Show Notes: Fences and Homeowners Insurance
Winter fences falling over? Worried about holiday disasters? We have information to help you care for your fences before they are damaged by winter weather. Know about your homeowners insurance at this time of year that will cover holiday mishaps.
The Next Connected Home System: The Linglong Dingdong?
The Amazon Echo and Google Home automation systems may have a new contender in the ring, says Joshua D. Bateman for WIRED. The LingLong DingDong is the China’s answer to popular voice controlled systems. The Chinese-speaking system could help introduce the Amazon Echo to China and bring the power of voice activated smart home speakers to millions.
According to one report, China’s smart home market alone could hit $22.8 billion by 2018. “We think that the voice is most natural way to connect,” says Charlie Liu, LingLong’s senior marketing manager. “You just need to say what you want.”
The DingDong costs $118 and can provide news, weather, stock updates, play music, and more. For now, it only speaks Chinese, but comes in Mandarin and Cantonese versions. Three commands wake the device: DingDong DingDong, Xiaowei Xiaowei (a girl’s nickname), and BaiLing BaiLing (skylark).
Nursing Your Wooden Fence Through A Cold, Hard Winter
By simply stepping outside periodically during the winter, you can avoid a lot of extra headaches and maintenance problems in the spring. I recommend the following winter fence maintenance practices:
Cut back overhanging branches: As much as I love trees, they can cause a lot of problems for a wood fence. In winter, one of the biggest hazards is falling tree limbs, especially during a snow or ice storm. Branches become weighted down and can break, damaging your fence boards on the way down. Before the really bad storms set in, walk along your fence line and trim back any branches that hang within falling distance of your fence.
Clear off leaves and other debris: Fallen leaves, twigs, pine cones and other debris from your yard can land on your fence rails or become wedged between boards. As this organic matter becomes saturated with rain and starts to decompose, it can leave tannin stains on your fence and even spread rot to the wood. At least once a month throughout the winter, clean off any leaves or other debris that has landed on your fence or is covering the concrete footings.
Perform post-storm inspections: After any major storms or long bouts of bad weather, head outside and walk along your fence. Look for visible damage, and make sure your fence is still structurally sound by jiggling each post to see if it’s still firmly planted. Use a level or run a piece of string along the tops of fence posts to ensure they are all straight. Check fence posts and rails for rot; if you’re not sure, probe the area with an awl or screwdriver to test for sponginess.
Make small repairs: Winter isn’t the ideal time to embark upon a major wood fence repair project, but there are plenty of stop-gap repairs you can do to prevent the winter weather from turning minor problems into major ones.
Popped nails: Popped nails can be pounded back into place, but add a second nail an inch or two away to help strengthen the area.
Rotten fence rails: If you notice rot forming at the ends of a supporting rail, cut a 2×4 down to the length of your post width and screw or nail it beneath the rail at the post for extra support. This is a temporary fix, so you’ll need to come back and replace the rail when the weather warms up.
Knotholes: It’s common for knots in the wood to fall out as the temperature changes, leaving knotholes that invite termites or other insects to come snack on your fence. Use a wood filler to fix any knotholes you find during your fence inspections.
Rotting posts: If you find rot in one of your fence posts, keep it from spreading by cutting out the rotted section and sealing the area with a wood preservative. This only works if you remove less than an inch of depth; any more, and the post should be replaced.
Space between posts and concrete: If a gap appears between a fence post and the concrete into which it’s set, caulk the gap to seal it against moisture. Use a silicone caulk that’s meant for bonding wood to concrete.
Weak or leaning fence posts: To reinforce a leaning fence post, screw a 2×4 to each side of the post, extending down at least six inches into the ground and up to the first supporting rail. If your posts are set into concrete footers, use a metal sleeve instead. Wedge the bottom edge of the sleeve between the post and the concrete, and pound it into place with a sledgehammer. Secure with nails.
By paying your fence just a little bit of attention throughout the winter, you can avoid costly repairs in the spring, saving yourself time and money in the long run
Why Insulate This Late?
Winter is coming, and it’s here already in some places, and it’s time to think about staying warm and reducing heating bills.
One of the first places to look for upgrading the insulation in your home is the attic. In many cases you can simply add a layer of stone wool insulation on top of what is already in the attic of the home and get a significant upgrade to the R-value of your attic insulation. Stone wool batts are easy to handle, and easy to cut. Just set them neatly on top of existing insulation and make sure not to leave any gaps between the batts. You will feel the benefit in heating season and also in cooling season.
If you are remodeling you might want to look at upgrading what is currently in the walls, and this is also a great time of year to insulate the basement or crawl space if you have one. Creating a complete envelope of insulation around your home can make it much more comfortable when the nasty weather hits.
In addition to the thermal benefits, ROXUL insulation provides a number of other advantages.
It’s made from stone and recycled slag so it does not use valuable resources and it does not create any gasses or other unwanted by products in your home.
It is fire resistant so it can provide important extra seconds in the event of a fire and give your family more time to get to safety.
Stone wool is an effective sound insulation, so it creates a quieter more peaceful home.
Everybody needs thermal insulation for their homes, but why not choose a product that brings quality thermal insulation AND a number of other benefits?
Spray Away Dust With Canned Air
If the grille on your bathroom exhaust fan is clogged with dust, try a trick that’s faster and more effective than vacuuming: Turn on the fan and blast out the dust with “canned air”. The fan will blow the dust outside. This works on the return air grilles of your central heating and cooling system too. Run the system so that the return airflow will carry the dust to the filter. You’ll find canned air at home centers and hardware stores, usually in the electrical supplies aisle.
Caution: The cans contain chemical propellants, not just air. Don’t let children play with the can.
No Need To Pout: Home Insurance Can Cover That Holiday Disaster
From dehydrated Christmas trees to overworked outlets, the halls are decked with fire hazards this time of year. Candle fires, in particular, hit their annual peak on Christmas, New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Allstate‘s median home fire claim during the holiday season is about $70,000, says Glenn Shapiro, the company’s chief claims officer.
Covered by: Within homeowners insurance, dwelling coverage pays for home repairs and personal property insurance covers belongings.
Wrap it up: Ask your insurer for help pinpointing your home’s rebuilding cost. “It could be years since you bought the policy, and building costs may have increased,” Shapiro says. If the reconstruction cost exceeds your dwelling insurance amount, boost your limits accordingly.
Theft is a common source of holiday homeowners insurance claims, Shapiro says. In some cases, our own behavior fuels the problem. For instance, two in three people have gifts delivered despite not being home to receive them, according to a 2015 Allstate survey.
Covered by: Personal property insurance covers stolen items. This can include packages plucked from your stoop, says Chris Hackett, senior director of personal lines at trade group Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. To make a claim, you’ll need to file a police report.
However, if only a couple of items go missing you might not benefit from a claim, Hackett cautions, because the payout could be less than your deductible.
Wrap it up: Consider lowering your personal property coverage deductible. Although your rates would increase, your insurance would stretch further if you need to make a claim.
Say you undercook dinner and send relatives to the hospital. Or maybe someone breaks a hip on your icy walkway. You could end up on the hook for medical costs when you host holiday get-togethers.
Covered by: The medical payments coverage within home insurance pays for injuries that guests sustain on your property. You also have liability insurance in case you’re sued, Shapiro says.
Wrap it up: Insurance limits for medical payments are usually low when you buy your policy, Hackett says. A bare-minimum policy pays about $1,000 per person, making this good coverage to beef up before welcoming the holiday herd.
Water damage from frozen pipes
Leaving home can be as problematic as playing host. As an example, Shapiro points to insurance claims involving frozen pipes. If an unoccupied house gets too frosty, water freezes and expands inside the pipes, increasing chances of a burst.
Covered by: Water damage from burst pipes is covered by standard home insurance, Hackett says, including damage to your house and soaked belongings.
Wrap it up: Check the fine print in your policy regarding frozen pipes. You might need to take certain preventive action before vacations to make a claim, such as shutting off your water or leaving the heat on.
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