Five Home Improvement Projects Your Insurance Agent Will Want to Know About
Before heading to the local hardware store, talk these five projects over with your insurance agent first
Temperatures outside are on the rise and many homeowners are ready to break ground on plans to spruce up their homes. Freshening up paint, adding a botanical garden, repairing the roof or making an inviting outdoor space for entertaining and relaxing can have a small or large impact on your wallet … and the value of your home.
Whether you’ve been inspired by a television DIY program or are an avid reader of Better Homes and Gardens, taking on a home renovation project can be a major ordeal. But don’t run to your local hardware store before researching and prioritizing projects to see if they’re worth the investment.
- Does your project require a permit?
- Should your renovation be handled by a professional?
- What impact might your project have on your homeowners insurance?
To avoid potential headaches and a home renovation disaster, we’ve put together tips for popular exterior projects homeowners should discuss with their insurance agent before taking them on.
Project #1: Curb Appeal
First impressions are exactly that: they set the tone for how you and others think of your home. According to a 2013 National Association of Realtors survey, curb appeal is important to 71 percent of homebuyers. So, sprucing up the exterior of your home is worth the cost and time, especially if you have plans to sell in the near future.
Where should you begin? Maintenance gardening – like lawn mowing, bush pruning and tree trimming – can all help curb appeal. If you prefer to hire gardeners, landscapers or housekeepers to handle these tasks, review your liability insurance coverage to make sure you’re covered if a worker has an accident while working on your property. You should also check with contractors to make sure they have liability coverage that will cover their workers while working on the job site.
Planting new trees and shrubs? Find out where your sewage lines or septic tanks lie to prevent future blockages or damage caused by expanding roots. The standard homeowners insurance policy doesn’t cover these types of back-ups into your home or on your property, and the damages can be extensive – sparing the gruesome details, just imagine your yard, floors, walls and personal belongings after this type of mishap.
A fresh coat of paint on the outside of your home can make all the difference in the world – a new color will make it look modern, replacing old, cracked and moss-covered or weather-beaten paint and might even increase your home’s value. The best results often come with hiring a professional, but ensure any workers you employ in this capacity have their own insurance. If they have to sub-contract work to others, ask how they select these individuals and if their insurance covers them too.
Project #2: Weatherproofing
It doesn’t matter if you live in the desert, the rainy Pacific Northwest or where winter temperatures drop below freezing – the exterior of your home is exposed to the elements. Wood siding, stucco or brick will deteriorate with time and the caulking around doors and windows will crack. If your home was colder than usual this past winter, the cause of it might be air gaps in the exterior of your home. Check that your doors and windows are properly sealed and re-caulk as needed.
Once you’ve addressed the drafts, remove vegetation that has grown on the side of your home. Plants can destroy siding and cause cracks that trap moisture, which turns into a bigger problem… mold. If you discover mold, hire a professional to take care of it. It can be a costly fix, and can also be extremely dangerous for your health. Review your homeowners insurance policy because it typically has limits on what is covered.
The best cure for mold is prevention. If necessary, give your home a good soap bath and finish it off with a power washer a few times a year to remove mold, moss, mildew and other build-up.
Remember those drafts we mentioned earlier? Another way to ensure proper sealing from the elements might be new windows and doors. Both have proven to be wise investments that tend to boost your home’s resale value. Professional contractors typically have their own insurance policies, but it’s always a good idea to ask what their limits are as well as what and who it covers.
Project #3: Roof Repairs
A new roof might not be as exciting as planting exotic plants in your garden or painting your house a new color, but it can prevent future insurance claims due to leaks or snow cave-ins, as well as save you cash down the road.
Hire a professional to inspect the condition of your roof. He or she can tell the difference between the types of wear-and-tear that require a new roof versus some simple repair work. Even if you don’t have a leak yet, rotted or missing shingles can lead to future leaks, which are pricey and inconvenient. And the extreme conditions Mother Nature brings (e.g., hail, torrential downpours, heavy snowfalls and ice thaws) are no competition for weak roofing. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry.
During the process of repairing your roof, have the contractor look for termite infestation and damage. Putting a new roof on crumbling support beams can cost you, and chances are you’re not covered for these types of repairs down the road. Be proactive with these pests – hire a licensed pest control company to get rid of them.
Your gutter collects debris over time. When not properly taken care of, gutters can build up large blockages that can eventually damage your house. Mildew and mold can develop, slowly decaying the exterior wood. This type of damage is easily preventable if you routinely clean out your gutters and installing gutter guards will help protect against debris accumulating in the first place.
Project #4: Outdoor Living Spaces
Pools, patios and decks … oh my! The truly ambitious outdoor renovation projects are equally rewarding. Adding a new outdoor living space that friends and family can enjoy not only helps to create memories, it also increases the value of your home.
The excitement builds as homeowners think about throwing their first pool party or inviting friends over for a BBQ … but these new outdoor spaces may leave you vulnerable. Putting in a pool creates a new risk that homeowners have to insure for medical and personal liability protection. Adding a slide, diving board or even a hot tub can make your coverage costs go up even higher. But, what also increases is the time you spend enjoying these things, as well as the value of your home.
Adding or rebuilding a deck is another popular undertaking. If you decide to hire a contractor, discuss what can be built in your budget. Beyond the actual wood, concrete and labor costs, you need to factor in the increased costs to protect your new outdoor living space.
The replacement costs of your new pool and deck should also be factored into your homeowners insurance policy, so don’t forget to let your agent know about all of your new improvements so they are covered in the event of a loss.
Project #5: Turning Your Garden into a Business
If you want to turn your green thumb into a small business of growing and selling fruits and vegetables at the local farmers market, you’ll want to talk to an insurance agent about adding a rider or endorsement to your existing homeowners insurance to protect your inventory as well as the equipment it takes to run your business.
Regardless of the renovation project you choose to pursue, be sure to remodel your homeowners insurance too. Many of these projects can leave you vulnerable, as your old insurance policy might not protect the new look of your home or the additions to your yard. And as a hidden bonus, these projects may lower your rates and you could even possibly receive an insurance discount. Meeting with your local insurance agent might not be in your initial plans, but it’s a vital component to making those new upgrades last.