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5 Common Home Insurance Claims in the Winter (+ How to Avoid Them)

House and yard covered in snow.

Policyholders often experience five common home insurance claims in the winter. When cold weather arrives, take a quick inventory to make sure your home is prepared for freezing temperatures. This could make all the difference in preventing a burst pipe, leaky roof or late night call to the emergency plumber.

Below are winter home maintenance tips to help avoid unexpected damage and hefty repair bills.

1. Frozen pipes and ruptured plumbing.

When outdoor temperatures dip several degrees below freezing, the water inside your pipes could freeze. Sometimes a frozen pipe can be thawed without causing significant damage. Other times, the frozen mass may cause pipes to burst.

Ruptured plumbing can cause significant water damage to your flooring, drywall and personal belongings. For this reason and others, it is very important to know where your water shutoff is located and how to use it.

Tips to help prevent a burst pipe:

  • Drain and disconnect garden hoses and sprinkler supply lines in the fall, before freezing weather arrives.
  • Insulate pipes in older homes and unheated spaces, with foam insulation, pipe sleeves or heat tape. Leave cabinet doors open to allow warm air inside.
  • Consider installing leak detection technology or a water shutoff device. This equipment could also earn a discount on your Homeowners Insurance.

2. Damage from falling trees or branches.

Regular trimming can help keep your trees healthy and ensure branches are not growing too close to your home. An ice storm or heavy wind may cause branches to fall, which can send them crashing into your roof, patio or car. Damages could range from a dent or scratch to needing a new roof — with the average cost of a new roof ranging between $5,000 and $10,000.

Tips to help prevent falling trees: Make a list of one to three trustworthy, insured tree trimmers in your area. Inspect your trees on a regular basis for any signs of distress and consider hiring a professional to trim overgrown branches, and to remove dead trees or tree limbs. If you are looking for a reputable tree trimmer in the greater St. Charles area, we proudly recommend Hansen’s Tree Service and Liscombe Tree Service.

3. Fires caused by holiday decorations or cooking.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. But some of the most beloved holiday staples can also be fire hazards: huge roasted Thanksgiving turkeys, strings of lights, crackling fireplaces and the warm glow of candlelight by the Christmas tree. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says Thanksgiving is the peak day of the year for home cooking fires, and Christmas is the peak day for candle fires.

Holiday fire safety tips:

  • Test your smoke alarms regularly, especially before the holidays!
  • Do not leave food on the stovetop or burning candles unattended. Be mindful of flammable objects near an open flame, such as loose clothing.
  • Always unplug lights and holiday decorations before you go to bed each night and before leaving the house for any amount of time — even if it’s a short trip.
  • Use common sense. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for household products, and make sure kids and pets have appropriate supervision.

4. Slipping and falling on the ground.

“Slip and fall accidents” typically refer to an injury caused by a slick or icy surface. This could include a delivery person slipping on the walkway to your front door or falling on a patch of ice during a run. Homeowners are responsible for keeping their walkways safe for their own wellbeing and for the safety of guests, visitors and other neighbors. Because a slip and fall accident can involve a guest or other third party, a severe injury could result in a lawsuit (and thus, a very expensive potential Home Insurance claim).

Tips to help prevent a slip and fall accident: Keep your sidewalks, porches and any outdoor steps clear of snow and ice as much as possible. Be sure you are aware of local ordinances or any HOA guidelines for inclement weather. Consider applying a ground treatment, such as salt or a pet-safe ice melt, if you are able to do this safely. To help provide protection from a lawsuit, consider purchasing Umbrella Liability Insurance.

5. Water damage from clogged gutters.

Clogged gutters are no match for winter weather. Gutters can become clogged with leaves, helicopter seeds, bird nests and other debris, which prevents water flowing away from your home. In the winter, snow may also accumulate on your roof and form ice dams. Ice dams are caused when snow melts on a warm roof and refreezes along the gutters and eaves. Any time water is accumulating around your home, you run the risk of experiencing a leak, water damage, broken gutters and mold.

Tips to help prevent water damage from clogged gutters:

  • Clean your gutters regularly. Consider installing gutter guards to help prevent debris from being trapped inside.
  • Inspect your roof and attic for any signs of damage before winter weather arrives.
  • Do NOT use a leaf rake, pressure washer, blow torch or leaf blower to remove snow or ice dams.
  • Consider using a roof rake for large accumulations of snow (6 inches or more) if you know how to use one safely. Otherwise, call a snow removal professional to prevent damage to your roof.

The Best Winter Weather Protection? A Homeowner’s Policy.

Homeowners Insurance offers critical protection from a variety of winter weather hazards. This type of policy is almost always required by mortgage lenders — but it is up to you, as the homeowner, to make sure you know what your policy covers. Talk to a Webb Insurance agent to set up a review of your current policy to make sure it covers everything you expect it to.

Contact us today to get a free quote with no obligation to purchase. We are also happy to help identify any opportunities for you to save money on your current policy, improve your coverage (or both!) by switching from your current carrier to Webb Insurance.

Read more about Homeowner’s Insurance for storm damage.