Blog Archives: Getting your Fireplace or Wood Stove Ready

When there’s a chill in the air, is there anyone who doesn’t enjoy a blazing and crackling fire to warm their home? Whether it’s a fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stove, there’s something cozy and inviting about a fire.

However, to ensure a safe experience it’s important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned on an annual basis or after burning a cord of wood, whichever comes first. 

Fires leave a gummy residue, called creosote, which can stick to the lining of your chimney. Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood, pellets, or coal and is created by soot, smoke, gases and other particles.

When you burn wood to produce heat, gasses are produced that do not efficiently burn away. These gases now condense into liquid form. The liquid sticks to the inside of your chimney walls and/or liner. Over time it dries in the form of creosote.

Insidiously, it continues to build up, layering on like a stalagmite, on the surface of your chimney liner or your flue tile every single time you and your family enjoy a fire.

This is a highly flammable substance that can quickly erupt into a blazing chimney fire if subjected to a high enough temperature. That is why it must be removed periodically.

Hiring a chimney sweep is the traditional way to clean the inner surface and restore safety to the home. Chimney sweeps are trained to determine whether chimneys are structurally sound and whether they need to be cleaned. They will make sure the chimney is up to code, especially important in older houses, and make sure there are any birds or animals in the chimney, or anything that would block the flow of smoke. They also check that there’s no water coming into your home. 

How Do I Prevent Creosote Build-up?

There are steps you can take at home to reduce creosote buildup and the risk of a chimney fire.  Foremost is picking dry wood to burn. Dry wood will appear gray on the surface and have cracks on the end.

Don’t throw pizza boxes or other trash in the fireplace because it causes a thicker smoke, which lowers the temperature in the chimney. While many people use a newspaper to start a fire, it is recommended that a fire log or fire starter should be used instead. This reduces the risk of sparks flying out of the fireplace. Use a screen and stay in the room while the fire is burning. 

Don’t forget to check your existing smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers to ensure all are in working order. If your home does not have the prevention devices, please install immediately.

Chimney maintenance is a priority for your property since harmful gases can build up inside the flue. Lethal carbon monoxide also builds up inside the flue, and if there’s damage to the inside of your chimney, this can seep in to your home. Have you chimney checked by a qualified tradesman regularly to ensure your family’s safety.

For information on ensuring your home is covered in case of a chimney fire, contact Vargas & Vargas at 877.550.0025

Falling for Autumn

Leaves are falling all aroundor they will be. Yes, i’m getting sidetracked with Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On lyrics.

It’s time to maintain your home during the Fall in order to prep your house for winter.  Here are several basic maintenance items to attend to as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer.

The cost of maintenance is always less than the cost of a claim.

  • Gutters and Downspouts.  The build up of leaves and other debris makes for a constant battle during the fall.  Climb the ladder and clean those gutters!  Grab your hose and run it through the downspout to clear blockages.   Accumulated detritus in your gutters creates a water condition at the edge of your roof. This means that water may cascade directly down from the soffit deep below your foundation.  Next thing you’ll have water seeping up and into your basement.
  • Windows and Doors.  Remove the window air conditioners, replace window screens with storm windows.  Same for screen doors.  Check doorways for loose or broken edging and insulation.
  • Heating Systems: Autumn is a great time to replace the filter for your furnace! The smallest of details could be the cause of the biggest of problems.
  • Landscaping around the base exterior of your house.  Be sure that dirt hasn’t built up at a reverse angle down towards your foundation: rake the dirt so that it angles downward and away from your foundation.  This helps to prevent water buildup against the foundation which then seeps down and into your basement.

Please call to inquire how water accumulation in your home may or may not be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. If your house “floods”, you will want to know how it affects your wallet.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Tip-Top on the Rooftop

Gravity combined with water can be an enemy to your property. 

Leaking water through even the tiniest of openings in your roof follows the laws of gravity. It will fall downward causing damage on its way to the inner sanctum of your home. 

The good news is that you can prioritize your to spend a little time on the weekend to prevent water from entering your home through your roof.

  1. Gutters.  Get ready for it. Fall is coming and and it’ll be time to clear and clean those gutters!  The thought of hauling oneself up on a ladder on a Sunday morning to claw through the muck of wet leaves and other detritus isn’t appealing.  Mostly, we think of this as a time-consuming activity that could otherwise be spent with our family. 
    In reality, frequent gutter clearing can be done fairly quickly.  It’s when we let the muck pile up that it sucks up our time.   More to the point, when you clean those gutters, you’re conducting a serious prevention campaign!  You’re avoiding the wood rot that happens from built up water that gets into the soffits of your house and under the shingles of your roof.  Once water gets in there, the damage is more severe than clearing out your gutters.
  2. Chimney caulking.  You’ll need to get up on the roof to check closely the caulking around the bricks of your chimney.  The caulking should not have broken or loose pieces and should have a uniform adhesion to the bricks.  Make sure the shingles around the base of your chimney are secure to the roof.   Check the chimney for loose mortar.
  3. Loose shingles.   Especially after a bad storm, taking a walk around your home for a visual inspection of your roof shingles, or, better yet, while you’re up on the ladder cleaning your gutters, can save you costly repairs.  Shingles should not have loose flaps or curled edges. Secure loose shingles and replace damaged or curled shingles.
  4. Overhanging tree branches and limbs.   Anything that’s too close to the roof and large enough can cause roof damage during severe weather, should be trimmed away from your roof.
  5. Ask the Pro.  It can’t hurt to have a professional roof inspection done every few years. Call us for assistance and a referral to an inspector.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Managing Growth

Growth can sneak up on us.  Whether it’s your family or your business, one day you realize you’ve grown larger than when you started. 

  • Two cars when once there was one.
  • Five employees when previously you had two. 
  • A new spouse when you once lived alone. 

Growth is a good thing, it’s the keeping-up-with-growth that’s difficult.  Unless you’re organized and prepared, then growing becomes easy-peasy.

One area we often overlook, when growth occurs is whether it sneaks up on us or we prepare for it, is with our insurance.

Here’s where your Independent Insurance Agent comes in. We help your growth spurt feel smooth, organized, and best of all, prepared for any happenstance.

We often advocate that our clients undertake an annual review with us to see what coverages best suit their needs with natural changes over time. This helps to ensure quality coverage at an affordable cost whenever possible.

Our facility as your Independent Agent is there for you to advocate and manage when the “growth” word pops up.  Not only can we find the right insurance coverage for your new larger family or business, but we can help you control the costs of that insurance. 

Call us today so we can discuss all of your wonderful growth opportunities and reduce any growing pains so you experience the best possible insurance solutions.

You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Fire Hazards in Your House

Fire hazards are everywhere. Yet, we often ignore the danger, or, worse, we’re completely unaware of the lurking, imminent threat of fire breaking out.  Fire is a devastating event, inflicting tremendous damage, sever injury and death!  Fire can wreak havoc in a fierce, fast, moment.

Smoke detectors are your primary line of defense to protect your life when a fire breaks out.

But you should take the time to carefully inspect your home for hazards that could easily become a threatening event.

Extension Cords 
Overloaded electrical extension cords cause fire by overheating and exploding in flame. Additionally, they are often near to furniture or draperies that burn rapidly. 

Take time to unburden your electrical outlets from overloaded extension cords.  If you absolutely must increase utilization of a particular outlet in your house, consider hiring an electrician to upgrade the wiring and quality of that outlet. Install of an outlet with a “Ground Fault Interrupt” (GFI) breaker that shuts the outlet off in the event of overloading.  

Consider purchasing a high-quality surge protection power strip with built-in circuit breaker.

Coffee Machines
Does your coffee maker have an “Auto-Off” feature?  We forget to turn off coffee machines; they continue warming the near-empty carafe, ultimately burning off any remaining liquid, thus creating a fire hazard while you’re away from home.

Circuit Breaker Panel Upgrade 
When is the last time you asked a Licensed Electrician to inspect the circuit breaker panel in your house to determine its viability for your current needs?  A simple inspection and potential upgrade of worn or insufficient breakers can go a long way to presenting a first line of defense against fire hazards.

Lightning
Do you have a lightning rod installed on your home?   The lightning rod is a simple metal bar that captures a lightning strike and sends the resulting electrical burst harmlessly away from your roof.

Inspect all electrical outlets
Be sure there’s no furniture, clothing, newspapers or other flammable objects too close to, or obstructing the electrical outlets around your home.  A flimsy fabric accidentally falling on the electrical cord to a lamp can potentially overheat and create an immediate fire situation.

You can find more excellent advice on inspecting and protecting your home at the National Safety Council website.

Call us so we can help you with other claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Monday Morning Motivation Week of August 19

Last week we discussed strategies to become “the authority” on your topic. Here are a few more strategies to consider.

It’s no surprise that I LOVE starting the week (and everyday) with words of wisdom. Today’s are:

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show them.”
– Steve Jobs

3. Know Your Audience and Add Real Value

Knowing your audience is the core of the marketing process—without it, you wont know your audience’s pain.

Seek to understand the personal goals, frustrations, and daily struggles of the individuals included in your audience.

What do I mean by being “real”? People think frequently and often, “What’s in it for me?”

 You need to be seen by your clients as something they value and can use. This will aid in making a real connection with them so you can be a reliable resource.

4. Be Consistent

Consistency is a key component to establishing your reputation as an authority and building the trust that comes with the reputation.

5. Engaging With Your Community

Cement your position as an expert in your community by being open and engaging with them.  This doesn’t mean just placing a small sponsor add in an events fundraiser booklet or responding to comments and answering questions.  You need to get out and meet your “tribe” through volunteering at events, community and fundraisers. Additionally, have conversations with them by asking what they need. Most importantly, follow up and through based on your conversations.

6. Build Relationships With Experts and Influencers

Reach out to experts and influencers within your niche and in related niches that target the same audience that is your best customer. These folks are strategic alliances and could be your best referral source.

While it takes time and work to position yourself as an authority in your field, the benefits you receive will be worth the investment.

As the most trusted expert, whether you are a real estate agent, mortgage professional, builder etc., you will be the first choice in the minds when they need to hire someone that provides the services that you offer.  This is because you have not only helped them to know, like and trust you, but you have also clearly demonstrated the expertise that proves you can help them solve their problems or overcome their challenges.

Please review ALL of my Monday Morning Motivation blogs HERE

Visit us anytime online for tips and training on how to build your business. Click here!

Back to School: Children and Insurance

Getting children prepped and off to school is often a hectic time. 

The last thing you want to think about is insurance. 
So, don’t.  That’s right, don’t think about insurance!

You’ve got too much on your plate, between clothing decisions, book-buying, book-bag purchases and packing. So, no, there’s no time for insurance.

What you can do, on the other hand, as your crazy, zany, busy early school days proceed is be mindful of things happening that could become an insurance event.  Putting your insurance into a “zen-like” part of your busy day can only help you avoid the dreaded-of-all-insurance-situations:
a claim!

Let’s start with young drivers.  They grow up so fast. When they pass their driver’s test, it’s a bittersweet. You have more freedom and they have more independence with getting from point A to point B.

You forgot to remember that she’d be asking to use the car to hang out with friends, attend school events, go shopping. Back to school time is a great time to be mindful, thinking of your young new-driver’s desires, and prepare yourself, and them, for that driving experience. 

It’s important to carefully remind them about safe driving techniques in order to avoid accidents and claims!

Rushing out the door on those first insane days of school can lead to other potentially dangerous situations, the kind that lead to insurance claims.

How about discussing safety measures before they even leave the house to get on the road? Such as, the coffee machine?  Does it have an Auto-Off feature? 

Too many household fires are caused by coffee machines burning through empty coffee carafes for hours on end.

There are other potentially dangerous events you can avoid when you add a small dose of “insurance mindfulness” into your crazy Back-To-School Days. 

Call your Independent Insurance Agent and ask her to help you become a Zen-Master of avoiding calamitous insurance claim events.  We promise that it’ll be better to enjoy watching your children run off to school in the mornings while you sip your coffee in peace.

Call us for a no-obligation, FREE insurance quote to help you determine that you, your family and your business are protected! You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Monday Morning Motivation Week of August 12

I LOVE starting the week (really everyday) with words of wisdom.
Todays are: 

“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.”
~ Meredith Hill

For the last few weeks, we have been talking about niches and niche marketing.

There are so many choices and options today when people are looking to solve a challenge or problem. 

How do they make that choice?

One way is that they find a trusted expert or authority who has built a relationship with them and has proven their expertise on their topic.

When your community needs someone that offers YOUR products or services, will you be TOP OF MIND and  the authority they turn to for assistance?

Here are some strategies to become “the authority” on your topic:

1. Focus on a niche

Don’t be the proverbial “ jack-of-all-trades and master of none”.  If you want people to see you as an authority, specialize in something.  Pick a niche that narrowly focuses on your ideal Customer. With this level of specialization, you can focus on what they need and/or want. You will be better able to personalize your message to speak directly to your ideal client(s) and connect with them emotionally. This is vital to your success in becoming an authority.

Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the right niche for your business and community.

 2.  Choose the right channels. 

Once you have chosen your niche, you must also select the right channels to share your knowledge and expertise.  You don’t want to waste your time sharing your knowledge in place where your community is not spending their time.

Do you know if they spend their time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, or somewhere else?

Knowing this will increase your engagement with your future clients based on your relevant, focused  content.

Next week, stay tuned for item #3: Adding real value by knowing your audience.

Please review ALL OF MY Monday Morning Motivation blogs. Visit us anytime online for tips and training on how to build your business. Click on the link: https://www.vargasinsurance.com/blog/category/monday-motivation

Why Do I Need an Umbrella Policy?

An umbrella policy is an additional layer of liability insurance that protects you and your assets above and beyond the coverage of your home or auto insurance. If you live in or near Dorchester, MA, Vargas & Vargas Insurance has experienced agents who can help to explain the value of an umbrella policy and why it could be right for you. 

If you have any assets at all an umbrella policy is valuable protection. Home insurance and car insurance policies have liability limits that are often not high enough to protect you adequately. If you are found to be at fault or even if you are not ultimately found to be at fault, the legal fees can be quite high.  If the case is not decided in your favor and your insurance liability is not enough to cover the judgment, you may be required to pay the remainder of the money yourself. It could take all of your saving and assets and even your future assets to make that payment.

With an umbrella policy, when the maximum is reached on your home or auto policy, your umbrella policy kicks in and pays up to the maximum amount of the policy. Most umbrella policies are from one to five million dollars. It is easier to sleep at night knowing that you are protected today and into the future. 

You have worked hard to accumulate the assets that you have. Protecting them is important for your peace of mind. At Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA, our friendly and knowledgeable staff are ready and waiting to help you get the coverage that you need. Give our office a call or stop by and let us help you understand the benefits of this important coverage and get a no-obligation quote. Visit our website for more information.

 

Christmas In August?

I hope you’re enjoying an amazing Summer!  The weather has been mostly wonderful: perfect for picnics, beach days, barbecues on the back deck with family and friends. 

Let’s talk about Christmas.  Wait, Christmas?

but, But BUT, it’s August!

Yes, but who doesn’t love Jingle Bells, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, wrapping paper, lights, ornaments and trees!

Talking about Christmas reminds us that we often take time at the end of the year to reflect on the year coming to an end, and to prepare for the New Year.

Why wait until the end of the year?  Let’s feel the way we do during the holiday season now, in August! 

Why not take a few minutes in the next few weeks, maybe 20 minutes here, another 30 minutes there, 10 minutes and so on…and review and plan for our better financial health.  Let’s think about insurance and the effect that your monthly insurance premiums have on your monthly budget.

Budgeting is certainly something we think about before and during the holiday season, right?

Take 10 minutes to consider your monthly budget, the time to assess your monthly insurance costs, is all it takes to know your numbers. 

Take 20 minutes gathering your insurance policies, whether on paper or in electronic format is what you need to prepare for the phone call, the phone call you won’t have to make later in the year…you know, around Christmas time!

Set aside 30 minutes to call your Independent Insurance Agent, review those policies you gathered in front of you, and discuss your monthly premiums as they exist, and how you can both lower those premiums and improve the quality of your insurance coverage.

Give yourself a Christmas present in August! 
Make your budget healthier, improve your quality of insurance coverage and, best of all, eliminate one item from your end of the year “To-Do” list so you can better enjoy your holidays.

And who knows, you may save enough money to get that treasured gift you’ve been thinking about for your loved one.

Our gift to you is the no-obligation FREE insurance quote to help you determine that you, your family and your business are protected!

You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.