As a homeowner, one of the most important aspects of your home isn’t something you use daily. And it isn’t something flashy you show off to friends. It’s your homeowners insurance policy, and it protects you in more ways than you may think, helping you rebuild your home or repair damage that results from a covered loss.
But, that’s not all. It can also help cover the costs of a lawsuit, help you pay for somewhere else to live when your home is uninhabitable and much more.
Home insurance is typically very comprehensive, but all policies have exclusions and coverage limits. It’s vital to know what those are so you know what’s covered and what’s not. Fire damage? Typically covered. Flood damage? Typically not.
With this guide, you can begin to understand what a typical home insurance policy covers. Just keep in mind that coverages vary from carrier to carrier, region to region and even policy to policy. Only your individual home policy can tell you the coverages you have and those you don’t. For an even better understanding of your home policy coverages, review them with your local insurance agent.
What Home Insurance Covers
The typical homeowners insurance policy has six type of coverages. They are commonly known as:
What Home Insurance Doesn’t Cover
It’s just as important to know what your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover as it is to know what your home policy does cover. For starters, your policy does not cover any damage or repairs costing less than your deductible. It also does not cover any costs that exceed the coverage limits outlined in your policy. You are solely responsible for excess costs, unless you have an umbrella policy to provide additional liability coverage for a covered loss.
More than likely, your policy also does not cover routine maintenance and repairs, as well as damage due to animals, termites, floods, earthquakes, sinkholes, sewer backups and other incidents. These are often considered non-covered losses. If you experience a non-covered loss, as outlined by your policy, you will be responsible for the costs.
What Home Insurance May Cover
Outside of the typical home insurance coverages, optional or separate coverage may be available from your carrier or from a different carrier. For example, you may be able to purchase earthquake or flood coverage separate from your homeowners policy.
Other coverages are optional add-ons to your existing homeowners insurance. These can include identity protection and equipment breakdown coverage, which covers the cost to repair or replace a range of appliances and other equipment, such as pool equipment, in your home. If this sounds similar to an extended appliance warranty, it is. The difference is that you can insure an array of appliances at once through this optional coverage rather than purchasing a separate warranty for each one.
This guide is a starting point for understanding your home insurance policy. Your own policy may vary greatly from the descriptions above depending on the state where you live, your carrier and the coverages you have selected. So take a close look at your policy by reviewing your documents or viewing your coverages online. Or, even better, sit down with a local insurance agent who can explain your coverages in detail, as well as discuss whether your policy provides adequate protection for your home, property and belongings.
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The wood is stacked, the flue is open and the match is in hand. You’re about to enjoy a wonderful winter evening by the fire. Just know this first: Heat sources ignite more than 50,000 home fires in the U.S. each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
We’re not trying to put a damper on the mood. We just want your fire to be as safe as it is warm, so here are five fireplace safety tips to remember:
1. Maintain your fireplace, chimney and the surrounding area.
Each year, ideally before your first fire of the season, bring in a certified professional to have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned. Make sure you don’t have any flammable decorations or other debris around the hearth – an errant spark might ignite them. And check the venting systems for all heating equipment. Vent pipes should extend at least three feet from your roof.
2. Have the right safety equipment.
Whether you regularly build fires or not, your home needs to have at least one fire extinguisher, as well as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level, inside and outside of sleeping areas. Remember to change the batteries when you change your clocks in the spring and fall. According to the National Fire Protection Association, working smoke alarms reduce the risk of home fire deaths by half. As for your fireplace, it should have glass doors or a metal mesh screen (both is ideal) to block wayward sparks.
3. Build a safe fire.
Use seasoned hardwood stacked – not too high – on a sturdy grate at the rear of the fireplace. In addition to being easier to control, smaller fires produce less smoke and are more likely to burn out completely. Always ensure the flue is fully open before starting a fire, and never use flammable liquids or other debris, such as cardboard or trash, to get it going. While the fire’s burning, leave the glass doors open enough for the fire to get adequate airflow but close the metal mesh screen.
4. Make sure it’s out before leaving — or sleeping.
It’s dangerous to leave any fire unattended, so only start one when you know you’ll be home (and awake) for an extended period. Whenever possible, let the fire die out on its own – slowly spreading out the logs will help. Trying to extinguish a fire in your fireplace with water can result in a lot of smoke and ash coming into your home.
5. Think ahead and be prepared for the worst.
No matter how diligent you are about fireplace safety, you still want adequate protection for your home should something happen. You need enough homeowners insurance coverage to completely rebuild your home, replace its contents and live somewhere else in the meantime, should it come to that. If you’re unsure whether you have all of that, your independent insurance agent can help with a yearly review of your homeowners policy and other coverages.
Cold winter nights and warm fires will always go hand in hand. With just a little bit of preparation and precaution – and the right insurance – you can make sure safety is part of that equation, too.
Carolina Insurance Alliance
Brought to you by Carolina Insurance Alliance, LLC.