Having worked in the insurance industry for 26 years, I’ve seen insurance help people out of sticky situations again and again. After all, that’s what it’s there for. But there are things you can do to reduce the chance that you’ll have to make a claim, saving you from the turmoil of dealing with a damaged home as a result of water, fire or theft.
For example, if you know that stormy weather or a particularly cold winter is forecast, it’s sensible to prepare well ahead to avoid damage to your home, contents and valuables. In the worst case scenario, you could end up moving to alternative accommodation, a disruption nobody wants.
Here are a few easy tasks to help protect your home from damage and save money in the long run.
Maintaining your home…
Service your boiler annually to ensure it’s working as well as possible so it is less likely to break down when you need it most. It’s a good idea to arrange the service for the summer, giving time for work to be done before the winter months.
Boilers don’t like to be out of action for months at a time. So switch on your heating once a month for around 15 minutes to help keep the boiler in a serviceable condition.
Winter clean up
Wet leaves, snow and debris around the foundations of your home can cause damp, so get the rake out and keep the area clear. While you’re at it, check the chimney and roof for any damage to prevent water leaks.
A radiator key is usually found in every home in the depths of the “dad drawer” – put it to use! You can check whether your radiators need bleeding if they are hot at the bottom and cold at the top. This happens when air bubbles get trapped in the pipes and prevent hot water from circulating. Bleeding the radiator opens the valves to allow the air to escape and get the water flowing as normal again.
Insulate in the right places
If you have a loft, ensure water pipes and the storage tank are insulated correctly. Don’t place insulation under pipes and tanks in the loft as hot air won’t be able to rise and keep them warm. Insulation in your loft or roof can help maintain heat levels. Double glazing is another good insulation investment.
Don’t be a drip
Aside from being irritating, dripping taps can be expensive in the winter. Repair your taps because if you don’t, water could freeze in the waste pipe causing a leak which could be pricey to repair later down the line.
Shut the water off
Ensure you know where the stopcock is in your property so if needed the mains water supply can be shut off quickly. It’s usually under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe comes into the home. Install a water prevention system to cut off your water if it detects a leak, limiting the damage to your home. There are a number of prevention systems on the market, which can be purchased and installed by your own plumber into the existing plumbing.
If you are going away…
If you are going away for a period of time and leaving your property empty, there are steps you can take to help secure your home.
If you are away for any longer than a fortnight then it’s a good idea to drain and turn off the water at the mains. This will avoid any unexpected leaks and stop water from stagnating in pipes while you’re away.
Whilst you are away, ask a friend or relative to visit your home regularly (preferably daily) so any problems can be detected sooner and damage minimised. It also makes it look like there’s somebody home if there are still people coming and going from the property.
Leave curtains open and put on automatic timers for light switches so that the house appears occupied. Unplug all appliances except the freezer, fridge – and of course, the automatic light timers you’ve just set up!
Other ways to keep your property safe…
Lock it up
Ensure that all main entry and exit doors have either 5 or 7 lever mortice deadlocks fitted – this is a condition of home insurance. As a minimum all ground floor windows, and upper floor windows overlooking an accessible flat roof should have key‐operated locks fitted.
Make your mark
Have your valuable items coded or marked – there are several methods to choose from but also consider the effect this may have on their value. You can use UV pens for minimal impact, or use etching or chemical marking. Visit the Crime Prevention website for more information on protecting and marking your property.
Activate your senses
Install movement‐activated or dusk‐to‐dawn lights at the front and back of your house. Fit a trellis on top of perimeter fencing as a flimsy trellis makes it harder to climb over. Ensure your fire alarms are in good working order by testing them once a month and removing dust from around the alarm.
While insurance is there to cover your home and contents, taking actions like these, things that I think of as ‘Sunday jobs,’ will not only save you money in the future, but most importantly save you from the hassle of broken boilers and flooded kitchens and the upsetting loss of your most important possessions.
Blog written by Toby Baker, Chief Capacity Officer.