Keeping your home and sidewalks safe in the winter

When the weather is turning colder, and the leaves are starting to fall, it’s time to start preparing for winter. What can you do to “winterize” your home? Here are tips to help you keep warm and safe:

  • Check for leaks. An easy way to find out where heat is leaking out, and cold is seeping in, is to walk around inside your house on a windy day, with a lit incense stick. Hold it near the usual “leaky” areas, such as window and door frames, and electrical outlets. When you find the leaks, you may want to install weather stripping, or caulking to seal the gaps. Foam insulators can be installed behind light switches and electrical outlets.
  • Check your windows. Replace old or inefficient ones to prevent heat from escaping, or seal drafty windows with clear plastic. Hanging thermal curtains can also help to prevent drafts.
  • Check your furnace. Turn it on to make sure it’s working properly. This is a good time to contact a professional to get it cleaned and tuned. Filters should be changed often during the winter, as dirty filters reduce air flow and can cause fires. And if your furnace is more than ten years old, you may want to consider upgrading to a new energy-efficient model.
  • Check your ducts. Homes with central heating can lose heated air before it reaches the vents if the ductwork is not properly connected or insulated, especially if it has to pass through any unheated spaces. And remember to have the ducts cleaned every few years to get rid of built up dust and hair.
  • Check your ceiling fans. For winter, reverse any ceiling fans, so they’re blowing warm air downwards. And close your closet doors. Keeping them closed means you’re not heating any unnecessary space.
  • Check your pipes. If you have water pipes running through unheated areas of the house, wrap them with foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation. Shut off the water to your hose bibs with a turnoff valve inside your house, and drain the lines.
  • Check your fireplaces. Consider capping the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds. Arrange to have the chimney cleaned to remove soot and creosote. Make sure the damper opens and closes properly.
  • Check your foundation. Rake away any debris, and seal up cracks or other entry points for water or mice.
  • Check your roof, gutters, and downspouts. Replace worn shingles or tiles. Check flashing to make sure water can’t enter the home. Clean out the gutters with a scraper or spatula, and rinse with a hose. Consider installing leaf guards or adding extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.

Keeping your sidewalks safe

With the holiday season fast approach, we all tend to have more visitors than usual. Have you considered what might happen if one of them were to slip on your icy step? If a visitor injures themselves on your property, you could be on the receiving end of a law suit. It’s so important to make sure your sidewalks, steps, and anywhere else visitors may walk, are kept clean, well lit, and clear of anything anyone might slip on or trip over.

Don’t people need to watch out for themselves?

If someone comes onto your property, it’s your responsibility to make sure they’re not at risk of being injured. Even if you haven’t actually invited them onto your property, you still must take all reasonable precautions to ensure there are no hazards present. For instance, if you’ve dug a huge hole in your back yard in preparation for a new pool next spring, and don’t fence it off, put up warning signs, or take whatever other steps are necessary, you could be found negligent if someone cuts across your yard at night, and falls in the hole.

Does my home insurance cover this?

Most home insurance policies are packaged to include protection for damage to your property, as well as liability insurance. Liability insurance is designed to protect you if you are sued as a result of unintentional bodily injury or property damage arising out of your ownership, use or occupancy of your premises.

In other words, if someone slips on your icy sidewalk, and you are sued, your insurance policy will cover your defense costs, and will pay up to the policy limit (usually starts at $1 million) if you’re found liable for the unintentional bodily injury. It’s important to make sure that any rental or vacation properties you own also have liability insurance.

So remember, keep your walks clear of ice and snow this winter! And make sure you have enough liability insurance, just in case. To learn more about winterizing your home or to double-check your coverage, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933.

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