Six Tips to Prep Your Home for Winter in New England

Six Tips to Prep Your Home for Winter in New England

Curl up in front of the fire carefree, after you tackle these six winter prep projects.

Winter brings seasonal treats like hot chocolate and marshmallows, snow angels, and sleds. However, it also invites plummeting temperatures, blistering winds, and ice. Brrr! As the fall season comes to an end in Western Massachusetts, the countdown to snow flurries is on, and so is your window of opportunity for winterizing your property.

Cleaning out the gutters, caulking the windows, and draining the hose of excess water are difficult, if not impossible, once there is snow and ice on the ground. Prepping your home for a New England winter requires you to think ahead and take deliberate and preventative steps now, while the weather is still cooperating. Check these six items off your to-do list in the coming weeks, so you can enjoy the holidays and winter season worry-free.

  1. Declutter your gutters and mind your attic. Removing leaves and other fallen debris from your gutters and ensuring your attic is adequately insulated and well-ventilated are critical to-dos for most New England homeowners. Why is this so important? Ice dam prevention. By taking these steps now, you may prevent an ice dam from forming in the first place. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the roofline and prevents melting snow from draining properly, also known as a seasonal nuisance. If an ice dam were to form, it can cause various costly issues to your home, including water-stained walls, cracks in your ceilings, mold in your attic, and damage to personal belongings.

    Pro tip: If your home is properly maintained, a comprehensive homeowners insurance policy should cover the repair of ice dams and the issues that tend to follow close behind.

  2. Protect your plumbing by insulating your pipes, especially those located on an exterior wall, like kitchen sinks, showers, and washing machines. As temperatures drop, water pipes are prone to freezing. A frozen pipe in your home is not only inconvenient but could be a sizable financial burden as well. Did you know that a ruptured pipe is one of the most common causes of property damage and can cost upwards of $5,000 to repair? Keeping the thermostat consistent and at or above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, installing pipe insulation, filling cracks, applying electrical heating tape to pipes, and sealing crawl spaces are just a few ways to avoid this winter nightmare.

    Pro tip: If you take good care of your home, most standard homeowners policies should cover damages caused by burst pipes, which is comforting to know just in case the unexpected happens this winter.

  3. Fill holes and cracks. Before the winter officially hits, caulking around holes, cracks, and other openings or installing weather stripping around windows, doors, A/C units, and mail chutes can help keep the cold air where it belongs: outside. As a bonus, this maintenance tip can also help eliminate potential pest infestations, like mice, chipmunks, and squirrels.

    Pro tip: If you notice holes and cracks in your foundation, the dwelling coverage component of your home insurance may cover some of those repairs. However, the damage must be caused by a covered peril, like sudden and immediate water damage from a frozen pipe, fallen tree, or windstorm.

  4. Have your heating system serviced. It makes no difference if you have a furnace, boiler, wood or pellet stove, fireplace, or electric baseboards; your home’s heating system and chimneys should be serviced every year to ensure they are clean and running efficiently.

    Additionally, if you’re in the market to buy a new home or are thinking about upgrading your current heating system, you may not care where your heat comes from, as long as it works. While you may not have a preference, your insurance carrier likely will. In fact, most carriers specifically note your home’s heating system, including type, fuel source, and age, to measure the unique risk associated with your home. So, if you are thinking about making changes to your heating system, such as installing an electric fireplace or pellet stove, or making the switch from oil to gas, be sure to notify your insurance agent to ensure you have ample coverage.

    Pro tip: Most of our insurance partners offer Home Systems Protection Coverage. This cost-effective homeowners endorsement provides coverage for damage caused by a sudden or accidental mechanical or electrical breakdown of your home’s systems and equipment, like your central AC unit, boiler, and furnace. However, added coverage or not, it’s important to keep up with your routine service appointments. Most carriers will not allow you to tap into this generous coverage if the damage is due to poor maintenance or neglect on behalf of the homeowner.

  5. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you haven’t tested and replaced the batteries in your smoke detectors this year, now is a great time to do so. Making sure these life-saving devices are operational is a critical to-do for all homeowners.

    Pro tip: Your standard home insurance policy should provide some financial protection in the event of a fire. However, there are two situations where fire damage may not be covered—arson and if your home is vacant at the time of the fire. Most insurance carriers define an empty house as one that has been unoccupied for an extended period of time. If your home is vacant, the McClure Insurance team is happy to chat with you about an additional endorsement that can be added to your policy for extra protection and peace of mind.

  6. Clean up your yard. Trimming back your trees and removing dead branches are easy ways to mitigate potential property damage during the winter months. Ice, snow, and wind can weaken trees and branches, causing them to snap off, which may lead to damage to your home, fence, or vehicles.

    Pro tip: Most home insurance policies tend to cover damages caused by a fallen tree from your yard or someone else’s. However, it’s important to note that most home insurance policies do not provide coverage if the damage is due to poor maintenance or obvious neglect. Therefore, make sure you keep a close eye on your trees and hire a professional to trim back any unruly branches.

McClure Insurance Agency, Inc. is here for you every winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Taking the time to tackle these and other home maintenance projects will undoubtedly bring you peace of mind this winter. However, the unthinkable may still happen. If you have partnered with a local and experienced insurance agent, like McClure Insurance Agency, Inc., for your home insurance needs, you should be prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at you and your home.

However, it’s important to remember that every insurance carrier, coverage type, and policy is different. So, if you want to make sure you have sufficient coverage for you, your belongings, and your home this winter, please give our team a call to confirm. We are happy to address any questions or concerns you may have about your specific home insurance policy, including what is and is not covered.

McClure Insurance is here for you for the long-term.