house should have working fire extinguishers and high-quality locks,” she says. “But don’t make the common mistake of installing great locks on bad doors. That’s just wasting money on locks.” Make sure that all of your external doors are solid wood.
Buy in bulk. By buying homeowners and auto insurance through the same agent, you can qualify for additional discounts. As part of her Beyond Housing/Neighborhood Housing Services program, Atkins received insurance counseling. Acting on advice, she combined her auto and home insurance plans to save about $300 each year.
Home Maintenance Checklist
Maintenance is vital year-round, but it is especially important during the fall if you live in colder climates. Busted pipes, frozen gutters, and wind-driven snow or rain cause billions of dollars in weather-related damages to homes each winter. “Homeowners need to get ready for severe winter weather when the leaves start to turn, not when the snow is beginning to fall,” says Jeanne Salvatore, vice president of consumer affairs at the Insurance Information Institute (III) in New York City. Some timely precautions from III can keep your home warm and dry, while preventing your checkbook from dropping below zero:
Maintain gutters. Remove leaves, acorns, sticks, and other debris from gutters so melting snow and ice can flow freely. If water is unable to properly drain through the gutters, it can seep into your house and damage the ceiling and walls.
Install gutter guards. Available in most hardware and home stores, these screens prevent debris from entering the gutter.
Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow, and wind can cause weak trees or branches to fall onto your home, your car, or someone walking on your property.
Check insulation. Extra insulation in your attic, basement, and crawl spaces will keep heat from escaping and help protect pipes from freezing. Heat escaping from your attic can lead to a roof collapse if snow or ice melts and re-freezes.
Maintain pipes. Wrap pipes with heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms (such as garages) that have exposed pipes. Repair cracked and leaky pipes immediately.
According to III, standard homeowners insurance policies cover winter-related disasters, such as busted pipes, ice dams, and wind damage caused by ice or snow. Damage caused by water should be repaired to prevent potential mold buildup; mold cannot survive without moisture. Caught early, mold can usually be removed by a thorough cleaning with bleach.
Spring clean. When the worst of winter ebbs, it’s time for another round of home maintenance. April showers may bring May flowers, but they can also bring leaky basements, moldy walls, and costly cleanup. “You can take a few hours to do a spring maintenance check or you can wait for a storm to come along and show you where your home’s weaknesses are,” says Jeff Sciaudone, director of engineering for the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). When you start your spring-cleaning, check the outside of your home to make sure it’s protected from water damage and natural disasters.
Examine the boards covering the joints between the top of a