Invite Your Neighbors to The Party

Do you know the old advice about throwing a party when you’re the new kid in town?  Yes, it’s housewarming time and you’re so happy and you invite all your friends over to celebrate.  But you don’t want to annoy your new neighbors, do you?  It’s no good getting on the bad side of your neighbors when you’re the newbie on the street/floor.

The old advice about just such a moment is to invite those very same neighbors! That’s right, don’t just invite your friends, invite the neighbors, the people who aren’t your friends.  (Hopefully some day they will be, but that’s another story altogether)

The idea behind this wisdom is that, if your party gets a little loud, your neighbors can’t possibly complain to you by banging on your door, or, worse, by calling the police.  How can they complain about your party when you invited them in the first place?  They could easily have accepted your invitation, and could just as easily be enjoying themselves with all the other revelers and getting to know you, their new neighbor too.

Take that advice a step further when you’re going to get some serious construction or landscaping work done on your home. Invite the neighbors, in a manner of speaking.  

Let’s say you hired a tree company to come in and remove several large trees.  You know the crew is going to arrive early in the morning.  And you know it’s going to get loud out there very quickly, between chainsaws, falling trees, workers yelling, and, oh, the wood chipper blasting!

Why leave it to chance that your neighbors are going to be annoyed by this early morning noise?  Let them know in advance about the work, either with a notecard you leave on their door, or a nice letter in the mail, or by knocking on the door, and introducing yourself.  You might even invite them to stop by for a cup of coffee to watch the trees come down!

There’s a lot to be said about tranquility in your neighborhood, and this is a great way to promote that, and make some new friends in the process.  So, when you’re getting major repair work or landscaping work done at your house, invite the neighbors!

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance portfolio. Please schedule a call with us to discuss your policies.

Keep Your Homeowner Policy Safe

Dangers are abound in even the simplest of repair situations, so steer clear of the contractor’s work zone. 

When you hire the right contractor to do repairs or renovations or maintenance at your home, you want to maintain a respectful distance from their work area.

The contractor has been trained and, through long experience, knows how to maintain a safe work zone for themselves.  When you intrude across the boundaries of that zone, you introduce an unexpected variable in the contractors work process.

And that is when it can get messy. Be prudent when you’re hiring a contractor. How?

Request evidence of insurance. 

Speaking of safety and experience, don’t forget to collect the necessary certificates of insurance from your contractors. If anything happens on your property, you don’t want to give anyone any reason to abnegate responsibility to seek remedy for their injuries under YOUR homeowners insurance policy. 

Yes, you read that right.

If your state doesn’t require Workers Compensation coverage, the Homeowners policy could apply to cover lawsuits filed by an injured worker or to pay for medical expenses incurred if they don’t file a lawsuit. 

While the work area may appear to you to be perfectly safe, it is after all, your house and you know your house better than anyone, you still cannot anticipate hazards known all too well to the contractor through their possible training and experience. 

Respect the contractors’ work zone and, if you have a coffee or other tasty treats to share, let the contractor know where you’ve placed it easily accessible in your kitchen.  Then the contractor can enter the work zone and you can be comfortable the premises are safe.

Please schedule a call with us to discuss the very complicated process of your homeowners policy being exposed compared to the contractors’ workers compensation policy.

You want to ensure that your homeowners policy is updated and accurate to protect you in the event hired workers do not provide proof of insurance.

DIY Has Its Limits

Our society has become enthralled with the concept of “do it yourself” or “DIY.”  So much so that entire industries have grown up around the idea that anyone, anywhere, with access to tools, materials and knowledge, can do just about anything they set their mind to.

This DIY mentality extends to our home.  Repairs, renovations and other home improvement projects abound in this mindset. 

The traditional craft of repair and renovation has been upended with this modern consumer concept.  Imagine you’re an electrician and you’ve entered a Big Box Home Hardware store.  As you walk down the aisle filled from floor to ceiling with electrical supplies of all types, you see a person standing in front of a display of electrical outlets.  This person clearly is not an electrician, and clearly is struggling with the selection of the appropriate outlet which you’re pretty sure they’re going to attempt to install themselves. 

Imagine the horror in your mind as that electrician thinking of the potential visit to the Emergency Room for that person when the wrong wire gets crossed.

And, yet, these traditional industries still thrive.  The reason?  No amount of online videos, tutorials or DIY books can replace the wisdom that comes from specializing in a task and learning the “tricks of the trade from experienced professionals.

If you have trees on your property, it’s your responsibility to think about the maintenance of those trees to protect your home in the event of a severe storm that could topple in close proximity to your house. 

If you’re thinking about trimming, or even taking down trees for that maintenance and protection. Should you do it yourself? 

The best way to answer the question is to watch a professional tree-trimming crew in action.  You’re likely to very quickly realize that such work…taking down or trimming a tree…is best left in the hands of the experienced professionals. 

Those “tricks of the trade” that come from the traditions and wisdom handed down in the craft become very quickly obvious as you watch the crew scale up a tree and easily slice away branches and limbs.  And then when they have to take down an entire tree, the process seems at once intricate and yet elegantly simple.

Yes, sometimes it’s really best to not do it yourself and to leave it to the professional.

One of the most FAQs we receive is when a tree falls on your property but doesn’t hit your house or any physical structure, there is no insurance coverage to pay for the removal of the tree.

Call us for any recommendations you may need to help with your home improvement projects.

Please read our other blogs related to home maintenance projects.

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.

Electrical Hazards in Your Home

Our world is electric!! No, I mean, literally.

Electricity flows all around us, yet we are so inured to the wonders of electricity and the conveniences it brings that we too often take for granted the hazards of electricity. 

When we see a video of a lightning strike, we’re amazed, and maybe a little frightened.  But that very dangerous electrical connection that can cause bodily harm and property damage is literally all around us, everyday.

Here are five electrical hazards in your home to be aware of and to check and prevent against catastrophe.

  1. Extension Cords.  Electricity seems so safe as we go through our days using it.  We plug away with nary a thought of the dangers of electrical shock or fire.  Extension cords are the best, and worst, example of our thoughtlessness about electricity. 

    You find yourself in need of an outlet to plug in your phone charger, vacuum cleaner, a lamp, or cordless drill charger.  “Oh! There’s an extension cord right here!”   Never mind that cord is loaded with other plugs, and the cord is plugged into another extender from one to three outlets back at the wall plate.  So much electricity drawn through such a receptacle builds heat very quickly.  It’s the heat that causes the fire, not an electrical spark.
  2. Water Hazards.  We have electrical devices and connections we’re using very close to water sources all through our homes.  In the kitchen, the bathroom, laundry room, in work rooms, outlets and extension cords and appliances in close proximity to water is a recipe for disaster.  The Ground Fault Interrupt (GFI) outlet was designed to minimize these hazards.  This outlet has a tripping circuit breaker built into it so there is no delay from the moment a hazard/overload is detected and the source of electricity is shut off.  That could be the difference between life and death.
  3. Kids and Pets.  You can’t control either one. But you can take extraordinary precaution to prevent the hazards associated with rambunctious little ones.  Install tamper-resistant outlets and outlet covers to prevent children’s access with sharp point metal objects.  Secure extension cords in such a way to prevent pet nibbling access.  Use heavier duty extension cords.
  4. Coffee machines and similar appliances.  These devices use high heat to brew or cook.  Left unattended and with no beverage/food product left in the device can soon lead to overheating and burning and fire.  Be sure your coffee machines and other self-cooking appliances have automatic off features.
  5. Battery-Less Smoke Detectors.  Smoke detectors save lives!  We often recommend you check the batteries at least once a year and replace with fresh batteries.  But checking more often can’t hurt, either.

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.

Home Security Overview

Alarms, cameras, door and window locks, passwords. 

That should cover everything you need to remember this Autumn as you perform your twice annual security review!

  1. Alarms.  Is your alarm system up to date with the latest equipment?  Check with your alarm provider to be sure your technology is up to date.  Then conduct a survey to be sure that all contact points for your alarm system are secure with no loose contact plates or wiring.   What about power sources for your alarm system?   Be sure that outlets that provide power to your alarm appliances aren’t overloaded with other appliances.
  2. Cameras.  When did you last update the firmware for your cameras?  Even if you’ve set up devices for automatic updates, you should check to be sure that updates have occurred.  Keep hackers out of your systems with the latest software/firmware updates.   How are the sight lines for your cameras?  Have storms or critters moved cameras out of alignment?  Are those lenses clean and intact?  Do a visual inspection up close of each camera to make sure there is no damage to the lenses our housing.  Are the mounting screws secure?
  3. Door and Window Locks.  Check for loose strike plates, loose screws.  Are the locks easy to close and open?  A tiny dash of a lubricant might be necessary to ensure smooth lock operation.  Do your window sashes line up to make the locking secure and firm?  If you’re using electronic locks have you updated the passwords?  Is the power to such locks secure?
  4. Passwords.  We cannot say enough about using very secure passwords and about changing passwords frequently.  Thankfully many smartphone manufacturers and other third party providers are creating secure password storage apps for your phones.  Be sure to back up your passwords in writing somewhere in your home, in a book where you won’t forget it and where it’s unlikely that an intruder would look there to find your passwords.  Yes, written backup.  You read that correctly.

When you conduct a home security review you should also have a conversation with your Independent Insurance Agent to ensure your insurance policy reflects new security measures you’ve installed in your home. This could help to save you money on your insurance premiums.

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.

Archived Articles: 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.