Build Boldly With These 4 Features of Advanced Decking

(BPT) – If you’re planning to create an outdoor living space, advanced decking enables you to show off your creativity. For years, complex deck designs have been difficult to achieve with traditional lumber. But, with advances in today’s decking materials, you have the flexibility to create virtually any design to reflect your style. The possibilities of creating a bold deck design are only limited by your imagination. For example, did you love hopscotch while growing up? Build a hopscotch board into your deck. Maybe you are an avid musician; why not design your deck in a giant guitar shape?

Let your imagination run wild with these four features of composite decking that will help your bold designs come to life.

1. Durable Above Ground

When you are considering a bold backyard design, an important factor is the durability of your building materials. If you are going to create a design that you enjoy, you will want it to last a long time. Think about the use a deck gets in the course of the year; from weather exposure to food stains, traditional decks lose their luster in areas of high traffic or exposure. The maintenance time investment of keeping your deck in tiptop shape could be spent enjoying your creation rather than working on it. Composite decking is manufactured for durability against the elements and frequent use so you have less work in the long term.

2. Bend It Like Beckham…

Chances are, a quick look at social media, TV or even a magazine will flood your vision with vivid images of beautiful outdoor living spaces anchored by large, curved decking. No, these decks are not Hollywood magic or an optical illusion. Such decks are possible due to a building technique called “deck bending.” Composite boards, like MoistureShield composite decking, are made, in part, with recycled plastic, which makes them flexible when heated properly. This flexibility makes your wildest design ideas possible for a truly bold and personalized look.

3. Installation On the Ground

For those who enjoy the natural serenity of your backyard, consider the benefits of composite boardwalks in your backyard oasis. Installing low-lying composite boardwalks on the ground in order to tie in naturally with your yard’s landscaping is an increasingly popular option for homeowners seeking a backyard escape from the hustle of the day. With the use of advanced decking in your boardwalk, you can take a relaxing stroll through your backyard without the worry of rotten boards and splinters, and you can create a path to the garden without tracking mud back to the house.

4. Underwater Installation

This may sound like a feature only Aquaman would use for his deck, but it is still relevant to those of us who live above the sea floor. Docks and marinas are frequently bombarded by weather, water and foot traffic that take their toll on the surface. Often, this weathering makes the surface an eyesore that doesn’t complement the beautiful scenery. “Dock surfaces tend to rot, warp and splinter after extended exposure to the sun, water, and elements, whereas high-performance composite boards will resist common issues found with traditional materials; even if they are fully submerged,” said Josh Landis, senior manager at MoistureShield. High-performance composite decking can be installed over water as a durable dock surface or even underwater as a boat launch or water access ramp for your lake house or oceanfront home.

With the availability and features of advanced composite decking materials today, your design can be as unique and personalized as you want it to be. Whether you are considering building a new deck or renovating an existing one, you can create a design that is a reflection of your personality. Take a chance, build boldly.

What Are the Effects of Hard Water in Your Home?

(BPT) – Hard water, which contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, can be found in nearly 90 percent of American homes. These minerals cause scaling, a buildup that clogs waterlines and plumbing forcing appliances to work harder and operate less efficiently. The scale may also harbor bacteria. The only way to truly remove the hard and soft scale from household water systems is with salt-based water softeners.

The benefits of salt-based water softening are significant. Hard water scaling can cause your showerhead to lose up to 75 percent of its flow rate in 18 months. Hard water also interacts negatively with soap, reducing its cleaning power. Soft water is up to 12 times more effective at cleaning dishes than increasing the amount of detergent used.

According to the Water Quality Research Foundation for washing machines, the most important factor in removing stains from clothing was water softness. Reduction of water hardness was up to 100 times more effective at stain removal than increasing the detergent dose or washing with hotter water. In fact, soft water can reduce soap use by as much as half. Hard water can also reduce the efficiency of water heaters and increase electricity costs by as much as 48 percent, according to the Battelle Memorial Institute.

Hard water scaling can also affect your health. The piping used in home plumbing, whether copper or PVC, has very smooth interior surfaces that don’t permit bacteria to settle and grow. However, hard water results in scale formation on the interior surfaces of those pipes, providing a perfect home for bacteria.

Researchers at the School of Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University found bacteria may grow in pipes filled with hard scale and soft scale at the same rate. This is important because some forms of water conditioning produce this soft scale. The solution is to remove hard and soft scale in the pipes with a salt-based water softener.

Hard water you use to wash your fresh fruits and vegetables may contain more bacteria, and the problem isn’t only in the kitchen. When you take a hot shower, the steam you are inhaling can also contain the same microbial contamination that is in the rest of your plumbing, exposing you to bacteria such as Legionella, which can cause Legionnaire’s disease.

A salt-based water softener is the most functional and cost-effective means of removing hardness minerals. It is a tool to improve health and lower maintenance costs for home appliances like dishwashers and washing machine. It also reduces the need for detergents and high-water temperatures, leading to a smaller household carbon footprint.

Be Prepared For the 2018 Storm Season

(BPT) – For millions of Americans, the devastation of the 2017 storm season is still fresh in their minds. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the cumulative cost of the weather events in the U.S. was $306.2 billion. Whether you were directly affected by one of those storm systems, or saw images of flooded neighborhoods, there’s probably one question that you’re now asking yourself.

What can I do to prepare for the next storm season?

It’s an important question to ask. And considering the hurricane season officially begins each year on June 1st, now is the time to start planning.

Be Prepared

Whether you live in a coastal area that might be affected by a hurricane or anywhere else in the country, there are common-sense steps you can take to prepare you and your family. A basic emergency kit should include a supply of flashlights and lanterns, medication, food, water, cash and so forth. Being prepared in this way is important because even if you’re not directly in the path of a storm, you may still be affected by a power outage. Losing power means more than losing light. It means losing hundreds of dollars of food and medications in the refrigerator, losing connection to the outside world, watching basements flood as sump pumps fail, facing uncertainty and dealing with the stress that comes with this.

A steady source of power is something many of us take for granted. You really don’t know how dependent you are on electricity until it’s gone.

Power Up

There is a cost-effective measure every family can take to avoid the cost – and the stress – of a power outage. The solution is to invest in an automatic standby generator. Some people think power generators are pieces of equipment for either people with cabins or survivalists. But, this has changed. Generator manufacturers today produce a variety of standby generators – as well as portable and industrial options – to meet a diverse array of needs.

Similar to a central air conditioning unit, an automatic standby generator is permanently installed outside of a home. It connects to a home’s electrical system and runs on either natural gas or propane from the home. In the case of an outage, some models, such as the ones produced by Kohler, automatically turn on within 10 seconds of losing power. Depending on the size of the generator, they can power everything in the home, from lights, HVAC, refrigerators, sump pumps, computers, TVs, home security systems and more, while smaller units can power a few key circuits.

Not all units are the same. To ensure you invest in an automatic standby generator that is truly ready for the storm season, look to the models from Kohler. These feature an automatic start, so whether you’re at home or away, it will automatically turn on; a durable enclosure that can withstand storm-force winds; a commercial-grade engine that can handle heavy loads; remote monitoring from a smartphone or laptop; quiet, neighborhood-friendly operation and a five-year warranty.

Additionally, standby generators from Kohler deliver high-quality power that won’t harm your electronics and run on your home’s natural or LP gas, keeping your crucial systems powered at all times – even when you’re not present.

No matter where you live, the potential for experiencing a power outage is real. Having an automatic standby generator can help you get through some of the worst weather nature will throw at us this season.

How To Improve the Energy-Efficiency Of Your Home Today

(BPT) – When the seasons change, the energy needs in your home change right along with them. And yet, whether you need to heat or cool your home, there’s one thing that never shifts: You want to do so as efficiently as possible.

An energy-efficient home is more than just good for the environment. It’s good for your pocketbook as well. By eliminating any unnecessary energy expenses you ensure you have more money to spend enjoying all the season has to offer.

You can start making your home more energy-efficient today, and it begins with these four tips.

Get Proactive About Your Insulation.

Your home’s insulation is often treated with an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality, yet improvements here could dramatically support your home’s energy-efficiency. While insulation is commonly seen as a benefit to keep your home warm in the winter, it also works to keep cool, air-conditioned air inside as well. Your insulation needs depend, in part, on where you live, but it’s worth your time to research this opportunity. Check to see that you have sufficient insulation and make additions or replacements as necessary.

Have Your HVAC System Serviced.

A well-functioning HVAC system can have a dramatic impact on your home’s energy-efficiency and now is the perfect time of year to have your unit serviced. During their visit your HVAC contractor will monitor refrigerant levels, clean the evaporator, the condenser and the coils as well as adjust the blower components. This should improve your unit’s output, however, if your cleaned unit still cannot keep the house comfortable at a reasonable rate, you can replace it with a more energy-friendly model. LG HVAC units, for example, are highly efficient and several have been recognized as “Energy Star 2018 Most Efficient” winners, meaning they represent the highest energy-efficiency in the category. From indoor units like the ultra-quiet, sleek wall-mounted Art Cool Gallery to outdoor units like the Multi F ductless option, there’s an HVAC unit to match your needs.

Bring Your Windows Into Focus.

The role your windows have in dictating the temperature in your home can be considerable. Older windows allow cool air to escape outside and that makes your air conditioner work harder to control the interior temperature. Replacing them eliminates this problem and sets you up to more easily retain heat during the winter. And if new windows simply aren’t possible right now, you can also make a smaller, more immediate impact on your energy-efficiency by closing the curtains during peak sunlight hours. This helps keep the temperature of your home cooler and reduces stress on your HVAC unit.

Consider Alternative Energy Sources.

Instead of simply focusing on what you can do with your current energy situation, expand your options to alternative energy sources as well. Installing home solar panels can drastically cut or even eliminate your electricity bills and even increase your home’s resale value. Newer systems like the LG NeOn R maximize sunlight absorption and generate the maximum possible output – as much as 26 percent more than other comparably sized solar panels. This higher efficiency means that your solar panels can work in any climate or season to deliver for you.

Start improving your energy-efficiency today.

Improving your home’s energy-efficiency benefits you not only during the summer but all year long, so what are you waiting for? Start applying the tips above today and you’ll see the benefits on each and every single energy bill going forward.

Home Improvement: One Repair At a Time

(BPT) – Tis the season … for home improvement. Longer days, warmer weather and more flexible schedules (hello, summer break!) have a way of

inspiring home improvement projects. It’s as if appliances in and around the house emerge from the shadows of winter, calling out for attention. Suddenly, the dishwasher rack has rusted, the washing machine agitator has ceased to work, the A/C unit is making a strange clicking noise and the lawnmower blade is broken. Now is the perfect time to repair these assets around the home, and doing it yourself has never been easier or more affordable.

Consider the many benefits of DIY appliance repair, aside from the personal satisfaction it offers. The cost to repair an appliance is typically a fraction of the cost of replacing it altogether. The money saved could be applied toward larger home improvement projects, such as new flooring or an upgraded bathroom.

New appliances may be different sizes and feature dissimilar finishes than their predecessors. This could make it difficult for homeowners to replace an older appliance with a new one that fits in the same space and matches the look of other nearby appliances. Repairing appliances, rather than replacing them, enables homeowners to keep the original appliances they selected and are accustomed to using, knowing they complement their home design and decorating style. DIY repair also means avoiding the hassle of scheduling a service call, having to take a vacation day from work to wait for a repair person at home and experiencing the frustration of a technician failing to show or bringing the wrong replacement part.

The proliferation of how-to articles and DIY videos online has made it possible for homeowners to tackle appliance repair projects on their own, saving both time and money. The key to their success is finding the correct replacement parts. Most home improvement stores sell aftermarket parts for appliances, but these parts can undermine the best repair work and even damage appliances. For example, they may be lower quality than the parts they are replacing, may not fit or function as well as the original and may not carry the same warranty protection.

Sites like RepairClinic.com sell only original replacement parts, so homeowners can be confident the products they purchase are approved for use and guaranteed to work in their appliances. With over 7 million appliance parts and maintenance products for over 200 appliances, including lawn equipment, outdoor power equipment and heating and cooling equipment brands, Repair Clinic has helped more than 20 million people save over $2.5 billion in repair costs. Repair Clinic also offers same-day shipping, thousands of expertly produced video tutorials, a 365-day return policy and live customer service support.

This season, commit to repairing the appliances in and around the house that are calling out for help. You’ll save time and money, and enjoy the satisfaction of doing it yourself!

Make the Most Of Your Landscaping Projects This Year With These Tips

(BPT) – Home improvement projects aren’t constrained to a single season, but during these warmer months, your focus is no longer simply on your home’s indoors. Now there’s outdoor yard work to do as well, and if you’re looking to recreate your outdoor space, your outside projects may include some landscaping. If you have landscaping as part of your to-do list this season, the right strategy can ensure that you get the most benefit from your landscaping goals with the least amount of headache.

To that end, here are five tips to simplify your landscaping projects this year.

Plan For the Entire Year.

Landscaping projects can be hard work, and because of that, you deserve to enjoy them for as long as possible. That’s why it’s important to plan your landscaping layout with the entire year in mind. Research your plant and flower options based on bloom periods and plant a variety so your yard is always being introduced to new pops of color. You should also add evergreen shrubs and other such plant life to your overall plan to give you a spot of color in the winter and preserve your landscaping look.

Be Mindful of Other Tools Outside Your Home.

When developing your landscaping strategy, you need to be aware not only of your home but the other vital components outside as well. Many homeowners are not mindful of their home’s HVAC units and may place landscaping solutions too close to the unit, which makes it difficult for techs to service the unit and exposes your system to the harmful effects of debris. Instead, plan to keep all landscaping at least two feet away from your HVAC system. This allows units like the Champion Momentum Variable Capacity Residential System to operate at peak efficiency and allows service techs to utilize its built-in advanced monitoring system to provide accurate readouts for faster annual service, maximized service life and improved comfort in your home.

Touch Every Corner Of Your Yard.

Your home is naturally the focal point of your yard, but it doesn’t have to be the only one. Creating a berm – a mound-type space that you can fill with rocks, wood chips or a flower garden – can add a pop of color and visual appeal to an otherwise plain area. These visual attractions can be placed anywhere, but adding one to an otherwise deserted corner of your yard is a great way to tie the entire space together and make the most of an unused area.

Add Plants That Fit Your Lifestyle.

When planning your landscaping project, it’s important to remember this isn’t just a one-time solution. Your landscaping will need continual work, and as such, your landscaping plan should be based partly on the time you have to dedicate to the project. For example, if you’re a person who appreciates beautifully colorful flowers but doesn’t want to replant them every year, you should start your project by planting perennials instead of annuals. Your time commitment in year one will be roughly the same, but you’ll ease your time requirements in the years ahead.

Monitor Your Budget.

Like many things, a lavish landscaping project can get away from you very quickly in the financial department. Veteran landscapers know that it becomes very easy to get swept up in the project and before you know it, you’ve added a slightly larger tree or another bush or two. Then you suddenly have unexpected costs heading your way. Instead of ending your exciting project on a bad note with a higher bill, plan out your budget ahead of time. Try to get as specific as possible with where you plan to spend every dollar. The more you can hold to each line item in your budget, the better you’ll be able to avoid unnecessary expenses throughout the process.

Making landscaping improvements to your yard can be a fun and rewarding project provided you follow a strategy that makes the best use of your time and money. Apply the tips above and you’ll be rewarded with a beautifully landscaped yard that you can enjoy every day of the year. To learn more about the Champion Momentum Variable Capacity Residential System, visit championhomecomfort.com.

Wildfire Protection Starts In These 5 Places

(BPT) – It’s National Wildfire Awareness Week. So, if you live in a wildfire-prone area, make sure you’re taking the right steps to stave off potential damage long before flames rage toward your doorstep.

And one of the best ways to do that is to take a look at the home itself.

“It’s a combination of the house materials, the house design and then everything around it within 100 feet that makes the difference between a safer home and one that has a greater risk of damage from wildfire,” says Michele Steinberg, manager of the Wildfire Operations Division for the National Fire Protection Association.

“All of our recommendations are really for well before the fire ever starts.”

Steinberg recommends paying special attention to these five spots around your house:

The Roof

Ensure yours is rated Class A, which means the covering and underlayment provide the most effective resistance to fire. It’s a big-ticket item for homeowners, but the most critical design item when it comes time to replace an aging roof.

The Gutters

Keep them free of debris such as leaves and pine needles, which can be ignited by swirling embers. “A wildfire doesn’t even need to be close to your house to cause a problem,” Steinberg says. “A blizzard of embers can pile up on roofs, porches and in gutters.”

The Foundation

It’s best that decks, porches and fences be made of non-flammable materials. Keeping their surface areas clear also is critical. Screening porches and decks with fine, metal mesh can help prevent embers from sweeping in to ignite leaves and other debris.

The Windows and Vents

Double-paned or tempered glass better withstands approaching heat. “I’ve seen cases where the outside window breaks but the inside pane stays intact, so you have that extra level of protection,” Steinberg said. And, if possible, build in under-eave and side-roof vents to make it more difficult for the wind to blow in embers.

The Landscaping

Keep organic flammable materials such as trees, shrubbery and even mulch from contact with your house. They can lead fire right to the siding. Store firewood at least 30 feet from the house because of the intense heat and large flames it creates when ignited.

Find out more about how the Wildfire Response Program can provide you with extra wildfire protection when you need it.

Simple Summer Home Maintenance Tips for Comfort and Energy Savings

(BPT) – Things will soon be heating up all over the country. In fact, the average U.S. household will spend 3 percent more on electricity bills this summer than in 2017, due to rising retail electricity prices and higher usage, according to the U.S. Energy Administration’s estimation.

Jennifer Franz, an energy efficiency expert at Lennox, says the good news is that homeowners can spend just a few hours before the season starts to make some quick fixes and easy improvements that will help them save energy and make them more comfortable all summer long, including:

Mind the Maintenance:

Schedule an annual routine check-up for your heating and cooling equipment to keep the system running as efficiently as possible, and check the air filter each month to see if it needs to be replaced.

Keep It Cool:

Add extra insulation to the attic, which will help prevent your home’s heating and cooling system from having to work harder to regulate the indoor temperature during the hottest months of the year.

Control Cracks:

Seal cracks around windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping to prevent conditioned air from escaping.

Set It and Forget It:

Install a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature at certain times of the day, automatically regulating the temperature when you’re away. In addition, always set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can stand to save the most money. Homeowners can save as much as 10 percent a year on cooling bills by setting their thermostat 7 to 10 degrees higher than its normal setting for eight hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Make a Clean Sweep:

Decrease dust and dirt in the home by cleaning with non-toxic, natural household cleaners, such as baking soda, cornstarch or white vinegar, and using a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which will trap small particles like dust that others re-circulate back into the air.

Seal the Deal:

Examine the home’s pipes and connections, as well as all vents, and add caulking or sealant, if needed, to ensure they are air-tight.

Clear the Air:

Breathe easier this summer by installing a whole-home air purification system, such as the new Lennox PureAir S, which is integrated with your home’s heating and cooling system. These systems are much more effective at eliminating airborne contaminants than portable room air cleaners and don’t produce ozone, which is a known lung irritant.

Franz says homeowners should pay special attention to their heating and cooling system, which accounts for more than half of a home’s energy costs. “The easiest thing homeowners can do to save energy and stay comfortable during the summer – and all year long – is to change the air filter on their system regularly; however, if your air conditioner is more than 10 years old, it’s time to consider replacing it with a more efficient system that will save significant energy and help lower utility bills.”

By taking on a few quick and easy home maintenance projects, homeowners can help reduce the amount of wasted energy, save money and stay comfortable as temperatures rise. To learn more about home energy efficiency and how to save money on utility bills, visit https://www.lennox.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lennox.

Rooftop Decks for Every Style

(BPT) – Fresh air, great views and capitalizing on unused space – it’s no wonder rooftop decks are a hot trend for suburban homes and urban apartment complexes alike.

Once reserved for the urban elite, rooftop decks are popping up all over the country as an attractive option that offers a mixture of space savings and an unrivaled view. The magic of rooftop decks is they take advantage of what was formerly unused space – the top of a building or the flat roof over part of a home – and reclaim it for a unique entertaining area or a family gathering spot.

“Especially when we’re working in cities, rooftop decks are essentially reclaiming space for a family that probably wouldn’t have any outdoor space otherwise,” said James Muckinhaupt, a senior builder/project manager for Mosaic Outdoor Living, a high-end custom deck builder in Colorado.

All that newfound space can present a challenge to designers and the homeowners they serve as they try to define the space to make the most of the rooftop deck’s open layout.

“If designers don’t really delineate the space well, we’ve found the decks end up being a giant space that’s never fully utilized by the homeowner,” James said.

James and his wife, Mary, a custom furniture consultant, offer some advice on how to turn your rooftop deck into a personal oasis and get the most out of the space.

1. Define the Use

Mary said defining how the deck will be used the majority of the time is the top way to make sure the space fits the homeowners’ needs. Questions like, “Will the deck host weekly family dinner?” and “Will you use it daily for drinks and lounging?” help determine whether a kitchen/dining area is needed and how much seating should be included.

“It’s also important to know the average number of people they expect to fit on the deck,” Mary said. “If we don’t furnish and set the deck up so it’s conducive to their needs, we’ve found that people don’t use the deck.”

2. Stay True To Your Style

Most people have a style or color scheme they are already drawn to. A good designer will pay attention to the rest of a homeowner’s space and incorporate that theme into the rooftop deck to create a cohesive style from interior to exterior.

3. Focus On Materials

Materials have a huge impact on the final look of the deck, whether it’s sleek tile, decorative concrete or luxury composite lumber. James said his rooftop decks are primarily Envision(R) composite lumber by TAMKO, because of the wide variety of styles the boards can accommodate, taking on everything from the look of exotic hardwoods to distressed reclaimed barn wood.

4. Add a Covering

Regardless of how the deck will be used, it’s nice to have a covered area to escape the heat of the sun or the rain. Depending on the homeowners’ needs and budget, the covering can be anything from a grouping of large umbrellas to a covered structure with glass walls.

5. Include a Fire Element

If adding a covering helps extend deck season through the extreme heat of summer and the rain of spring, including a fire element extends the deck’s use through the fall and winter. This could be something as simple as a fire pit or as elaborate as a built-in fireplace.

“Between a shade covering and a fireplace, you’re extending deck season to 70-80 percent of the year, depending on where you live,” James said.

6. Work With the Views

In the process of deciding where to add a covering and how to position furniture on a rooftop deck, consider the natural views. One area of the deck may offer superior views, either of nature or of a cityscape. Position furniture to open up to the best view and construct deck coverings and any needed walls, to obstruct any undesirable views.

“The view is one of the best things about a rooftop deck, so we want to focus the seating around whatever is the best view,” Mary said. “If there are great views on multiple sides, we’ll recommend using swivel chairs to give people the best of both.”

The Most Common Causes of Homeowners Insurance Claims

(BPT) – The value of homeowners insurance is often thrust into the national spotlight when natural disasters happen. The devastation and financial loss they can cause reinforces the importance of making sure you have adequate insurance coverage to rebuild if disaster strikes your home. In 2017 alone, the U.S. was struck by 16 separate billion-dollar disaster events, resulting in a record-breaking $300 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Thankfully, most Americans don’t experience large-scale natural catastrophes, but millions of homeowners do experience some kind of property loss each year and need to make an insurance claim. The most commonly reported homeowners insurance claims are actually the result of events that can occur at any time, so it’s important for homeowners to be prepared for these potential risks.

Water Damage Claims Are Most Common

“Water claims are the ones we see most often,” says Christopher O’Rourke, Vice President of Property Claims at Mercury Insurance. “While certain perils are seasonal, water damage can occur any time of year. It’s important for homeowners to conduct routine maintenance of appliance hoses and water pipes to make sure there aren’t cracks or leaks and, if any are detected, have them repaired or replaced immediately.

“Another thing everyone can do to protect their homes from leaks is turn off their main water supply when they’re away for an extended period of time. No one wants to return from a relaxing vacation to find water running through their home.”

Smart home technology also delivers an extra layer of protection for homeowners by providing 24/7 monitoring to help detect water pipe leaks. Professionally installed water pressure sensors, for example, work with most smartphones and can, among other things, automatically shut off the home’s main water supply if a leak or burst pipe is detected. And the best part is that insurance companies like Mercury Insurance will often provide a discount for homes that implement this technology.

O’Rourke also notes that most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage caused by rising water from storms or overflowing bodies of water, so he recommends homeowners consult with their local insurance agent to learn how to protect against these types of events.

Fire Damage is a Concern For Homeowners

While water claims are the most common, fire damage is another possible concern for homeowners and can be caused in several ways. The National Fire Protection Association reports nearly half a million structure fires occurred in 2016, resulting in $7.5 billion in property damage, and wildfires ravaged California in 2017, leading to one of the year’s billion-dollar disaster events. O’Rourke suggests controlling the things you can and mitigating against the perils you can’t.

“Most home fires happen when people are inattentive or negligent. These fires are preventable if people don’t leave things like lit stoves, fireplaces, candles or portable heat sources unattended. You should also refrain from overloading electrical outlets and using appliances with frayed electrical cords,” he says. “These things seem like common sense, but it’s amazing how many claims we see that result from simply not paying attention.

“Wildfires can be extremely scary and dangerous and there is often little warning when they sweep through areas, leaving homeowners little time to protect their homes. Most of this work needs to be done before a fire erupts. Homeowners can mitigate against this risk by keeping their yards free of dry brush, grass clippings and twigs, keep tree branches trimmed and bushes pruned. They should also make sure their roofs and gutters are cleared of leaves and debris.”

Theft Can Be Costly

Theft doesn’t necessarily pose a threat to the physical structure of a home, but it too can be costly and it often leaves homeowners feeling scared and violated. The FBI’s Universal Crime Report estimates 1.5 million burglaries occurred in 2016 – with residential properties accounting for 69.5 percent of these offenses.

Homeowners can help safeguard against theft by taking simple, but often overlooked precautions like ensuring doors and windows are locked, and not leaving spare keys in easy-to-find locations. Several smart home devices can also aid in deterring potential thieves by allowing homeowners to adjust lights, monitor security cameras and activate security systems from their smartphones even when they’re away from home.

“Our claims team strives to get our customers back on their feet after a loss. Our hope is that people never experience such an event in the first place, but if they do we want them to know that it is our goal to help them get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible,” adds O’Rourke.

Mercury Insurance provides homeowners with additional tips to protect against common insurance claims. Visit https://blog.mercuryinsurance.com to learn more.