Why a Home Inventory Is Important

Let’s try a little exercise: Can you list everything you own from memory?
Didn’t think so.

The fact is most people own more things than they realize. It’s easy to remember the cars, the computer, the TV. But what about that holiday china in the garage? Or every pair of shoes?

All of it is regarded as personal property for insurance purposes. And if your home is destroyed by fire or some other disaster, having a list of your possessions makes filing a claim easier — and helps you put your life back together.

Why should I complete a home inventory? What’s the best way?
Comparing the value of your belongings to the “contents” limit listed in your policy helps you make sure you have enough insurance to replace them if they are lost, stolen or destroyed as a result of a covered loss. The easiest way to take an inventory is to use a video camera, recording and describing items as you walk through your house. Or, you can use a regular camera and create a home inventory checklist.

Here are a few tips for completing and storing your inventory:

-Add brand names and descriptions where you can, especially on large-ticket items. Serial numbers are helpful to note.
-Keep any receipts you have with the list to make the claims process easier.
-Store your video or photo inventory offsite so you won’t lose it if your house is damaged.
-Update your personal property records when you purchase new furnishings and valuables.
-Though the task may seem daunting, it’s important to try. An incomplete inventory is better than nothing at all.

How much insurance do I need?
We can assist you in analyzing your insurance needs and help you decide how to most effectively protect your personal property. You should consider full-value coverage, which will pay for the replacement value of your personal belongings. A standard policy typically covers personal property only up to its actual cash value, determined by taking the replacement cost and deducting depreciation, which can be substantial. (For example, a 5-year-old TV is usually worth much less than what it would cost to purchase a new one.)

Finally, remember your homeowners policy covers valuable items such as jewelry, furs, art and antiques, only up to set dollar amounts. If the cost of replacing them exceeds these limits, you may want to purchase scheduled personal property coverage.

Home content inventory apps are available on iPhone and Android.

We hope you’ll never need the home inventory, but preparing for the worst can prevent a lot of hassle later!

Big Employers Vow To Continue Offering Health Insurance

Kaiser Health New reports that two new surveys indicate “companies continue to try to control costs while backing away from shrinking or dropping health benefits.” The article says this is “a marked change from three years ago, when many big employers – those with 1,000 employees or more – contemplated ending medical benefits and shifting workers to the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces.” Three years ago, just 25 percent of large employers were “very confident” they would still be providing healthcare coverage for workers in a decade, but in the recent survey, that figure rose to 65 percent.

Read about the U-Turn on benefits at:
Taking A U-Turn On Benefits, Big Employers Vow To Continue Offering Health Insurance

Change Agent

It was an honor to be recognized as a Safeco Change Agent and be selected as a top 10 finalist for Make More Happen. Giving back and supporting our community is our passion. Our summer events kickoff this month and all are looking forward to enjoying the warm weather.  In addition our continued support of People In Need will be a focus through their Market Produce Days.  Another busy and exciting summer is here!

Help Us Support People In Need, Inc.

We are excited to announce that Rivers Insurance Group has been named a Safeco Insurance Change Agent finalist for our volunteer work with People in Need, Inc., of Delaware County!

What this means is that we have a chance to win a $2,000 donation for People in Need, but we need your help!

Please like or comment on our photo on Safeco’s Facebook page @Safecoinsurance. The two photos that receive the most “votes”, i.e., likes and comments, will win the prize! Voting begins today and ends on Friday at 4 p.m.

People in Need (PIN) is a nonprofit agency that assists Delaware County families and individuals with rent, utilities, school shoes and supplies, medications, and dental treatment. They also run the largest food pantry in Delaware County.

Please help us support this worthwhile and deserving agency and vote using the link below.

Thank you in advance for your support!

WATER DAMAGE – REDUCE YOUR RISK

You can help prevent future leaks and water intrusion by regularly inspecting the following elements in and around your home to make sure they remain in good condition.

Plumbing and Appliances:

• Inspect plumbing supply lines and drain systems annually:

Look for condensation around the pipes or an obvious leak and corrosion.

Watch for stains on walls or ceilings or a musty smell.

Pay attention to your water bill. A significant increase could indicate a leak.

Call a plumber at the first signs of rust-colored water, backed-up toilets or sinks and cracked or warped flooring.

Insulate pipes in attics, basements and exposed exterior pipes to avoid freezing.

During periods of freezing weather, open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warm air.

Disconnect garden hoses when freeze warnings are issued.

• Ensure proper refrigerator/icemaker operation:

Proper installation of the icemaker supply line hose is important to avoiding water damage.

Tightly connect the hose to the valve. Avoid over-tightening.

Inspect the hose every six months. Ensure the valve connection is secure and check for kinks. If kinks are present, replace the hose.

Leave a 3- to 4-inch space between the back of the refrigerator and the wall to prevent the hose from crimping.

Locate the water shut-off valve. 

Inspect the valve every six months to make sure the water supply will shut off. 

Replace the valve if needed.

• Prevent washing machine leaks:

Turn supply valves off when not in use.

Consider installing a lever-type valve that is easy to operate between uses.

Do not operate the washing machine while the home is unoccupied.

Leave a 3- to 4-inch gap between the back of the washing machine and the wall to avoid kinking the hose near the valve connection.

Inspect the water supply line hoses every six months.

Ensure that the connection to the valve is secure, but avoid over-tightening.

Hand-tighten first. Then tighten an additional 2/3 of a turn using water pump pliers.

Check the hoses for cracks, kinks or blisters, which are most commonly found near the hose connection.

Washing machine manufacturers recommend replacing washing machine hoses every five years.

Consider installing reinforced braided stainless steel hoses.

• Protect water heaters:

Schedule a professional plumbing inspection of the anode rod at least once every two years.

Annual inspections are recommended once the warranty has expired.

The rod will eventually corrode and leave the tank vulnerable to damage, so replace when needed.

Flush the tank every six months to remove sediment.

Sediment will build up faster in areas with hard water.

• Avoid toilet leaks:

Inspect the flushing mechanism inside the toilet every six months.

The fill valve should shut off when the float reaches the proper water level.

Replace the flapper or fill valve assembly if you notice intermittent or constant tank refilling when the toilet is not in use.

Inspect the supply line every six months.

Ensure the connection to the valve is secure.

Operate the valve to make sure the water supply will shut off. Replace if needed.

Keep sinks operating: 

Inspect plumbing beneath sinks every six months. 

Ensure connections are secure and there is no evidence of corrosion on the pipes. 

Look for kinks in copper or plastic pipes. These could lead to pinhole leaks over time.

Locate the water shut-off valve.

Inspect the valve every six months to make sure the water supply will shut off.

Replace the valve if needed.

• Shower stall safety:

Inspect tile and grout every six months, paying attention to loose or cracked tiles and cracked or crumbling grout lines. Repair as needed.

Test the shower pan annually: 

Block the floor drain. 

Fill the shower stall with approximately one inch of water. 

Use a pencil to mark the water line. 

Leave the water standing in the shower pan for eight hours. 

If the water level decreases, contact a plumbing professional.

• Ensure proper sump pump operation:

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for sump pump maintenance. These vary from running the sump pump every two to three months to a yearly cleaning before the rainy season.

To inspect the sump pump: 

Open the lid and remove debris that may be blocking the water inlet screen. 

Pour approximately five gallons of water into the pump and watch the float valve rise. 

As the float valve rises, the pump should turn on and the water should discharge through the outlet pipe. 

Go outside and inspect the outlet pipe.

Water should be flowing from the pipe and away from the home. 

If the sump pump fails to operate during this inspection, contact a plumbing professional.

Install a battery backup system. 

Choose a system with a battery replacement warning. 

Replace batteries every two to three years.

Home’s Interior:

• Windows and Doors: Check for leaks around your windows and doors, especially near the corners.

Check for peeling paint, it can be a sign of water getting into the wood.

Inspect for discolorations in paint or caulking, swelling of the window or doorframe or surrounding materials.

• Termite-Damaged Material:

Check for termite damage in wood materials such as walls, beams, or floors.

Any wood exposed to the exterior can potentially lead to moisture intrusion or termite infestation.

• Basements:

Make sure that basement windows and doors have built-up barriers or flood shields.

• Humidity:

The relative humidity in your home should be between 30% and 50%.

Condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and musty smells are signs that you may have too much humidity in your home.

Check areas where air does not easily circulate, such as behind curtains, under beds, and in closets for dampness and mildew.

Be sure to use bathroom exhaust fans following warm showers or baths.

When going on trips, turn the temperature up on the air conditioning, not off. The air conditioning system helps remove moisture from your home.

If you are concerned about the humidity level in your home, consult with a mechanical contractor or air conditioning repair company to determine if your HVAC system is properly sized and in good working order.

• Air Conditioners:

Check drain pans to insure they drain freely, are adequately sloped toward the outlets and that no standing water is present.

Make sure drain lines are clean and clear of obstructions.

Drain pan overflows usually occur the first time the unit is turned on in the spring.

Clean prior to first use with compressed air or by pouring a water-bleach solution down the drain line until it flows freely.

• Drywall:

Since drywall is an extremely porous material and is difficult to dry out completely, damaged areas should be replaced if any signs of moisture are present.

One way to protect drywall from moisture intrusion in the event of a flood is to install it slightly above the floor and cover the gap with molding.

Home’s Exterior:

• Flashing: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows, thresholds, chimneys, and roofs, is designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two different building surfaces meet.

• Vents: All vents, including clothes dryer, gable vents, attic vents, and exhaust vents, should have hoods, exhaust to the exterior, be in good working order, and have boots.

• Exterior Wood Sheathing and Siding:

Replace any wood siding and sheathing that appears to have water damage.

Inspect any wood sided walls to ensure there is at least 8″ between any wood and the earth.

• Exterior Walls:

Exterior walls should be kept well painted and sealed.

Don’t place compost or leaf piles against the outside walls.

Landscape features should not include soil or other bedding material mounded up against walls.

• Landscaping:

Keep trees trimmed so that branches are at least 7 feet away from any exterior house surface. This will help prolong the life of your siding and roof and prevent insects from entering your home from the tree.

Vines should be kept off all exterior walls, because they can help open cracks in the siding, which allows moisture or insects to enter the house.

• Irrigation: Inspect and adjust the spray pattern of the irrigation heads to minimize the water sprayed directly onto the house to avoid excessive water near the foundation.

• Roof: To prolong roof life, have a professional roof inspection annually. Request a detailed inspection report that includes the condition of the flashing, roof covering, parapets and drainage system.

Repairs are needed if there are cracked or missing shingles or loose or missing granules; if flashing has deteriorated, particularly around chimneys and vents; or if pooling water is present.

Leaks are particularly common around chimneys, plumbing vents and attic vents. 

To trace the source of a ceiling leak, measure its location from the nearest outside wall and then locate this point in the attic using a measuring tape. Keep in mind that the water may run along the attic floor, rafters, or truss for quite a distance before coming through the ceiling.

Source: The Institute for Business and Home Safety – www.disastersafety.org

Back to school

Making the transition back to school can be quite a change for kids and parents alike. Kids who’ve been sleeping in, now have to get up at 7 a.m. again. Leisurely lunches eaten when hungry now require planning and packing. And homework? Yes, it’s time to start that drill too.

But going back to school doesn’t have to be a grueling task for you or your kids. You can solve the four biggest back-to-school challenges and make the transition a better experience for everyone.   

Back to School Challenge No. 1: The Rude Awakening

After two months of going to bed and getting up whenever they want, kids need to get back on a schedule, one that often involves waking up early. How to you get them to do that?

-Two weeks before school starts,  move their bedtimes back by 15 to 30 minutes at a time until you reach something more school-friendly. Once school starts, their schedules generally make them tired enough to adjust quickly to an earlier bedtime.

Back to School Challenge No. 2: The Morning Rush

For many families, the toughest hurdle is getting kids out the door on time. This is especially hard if you have to get ready for work as well. 

-The key is to get organized the night before, with backpacks ready, clothes laid out and lunch planned (if not made). It’s important that the kids know what time they’ll be woken up by, what time they’re expected downstairs for breakfast and to get shoes on, and what time they’ll leave the house.

– Rushing children, in my observation, never works. Instead, I give them times that things need to happen by. Consistency is key!

Back to School Challenge No. 3: Packing a Healthy Lunch

Sending kids to school with a nutritious lunch isn’t always easy. Although school lunches are mandated to be healthier this year, many parents still prefer their kids bring food from home for financial and health reasons.

Back to School Challenge No. 4: The Homework Grind

Toughest of all perhaps, is the return of homework, which can quickly bring on whining and tears (from both parents and kids!)

-Homework is one of those necessary pieces of the day, so I make it a rule that homework gets done first, no exceptions. So they get home, take off shoes, wash hands, maybe have a snack and then it’s down to work.

Tips for a Beautiful Yard

The snow and ice are gone for another year, but they likely wreaked havoc on your yard. What’s left behind, if it’s still alive, probably needs a little TLC to get it back in prime condition for the upcoming summer months.

Here are a few tips for giving your yard the gentle facelift it needs:

  • Remove debris. Check your yard for fallen branches, clumps of dry leaves, and mulch that escaped its beds. All of this debris can prevent the grass underneath from getting light and sun. Take a light rake to your yard and landscaping beds, and dispose of it as necessary.
  • Inspect your yard for damage. Check for puddles of water, dangling branches, and damaged landscaping due to the cold and winds of winter. Take note of what you can repair, or what may be delegated to a professional landscaper.
  • Edge your yard. The clean, crisp line between your sidewalks, landscaping beds, and your lawn does wonders for your yard’s aesthetics. It can be made with an edger, a spade, concrete, rocks or stones. Landscape edging makes your yard look uniform, organized and finished.
  • Weeding and pruning. Most landscaping beds are taken over by weeds during the winter months. Why weeds grow faster than anything we purposefully plant remains a landscaping mystery. Take the time and remove these weeds at their root. Prune those overgrown shrubs and trees, too.
  • Mulching and planting. Your final effort in making your yard more beautiful is with the new life you plant, and the mulch that protects it. Consider the size and color you want to add to your landscaping beds, how big the plants will get, and if they will get the sun or shade they require.

Rivers Insurance Group is committed to helping you make your yard beautiful this spring. By taking a few necessary steps, you can make your yard beautiful again, so it’s ready for you to enjoy this season.

Hard Water Hazards

Hard water affects more than 85 percent of people in the United States. (http://homewater101.com/look-hard-water-across-us). It’s a common problem, especially for those who live in the Midwest through the West coast.

Hard water forms when it moves through rock and soil, holding onto small amounts of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. The higher the concentration of calcium and magnesium, the harder the water will be.

Hard water is not harmful to our health, but it can be a nuisance and aggravation in the following ways:

  • It reduces the foaming abilities of soaps and detergents, causing clothes to look dingy or discolored
  • It leaves a film on your bathroom tiles, tubs and sinks
  • It produces mineral deposits on your shower doors and dishes
  • It causes buildup in your pipes, decreasing water flow
  • It can harm water heaters, appliances and dishwashers, causing them to need to be replaced 50% sooner (http://homewater101.com/look-hard-water-across-us)
  • It can make your hair and skin feel sticky or dull

If you suspect you have hard water, you can contact your city hall or township to find out, you can or have your water tested.

If you do have hard water, there are a number of ways to combat it. Packaged water softeners, non-precipitating softeners, and mechanical water softening systems are all viable options to tackling the hard water problem in your home. 

Rivers Insurance Group recommends you consult an expert water-softening system manufacturer for the solution that is best for you. Be sure to check the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, Home Advisor, or any local referral service for reputable companies in your area.