Home Insurance

What Damage From a Winter Storm Does Your Home Insurance Cover?

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The northern hemisphere is firmly into the fall season, which means it’s time to prep your home for the winter. Seal up any gaps around your windowsprotect your pipesset your thermostat to a money-saving schedule and learn how to safely use a space heater. If your area is prone to dangerous winter storms, prepare to safely weather any power outages. And if you have pets, learn how to prepare to get those furry friends through a storm, too.

Ideally, your home will protect you from the effects of a winter storm, but it can sustain some damage itself. In this case, you’ll turn to your home insurance to help cover the cost of repairs. But the world of insurance can be a confusing, daunting place. And, it’s always better to know ahead of time what will be covered before damage occurs. Read on for some tips deciphering your home insurance policy and what to do if a winter storm gets the best of your home this season.

If you’re looking for ways to save money on heating and electricity through the winter, consider using your ceiling fan to move warm air to you and unplugging appliances. It turns out small changes can make a big difference.

Reading your home insurance policy

If you pay for home insurance, you should have received a declarations page among your policy documents. On it you’ll find what’s covered in your policy under the categories dwelling, other structures, personal property, loss of use, liability and medical coverage. Each of these categories, while fairly self-evident, could use a bit more explanation. While the below explanations are in broad strokes, it’s always the best practice to confirm independently what your policy does and does not cover.

Dwelling

Coverage of your dwelling covers damage to your house. A strong wind rips shingles off your roof? That’s under your dwelling coverage. A cold snap freezes a poorly insulated pipe, which floods your basement when it thaws? That’s under dwelling too. A speeding car slips on an icy road and does damage to your deck? Dwelling coverage.

If you’re thinking about damage to your house, it’s likely covered under you dwelling coverage.

Other structures

This is like dwelling coverage for, well, other structures: a garage, a pool house or a fence.

Personal property

Personal property coverage covers the stuff you own that might be damaged by a claimable incident. If a frozen pipe floods your basement and destroys a pool table, those items are covered here.

Loss of use

If damage to your house is so severe that you can’t live there for a while, loss of use coverage will help cover your expenses of finding a new, temporary place.

Exclusions

Home owners policies often include some exclusions. Common inclusions cover floods, mold, maintenance issues or earthquakes. Winter storm related damages should be covered, though it’s best to confirm in your policy.

What damage will your policy cover

Damage from hazards like winter storms should be covered by your homeowners policy, though there are exclusions, mentioned above. High winds, cold temperatures and heavy snow should be covered, as should be ice- and snow-covered trees falling and doing damage to your roof.

While most damage should be covered, how it’s covered might vary.

When you file a claim for a covered damage, your insurance company will typically pay you the replacement cost or the actual cash value.

If your insurance company pays you the actual cash value, it’ll pay you what your belongings are worth, minus any depreciation like wear and tear. This will be a smaller amount than what you would get if you were paid the replacement cost. Replacement cost is just what it sounds like: the cost to replace what was damaged or lost with a new, similar item. If an ice storm breaks a window and damages a couch, the replacement cost is how much it costs to buy a new one of similar quality. If it comes to rebuilding your house, replacement cost is what it will take to rebuild it to a similar quality today.

How to avoid winter storm damage

While you certainly don’t want to deal with a damaged house without home insurance, it’s certainly better to avoid it all together. While homeowners can’t control the weather, there are things they can do to lower the odds it does damage.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners suggests protecting your home before a winter storm arrives. Protecting your home includes pruning trees and branches, clearing gutters and properly insulating your house.

Pruning trees and branches can keep them from damaging your roof if they break during an ice or snow storm. Clearing gutters helps them do their job of carrying water away from your house and your roof. If an ice dam forms and block your gutters, water will back up onto your roof. If it thaws and freezes there, it can work its way under the shingles and damage your roof.

Making sure your attic has proper insulation and that your attic is properly ventilated will help with this too. Insulating your pipes, especially in colder parts of your home, can help avoid damage from burst pipes.

While you can’t guarantee a winter storm won’t damage your house, taking these steps will help avoid it. You can also take steps to avoid high energy bills throughout the winter. You can lower your thermostat while staying comfortableemploy your ceiling fan and weatherstrip your windows and doors.

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