Posts Tagged ‘Home Ownership’

Frozen Pipes

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Water FaucetHere at Fitts Insurance, we took MANY water pipe claims this week.  Our mild winter came to an abrupt end with the record freezing temps this past weekend.  Frozen pipes, burst pipes, flooding, water damage, and the resulting clean up were on tap for some clients. And though we may be out of the deep freeze at the moment, there is still some winter left to weather. 

The following information on how to prevent or deal with frozen pipes may be needed next week or next winter.  In either case, this is information that homeowners, tenants, and businessowners alike should know or have on hand as a reference for when it is needed.

There are three common causes of frozen pipes according to the American Red Cross and any one, or a combination of them, can cause a pipe problem:

  • Rapid drop in temperature
  • Poor insulation
  • Thermostats being set too low

Not all pipes need special care but those that are exposed to the outdoors, nearest the building’s outer walls, or under the foundation are the ones that are most at risk.  And since Mother Nature is beyond taming, that leaves us with doing our best to protect ourselves and our property from her harsher moods.  So what can you do?

  • Set your thermostat to the same temp day & night.  Nights are usually colder, so turning down the heat is not a good idea
  • Use heat tape, heat cables or foam sleeves to wrap the pipes
  • Remember water freezes at 32 degrees. When it’s in the 20s and teens, we are already well below freezing!
  • Make sure you have enough insulation in the outer walls to keep the cold out
  • Check to see that your garage door and other exterior doors are closed
  • Open hot & cold faucets to a slow drip
  • Seal any leaks or cracks that allow the cold air in
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to allow heat to reach un-insulated pipes near exterior walls (remove any household cleaners and chemicals out of the reach of children)
  • Know the location of your internal shut off valves in case a pipe bursts or leaks
  • If you are going away, shut off the water supply line to your washing machine
  • Drain and shut off all outside spigots
  • Mark the shut off to the main water supply line so it can be easily identified
  • If you are going way, set the thermostat to 60 degrees
  • Have someone check on your house when you can’t be there
  • Use a temp-controlled thermal convection powered hot water recirculation valve
  • Use a product called ICE LOC which prevents pipes from rupturing by taking up the expansion of the frozen water
  • Use a RedyTemp, a device which utilizes an internal water contacting temperature probe to monitor the temp of the water inside the pipes

Having done all you can, you still may find it was not enough and your pipes have frozen.  Now what?  Here are a few options to try:

  • To thaw a frozen pipe, first check the pipe for  the area where frozen
  • Heat the area around the frozen part with an electric space heater, a hand-held hair dryer, or a heat lamp with a reflector to prevent a fire.  NEVER use a blow torch or open flame!
  • DO NOT use electrical appliances in or near standing water
  • If there is flooding, turn off the main water valve and call 911

Should you find that in spite of your efforts, the pipe remains frozen, keep the faucet(s) open and call a plumber immediately.

You can find more information, pictures, diagrams, step by step instructions and video at:   http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Frozen-Water-Pipes

Should you have a claim from a frozen pipe or have a question, you can call us at 508-620-6200 or email us at info@fittsinsurance.comYou can also put a claim in directly by contacting your company.  Claims information for your company can be found on our website: www.FittsInsurance.com.

Christmas Tree Safety

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Tis the season to remind everyone about Christmas Tree safety.  Take a look at this video Christmas Tree Fire Comparison  showing a comparison between a real tree that has been watered daily and one that has not.  Then check out the safety tips below for picking not only a beautiful tree, but a safe tree! 

The Counter-Intuitive Rhythm of Homeownership

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drive-1232913-639x423When you own a home, there is a rhythm to its upkeep and care dictated by the seasons.  Unfortunately, that rhythm is counterintuitive; if it’s hot out, think winter prep; if it’s sunny, think waterproofing and roof issues; if it’s fall, think spring gardens.

2015 gave us an historic winter that was rough on everyone and on our properties.  Ice dams, water damage, roof issues, and damaged landscaping, were just a few issues we may have had to deal with.  But we are New Englanders and we learn from it and take action against a future repeat.  We know that summer fixes can help ward off winter wallops.  Now that summer is in full swing, here are a few things that might pertain to your home that are best done in summer to avoid problems when it is colder and harder to access the areas needing help.

Weatherstripping – you don’t want to loose heat (or cold air from your air conditioners either) through cracks and spaces in window sills and doors.

Landscaping issues – transplanting areas that are overgrown, pruning trees and shrubs that can break when laden with snow and ice, even planting for fall gardens.  Driveways can be sealed, sidewalk issues fixed and any areas that tend to pond or flood can be corrected.

Buy supplies now for heating – oil, wood, pellets are usually less expensive now than when they are in high demand during winter months.

Roof and chimney issues – easier to access and correct when leaves are not falling, rain isn’t a constant factor and snow and ice are not present.  Ice dams created havoc last winter, prepare for them now so as to avoid a repeat.

Heating Systems – now is a good time for boiler inspections, furnace tune ups and cleanings so they are ready to work well when the time comes for their heavy usage.

General fix ups – sagging gutters, tilted shutters, cracked windows, chipping paint, rusting railings, leaning fences, cracking foundations and stairs – with a little maintainence now, you can avoid bigger fixes (and more money) later as they get worse.

Here’s hoping the upcoming winter sets new records for the perfect amount of snow for winter sports but not enough to cause traffic issues or problems with our homes!

 

 

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Fitts Insurance Agency, Inc.

2 Willow Street, Suite 102

Southborough, MA 01745

 

888-697-6542

508-620-6200

(f)508-481-0227

www.FittsInsurance.com

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Five Effective Landscaping Tricks That Protect Your Home From Burglars

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Roughly two million burglaries occur each year. Protect your home and family when you implement five landscaping tricks that don’t compromise your home’s exterior appearance or value.

1. Place Hostile Plants by Entryways Burglars typically target easily accessible windows and doors. By placing hostile plants loaded with thorns, briars and brambles near these entryways, you discourage potential burglars. Several hostile plants to consider include roses, holly, raspberries, bird’s nest spruces, needle bushes and Spanish bayonet.

2. Trim Shrubbery Near the House Overgrown shrubs, bushes and flowering plants look untidy, and they give burglars plenty of places to hide. They also prevent neighbors and anyone on the street from seeing suspicious behavior near your home. Protect your home when you keep shrubbery trimmed to lower than three feet tall all along the exterior of your home. Remember to trim plants away from the sides of your home too.

3. Use Noisy Ground Cover Burglars try to be as quiet as possible, but noisy ground cover around your windows and doors alerts you to their every move. Pea gravel or other crunching stones do the trick, and you can find these burglar deterrents in colors that match your existing landscaping.

4. Install Short Privacy Fencing Tall fences and tree barriers increase privacy, but they also obscure burglars. Install short fencing with an open design instead. If you already planted trees or shrubs, trim them so that the canopy starts at eight feet or higher off the ground.

5. Turn on the Lights Most outdoor landscaping includes lighting of some sort. Opt for strategically placed motion-activated lighting as you reduce your chances of being burglarized. Place these lights near all your doors and windows and along pathways. They frighten burglars away and warn you when someone walks near your home.

Your home’s landscaping adds beauty and value to your property. It also deters burglars. Talk to your insurance agent today and discuss additional landscaping tricks that deter burglars and protect your home.

Falling Ice and Collapsing Roofs

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Roof IceWe have been hearing – almost daily – about the roofs that have collapsed in our area due to the weight of the snow and ice on them.  We have also been hearing of damage that has occurred when ice chunks and snow slides have fallen from roofs onto property, vehicles or people below them.  And if you take a quick drive you will easily see several buildings and homes with picturesque snow mounds and icicle colonies right on the edge of the roof just ready to take the plunge earthward……and hopefully no one is near when that happens.Icicles

So, we can not stress strongly enough that if you can safely take actions to prevent any of these things from happening with your property you should and if not, looking into hiring a company that can.  Beside observation, you should also be aware of signs that a roof is overburdened with snow, such as creaking noises, windows and doors that won’t open, or the appearance of sagging in roof trusses or beams.  If any of these signs appear, evacuate the building quickly and safely, and contact your snow-removal and insurance professionals.

Read more in this article from Erik Olsen, from Chubb Group.

How Ready Is Your Roof?

Although falling snow can turn almost any neighborhood into a winter wonderland, commercial building owners and managers have to guard against snow causing roof leaks or, in the most severe cases, building collapse.

Careful roof inspections and routine maintenance are important year-round, but become critical as temperatures drop and the potential for snow increases.

A Watchful Eye One of the most important preventative measures you can take to protect a roof against snow and ice damage is inspecting it on a regular basis. If conditions allow safe access to the roof, your engineering or facilities staff should make sure roof drains are clear and operating properly, and ice isn’t accumulating near the roof’s drains or perimeter flashing. If ice forms a dam near the roof’s edge or around drains, for instance, it can damage the roof’s membrane and allow water to penetrate below the roof causing severe water damage.

The inspection should also evaluate the general condition of the roof, and should include signs of damage such as unprotected roof penetrations or bolted connections from telecommunications or solar equipment that has been installed on the roof.

Protecting Against Collapse A catastrophic risk for commercial buildings is the potential for collapse if the roof is not able to support the weight of accumulated snow and ice.

In snow-prone regions, older buildings may not have been designed for accumulated snow (or may be vulnerable to large snow drifts in a corner of the roof). Similarly, buildings with large, long expanse flat roofs — such as warehouses — may be more vulnerable to collapse than buildings with slanted or shorter span roofs.

Because the weight of snow can vary considerably according to its moisture content, there are no hard-and-fast guidelines for how much snow is too much for a roof. In general terms, though, if a storm accumulation approaches a foot, it’s a good idea to consider having snow removed from the roof’s surface.

To reduce the risk of workers damaging the roof or the potential for falls, it’s a good idea to bring in a contractor with the experience and equipment needed to remove snow safely from a roof. You should meet with the contractor, ideally long before a storm, to inspect the roof and review plans to bring equipment onto the roof and to remove accumulated snow. An important consideration is how they would remove it, ideally in an even fashion so as to prevent uneven weight distribution, and where they would place the relocated snow around the perimeter of the structure.

Those discussions should also include, for instance, the contractor’s use of fall-protection procedures and equipment, and measures to reduce the risk of people near the building being struck by blown snow or falling ice.

Signs of Danger Property managers and tenants should also be aware of signs that a roof is overburdened with snow, such as creaking noises, windows and doors that won’t open, or the appearance of sagging in roof trusses or beams.

If any of these signs appear, evacuate the building quickly and safely, and contact your snow-removal and insurance professionals.

Erik Olsen is an assistant vice-president and senior risk loss control property specialist with the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

Keep your home in top condition – and your premiums down

A responsible homeowner addresses maintenance items before they become problems. Keeping a good coat of paint on the house and trim prevents moisture from penetrating wood and causing decay and mold and insect issues.

Consumers have faced rapidly escalating Homeowners insurance premiums as of late. In some cases, they’ve had trouble getting coverage, particularly if they have filed several claims.

To reduce the possibility of future losses, you can take a number of precautions, including: More

Homeowners Insurance and Social Gatherings

Many homeowners enjoy throwing parties for holidays or special events. If a party is in the near future, be sure that individual Homeowners coverage is adequate. Guests who are injured might need to file an injury claim if their vehicle is damaged, if they fall down or if a pet bites them. Research shows that about 75% of adult homeowners who plan social gatherings in their homes do not have a personal umbrella policy. This makes them more vulnerable to lawsuits stemming from guests who suffer injuries. The same research study showed that the remainder of the homeowners surveyed did not know what type of coverage they had. This means it is likely that the percentage of homeowners who do not have adequate coverage is more than 75%. However, they should have this extra coverage to protect themselves from lawsuits. Although dog bites and falls are common, alcohol is one liability issue that is often overlooked but is very risky. More