Winter House Fires and the Importance of Insurance

Space heater catching fireWinter is The Season of House Fires

We often think of fires as a summer problem. We hear about wildfires that start because hot weather and dry grass don’t play nice together. According to a study by FEMA, while the overall number of fires goes down in the winter, more fires happen in buildings during the winter.  This is because we spend more time indoors, and need to heat our homes more.  This leads to increased chances that carelessness with fire safety causes fires to break out.

Common Causes of Winter House Fires

House fires are easily preventable if you follow safety guidelines. Knowing what to watch for is important. The most common causes of house fires include putting flammable blankets or paper too close to space heaters, build-up of flammable creosote in chimneys, lint build-up in drier vents, and various other causes. All of them are caused by ignoring proper safety procedures. Putting something flammable too close to a source of heat, walking away from a stove while cooking something, not cleaning vents and chimneys, these are the main culprits in fire hazards during the winter.

Even doing your best, accidents can still happen, however. This is why it’s important to have a good insurance policy.

Most Homes Are Under-Insured

A kitchen after a fire

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have good insurance policies. One thing Alpine Cleaning and Restoration, a company in Utah that helps restore homes after fires, told us is that they’re seeing an increasing number of people who don’t have enough insurance to cover their homes.

Part of the reason for this is that people simply don’t ask enough questions when signing up for their insurance. They don’t know what options they have and instead just reach for the cheapest options they see, not realizing how minimal and basic this coverage is. A problem that they’re hearing more often now, however, is that insurance isn’t accounting for the rising value of homes. A combination of shortages in materials, as well as the rising cost of houses on the market is making repair costs even more expensive.

The coverage you bought initially for your home might have been enough when you bought it, but your home has appreciated in value over the years. What might have been enough just a year ago might now only cover half of your home’s value. Even a small fire can cause upwards of $5,000 worth of damage. Many homeowners have been left with out-of-pocket expenses as high as $50,000 or more simply because their home had increased in value by such an unexpected amount.

Our homes weren’t valued at that price originally because we weren’t dealing with the surcharges of materials shortages, and the continual rise in housing prices. This could leave you living in a shell of your former home because you can’t afford to fully restore everything. If you haven’t checked with your insurance lately, you definitely should, as your home might need to be revalued in order to determine just how much insurance you really need.

The Hidden Costs of Fire Damage

a house fire; are they insured?Repairing the damage from the fire isn’t the only thing that will cost you money in restoration. Smoke damage is an issue that can be totally invisible. Because metal can create attractive charges that draw smoke particles, you can often get smoke damage in places you wouldn’t see. While it doesn’t do structural damage to the house, it does create an unpleasant smell that can be hard to get rid of. Finding and removing the source of the smell can add extra charges to your restoration job.

Another hidden cost is when a fire destroys an old house, you might be required to upgrade old electrical systems to bring your home up to code. A lot of old houses have substandard wiring that needs to be upgraded for safety. People often move into old houses without bothering to upgrade the electrical systems because it’s an out of sight problem.

If there’s a fire, however, the law will require those old electrical systems to be upgraded to meet modern safety standards. If you have an older house, it might be a good idea to have your electrical grid checked to make sure it matches modern safety standards. This will not only reduce the chance of fires, but it can improve the coverage of your house insurance as well.

Get Your House Up To Code

House fires are more common in winter, but the causes are far more easily preventable. By following fire safety guidelines, you can highly reduce your risk of a house fire. For older homes, it would also be a good idea to have your electrical systems upgraded to meet modern safety standards. It might seem like a big expense now, but it prevents that expense from being added to restoration costs if your house does catch fire.

Remember, the fire doesn’t even have to be your fault. Even if you follow all the safety procedures, someone living next door might ignore them. If their house starts on fire, it might spread to yours, causing damage. Don’t assume that just because you’re following all the safety guidelines, you’re 100% risk free. Insurance is a critical part of protecting yourself in the event of a fire. With rising costs of materials and the general increasing value of homes on the market, it’s important to make sure that the coverage you have is enough to cover your losses.

Give yourself some peace of mind this upcoming holiday season and make sure your house is up to standard on fire safety and that your insurance is enough to cover your costs.