This past summer was difficult for many homeowners in Saskatchewan as there were many thousands of losses across the province. With fall upon us there are steps every homeowner should take whether they have suffered a loss or not.
The ground around your foundation may have settled over time, especially in the first few years after construction. Before the snow is here to stay, take a walk around your home and ensure the ground is high enough next to the foundation to ensure proper drainage away from the house. Pay attention to areas that may not be easily visible, such as under decks or steps. The ground must slope away from the foundation or the spring runoff can drain into your basement.
Remove all debris and leaves from your eavestroughs and downspouts. Keeping them clear allows the melting snow to drain away from the house effectively. Also check that your downspouts are securely fastened to the house and extend at least six feet away; this is important all year round. The use of splash pads at the end of your downspout will also help the water drain away from the foundation. Your downspouts should not empty towards your neighbor's property but should drain away to the front or back of your property. Work with your neighbor to identify and correct any potential issues.
Check your driveway and walkways for any significant cracks or loose material that may pose a tripping hazard. Fill in any gaps where necessary or take other appropriate actions.
Change your furnace filter; these should be checked monthly during the heating season and replaced as necessary. Clean the filters on your range hood and HRV (heat recovery ventilator) if applicable, also check other air vents to make sure there are no obstructions and that outdoor cover flaps are functional. It is also important to check your outdoor vents regularly during the winter and remove any snow or ice buildup.
If you burn wood in your home it is important to have a qualified professional complete a chimney cleaning once per year. A professional may also be able to certify your wood burning unit under the W.E.T.T. standard (Wood Energy Technical Training) which could identify any potential risks and may also reduce your insurance premium. Be sure your supply of wood is well seasoned and store it in a dry place; this will reduce the risk of creosote buildup in your chimney which can lead to an increased risk of fire.
Be sure to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Also check the expiry date on your detectors as they are only guaranteed to be effective for a certain number of years. If they are battery operated it is recommended that you replace them with sealed units which contain lithium batteries that may last up to ten years. Check the pressure on your fire extinguisher(s). It is recommended that your fire extinguishers be serviced by a professional on a regular basis as indicated by the manufacturer.
Draining water from the bottom valve of your water heater can clear sediment buildup and will prolong the life of the unit as well as making it run more efficiently. If your water heater has a pressure relief value, you should make sure there is a clear path for water to run to a floor drain without damaging or affecting any household contents, flooring or floor covering.
Any time of the year is good to do a thorough review of your home insurance. It is critical that your homeowner’s policy contain certain coverage extensions such as sewer back-up coverage and guaranteed replacement cost coverage. You should review the details of your dwelling with your broker and if the guaranteed replacement option is not available on your home, you must have an adequate value placed on your dwelling. Home insurance policies can change over time; it is important to review your coverage with your broker on a regular basis to ensure you are taking advantage of any available coverage extensions and policy discounts.
Homeowners that experienced unfortunate losses from the summer storms also had an opportunity to experience the level of service their insurance broker could provide. As an independent insurance broker, our primary responsibility is to our clients. It is relatively easy to provide good service at the time of sale, but it is also vital that we provide exceptional service at the time of loss as well.
The above is provided as general information only. Please consult a licensed insurance broker to review your specific insurance requirements. You should consult a qualified, licensed, and insured contractor for specific advice on any issues that relate to your dwelling or property.