Educational Corner

Is Storm Damage Covered by Insurance

  • 02/15/2020
  • 08:06:58

You’ve just made it through a tornado or hurricane or massive snowstorm. The dust has cleared, and you’ve managed to assess the damage to your home. You now find yourself wondering if storm damage is covered by your homeowner’s insurance. The short answer: usually. Most types of storm damage are covered with a few minor exceptions and one major exception.    

What is Typically Covered by Homeowner’s Insurance

Water and Ice Damage

Water and ice damage as a result of a storm are generally covered up to policy limits. This is any type of damage – interior or exterior –caused by excess rain, snow, or ice. A minor exception to this would be a sump pump failure due to excess rain if you don’t have sump pump coverage, which is almost always a separate endorsement on the policy. 

Lightning Strikes and Power Surges

Damage due to lightning strikes and power surges are typically covered under standard homeowner’s policies, up to the policy limits. Fire and smoke damage are common issues caused by lightning strikes. Depending on your specific policy, damage to electronics and appliances from electric surges may also be covered. Coverage for electronics in power surges isn’t necessarily standard with all insurance companies, so it should be discussed with your agent when setting up the policy. 

Wind, Hail, and Fallen Trees

Wind, hail, and fallen trees from storms are common causes of exterior damage to the home typically covered under most homeowner’s policies. Interior damage can also be caused by wind-driven rain or snow. Wind can force shingles, flashing, and siding to move, allowing precipitation to enter the home and damage ceilings and interior walls. This type of damage is also usually covered. Most policies also cover damage caused by fallen trees or limbs, assuming there was no negligence involved, such as failing to remove a dead tree. 

One Major Exception – Flooding

The one general and major exception when it comes to storm damage coverage is flooding. Flooding, by insurance definition, is vastly different from the general population’s understanding of the word. This specific type of flooding happens when water comes across the ground and enters the structure from an opening, such as a door or window, or from seepage. It’s extremely important to understand the difference between a basement that has “flooded” from a broken pipe or backup, and a basement that has actual floodwaters inside, so you are able to correctly tell your insurance company what’s going on. Often people will say their basement is flooded without realizing that’s not actually what they mean, leading to miscommunication and delays in coverage at best and being told the damage isn’t covered at worst. There are some insurance companies that offer an additional flood endorsement, but these are few, and their availability is dependent on several different factors such as location. 

 The most important thing to remember as far as storm coverage goes is: communicate. If you have questions, ask!  Call your agent and discuss what type of coverage you have in the case of storms that are common to your area. Don’t be afraid to bump up your policy limits and add endorsements you think are necessary. The best way to be prepared for possible storm damage is to know your coverage. And, when storm damage occurs, a professional storm damage restoration company will be able to help you navigate through the details of your insurance claim to get the maximum payout. 

Mold: What’s Growing On Up There

  • 01/15/2020
  • 7:06:29

The holidays are over. You’ve clambered into the attic to store all the decorations and knick-knacks away for another year. It smells mustier than you remember. You pull the cord for the light, and there it is:  something is growing up here. It’s covering the rafters and the roof sheathing, and there’s even some stuff on the insulation. Where do you go from here?

What Is It?

Mold is a fungus that grows in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. There are many different species of mold, and only lab testing can confirm the particular type of mold in any given situation. Fortunately, the specific type of mold isn’t typically relevant to the fact that the mold needs to be removed or the method of removal. Mold inside a home, even in the attic, is a health hazard and needs to be properly remediated no matter the species. 
 

Mold Causes and Mold Prevention 

Mold in an attic, or anywhere else in the home for that matter, is caused by moisture. One of the most common causes of attic mold is improperly vented exhaust fans from bathrooms, kitchens, and clothes dryers. Exhaust fans should always be vented to the exterior of the house. These fans push warm, moist air out of the vents creating a perfect environment for mold to grow. So, why do people often find mold in their attics during or just after the time of year when their heat is running? The answer is attic bypasses. These are air leaks that allow warm, moist air from the main house to get into the attic and can occur whether the heater is running nonstop or if it was just turned on to take the morning chill out of the air. These leaks can be easily found with an infrared camera, and traditional insulation is not enough to stop them because it doesn’t stop air movement. These leaks need to be covered with an air barrier such as foam insulation or caulk to seal them properly. 
 

Mold Removal

Although many people think that mold is no big deal and can be easily removed as a DIYer, it’s usually best to call in a professional for proper mold remediation. Mold can be finicky, and if not treated properly, will grow back often worse than before. The first step in professional remediation, or even if you’re going to try to handle it yourself, is to hire a mold inspector to discover the cause of the mold and the extent of the issue. Upon completing the inspection, most inspectors will recommend a reputable remediation company to take care of the mold removal
 

The mold cleanup process usually starts with removing all water-damaged and mold-infested materials. The technician will then use specialized cleaning products to clean and disinfect any materials affected by the mold. It the damage is very extensive, they may remove drywall and clean or even remove the studs behind the drywall. 
 

The final step is using HEPA filtration followed by replacing any materials that had to be removed and returning all cleaned belongings. If the damage is not severe, and you decide to try to clean it by yourself, remember that thoroughly scrubbing is the first step to removing the mold. Often, experts recommend scrubbing with a soft brush and a bleach solution. If this is the chosen method, be sure to rinse the area very thoroughly. Bleach left to dry on the surface will turn to sugar and feed the mold, causing it to return. A better idea would be to use a cleaner specifically formulated for mold removal
 

It’s always a good rule of thumb to remember that excess moisture will almost inevitably cause a mold issue. Like anything, understanding the causes and seeking prevention is the best route to take. When prevention fails, it’s best to hire professionals to assess and remediate the damage. .

Preparing Your Home for Winter

  • 12/15/2019
  • 7:28:13

With the winter season fast approaching,  the entire nation has to prepare the home for harsh, colder temperatures. Freezing or near freezing temperatures can lead to an array of household issues, most of which are easily avoidable with the appropriate preventative measures.

Protect the Pipes

Household plumbing can be particularly vulnerable to colder temperatures. Whether the pipes are metal or plastic, frozen water expands and creates pressure within the pipe, often causing cracks and breaks. Depending on the size of the break, you may not notice these damages until the ice thaws, and water can flow freely again. An unknown leak can cause tremendous damage to a home. Prevention is key. Most pipes that are in properly insulated homes are not at terrible risk of freezing. It’s important to assess the location of the pipes in the home for vulnerabilities such as pipes that run through uninsulated areas of the house. The first line of defense is to keep the home at an appropriate temperature, even when not home. This temperature control keeps the interior pipes warm enough to prevent freezing. Particularly vulnerable pipes can be insulated with wraps or foam insulation sleeves. When the temperature gets super low, it’s also not a bad idea to keep faucets dripping to allow a continuous movement of the water within the pipe. 
 

Check the Fireplace 

There’s nothing like sipping hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter day. That is unless you forgot to prepare your fireplace for the winter. It’s important always thoroughly to clean your fireplace before using it each year. The last thing anyone wants is for a fireplace to cause a fire or produce unwanted smoke and soot within a home. Always make sure the flue is open and that the chimney is clear of any type of debris to avoid this type of damage. 
 

Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts

At the end of fall, just before the big freezes hit, it’s a good idea to clean your gutters and downspouts one last time. Debris-filled gutters do not allow for water to flow freely, which can result in icicles and ice dams once the temperatures freeze. Ice dams can be a particularly significant issue because they cause damage both inside and outside of the home. The weight of the dams and icicles themselves can damage roof and gutters. Ice dams block the edge of the roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. The backed-up water can then leak into the home which causes both water and mold damage in the interior of the home. In addition to keeping the gutters and downspouts clean, removing snow from the roof is one of the fastest ways to prevent the formation of ice dams. 
 

Some say winter is the most wonderful time of the year, and it certainly can be if you know how to prepare for the cold weather ahead properly. Knowing the issues you might face due to freezing temperatures and taking preventative measures to avoid damage to the home will make it so you can enjoy the cold weather in comfort.