From water leaks to snow-packed roofs to downed branches, winter can be a stressful and expensive time for a homeowner. A snowy winter wonderland is easy on the eyes, but dangers are lurking.

Though some weather-related incidents are unavoidable, you can reduce the likelihood of facing an expensive homeowners insurance claim this winter by taking some basic preventative measures.

Murray and MacDonald has teamed up with Arbella Insurance to cover four common winter homeowner claims, and to advise how to avoid them, or reduce the likelihood that they occur. Read below for more!

Wind Damage

Wind-related damage - trees falling on roofs, garden or lawn furniture - are some of the more common, and expensive, winter wind damage claims. An average wind-related claim can cost you big money - often thousands of dollars - that you weren’t expecting or wanting to pay out for anything other than holiday gifts!

Fortunately, preventing wind damage is fairly straightforward. Keeping your trees and landscaping in good order by removing dead or weak branches / limbs, trimming tree canopies and removing dead or diseased trees helps keep your home safer. A trained arborist or landscaper can make these preparations. It is also a good idea to bring smaller or light outdoor furniture inside, and rearrange any patio furniture or equipment to minimize winds’ impact.

Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes can cause a massively expensive claim in mere hours.  They often involve significant reconstruction work to floors, walls, cabinetry and anything else suffering water damage.

Close and drain exterior plumbing like outdoor spigots and a shower is a smart way to prevent easily avoidable claims.

Keeping your home warm - 65+ when you are home, 55+ when you are not, helps prevent interior pipes from freezing. In extreme cold, keep the cabinet doors open underneath your sinks, and apply heat tape or insulation to any pipes you think may be vulnerable. If the power goes out, leave a faucet open at a slight drip to help prevent freezing.

Ice Dams

When ice melts on your roof and begins to run off towards your gutters, and then refreezes due to a blocked gutter or plummeting temperatures, ice dams form. These dams can cause massive leaks and roof damage in short order. With ice dams, replacing the roof is just the start of your problems. Signs that your roof may be suffering from an ice dam include wall and ceiling cracks and water damage.

Prevention and preparation are the best measures for minimizing your exposure to a catastrophic roof collapse or leak. Having a qualified contractor insulate your home - especially in your attic - is the most surefire way to prevent ice dams.

Clearing your gutters of leaves and pine needles also reduces the likelihood of ice dams, as the melting water can run off your roof, into your gutters and away from your home. After a bad winter storm, clear the snow off the portions of your roof you can safely reach with a roof-rake to reduce the formation of ice dams.

How to prevent ice dams

Slip and Falls

A slip and fall on your property can bring an unwanted headache. Though they are the most unpredictable, simple property maintenance can greatly reduce the odds that one will occur. Plow, shovel and treat your driveway, walkways and stairs, and keep an eye out for refreezing. In many cities and towns, you are also responsible for the sidewalk in front of your property. Better safe than sorry!

Despite all of your best efforts, winter claims against your homeowners’ policy can and do still happen.

As we head into the heart of the season, make sure that you have a comprehensive plan that fits your coverage needs. Arbella Insurance offers many homeowners policies tailored to the needs of Massachusetts homeowners, and the Risk Advisors at Murray and MacDonald Insurance can help match you with the right policy.

How to prevent slip and fall insurance claims

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