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.

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.

Walk Through Your House Like a Claims Adjustor

Hopefully you will never need this advice to come to fruition. 
Hopefully you’ll never have a claim. 

But this is what insurance is all about: preparation.  When you prepare for a catastrophe, an accident, a fire or a theft when you buy the right insurance coverage, you’re creating an opportunity to recover.  The money your insurance pays out in the event of a claim is paramount to that recovery. 

There’s one other step to take in your preparation. When you make a claim, often the insurance company sends out a representative to review the damage or the loss and to assess the amount of coverage that should be paid out.  This person is the claims adjustor. 

Never assume the adjustor is looking to provide you with an equitable settlement on your loss or damage.  The best way to get the best financial recovery is to prepare in advance. 

Let’s look at your homeowner’s insurance to prepare for a claim that, hopefully, will never happen.  Walk through your house like a Claims Adjustor would.  Pretend you’re the claims adjuster but with the interest in protecting YOU, the homeowner.

In the event of a theft, you want to show the adjustor the precautions you’ve taken to prevent break-ins to your home.  Is your alarm system properly installed?  Does it have independent power backup?  Are all locks, including those on windows, secure and adequate? 

For the lost valuables, did you prepare with a high-quality inventory of your precious items?  Of all your items that would need to be replaced in the event of a fire?

Do you have photographic evidence to show to a Claims Adjustor?  For very valuable items, did you get a professional appraisal and is that appraisal recent and current?

For damage to the home due to weather including flood*, can you clearly demonstrate that you, the homeowner, took all necessary precautions to protect your home? 

For example, have you diligently cleared large trees or tree limbs that could easily fall on your home?  Have you created storage solutions in the basement of your home to minimize damage to belongings in the event of a water-intrusion event?

Take an hour and do a complete walk-through of your home.  If you ever have to file a claim, you’ll dramatically improve your payout.  That will go a long way to the peace of mind you need to recover.

Call us today to learn about your homeowners insurance and how to protect yourself in the event of an unforeseen claim. Now is the time: before you need your policy to go to work for you.

Your health and financial health depend on it. Call us at 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.

*Flood insurance is always specifically excluded from homeowners. Please consult with your agent if you are interested in flood insurance.

The Two Most Effective Steps When You File A Claim

Your Insurance is in place to protect you from risks that may affect your wealth and your health.  When an incident occurs, you’ll want to file your claim in order to receive payment for your loss as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Luckily, there are two easy steps to ensure a smooth claim process.  Best news of all, you can manage these two easy suggestions in a short time, maybe even while you’re binge watching whatever is the latest and greatest on Netflix. 

#1: Paperwork

Gather your insurance policies to an easy-to-find (and easy to remember) location.  You might want to consider scanning your policies to PDFs and saving those on your Smartphone, home computer, or Cloud Storage. 

If you’re saving paper or scanning to PDF, be mindful with how you label each document.  Using the Insurance Carrier’s name along with the purpose of the policy is helpful.  For example, “ABC INSURANCE Homeowners Policy.” 

Use different color post-it notes strategically placed on each paper document to easily flip through multiple policies. If you’re storing PDFs on a computer or Cloud drive, create different folders for each policy and be sure to “rename” each PDF for easy search.  In a pinch you’ll want to quickly locate “XYZ MUTUAL INSURANCE 2017 PONTIAC.”

#2: Photos

Smartphones make it easy to snap photos of your belongings around your home or to grab a quick photo of damage to your vehicle after an incident. Be sure to have the date stamp feature enabled.

In your home, while running your vacuum around or changing the bed linens, snap photos in each room where you have valuable belongings.  Take a photo of the entire room, too, with different angles. Capture clear, up close photos of individual valuables. 

Upload your photos and save to your home computer or Cloud Storage. Or both.

We’d be honored to spend a few minutes with you to discuss how to organize your files, review to see if your valuables are insured properly or to prepare the step-by-step of the “what to do” and “what not to do” after a claim.

When you’re organized in advance, your claim can be processed efficiently. This gets you paid faster in order to begin the repairs.

You can call us now for a free educational moment or to review your existing insurance policies to be sure you’re covered for every eventuality. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

4 Things Your Homeowner Policy Should Include

Shopping for Homeowners Insurance is often rushed and daunting.  And exhausting.  In the flurry of activity leading up to a Home purchase closing, the harried home buyer may speed through the insurance process with the goal of quick and cheap. Let’s slow down ever so slightly! 

Take your time and ask your insurance agent if the quoted policy includes the following 4 vital coverage parts. Your standard Homeowners Insurance Policy covers you in the event of damage from fire, lightning, hail, and explosions.   However, these 4 items are not automatically included.

#1: Higher Liability Coverage.  The dollar value of an insurance payout in the event of a claim is often the number one most overlooked and undervalued part of a quickly-quoted insurance policy.  We like to explain liability coverage to our customers like this: imagine if someone fell on the pathway leading up to your front door.  Imagine that person suffered a serious injury, such as broken bones.  Now imagine that person, whether friend, family, or otherwise, hires an aggressive Personal Injury Attorney to receive compensation for pain, suffering, and medical bills.   Do you think that $300,000 liability coverage is sufficient payout in such a dire event to protect your other cash assets (your bank accounts, your retirement accounts, your children’s college fund)?   Whether it is or is not sufficient, do you want to gamble your wealth away with insufficient liability coverage?   Consider increasing your Liability Coverage to at least $1,000,000.

#2: Storm Damage.  Severe weather over the past dozen years or so has cost Homeowners considerable sums of money.  These Homeowners lived in contentment with their homeowners insurance policies thinking they were covered for all kinds of occurrences.  When the severe weather hit—storm surges from oceans, rivers, and creeks; high-wind conditions; flooding inside basements from ground water saturation due to heavier than normal rains—too many Homeowners discovered to their dismay the lack of coverage for damage sustained due to severe weather.   Discuss flood insurance with your insurance agent.

#3: Power Outages.  Should your home lose power for a sustained period of time you could experience loss of foodstuffs due to your refrigerator not functioning.  Adding this extra coverage to your policy protects your money…and your food.

#4: Additional Coverage for “earth-movement”.  Have an in-ground pool in your backyard? If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, landslides, or sinkholes, you’ll want to add additional coverage to your standard policy to protect your assets and your home against these risks.

We’re happy to spend the time necessary to educate you on the best comprehensive insurance for your Home.  Call us today!

Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

3 Things Your Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover. Number 3 is a DOOZY!

We encourage people to conduct an annual review of their insurance policies.  Too often, when consumers purchase insurance, they approach the transaction with an eye towards prompt resolution and a focus on price.  This formula of speed+money is a formula for failure in the event of a future claim.

The reason is simple.  A carelessly prepared insurance policy, one prepared in the heat of the customer’s desire for a quick resolution and demand for lowest price could result in a “skeleton” policy that may not properly cover the consumer for a catastrophic eventuality. 

The quality insurance agent, interested in protecting the consumer with the best possible risk coverages, and in protecting their own professional reputation, will take the time to educate the consumer and provide a comprehensive insurance policy.

You may be surprised to discover that there are 3 items, indicated below, that may not be covered by your current Homeowners Insurance Policy.  Spoiler alert, #3 may surprise you!  We’re happy to assist you with a comprehensive, careful, review of all of your insurance needs.  And, education is a key element to how we’ll proceed with assisting you to fully understand risks you can protect for with the right insurance.

#1: Sewer Backup.  Whether your home is connected to a public sewer or you have a septic system, a backup due to a blockage, storm-surge, or other calamity, can damage electrical systems, furniture, floors, and precious possessions. Standard homeowners insurance policies may not cover you at all for such damage or may only provide very limited coverage.  You can upgrade to more comprehensive insurance to include special coverage for sewer backup.

#2: Precious Collectibles.  Basic insurance policies may not cover your stellar baseball card or antique cookie jar collections.  If the policy does cover your collection, the limit of coverage may be far below the actual value of your collection.  When you review your insurance, be sure to mention your collection and an assessment of its value.  To be sure, consider obtaining an independent appraisal of your collection to include that with your upgraded, comprehensive Homeowners Insurance policy. 

#3: Termite infestation and damage.  Not covered by a standard, basic policy. Period.  Depending on where you live, especially in the Northeast of the United States, termites and the damage they cause are a real and impending menace.  Homeowners often realize there’s an infestation long after the termite colony has ensconced itself within the wooden borders and interior of your home.  The cost of treating and removing the infestation, along with the costs of repairing the damage, can easily escalate.  Be sure to address these concerns in your annual review.  Consider also contracting with a local exterminating company to inspect your home annually for these nasty pests.

Insurance involves assessing a future, unknown risk.  That risk could affect your health and/or your wealth.  A carefully prepared insurance policy protects you for a comprehensive array of possible risks.  But in the rush to purchase the insurance, the consumer shops without the appropriate due diligence.  And, in the interest of making the sale, an insurance agent may simply provide the basics of a policy to appease the consumer’s request for speed and low price. 

Call us today for your free annual insurance review.  We’re thrilled to spend the time with you to find you the best policy that comprehensively protects your health and your wealth at an affordable price!

Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

What Happens When the Main Condo Furnace Fails and There is Damage To Your Unit

If your Condominium unit gets its heat from a main furnace controlled and maintained by the Condominium Management, but it’s not part of your unit for which you are responsible, you may have some interesting insurance challenges should the furnace fail during the cold winter months; and you experience damage inside your unit.

When you own a Condo you are covered by two different Insurance policies.  The “Master Policy” for the Condo Building, generally covers all the common areas of the Condo.  It does not cover the inside of your Condo unit.

You insure the interior of your unit with your own insurance policy, typically called a HO-6 policy.  This insurance very much resembles renters’ insurance for apartment-dwellers. The premiums for an HO-6 policy are typically reasonably affordable.  These policies insure you for any claims you may have inside your Condominium unit.

But what happens when the main condo furnace goes out and you have damage in your unit?

We recommend the following as your logical course of action:

1.       Immediately contact the Managing Agent and inquire about filing a claim against the Master Insurance Policy for the Condo.  You should expect that you’ll run into some resistance here from the Insurance carrier for that Master Policy. They’ll attempt to direct you to your own HO-6 Insurance policy since the damage is inside your unit.

Remember, that damage was caused by the main furnace failing.  Stand your ground.

2.       Assuming you are successful in filing a claim against the Master Policy, you still may need to file a claim against your HO-6 policy for the finer points of items that would not covered at all, or not covered to the full extent of value for your precious belongings inside your Condo.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late.

We’re happy to provide a free consultation to review your existing Master Policy and your HO-6 policy.  We want you to know the extent of your existing coverages for your protection and to help assure you of any additional coverages you may need.

The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

What Happens In The Event of a Water Leak in Your Condo?

If you own a Condominium (Condo), you may have equipment both inside and outside your unit for which you are responsible. In a closet inside your unit would be your water tank. There is also an HVAC unit that may be just outside your unit, to heat and cool your home.  Most of the time, you ignore these two quiet workhorses that keep you in comfort all year round.

Shockingly, every once in a while, and sometimes suddenly, the equipment may fail and need repair.  Most often and most inconveniently, the HVAC will fail when the temperatures outside are the hottest or coldest, depending on the time of the year. Thus, only your comfort is compromised.

However, every once in a while, these machines break down and leak.  With water. Lots of water.

If your HVAC unit is outside your Condo, this may not be as terrible of an event, unless you own a Townhouse and the unit is in the basement and there’s a danger of the water seeping into your basement.

But it can be really bad if you’re on an upper floor and one or several of your Condo neighbors lives below you.  Water loves to follow the powerful attraction of gravity: downward. Downward towards your neighbors’ Condo unit!

Yes, your first step is to call the emergency number for your equipment repair tech. If you’re not sure, call the property manager so they can dispatch someone immediately to mitigate the damage. If the property manager is not available, call your local insurance agent who will have access to reputable Restoration Services companies. They all have emergency lines so you’re covered seven days a week.

In the event of a leak which could lead to a potential claim, mitigating the loss is critical and required under your insurance contract. You’ll want the restoration company onsite as quickly as possible to dry out all the water and repair the water damage.  Do not forget to take photos of the damage before the restoration company arrives. It’s key that you document the extent of the damage at the time of the event. This also mitigates any confusion or misunderstanding of the extent of the loss when the claim is settled. The key word here is “mitigate”.  

You don’t want to be caught by surprise when a leak happens all over your downstairs neighbors’ precious Star Wars toy collection.  Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.