How to Prepare for Top Winter Home Insurance Claims
Ah, the charm of winter. With heavy snowfalls, twinkling holiday lights, and nights in front of the fireplace, there’s nothing like the coziness of the colder months. But those same things we love about the winter are the very elements that can create potential dangers for your home—from storm damage to house fires. They can also lead to costly home insurance claims that raise your overall premium.
The good news is there are plenty of preventative measures you can take to safeguard your home as we head into the colder months. Here are four common types of winter-related home damage—and how you can prevent them.
5 Most Common Home Insurance Claims in the Winter
It makes sense that most home insurance claims filed during the colder months are due to winter weather damage. But some actually occur as a result of heating your home, and even accidents during the holiday season. Fortunately, taking action in advance can help keep your home safe during the coldest months. Here are some of the most common winter home insurance claims—and how to prevent them.
1. Frozen pipes
If your kitchen faucet isn’t working on a cold winter morning, you could have a frozen water pipe. Frozen water inside of a pipe can cause the entire pipe to burst and result in flooding and serious structural damage. It also creates an immediate potential for mold in your flooring, drywall or household appliances. Frozen water pipes are a problem in both cold and warmer climates, and typically affect homes with copper or plastic pipes. The damage isn’t cheap, either. The average claim for water damage due to burst or frozen pipes can often hit the $10,000 to $20,000 range.
Tips to prevent frozen pipes:
- Let your faucets drip. Turn the warm water to a trickle overnight when temperatures are cold, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.
- Insulate pipes. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Even if you live in a region where freezing is uncommon, it’s important to add pipe insulation, especially in your home’s attic or crawl spaces. Heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables are a good option for wrapping the pipes for ultimate peace of mind.
- Adjust the thermostat. Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. It may cause a slightly higher heating bill, but it will prevent an expensive repair job if your pipes freeze and burst. It can also help reduce strain on your furnace.
- Open cabinet doors. This allows warmer air to circulate around the un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
- Seal leaks. Look around your home for air leaks that are allowing cold air inside, especially around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to thoroughly seal the leaks and keep the cold air out.
- Keep the garage door closed. This is especially important if there are water supply lines in your garage.
2. Snow and ice damage
Winter damage to your home comes from more than just frozen pipes. When ice accumulates on your roof, the weight of that buildup can cause structural damage. Ice dams are another destructive form of damage. These occur when melted snow refreezes near your gutters or roof edges. When the ice begins to melt again, the water can seep under roof shingles, causing leakage and mold problems in your walls and ceiling. Larger icicles may even be heavy enough to rip off a gutter.
Tips to prevent snow and ice damage
Throughout the winter, keep your gutters clear of debris so that melted snow can drain properly. You should also ensure that your attic is thoroughly insulated by sealing spots where warm air could leak up from your living areas. This will keep your roof cold, which helps prevent an ice dam from forming in the first place.
3. House fires
Thanksgiving is the leading holiday for cooking fires, and the chances of a candle fire on Christmas Day are nearly three times greater than average. Space heaters are yet another common cause of winter insurance claims.
Tips to prevent a house fire:
- Keep flammable materials away from heaters, lights and radiators. Always shut off electrical appliances after a certain amount of time, especially before bed.
- Water your Christmas tree often to prevent it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
- If you lose power, use flashlights instead of candles, and turn off all electric appliances.
- Never use your stove to heat your home.
- Install a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace, and have a professional chimney sweep clean it once a year.
4. Wind and hail damage
Hail and wind claims made up more than 45% of home insurance losses in 2020. Your coverage may include wind or hail exclusions, so make sure to check your policy to see if you’re covered for these damages.
Tips to prevent wind and hail damage:
- Check your roof. If your roof is five or more years old, you should schedule an inspection to make sure it doesn’t have any weak spots. This can include loose shingles or nails that might create openings for water to enter your home. If you live in a hail-prone region, consider upgrading to a metal roof. If your home has skylights, you might want to add a shutter system for extra protection.
- Store patio furniture. Outdoor furniture and other heavy items (flowerpots, lawn decorations, etc) can become a dangerous projectile during a winter storm. Make sure they’re secured in an enclosed space, or anchored with cables to prevent strong winds from lifting them up.
- Clear tree branches. High winds are dangerous for any tree branches that are too close to a window or your roof, or any that are weak and hanging low to the ground. As part of your home prep for winter, remove or trim back any branches that pose a threat.
5. Personal injury liability
Ice on your property—whether on the sidewalk, driveway, or a stairwell—can spell a liability risk for you and any visitors to your home. Other hazards like falling icicles can also lead to potential injuries and lawsuits.
Tips to prevent personal injury liability:
- Take the time to clear your driveway and walkways. If you don’t have the time or ability to do this yourself, consider hiring a professional.
- Lay down rock salt to make icy areas less dangerous.
- Keep gutters clear of debris so that runoff won’t freeze on your driveway.
What Does Your Home Insurance Cover?
Most home insurance policies cover damages related to snow, wind, ice, and rain. If your house becomes uninhabitable due to damages, your policy will also cover the additional living expenses for your temporary stay at a hotel during repairs. Here are the most common types of winter damage covered by standard homeowners insurance:
- Ice damage
- Frozen or burst pipes
- Damage from falling snow or freezing rain
- Damage from the weight of accumulated snow on your house or other insured structures.
- Damage to your house, roof or other insured structures resulting from wind
- Damage from fallen tree limbs
Keep in mind that, depending on your policy, your coverage may include wind or hail exclusions. Read over your policy carefully or talk to your insurance agent to make sure you’re prepared if disaster strikes.
Find the Lowest Homeowners Insurance Rates This Winter
Keeping your monthly premium low starts with finding the best possible coverage rates—and we’ve done the search for you. Thanks to our fast and affordable online home insurance quotes, you can choose an auto insurance plan and get your coverage—all in a matter of minutes. Get your free quote today and enjoy the peace of mind that you and your family are financially protected against any disaster that comes your way.