Click the infographic from Insure.com (right) for a quick-reference guide to the home insurance areas discussed below.
Your home should always be your haven — the place where family and friends gather and relax. Unfortunately, costly problems may lurk in your humble abode. While kitchen fires and fallen trees may not be predictable, they are often preventable. Save money and your home by checking these nine "hot spots" for problems on a regular basis and performing routine maintenance tasks.
Cooking fires are the number-one cause of costly home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Considering that ranges account for 59 percent of those fires, it's important to call in a skilled and licensed repairman as soon as you notice your stove malfunctioning. The U.S. Fire Administration also cautions against keeping flammable objects near the stove, such as paper towels and pot-holders.
While roofs get hit the hardest by the elements and repairing them is costly, they are often forgotten during routine maintenance. Inspect your roof and attic rooms at least once every six months for signs of leaking. Protect your roof by cleaning your gutters regularly to prevent them from cracking or failing – a costly repair that can drain your saving accounts. Check all caulking and sealants on your roof for peeling and leakage. On wood shake and shingle roofs, keep destructive fungus and algae from growing by applying zinc control strips.
3. Windows and doors
According to the FBI, there were more than 2 million burglaries in the U.S. in 2010, resulting in $4.6 billion in lost property. Thirty-three percent of those burglaries were unlawful entries involving no force, which means the burglars entered through open or faulty doors or windows. Protect your home by using only solid wood or solid core exterior doors and securing them with a deadbolt. Always lock all of your windows and consider adding security bars, especially near high-traffic, ground-level areas.
4. Laundry room
Dryer fires are surprisingly common and their costs can be enormous. According to a U.S. Fire Administration study from 2002 to 2004, property loss from dryer fires equaled an estimated $99 million per year. Clogged vents are a primary cause of dryer fires, so protect your home by making sure that your dryer vents to the outside as directly as possible and cleaning out the vents every six months. Remove lint from the lint trap after every load.
Water leaks are an often undetected problem that can wash out your saving account. Besides causing you to pay for water you don't use, leaky pipes can lead to deteriorated floors and walls. Excessive moisture also results in the build-up of unhealthy mold. Carefully check underneath sinks and around the base of toilets and tubs for continually moist areas and repair them. To check for undetected leaks, the California Department of Water Resources suggests turning off all appliances that use water and checking your water meter. If the dial on the meter moves, you have a leak and should call in a plumber to pinpoint the problem.
Your fireplace may add warmth and ambiance to your home, but if not properly maintained, it can also raise your risk of a home fire. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 26,000 annual chimney fires from 2005-2007. The Chimney Safety Institute of America contends that just about all chimney fires are preventable. Avoid costly chimney fires by having an annual chimney inspection and cleaning from a certified chimney sweep.
As the lowest spot of the house where water can potentially drain, basements tend to be damp, providing an ideal breeding ground for harmful mold. They might also store old paints and potentially flammable liquids. Check your basement regularly for signs of leaks, use a dehumidifier to dry the air in the basement, and avoid using the space to store toxic chemicals.
Often used as a catch-all, the garage tends to attract all sorts of unused items. Cluttered conditions can cause falling injuries and fires. Avoid accidents from occurring in the garage by safely storing your tools in sealed toolboxes and keeping the area clear of unneeded items.
9. Surrounding trees
Trees around your home bring welcome benefits such as beauty and shade. When they grow too close to the house, however, their roots can damage the foundation. Unstable trees can also lose limbs or fall over on your house during stormy weather. Avoid planting trees too close to the home, and reduce the risk of falling trees by maintaining them through proper watering and pruning.
Following these tips won't guarantee that your home will be a haven, but it will help prevent it from becoming a source of preventable expenses.