INSURANCE EXPERT: Even a few degrees below zero can bring plenty of property damage insurance claims[Dagmar Gilden | 11.11]
It is not uncommon for the unpredictable autumn weather with its storms and downpours to also bring the season's first snowfall. According to one insurance specialist, just a few degrees below zero usually brings about plenty of accidents with both heating appliances and water pipes, which can easily be prevented.
Dagmar Gilden, the product manager for accident insurance at Seesam, says that there is still a worrying tendency among Estonians: even though people are aware of the dangers caused by unmaintained heating appliances, construction defects and things that are out of place, time and time again insurance companies are faced with sad statistics that show the first cold snap of the season leading to quite a lot of property damage insurance claims.
According to Gilden, insurance companies often find out as soon as a client takes out insurance that their heating appliance is in poor condition. "The system either has cracks in it or has a lean to it or the chimney and fireplace haven't been checked or cleaned by a chimney sweep," the expert remarked of the most common causes of fires.
According to Seesam's insurance statistics, roof damage is the most common form of damage incurred during the stormy period in late autumn. “The winds can be very strong, and if the roofing is loose, they can tear off the entire thing, which is why it's important to make sure that the roofs of both your own house and your neighbour's house are properly fixed and regularly maintained," Gilden advised.
The onset of cold weather and the start of the heating season never come as a surprise. To avoid major damage and the hassle it causes, here are some tips from the insurer on what to get done ahead of winter at home and at your summer house.
Prepare the heating appliances for winter
You should always check ahead of winter whether your heating systems are in good condition. Every system requires a different approach: fireplaces should certainly be checked by a chimneysweep, heat pumps need regular maintenance as well and an expert should inspect gas boilers to make sure that the pipe joints do not start leaking.
Never leave a fire unattended
Fires resulting from careless behaviour are more common during the cold, dark winter season. Although it is cosy to sit in candlelight and enjoy the crackling of the fire, you should always make sure that the candles are not too close to curtains or the ceiling and that the ash and embers in the fireplace have cooled before you remove them. Never leave a bucket of hot ash and embers on the floor or delay taking it out.
Inspect the roof
Intense winds and rain will reveal the weak spots in your roof. Strong winds can either rip pieces off or damage the entire roof and even its basic structure. All loose ends, metal edges, broken tiles and other visible signs of damage are potential access points for rain and melted snow, which in turn can damage the interior of the house and the household property within.
Clean the drainpipes
The roof and drainpipes should be cleared of leaves, moss and any other dirt. If drainpipes become clogged, water is unable to pass along them, so it starts to accumulate and dampen the roof structure. This can cause extensive damage to the building.
Cut down dangerous trees and remove dangerous branches
You should always carefully inspect the trees around your house before winter. Branches can easily break under the weight of snow and cause damage if they land on the roof. If there is a damaged or dangerous tree near your house, it should be cut down ahead of the snowy and stormy season. If a fallen tree damages someone else’s property (e.g. your neighbour’s), the owner of the land on which the tree stood is responsible and must compensate for any damage. However, if they have liability insurance, the insurance company will pay the compensation on their behalf.
Water and sewerage pipes need to be kept warm
The heat retention of water and sewerage pipes should be checked and potentially vulnerable areas insulated. Make sure that the cold winter weather does not affect the piping of a building, even if it is in the cellar. To ensure this, close all of the doors, air intake vents and foundation vents in the cellar. The appropriate temperature in the technical room should be maintained using a reliable thermostat or anti-freeze solution for pipes.
Drain the pipes
All pipes which are located outdoors or have no heating should be drained and their valves closed before winter to avoid frozen pipes bursting. This is particularly important in summer and country houses. Do not try to thaw out a frozen water pipe using an open flame! Do not forget either to drain your garden hoses, which you should roll up and store in a dry place over the winter.