with a wire mesh cap to keep out rain, debris, birds, and animals.
- Only burn dry, seasoned hardwood as green (wet) wood and softwoods will produce more creosote buildup. Be sure to follow any instructions provided with manufactured fireplaces.
- Have fire and carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home, and especially in rooms with fireplaces.
We hope you have a wonderful, warm, and safe heating season!
Article courtesy of Acuity Insurance
April 18, 2017
10 Spring Homeowner Maintenance Tips That Extend the Life of Your Home
Feel that hint of warmth in the air? Did you notice those tulips sprouting? That can only mean one thing: spring is arriving. That also means it's time to get your home in order. As a homeowner, maintenance tips are a dime a dozen. That's why we've narrowed down the list to the essential projects you need to extend the life of your home.
Most of these are easy enough to do yourself, but always put your safety and comfort first. The cost of hiring a contractor or handyperson is minimal compared to the cost of injuring yourself.
Homeowner maintenance tips that anyone can do: the exterior
Winter is tough on your home. Start your exterior maintenance projects by making a list of any visible exterior problems such as gutter damage, broken stairs, or cracks in the chimney. Take care of any noticeable issues as soon as you can, either by hiring someone or by taking care of it yourself. A simple maintenance issue can quickly become a major repair if left unattended.
1. Roof, chimney, and gutters
This is an easy job, but if you aren't comfortable climbing a ladder and working on your roof, hire someone to do the job for you. Powerwash the winter grime from the roof, inspect your chimney for cracks or broken bricks, and clean out your gutters. While you're there, check your roof for damaged shingles, reattach any sections of the gutter that have come loose, and recaulk any weathered or leaking sections of skylights.
Complete a thorough inspection of your exterior walls. Reattach loose shingles, repair any holes, and scrape and paint any exposed surfaces. It's not a bad idea to give your home a powerwash while you're at it—just don't forget to close your windows first!
3. Windows and doors
Look for cracks in window seals, broken screens, loose handles or hinges, and sticky locks. Front doors, especially, get overlooked despite the fact that they get used numerous times each day.
Cracks in your home's foundation can lead to leaks, insect infestations, and rodent troubles. Small cracks are easy enough to fix on your own with a concrete patch. Large cracks could indicate a structural problem with your home, so it's best to consult a professional.
While you're examining the foundation, check the drainage around your home. All that water from rain and melting snow has to go somewhere. If you have poor drainage around your home, there's a good chance that water may end up in your basement and lead to mold problems. If water isn't draining properly, the fix could be as simple as adding an extension to your gutter's downspout.
Trees that are too close to your home invite squirrels and insects to come in. Keep trees trimmed and remove any dead branches before they fall and damage your home or injure someone.
Homeowner maintenance tips that anyone can do: the interior
While you're airing out your home, pay special attention to those hidden and out-of-the-way spots. You don't want to let easy fixes go just because no one sees them.
While your appliances don't directly impact the longevity of your home, they are expensive to repair or replace. Even minimal maintenance will prolong their life and lower your utility bill. Clean the coils on your refrigerator, clean or change the filter on your range hood, and clean or replace the filter on your air conditioning. It's amazing how dirty these get.
2. Plumbing and water
Unless you're a capable DIYer, it's best to leave major plumbing projects to the professionals. However, minor maintenance around sinks and bathtubs can stop a problem before it begins. Check the pipes underneath your sinks to ensure there are no leaks. Inspect the caulking around your tub or shower. If it is worn or cracked, repair it as soon as you can to keep water from gathering underneath the floors.
3. Water heater
Flush your water heater to prevent a build-up of sediment and gunk. It's not a difficult project, but it does require several steps. Bob Vila has an easy step-by-step guide on his website.
4. The attic
Head upstairs into the attic. Look around for things like bird or rodent nests, light coming through the ceiling, and any signs of dampness on the wood or insulation. Problems here most likely indicate damage on your roof or a hole along the eaves where birds or squirrels can get in.
5. Safety items
Check your fire extinguisher, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors. These aren't maintenance items, exactly, but they do help keep you and your family safe. In truth, it's best to check them all monthly and replace the batteries in your detectors twice each year, but it's a potentially life-saving reminder to add them to a list of homeowner maintenance tips.
Article courtesy of Pekin Insurance
April 4, 2017
Helpful Tips for When to Replace a Roof
You probably don't think about your roof very often. Unless something goes wrong, that is. A leak is usually your first indication you need to replace your roof, but you don't need to wait that long. There's a lot you can do before it gets to that point. These tips will help you decide when to replace a roof so you don't get stuck with major home damage.
The best scenario is to catch and correct problems before they begin. If you wait until your roof is leaking, you've waited too long to replace or repair your roof. When water gets through the roof, it can get into your walls where the moisture creates mold and mildew. A major leak can even go unnoticed for some time if it isn't in an obvious location.
Even though a leak is one of the most noticeable signs that there is a problem, there are other steps you can take to find out when to replace a roof on your home.
When to replace a roof: the homeowner's guide
Most contractors recommend checking your roof twice each year: once in the spring and once in the fall. You'll know when to replace a roof (maybe now!) if you see these signs during your roof inspection. Here is what you should look for:
The inside inspection
Grab your flashlight, and let's go to the attic. Inspecting your roof from the inside is safer and might be the only inspection you need to make.
- Sunlight: Before you turn on the flashlight, look closely at your attic ceiling. Are there any rays of sunlight shining through? If sunlight is coming through holes in your ceiling, that means water or even small rodents could come through, as well.
- Water damage: Are there signs of water damage? If the support beams of your roof feel damp, soggy, or look substantially different than the surrounding wood, this could be a sign of a long-term leak.
- Mold: Mold is a side effect of water damage, but it can cause major problems on its own. In a humid environment, mold can grow quickly. Mold that gets into your walls can have an effect on the air quality in your home, making it annoying or even downright dangerous for anyone with mold allergies.
The outside inspection
Only check your roof outside if you feel you can do so safely. Otherwise, hire a roofing contractor or home inspection company to climb up and examine your roof. The bonus is that they should be able to easily tell when to replace a roof. They'll also give you a general estimate of the cost if roof replacement is necessary.
- Missing shingles: Missing shingles, especially around the roof "valleys" or chimney, can make a roof especially leak-prone. Missing shingles can also be a warning sign of other roof damage, such as additional leaks or general wear.
- Curling or cracked shingles: Shingles that are cracked, brittle, or curling are indications that your roof is at or nearing the end of its life.
- Worn or bald shingles: Most shingles are rough and gritty like sandpaper. If shingles are missing this grit, it could mean that your roof needs to be replaced.
- Rotten shingles: Just like underneath the roof (the ceiling of your attic), soft or mushy spots are a sign of extensive wear and leaking.
Do you know when to replace a roof? If you do notice these signs, contact a roofing professional. You might find that some simple repairs will take care of your problems, especially if your roof isn't that old. And like any home checklist, you may find that your individual circumstances require variations, so feel free to use this as a starting point and make it work for you.
Article courtesy of Pekin Insurance
February 10, 2017
Homeowners are shocked when they learn this isn’t covered by insurance
Homeowners are shocked when they learn this isn’t covered by insurance
When we buy a home, the bank requires us to buy homeowners insurance as a prerequisite to getting a mortgage. That homeowners policy covers a wide variety of exposures for losses that might happen to our home, but most of those perils will never happen.
Your homeowners policy will cover you if you have wind or hail damage or a fire or if someone breaks into your home and steals your stuff. There’s generally coverage if your home gets hit by lightning or if the power goes out and all your foods spoils. There’s even coverage for your contents if a pipe breaks and floods your house. But there’s one peril you won’t find covered—your homeowners policy does NOT include any coverage to pay off your mortgage in the event either you or your spouse die prematurely!
While your homeowners policy covers a lot of perils, it pays nothing when someone dies. We are all going to die at some point—it may be thirty years from now or it may be next week; we don’t know—but there’s a 100% probability that it will happen. The death of a breadwinner can be devastating to a family itself, but it will be even more of a tragedy if the family is forced to move out of the family home because they can no longer pay the mortgage.
Fortunately, you can protect against such an unexpected death. An inexpensive term life policy in an amount equal to the mortgage amount can be purchased to pay off that mortgage when either spouse dies and allow the family to stay in the home. Depending on the amount owed on the home and the age of the homeowners, the cost can be extremely inexpensive—often costing less than a dinner out with the family once a month. Another option would be a whole life or universal life policy, which have the added benefit of allowing you to accumulate cash equity in the policy that could be used to pay off the mortgage up to five years early, if you choose. It does cost a little more but may be worth considering.
Whether you use term life policy or a whole life or universal life policy to cover the mortgage depends on what best fits your budget and your needs. Talk to your local Pekin Insurance professional insurance agent to find out more about how you can protect yourself against a peril your homeowners policy doesn’t cover.
Article courtesy of Pekin Insurance
January 9, 2017
Estimating Ice Dams
It’s that time of year again! As snow comes and goes, many of us may experience ice dams building up in our gutters or on low-sloping roof areas. Unfortunately, this means that a blockage has been created and the water from the melting snow on your roof has no place to go. This can potentially cause the water to back up under your shingles.
Oftentimes the melting snow, water and ice finds a way into your home, causing damage to your walls, ceilings or insulation. Typically there is minimal, if any, damage to the shingles on your roof. However, it may be necessary to incur costs to remove snow or ice in the area above the interior damages to prevent any further damage. As your policy requires you to mitigate damages, a reasonable cost to do so may be covered under your applicable building coverage. In the event of a covered loss, be sure to work with your contractor and claim representative to determine a reasonable cost for this service, and always obtain an invoice to present for reimbursement (subject to your policy limits and deductible).
We cannot control the weather, but we can take steps to identify ice dams and prevent them from causing damage to our homes:
• Keep your gutters and the areas near your downspouts clear so water is unobstructed when channeled away from your roof.
• Consistently check your attic and the tops of exterior walls for moisture or water stains.
• Safely remove excess snow and icicles from the edge of your roof, if possible.
• Long-term prevention of ice dams includes proper insulation in your attic and applying an ice and water shield membrane under your shingles.
Article courtesy of Auto-Owners Insurance
June 7, 2016
What you need to know about Homeowners insurance
• Home insurance provides financial protection against disasters. A standard policy insures the home itself and the things you keep in it.
• Homeowners insurance is a package policy. This means that it covers both damage to your property and your liability or legal responsibility for any injuries and property damage you or members of your family cause to other people. This includes damage caused by household pets.
• Damage caused by most natural disasters are covered but there are exceptions. The most significant is damage caused by floods, earthquakes and poor maintenance. You must buy two separate policies for flood and earthquake coverage. Maintenance-related problems are the homeowners' responsibility.
Why do you need homeowners insurance?
It is really all about protecting yourself financially if something unexpected happens to your home or possessions. That's important because chances are your home is likely one of your largest investments.
• If your home was destroyed by fire or damaged by a natural disaster, you'd need money to repair or replace it.
• If a guest in your home is injured, liability protection and medical coverage help pay expenses.
• If you are a victim of theft and vandalism, it can reimburse you for your loss or pay for repairs.
• If you are still paying for your home, your lender will require insurance.
It is important to know that homeowners insurance is meant to cover unexpected damage, not routine maintenance. Ask your agent to talk about what is covered and be sure to read your policy so you know exactly what's included and what is not.
Things to consider and questions to ask your agent Here are few things to discuss with your agent that will influence your decisions.
• How much will it cost to rebuild my house and replace my belongings if they are damaged or destroyed? (Ask your agent to talk you through your home's features and the things you own so you can make an informed decision about coverage.)
• Does the insurance company have a good reputation for customer service? Is it known for paying claims fairly and promptly?
• What discounts are available? (Ask about security system and fire resistance discounts.) You can also take advantage of large discounts on your homeowner insurance with a multi-policy discount by bundling your personal auto insurance with the same agency and company.
• What's the process for filing and settling a claim? (Ask who to call and what happens after you file a claim.)
For additional information you can contact our agencies in Zanesville at 740-453-0791 or Newark at 740-344-9556 or you can request your quote now by simply clicking below. One of our account managers will review your information and be in contact with you.