HOME-LOSS PREVENTION CHECKLIST

FIRE PROTECTION

  • Keep approved, properly charged and maintained fire extinguishers in the garage and near the kitchen.   Household members should be trained in the proper use of an extinguisher; otherwise, this could result in injury, delays in notifying the fire department, or the spread of fire, i.e., through the improper application of an extinguishing agent to a grease fire.
  • Fire/smoke alarms should be properly distributed throughout the home.   Contact the local fire department for advice on placement of detectors.   Replace batteries at least twice annually.   Consider changing the batteries when Daylight Saving Time changes each spring and fall.
  • Consider a carbon monoxide detector.   This should normally be placed near a heat-producing device, such as a water heater, dryer, etc.
  • Avoid storing flammables in the home or garage; use a small, detached storage shed.   Many homeowners store up to five gallons of gasoline for yard equipment and often in unapproved (non-UL listed) containers.   Ask your agent or a safety professional about approved fire-resistant storage equipment.

ELECTRICAL

  • Extension cords should be used only temporarily and checked frequently for fraying.   Extension cords are not designed to be permanent electrical circuits.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets with several devices.   A single wall outlet can only support so much amperage.   All easily damaged electrical equipment should have surge protection, including major appliances, TVs, PCs, video game consoles, DVD/VHS players, etc.
  • Label all circuit breakers and check regularly for tripping.  Indicate what area is controlled by each breaker.   Also, if you are running “behind the scenes” equipment like a sump or septic pump, be sure to check the circuit breaker controlling that device at least weekly.
  • Consult an electrician for help with these and similar suggestions for preventing losses resulting from electrical malfunction or overload.

PLUMBING & HVAC

  • Inspect the entire plumbing system for leaks.   At least every three months, check all visible piping and fittings in crawl spaces, under sinks, etc., for leaks.
  • Install a pressure-reducing valve if hydrostatic pressure exceeds acceptable standards.  If your neighborhood is in a high-pressure zone, contact a plumber to install an in-line pressure-reducing valve.   This valve will significantly reduce exposure to leaks around fittings and fixtures and will help prevent water damage to claims and future costly repairs.
  • Know where your primary water shut-off valve is located and keep a valve key on hand for quick access.
  • Inspect water heater, pan, piping and vent.   If applicable, know how to operate gas shut-off if necessary.   Have your plumber show you how your water heater works and its safety features.   If you have gas heat, have a utility representative demonstrate how to safely shut the gas off it necessary.
  • Avoid using electric or kerosene space heaters.  The best thing to do is not use them at all, but if you must, keep them well away from any combustibles and avoid tipping them over.
  • Change air conditioning filters at least monthly and clean ductwork at least every three years.   Household air ducts can be a breeding ground for dust, fungus and bacteria and may provide evidence that you have a hidden moisture problem.
  • Consult a plumber and air conditioning technician for help with these and similar suggestions on preventing losses resulting from damaged or malfunctioning plumbing and HVAC equipment.

BATHROOMS

  • Maintain tub and shower caulking and grouting around tile and fixtures.  These areas should be completely water tights to prevent moisture from entering the wall and sub-floor areas, which can lead to wet rot and mold.
  • Remove mildew weekly with a mild bleach solution.   This will minimize wear on group and caulking.
  • If moisture builds up on ceilings or walls, check and correct bathroom ventilation.   Many bathrooms have inadequate ventilation due to undersized fans or exhaust vents that have come loose and do not properly exhaust to the exterior.
  • Consult a plumber and HVAC technician for help with these and similar suggestions on preventing losses resulting from moisture and inadequate ventilation.

OTHER INTERIOR AREAS

  • Check basement and crawl spaces for dampness and take corrective action such as French drains, a sump pump, etc.   Crawl space ground areas should be completely covered with a plastic vapor barrier and the area should be free of wood and other debris.   If basement area is musty, have it inspected and consider using a dehumidifier.
  • Consider treating exposed crawl space wood with a borate solution to prevent mold and insect damage.   After eliminating the source of moisture or water accumulation, contact a reliable contractor, such as a pest control company, to spray your crawl space with a borate solution.   This will inhibit fungus growth and deter termintes, carpenter ants and other wood-boring insects.
  • Check ceilings and attics for evidence of water damage and correct immediately.   As soon as water spotting is detected, take corrective action to eliminate the source to prevent further damage and prevent mold growth.  Remember that taking steps to prevent further damage from a known cause may be required by your homeowners insurance policy.
  • Check attic and crawl space ventilation to prevent moisture build-up.   Ensure that attic and crawl-space vents are working properly and moving sufficient amount of air to prevent moisture build-up.   A qualified home inspector can do this for you.
  • Check for ceiling, wall and joint separations, and cracks and take corrective action as warranted.   This type of damage could be indicative of a moisture problem or a settling, neither of which is covered by your homeowners policy.
  • Check floors for creaking that could indicate structural or moisture problems.   Over the years, some creaking is normal, but it’s better to check and take corrective action in the event that there is a cause other than normal wear.
  • Consult a home inspector and pest control service for help with these and similar suggestions to prevent losses resulting from moisture build-up and insect damage.

EXTERIOR AREAS

  • Check roof for wear, torn or missing shingles as well as mildew.   These areas should be repaired immediately.   You may hire someone for an up-close inspection or simply us a pair of binoculars.   Have mildew build-up removed every few years; for most homes the cost of this service will be less than $ 250.
  • Check chimney flashing, rain cap, mortar and caulking.   Chimneys are a major source of leaks and water damage.   If water gets between the walls and chimney casing (for prefabs), it can go undetected for years.  While flashing is the usual culprit, the chimney cap often is a source if it has been slightly dislodged by heavy winds.   Likewise, more ornate brick chimney work often requires sealing and caulking, which will wear over time.   Consider sealing, grouting, and caulking at least every three years.
  • Check gutters for debris.   Consider a protective system, such as Gutter Guard.   Leaves, maple seeds, bird and squirrel nests, shingle granules or pieces can often clog up gutters, causing them to overflow or even backflow into the home interior.
  • As soon as practical, remove snow or ice accumulations from roof to prevent ice dams.   Do not risk your life to remove snow; hire someone if necessary and seek professional advice on how to prevent ice dams.
  • Ensure downspouts direct water well away from the home foundation.   Water that is allowed to accumulate near the foundation can seep under basements and crawl spaces or leak through block walls.
  • Grading should slope away from foundation.  Contact a landscaper if you have excessive water pooling near your home or evidence of heavy moss and fungus on the foundations walls.
  • Check window and door sills and framework for weathering and moisture retention, which could be a sign of poor drainage or water that is seeping into the window or door casing.   Storm windows and doors may help, but consider consulting a qualified contractor for advice.
  • Inspect fireplaces and roof areas for creosote build-up and clean annually.   This is usually a task best suited for a qualified chimney sweep.
  • Inspect exterior brick and siding for gaps, missing mortar, etc.   Missing brick mortar, cracks and separations between walls, windows, doors, etc., can allow water into the structure.
  • Clean vinyl/aluminum siding to prevent weathering.   Also note any separations or wear that can permit water to enter and accumulate between the siding and structure.
  • Consult a home inspector for help with these and similar recommendations for preventing losses resulting from water, snow and ice damage.

GENERAL

  • Purchase a contract for a quarterly termite, ant and other insect inspection and treatment service.   This service is absolutely critical; in most cases your homeowners policy does not cover damage caused by insects.
  • Before buying a house, ask your agent to obtain a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) or similar report on the home.   This report may reveal past problems that have not been disclosed by the seller.

CRIME EXPOSURES

  • Install adequate deadbolt locks.   These inexpensive locks deter even professional thieves.
  • Consider a burglar alarm system, particularly one with central monitoring service.   Alarm systems also deter burglars.
  • Keep shrubbery trimmed low and away from windows and doors.   Don’t give a burglar a place to work undetected.
  • Use exterior lighting, particularly motion-sensored.   Again, this will deter burglars.
  • Keep vehicle doors locked when parked.   Don not keep valuables in cars such as electronics, large number of CDs, laptop computers, presents, etc.
  • Start a Neighborhood Watch program.   These programs DO work!  Visit your neighbors and work with your local law enforcement agency to establish a program.
  • Have a trusted person act as “watchdog” when your family will be away from your home for an extended period.   Have them park a car in the driveway after hours, check the mail, pick up newspapers,  turn light on and off, and create other signs consistent with someone being home.

LIABILITY EXPOSURES

  • Repair pavement cracks, loose steps, railings and decks.   Likewise, keep objects and debris off your premises to minimize slips and falls that could result in liability claims.
  • If you are considering getting a dog, check with your insurance agent for breeds that could cause insurance problems.   Some insures are averse to dogs or particular breeds and may refuse to renew your policy or may apply a surcharge.   On the other hand, the right kind of dog can be a burglary deterrent.
  • Check with your insurance agent if you are considering installing a swimming pool or purchasing a trampoline.   Again, some insurers are averse to certain types of facilities they believe increase exposure to lawsuits.   In particular, trampolines have been shown to present quite serious exposures.