With spring on the way, it’s time to think about protecting and maintaining your most valuable investment: your home.
It’s a good idea to give your house a thorough cleaning and inspection inside and out, both to refresh your space and to spot any potential problems.
Ready to get started? Be sure to add these five basic maintenance tasks to your spring checklist.
Examine Your Roof
Winter weather can take its toll on your roof. First, check for loose or damaged shingles, animal nests, loose metal strips, cracked caulking, signs of fungus or algae, and damage to the chimney exterior. Address smaller issues now before they turn into big problems later, and be sure to hire a professional if you’re not comfortable with ladders and heights.
Clear Out the Gutters
Again, this could be a DIY project depending on your skill level, or you could hire a professional cleaning service. Remove all debris from your gutters, then check for leaks. Finish by power-washing to clear out any remaining dirt.
Check for Cracks in the Foundation
Unfortunately, routine caulking isn’t always enough to prevent masonry cracks in your foundation. Hire a specialist for epoxy injection that will chemically bond the cracks.
Reseal Windows as Needed
A leaky window is bad for your energy bills. If the weatherstripping has been compromised or the caulk is cracked, make any needed repairs.
Get an HVAC Inspection
Along with changing the filters regularly, have a professional come out for a tuneup every year.
Spring is also a good time to check your homeowners insurance to make sure you have enough coverage. Reach out today if you have questions about your policy.
You’ve decided it's time to replace your outdoor deck and you’re ready to take it on as a DIY project, or you’ve decided to work with a licensed and bonded contractor for the heavy lifting. Before you start on such a critical project, it’s important to know that decking options have grown over the last several years, bringing new choices in composite plastic and wood products from which to construct your deck.
While they often cost more than wood, composite materials offer the promise of greater durability and less maintenance. Wood is still the most common choice for deck material, but it doesn't last forever. Composites may be more durable, but they might lack the natural look and color you are looking for.
In June 2016, CBS News reported that while wood products still have a command on the market, composites are growing in popularity. Synthetic wood commands about 16 percent of the $7 billion-per-year deck market and appear to be gaining some traction.
From cost to maintenance and durability to look, there are many things to think about as you decide between composite or wood for your next deck. Here are some pros and cons to consider before you decide which product to buy.
Calfee Insurance wants to help you protect the things that matter to you. We offer a wide breadth of products so you can be covered at home and on the road.
Pros of Composite Decking
Conventional wisdom has long held that kitchens and baths sell homes. Those are also two of the more expensive areas to tackle for home improvement, but if you make sound design decisions and choose the right materials, you could end up making your home more appealing to potential buyers – and a more enjoyable place for you to live. And, if you’re handy, some of these ideas may even be great DIY (do-it-yourself) home projects.
A study from the National Association of Realtors1 confirms that kitchens and baths still top the list of interior home improvement projects that appeal most to potential buyers. The survey ranked the projects by the percentage of the remodel cost that would likely be recovered based on the home’s resale value after the remodel. These five home improvements can potentially provide the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to ROI.
1. Complete Kitchen Renovation
National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s (NARI®) cost estimate for the project: $68,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $40,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 59%
The look and feel of a kitchen can serve as shorthand for how up to date the owners have kept a house. Potential buyers have been known to rule out homes based on kitchens alone. Stainless steel appliances and granite countertops continue to be on many buyers’ checklists, especially those who want to move right in and start entertaining.
The top reason for renovating a kitchen, cited by 24% of homeowners, was to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes and materials. According to the Remodeling Impact Report, 10% of realtors said a completely renovated kitchen most recently helped them clinch a deal, resulting in a closed sale.
2. Kitchen Upgrade
NARI’s cost estimate for the project: $38,300
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $20,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 52%
A less expensive alternative to completely gutting a kitchen is an upgrade to the current design. Replacing dated appliances, refinishing cabinets and changing out tile backsplashes are some cost-effective updates that can still modernize a kitchen and make it more appealing to buyers.
While 12% of realtors suggest that sellers completely remodel their kitchens, 57% have suggested a kitchen upgrade. Twenty percent of realtors have said a kitchen upgrade most recently helped complete a deal. In addition to the resale value, kitchen improvements can also help you enjoy your time in your home, with better functionality and livability cited by 29% of respondents as the most important result of their remodel.
Travelers wants to help you protect the things that matter to you. We offer a wide breadth of products so you can be covered at home and on the road.
3. Bathroom Renovation
NARI’s cost estimate for the project: $35,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $20,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 57%
Bathrooms are another place where a home can show its age, and potential buyers may hesitate at the cost and work involved in remodeling an outdated bathroom after buying a home. Still, while 33% of realtors have suggested sellers complete a bathroom renovation before completing a sale, only 4% said the project most recently helped them complete a deal.
4. New Bathroom
NARI’s cost estimate for the project: $60,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $30,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%
A remodeling decision often driven by function rather than a desire to modernize, adding a new bathroom is nearly as expensive as completely remodeling a kitchen, but with less of a “wow factor” for potential buyers. With only 5% of realtors suggesting that sellers add a bathroom and only 1% saying the project most recently helped clinch a deal for them, this may be one project that makes more sense for homeowners planning to be in their homes for several years.
5. New Master Suite/Owners’ Suite
NARI’s cost estimate for the project: $150,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $75,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%
The costliest project on the list, a new master suite or owner’s suite, is another project that may have greater value to you while living in the home rather than in making it attractive to future buyers. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they have a greater desire to be home since completing the project. Only 3% of realtors have suggested that sellers complete an owner’s suite before attempting to sell, and less than 1% said the project most recently helped clinch a deal for them.
Still deciding where to focus your budget for home improvement? Make a list of the reasons you’re considering each project, and be sure to consider the impact on your home insurance, too. Want to attract future buyers and increase the value of your home? Kitchens and bathrooms remain a good place to start.
If you plan to remain in your home for a number of years, you may want to update a bedroom, add a bathroom, convert a basement to a living area or tackle any other project that will add to your own appreciation of where you live.
If you rent an apartment or home, you might not be thinking about insurance. After all, you don’t own the building and your landlord may have insurance in case something happens. But if your living room is damaged in a fire, your landlord’s policy likely won’t cover your brand new laptop or your vintage vinyl record collection.
Renters insurance helps protect your personal property inside your apartment — your electronics, furniture and clothing — unlike a homeowners policy that generally covers the building as well as what’s inside. In insurance speak, protection for your personal property is also known as “contents coverage.” And, as a renter, if you invest in updating items such as built-in appliances or bathroom fixtures, you may be able to apply a percentage of your contents coverage to repair or replace what has been damaged.
Renters insurance can also protect your personal possessions from theft, fire, vandalism and other hazards, both at home and anywhere in the world. So if there’s a theft at the hotel you’re staying at while on vacation, your renters insurance may help you replace your stuff the same way it would if your things were stolen from your apartment.
Protecting You, Along with What’s Inside Your Apartment
It’s not just your possessions that renters insurance coverage can help protect. It can also help protect you. In case a claim is brought against you or you are sued by a third party, your renters personal liability coverage can help to cover the legal costs and related damages. Many renters policies provide a minimum of $100,000 of financial protection that may help if someone claims injuries or damages while in your apartment, or caused by your personal activities or those of your household members.
For example, if you are found legally responsible for accidental fire damage to the building where you live, liability coverage in a renters insurance policy may provide financial protection. This liability protection may also extend to any vacation property that you rent.
Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance can pay for necessary additional living expenses if you are unable to live in your apartment due to a fire or other loss that your insurance policy covers. You can also opt to purchase additional coverage for your valuable possessions that might have limited coverage in a typical policy, such as jewelry, fine art or silver.
Things to Know About Renters and Landlord Insurance
So, while your landlord’s insurance policy may protect the building itself in which you live, it likely doesn’t cover anything inside your apartment that belongs to you. A renters insurance policy can help give you peace of mind that you — and your stuff — have protection from unexpected events, both at home and wherever your travels take you.
Owning a home can mean dealing with the unexpected – from a tree falling on your roof to a pipe bursting in your bathroom. Because you likely can’t prevent all unwanted surprises, knowing what to expect if you have a homeowner’s claim can help give you some peace of mind.
While insurance carriers can handle claims in different ways, here are some basic steps in the process.
If Your Home Has Been Damaged:
Beginning the Claim Process:
We are an insurance company that cares. We help you get the coverage that meets your needs to help protect the things that are important to you, so you don’t have to worry.
Relocating After a Loss:
Resolving a Claim:
While renters insurance offers broad protection for tenants, it's important for consumers to choose the policy that best suits their individual needs.
A renters policy can cover your personal belongings and help cover legal costs in the event you are sued for accidental bodily injury or property damage of others. But not all policies are the same. Here are five questions to ask your insurance representative to help you make the right choice.
1. What's Covered and What's Not?
A renters policy generally covers your stuff against events like theft, lightning, fire, smoke, vandalism, explosions and windstorms.1 There's also liability protection against claims and lawsuits alleging that you caused bodily injuries or property damage. There may be coverage for certain kinds of water damage, such as leaks from damaged pipes. Your insurance rep can tell you if the policy includes additional living expenses if you're forced to move due to a covered loss.
A typical renters insurance policy does not generally provide coverage for damage from floods and earthquakes. Also, there will be limits on how much coverage is provided for your things. There could also be lower limits in the policy for different categories of your possessions. If you own expensive collectibles, such as jewelry or art, ask your insurance representative about buying additional coverage for these valuables.
2. Will a Renters Policy Cover my Roommate?
Renters insurance typically covers family members, but may not cover roommates. Calfee Insurance recommends that each occupant obtains his/her own policy to cover their individual stuff.
Some insurers allow roommates to be insured under a single policy. In these instances, roommates must agree to the level of coverage, based on the combined value of their stuff. If one roommate moves away, the remaining renter typically will need to obtain a new policy.
3. What's the Difference Between Cash Value and Replacement Coverage?
There are two types of renters coverage, one that pays based on your property’s actual cash value and one that pays based on you property’s replacement cost.
For example, a computer you bought for $1,000 eight years ago has significantly depreciated in value, let’s say to $200. If you have a cash value policy, the maximum amount you would be paid would be the lesser of the cost to repair it, or $200. If you have a replacement cost policy, the amount you would be paid would be the lesser of the cost to repair or replace the item with a similar new computer.
4. Will Owning a Dog Affect my Renters Coverage?
Some policies provide coverage if your dog injures someone, and some insurers exclude or limit coverage for customers who own a dog. It’s best to discuss this with your insurance representative when purchasing your policy.
5. Am I Covered if my Laptop Computer is Stolen from my Car Parked Outside my Home?
Renters policies generally include coverage for items stolen off-premises. That means belongings outside your home have insurance protection similar to the things inside your home. However, off premises coverage may be limited to a percentage of your total coverage for personal items. For example, if you have $50,000 in personal items coverage, the amount available for off-premises losses may be 10 percent of that figure, or $5,000. Also, keep in mind, there is generally a deductible that applies.
There are many common myths about potential dangers in and around the home that can keep some homeowners up at night. However, the gap between myth and fact can make all the difference when it comes to reducing risk in your house. So what does the data tell us are the biggest risks to your home?
From leaking valves to house fires, a look at Calfee Insurance Claim data reveals the facts about the most frequent causes of homeowners’ claims, as well as the costliest. The answers may surprise you. While some risks are common nuisances we are all too aware of, others can be catastrophic. To help keep your home, your valuables and your family safe, you will want to take steps to protect them.
Danger #1: Water Damage
Many people think of damage from hurricanes and heavy rains when they think of water damage. But according to Travelers Claim data from 2013-2020, more property losses resulted from non-weather water claims (23%) than weather-related water claims (15%)*. Non-weather water claims can involve plumbing-related losses, such as pipes, drains and valves, as well as appliance issues. Learn more about common causes of water damage and the steps that you can take to help prevent it.
Danger #2: Weather-Related Roof/Flashing Damage
Wind, hail and weather-related water damage accounted for more than half, or 53%, of all Travelers property loss claims between 2013-2020. Falling limbs and branches weighed down by snow and freezing rain can cause roof/flashing damage. It is a good idea to inspect trees on your property to help prevent damage caused by falling tree limbs. Learning how to identify and remove ice dams can also help you avoid costly damage in the winter months.
Danger #3: Frozen Pipe Damage
Frozen water pipes are considered a potential source for catastrophic property damage, and make the list of Travelers’ five costliest sources of homeowner claims. While a sub-item of weather-related water loss, it is so significant, it deserves special mention. The good news is you can take steps to help prevent your pipes from freezing by identifying pipes that are most at risk and taking steps before winter arrives to help insulate them. During the winter, you may consider using a smart thermostat to manage and monitor that your heat is set at a safe level to help avoid freezing, and to receive notifications if the temperature in your home drops unexpectedly.
Danger #4: Theft
Theft from the premises makes the list of top causes of property loss claims, accounting for 4% of losses. There are many steps that you can take to help make your home less attractive to thieves, including landscaping with theft prevention in mind, adding outdoor lighting and creating a plan to make your home appear occupied while you are away. There are a number of methods to monitor your home to help minimize the theft potential, including smart home alarm systems.
Danger #5: Fire
Although fires do not occur as often as other incidents around the home, the damage that they can cause puts fire at the top of the costliest types of claims, according to Travelers Claim data from 2013-2020. Fire and related damages accounted for 27% of claims as measured by costs paid out. Fires can start from cooking, overloading circuits, and improperly using a wood stove, among other causes. Learn more about the potential wood stove safety tips, and how to help protect your home.
Frozen pipes can present an invisible threat – one that you might not recognize until the weather starts to warm. By then, the water damage can be significant and costly. Fortunately, keeping your home warmer, at a consistent temperature, and better insulated can help protect your pipes from freezing this winter.
What Do You Do if You Have a Frozen Pipe?
If you suspect pipes in your home have been exposed to freezing temperatures, or water is not flowing through a faucet normally, follow these steps to help reduce the potential for water damage:
Why is a Frozen Pipe a Concern?
When water begins to freeze, it expands. This can cause both plastic and metal pipes to burst, possibly leading to significant water damage to your home.
Which Pipes Are Most at Risk?
Pipes that are most exposed to the elements, including those outdoors and along the exterior walls of your home, may need extra protection during winter months. These include the following:
How to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes
A major winter storm with the potential for hurricane-force winds and heavy snow is threatening to slam the Northeast this weekend. The quickly-intensifying winter storm could develop into a nor'easter, and possibly a bomb cyclone, as it travels along the coast in the coming days, according to AccuWeather.
The heaviest snow is anticipated to hit New England, although snowfall is also possible in metro areas further south, including New York City and Washington, D.C., the weather agency said. Coastal northeastern cities could also be in for strong hurricane-force wind gusts between 40 to 60 miles per hour in the coming days, according to Accuweather.
In eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, up to 16 inches of snow could accumulate from a bomb cyclone — which occurs when a cyclone rapidly intensifies and strengthens due to the central pressure decreasing by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. In Vermont and northern New York, wind chills could reach -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Southeast Connecticut could see six or more inches of snowfall.
A heavy rainstorm has finally stopped. Or maybe a long winter has finally ended, and the deep snows have begun to melt.
While good weather may seem like a relief, the potential for water damage may just be beginning. Storm water runoff can quickly overwhelm natural and manmade systems, leading to flooding and property damage.
The steps you take today to prepare your home and yard for proper drainage can help avoid time-consuming and costly repairs when the bad weather does blow through.
In a natural environment, storm water runoff is absorbed by soil, evaporates into the atmosphere or flows into bodies of water, such as streams, lakes or rivers. Homeowners may need to recreate the natural environment on their property to address storm water runoff. This includes planting trees and other vegetation, building rain gardens and installing rain barrels or cisterns to collect roof water.
How Can You Protect Your Home from Storm Water?
The key to developing a yard drainage plan is to understand the specific characteristics of your property and implement the system that works best for you. During a storm, you can go outside and observe how the water flows. Take note of the different grades and slopes and whether they divert the flowing water away from your home. Look for any low spots that collect or pool water and for any steep slopes that have indications of surface erosion.
Consider the steps needed to protect your property from water runoff. Rain that falls on roofs, driveways, patios, roads and other impervious areas moves across the ground surface at greater speeds. The property adjacent to these areas could be more susceptible to damage. Frozen soil can also increase risk of damage by preventing water from being absorbed by the soil. Replacing impervious areas with pervious surfaces, such as permeable paving stones or pavers, can also help.
Other questions you might consider:
Is storm water that falls on impervious surfaces diverted away from your house? This is the work of things like roof gutter downspouts, driveways, walkways and patios. Runoff from these surfaces should be directed to an area that has the ability to absorb or slow the surface flow, such as landscaped areas, and away from your house.
Does your house have a stream, pond or lake close by?
Consider the flood potential and how it may impact your property. You can research local flood maps that will detail flood water levels for various storm events and their flood potential.
Does your driveway or other impervious surface have a negative pitch back toward the house? Consider installing trench drains or area drains to help prevent pooling and divert water away from the house.
Do you have retaining walls on your property? If so, it is important that the walls have a drainage system in place to alleviate pressure behind the wall. Periodically clean weep holes to ensure they are not clogged. Surface water should not be allowed to cascade over the top of the wall and instead should be diverted to the end of the wall or around it.
Is a portion of your house below ground level, such as a basement?
Make sure any sewer and water lines, or any other pipes or lines that penetrate subsurface walls, and foundation cracks are properly sealed. Basements that are prone to water intrusion should have a water collection system in place, such as a sump pump system. This system should be maintained with a battery backup for continued operation in the event of a power failure. Consider elevating mechanical systems or installing curbs around areas that need protecting but cannot be elevated, such as finished areas and storage areas. Exterior basement window wells should have covers and the ground surface of the well should be below the well rim.
Do you have a sewer or septic system and property with known high water tables?
Have the system checked by a professional. If the groundwater rises too high, it can affect the efficiency and operation of the system. In some cases, this may lead to sewer back up or waste leaching above the ground or back into the house.
Surface storm water is not the only consideration for protecting your home. It is also important to assess the functionality of your whole home envelope system. Make sure that your house exterior is maintained, including roofing, flashings, weather barriers, windows, doors and sealants.
While you cannot prevent against all damage from storm water runoff during large acts of nature, these steps can help protect your home when storms do hit.