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How Can I Winterize My Home?

Renters insurance claims can be expensive for you as a policy holder as well as for the insurance company, because there are out of pocket costs involved and because you may see higher rates in the future after a major claim. Big property loss claims often happen in the winter. Winterizing your home can help you avoid troubles that sometimes befall a renter. Work with your landlord and your family on these basic steps to winterizing your home, and save yourself some hassle later.

1. Get the Furnace Ready: Make sure your furnace ducts are inspected and cleaned out. Buy enough furnace filters to get through the winter and change them every month. Test your thermostat before the weather gets too cold.

2. Prepare the Fireplace: If you have a fireplace, get it ready so you can save on your heat bills. Make sure it has a functional chimney cap, see if it needs to be swept out, and stock up on firewood to burn.

3. Inspect Doors and Windows: Heavy exterior doors may sag over time, leaving a draft in the latch side at the top. If your door is sagging, remove screw from the top hinge and replace them with longer ones to pick up the door. Replace weather stripping as needed. Check windows for drafts and condition of caulking.

4. Check Roof and Gutters: Get the top of the roof cleaned off, removing twigs and other debris. Make sure there's enough attic insulation to prevent ice dams. Clean out gutters and downspouts to prevent ice back up. Point downspout bottoms away from foundation. Make sure the whole system is running smoothly and check it with a hose before the weather gets too cold. (Also, unhook your outside garden hose and shut off that water for the winter.)

5. Inspect Foundations: Make sure water flows away from foundation on all sides. Check foundation for cracks or other evidence of damage, repairing as needed. Winter is the most stressful time on a home's foundation. Seal up underneath foundation to prevent animals from nesting under house.

6. Winterize Plumbing: Prevent frozen pipes by winterizing them. Drain and detach all garden hoses and shut off water at spickets. Make sure any exposed pipes are insulated and that insulation is in good shape. Note location of main shut off in case of emergency.

7. Trim trees to avoid encroachment upon home to avoid falling branches creating winter damage. Inspect grade to ensure proper runoff for freeze/thaw cycles. Seal driveways and decks as needed to prepare for the cold weather.

8. Winterize Outdoor Equipment: Get lawn mower ready for winter by draining gas from it. Get snow blowers ready to go and check to make sure they are running properly. Get summer garden/landscape equipment put away before inclement weather hits to avoid rusting and premature aging. Get ready for cold with ice melt and properly working shovels and car scrapers.

9. Check Your Emergency Kit: This type of kit is especially important in the winter months. When power goes out, you should have this kit handy to deal with the troubles you might run into. Have indoor candles and matches or a full lighter ready to go. Also have a flashlight or two with good batteries in the kit. Phone numbers for utility companies can go in this kit as well for easy reference. Include bottled water and non perishable food that does not require cooking to be safely eaten. Add extra warm blankets and a good first aid kit. All of this should be placed in an easy to remember and easy to access location.

10. Evacuation Plan: This is not specifically part of a winterizing to do list per se, but it is good to go over your evacuation plan at least once per season so that everyone in the household understands the plan. Take a look at your plan while you are going through your winter checklist and see if anyone has any questions. Make adjustments as necessary. Like anything else, this plan may require some tweaking over time, and bears revisiting for that sake.

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