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Homeowner Maintenance

Reducing Tree Damage

Falling trees and limbs cause millions of dollars in damage each year. Windstorms, such as hurricanes, are a leading cause of such damage. Some trees are more prone to storm damage than others. A shallow-rooted tree growing in soft soil can easily topple onto a building in strong winds. A tree’s roots also can become weakened after heavy rains, elevating the risk. Have an arborist check trees to assess their resistance to storm damage.

easy to spot potential problems

  • Cracks in the trunk or major limbs
  • Hollow and decayed trees
  • Trees that look one-sided or lean significantly
  • Branches hanging over the building near the roof
  • Limbs in contact with power lines
  • Mushrooms growing from the bark, indicating a decayed or weakened stem
  • V-shaped forks rather than U-shaped ones. V-shaped are more likely to split
  • Crossing branches that rub or interfere with one another

Good pruning can prevent many problems. Prompt removal of diseased, damaged, or dead plant parts helps limit the spread of harmful insects and disease, as well as reduce the possibility of future storm damage.

Experts pruning tips

  • Check local tree regulations prior to pruning or tree removal.
  • Avoid pruning branches flush to the trunk. Doing so removes not only the limb but also some of the trunk wood, exposing the plant to decay or insect damage.
  • Begin pruning by making a cut partway through the bottom of any limb to be trimmed, a few inches from the trunk. Then, cut through the limb just above the first cut. This ensures when the limb falls, it will not tear off a long strip of bark on the way down.
  • Finish by cutting off the few inches sticking out from the trunk. Be sure to leave the “branch collar,” the swollen area of trunk tissue that forms around the base of a branch. This protects the main trunk from damage.

care for storm-damaged trees

  • In general, it is best to reset only smaller trees, since larger trees will be weakened and may fall again.
  • Weakened sections of trees and shrubbery can easily be blown around during a high winds; causing extensive damage to structures, knocking down utility lines and blocking roads and drains.
  • Cut weak branches that could easily be thrown against a structure during high winds. Also, reduce the chances of branches becoming weak by trimming branches more than 5 ft. long. Remove Spanish moss growing on limbs.
  • Remove branches hanging over a structure.
  • Contact the local utility company to trim away any limbs close to utility lines that could potentially pull down lines or even entire poles. It is important to never touch a wire while trimming.
  • Decide what to do with tree stumps.
    • If you are going to leave them or have someone grind them, cut the stump off flush with the ground.
    • If you plan to remove them, leave 4 ft. of stump standing.
    • Removal will be cheaper and easier if stumps can be pulled out instead of dug out.
Report property damage to your insurance agent or company representative immediately after a severe weather event or other natural disaster and make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. For information about filing an insurance claim after a natural disaster, contact your insurance agent or insurance company.

This valuable information is brought to you in partnership of SafePoint Insurance and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety - 4775 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33617 - DisasterSafety.org

Preventing Water Damage

Water damage can result in the loss of valuables and disrupt your life. A study by the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) identified 10 areas where proper maintenance can help a homeowner avoid experiencing such a loss.

Homes 30 years old were 3 times as likely to have a plumbing supply or drainage problem.


  • Visually inspect plumbing pipes annually, look for condensation around the pipes or an obvious leak and corrosion.
  • 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 and turn off outside faucets.

73% of losses involving an icemaker were caused by the failure of the supply line hose. 10% of incidents involved new refrigerators and were linked to improper installation.


  • Proper installation of the icemaker supply line hose is important to avoiding water damage.
  • Tightly connect the hose to the valve. Avoid over-tightening.
  • Ensure the valve connection is secure and check for kinks.
  • Inspect the hose every 6 months.
  • 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.
  • When pulling the refrigerator out for cleaning or service, avoid getting the hose caught beneath the wheel.
  • Locate the water shut-off valve.
  • Inspect the valve every 6 months to make sure the water supply will shut off. Replace the valve if needed.

Roof leaks were the most frequent source of water damage in the study. The likelihood of a roof leak was even more common in regions where freezing weather, severe wind and hail were frequent.


  • 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.
  • Flashing has deteriorated, particularly around chimneys and vents.
  • Pooling water is present.
  • In areas prone to freezing and heavy snow fall, insulate to prevent heat from entering the attic space.
  • In areas prone to wind and hail, consider an impact-resistant roof covering that has passed the FM 4473 or UL 2218 standard.

Water damage from a sink averaged more than $7,000 per incident. Of these incidents, 44% were attributed to faulty plumbing supply lines.


  • Inspect plumbing beneath sinks every 6 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 6 months to make sure the water supply will shut off. Replace the valve if needed.

Homes more than 20 years old were 37% more likely to have water damage involving a shower. More than half of the shower stall water damage incidents involved a faulty shower pan.


  • Inspect tile and grout every 6 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 1 inch of water.
  • Use a pencil to mark the water line.
  • Leave the water standing in the shower pan for 8 hours.
  • If the water level decreases, contact a plumbing professional.

Power outages were the cause of 18% of water damage incidents involving a sump pump. Another 40% of incidents were attributed to things such as a clogged inlet screen or a faulty float switch.


  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for sump pump maintenance. These vary from running the sump pump every 2 to
  • 3 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 5 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 2 to 3 years.

Water damage from toilets costs $2,000 to $10,000 per incident - 78% of incidents were caused by faulty supply lines, toilet flanges, fill valve assemblies or toilets that backed up and overflowed.


  • After flushing, remain in or near the bathroom until the fill valve has finished refilling the bowl.
  • If the bowl or tank begins to overflow, turn off the water at the supply valve.
  • Inspect the flushing mechanism inside the toilet every 6 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 6 months.
  • Ensure the connection to the valve is secure.
  • Operate the valve to make sure the water supply will shut off. Replace if needed.

A burst water supply line caused half of all water damage incidents involving washing machines. On average, these incidents caused more than $6,000 in damage per incident.


  • Turn supply valves off when not in use.
  • Water damage can result in the loss of valuables and disrupt your life.
  • A study by the Institute for Business & Home Safety identified 9 areas where proper maintenance can help a homeowner avoid experiencing such a loss.
  • 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 6 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 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 5 years.
  • Consider reinforced braided stainless steel hoses.

The chance a water heater will leak or burst begins to dramatically increase when it is 5 years old. 3/4 of all water heaters fail before they are 12 years old.


  • Have a professional plumbing inspection of the anode rod at least once every 2 years and annually once the warranty has expired. The rod will eventually corrode and leave the tank vulnerable to damage. Remove sediment by flushing the tank every 6 months. Sediment will build up faster in areas with hard water.

This valuable information is brought to you in partnership of SafePoint Insurance and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety - 4775 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33617 - DisasterSafety.org

Roofing the Right Way  

When it’s time to replace your roof, due to weather-related damage or simply age, follow the advice in this guide to improve the long-term performance of your new roof. When you’re ready to get started, find a qualified roofing contractor. Proper installation directly impacts a roof’s long-term performance. Take the time to check the contractor’s references and their insurance coverage [or “professional liability insurance”] and to talk to the contractor about your expectations.

9 Steps to Repairing Your Roof The Right Way


Remove the damaged or aged roof cover and underlying building paper or underlayment to expose the roof deck. This allows strengthening of the roof deck connection to the roof structure and provides the solid, smooth surface needed to help ensure that the new roof cover achieves its full strength.


Look at the roof deck for rotting, delaminating, warping or other signs it may be structurally unsound. If any of these signs exist, replace the damaged sections with similar materials of the same thickness.


This will provide a wind-resistant connection to the roof framing.


Outlookers are roof framing members that are sometimes used to support the roof overhang at the gable end of a house. They start at the second truss or rafter back from the gable end wall and extend out over the gable wall framing to support the edge of the roof. Improve the anchorage of outlookers at gable ends, if present, by connecting the outlookers to the roof framing with metal straps.


This will help keep water out of the house if the roof cover blows off. Large amounts of wind-driven water can pour into the attic through unsealed gaps between pieces of roof sheathing.


Proper flashing is important to the performance of your roof. Flashing is necessary at all penetrations (i.e., pipes and vents that create openings in the roof deck); where the roof intersects with vertical surfaces, in roof valleys, at any location where the roof changes slope, and at eaves and gable rakes. Valley areas without flashing are especially vulnerable to leakage.

  • Installation of a 36-inch wide self adhered polymer-modified bitumen membrane underlayment or metal flashing centered on the valley is critical.
  • At intersections of the roof with vertical surfaces such as walls and chimneys, flashing should extend up the vertical surface, be covered with wall cladding and lapped in shingle fashion.
  • A corrosion-resistant drip edge should be provided at eaves and gables of shingle roofs. The overlap between the ends of sections of drip edge should be at least 3 inches.
  • Drip edges should extend down the fascia ½ inch below the sheathing and extend back on the roof deck a minimum of 2 inches.
  • Drip edges should be fastened to the roof deck at 4 inches on center.


Apply a building-code approved, wind-resistant roof cover. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions for high-wind areas or local code requirements, if they are more restrictive.


All roof vents should be high-wind rated and properly installed. Vents that have passed Florida Building Code Test Standard TAS 100 (A) are tested for both wind and water intrusion.


Retrofit or replace vulnerable soffits. Make sure they are installed according to manufacturer’s instructions. Most aluminum and vinyl soffit highwind installations require an intermediate support when the soffit extends more than 12 inches from the wall. When soffit covers are blown out during a hurricane, a tremendous amount of water can enter the attic. It is important to make sure that the soffit material stays in place.

This valuable information is brought to you in partnership of SafePoint Insurance and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety - 4775 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33617 - DisasterSafety.org

Unlicensed Contractors

There are many concerns with the use of unlicensed contractors which ultimately affect you, the consumer. Hiring an unlicensed contractor is a choice made by you, therefore you are held accountable for all outcomes associated with the contractor’s work. Using an unlicensed contractor often leads to unsafe and hazardous construction and additional costs.

The use of an unlicensed contractor may yield the following problems:

Inability to Receive Inspections

In order to apply for a building permit from any building department, a contractor must have a valid license. Failing to get required permits will result in jobs being performed without inspections. Such unauthorized construction leaves you with no guarantee as to whether the construction was performed correctly and is safe.

Failure to Meet Florida Building Code Standards

Unlicensed contractors can’t apply for a building permit therefore their construction work cannot be reviewed or inspected. This eliminates the opportunity to ensure that the work meets Florida Building Code (FBC) requirements. Failure to meet FBC requirements may result in unsafe and hazardous conditions.

Substandard Workmanship

As unlicensed contractors do not go through the process of getting a license, they do not know required construction standards which are understood by licensed contractors. This leads to shoddy and substandard workmanship. The review of construction plans and inspections by building departments in your County provides that work has been performed correctly and meets the standards of the Florida Building Code.

Further Cost to You

The work of unlicensed contractors is often substandard and ultimately leads to costly repairs and corrections that require services of a licensed contractor. You may pay more money for the job than if you had initially hired a licensed contractor.

Fraud and Exploitation

The continued hiring of unlicensed contractors encourages ”roving” unlicensed contractors who are involved in illicit construction practices. These contractors embark on work throughout the county, often taking money for jobs that are never started, not completed or are poorly constructed. Ultimately, you incur the additional expense for such activities.

Consumer Liability

You are responsible for the hiring of a contractor. Consequently, you are responsible for any damages and injuries incurred on the job site since unlicensed contractors often do not have general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

Legal Action Against the Consumer

Since you are held responsible for hiring an unlicensed contractor, you run the risk of being involved in legal action. This legal action may involve lawsuits from various parties due to the unauthorized construction work, thus incurring further cost.

Code Enforcement Fines

Hiring an unlicensed contractor violates Florida Building Code requirements. This may subject you to fines and the possibility of facing a quasi-judicial hearing in front of a Hearing Officer.

This valuable information is brought to you in partnership of SafePoint Insurance and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety - 4775 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33617 - DisasterSafety.org

Is Your Home Alone? Keep It Safe When You’re Not There

More than 15 million homes sat unoccupied in 2003. Almost another four million were used only seasonally, according to the U.S. Census. That means sixteen percent of all homes in this country were left unattended at some point for an extended period of time. Whether you travel extensively for business or pleasure, have rental property that is unoccupied, or share time between two homes: before closing up your house for any real length of time, take the necessary steps to keep it safe and protected.


One of the easiest things to do, but something easily forgotten, is adjusting the thermostat.

  • In colder climates, don’t turn the thermostat off. Instead, lower it to a temperature that’s warm enough to keep pipes from freezing but low enough that you are not spending money to heat an empty home. (No lower than 55 degrees.)
  • In warmer climates, high temperatures and humidity can damage furniture or other home contents. In this case, set your air conditioner to 85 degrees.


Both plastic (PVC) and copper pipes can burst. Pipes, water heaters and other appliances can leak, or in freezing weather, pipes can freeze and burst, which can cause major damage in a home left unattended.

  • If you are leaving for an extended period of time, the best protection is to have the water shut off and the water lines drained.
  • Seek the advice of a professional plumber, who can shut off the valve at the water meter and send water outdoors and away from the house or into a basement drain. Once this has been done, the plumber should flush all toilets and drain the showerhead pipe.
  • After observing your plumber once or twice, this might be a job you could easily tackle yourself. Your local home improvement store often has how-to workshops that can also show you how to perform these steps or refer you to a licensed contractor.
  • Shut off the gas to the water heater (or the gas company can do this for you), or turn the temperature control to a “vacation” setting. If your house has a water softener, shut off its supply line.


If you choose to leave the water service turned on:

  • Insulate pipes, especially in a garage or basement next to an outside wall. Also insulate pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and attic. These exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing.
  • Heat tape can also be used to wrap pipes. Wrap the tape or cables around water pipes, plug in the cord and the heating element will warm the pipes to prevent freezing. Closely follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions.
  • Turn off the water supply to individual fixtures like your washing machine, icemaker, toilets and sinks. Flooding often occurs when hoses are worn or ruptured, or there is a leak at the connection.
  • Consider installing an electronic leak detection system. When water touches the sensor, the valve closes, protecting everything downstream. Some systems can also alert remote security monitoring services. Similarly, consider temperature sensors, which detect freezing pipes and send out remote alerts.
  • Don’t leave appliances (dishwasher, washing machine or dryer) running when you leave, and check to make sure toilets aren’t running. As an extra precaution, unplug your toaster, coffee maker, microwave oven, computer and television.
  • Make sure the sump pump is working, especially in late winter or early spring when melting snow or heavy rain increases the risk of basement flooding.


If you’re going to be away during a season that brings high wind, protect your property:

  • Trim dead limbs from trees and shrubbery and store outdoor furniture and other objects that could become damaging missiles if picked up by high wind.
  • Close and lock all doors, windows, skylights and vents to keep out wind and wind-driven rain.
  • Install storm windows or hurricane shutters.


An empty, unsecured house can be a tempting target for thieves and vandals. Make your house appear occupied:

  • Put interior and exterior lights on timers and/or motion sensors. Set the timers on staggered hours to turn lights on and off at different times.
  • Install tapered deadbolt locks on entry doors. The taper makes it almost impossible to use a wrench or other tool to twist the lock open.
  • Hire someone to maintain your property by removing snow or mowing the lawn. (Having clear driveways and walkways also protects you in case someone slips and falls on your property.)
  • Suspend mail service and newspaper delivery.
  • Install a monitored security system. (Insurers often provide discounts for devices that make a home safer, so consider the financial benefit.)
  • Inform the local police department that your house will be empty.


Simple steps can protect both the interior and exterior of the house.

  • Silicone caulk can help reduce drafts and leaks, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. Seal cracks around all pipes where they exit roofs and exterior walls; flashing seams between the roof and the siding; door and window frames; dryer vent; at the television antenna wire entrance and pipe feed-throughs.
  • Make sure gutters are clean, downspouts extend away from the foundation and splash blocks slope away from the house.
  • Have the roof checked for loose or missing shingles and make any needed repairs.
  • Flush your water heater every six months to keep sediment from building up, which can lead to overheating and burnout. This can be done when/if your tank is drained.


  • According to the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org), secondary or vacation residences can cost more to insure than primary residences because they often remain empty for long periods of time and are often located in vulnerable coastal areas.
  • Fire, theft, and water damage are usually covered, assuming appropriate precautions are taken. Vandalism, however, may not be covered for a home that is vacant for more than 30 days (in insurance terms, “vacant” home usually means it is also without contents).
  • If your secondary residence is in a flood plain or located on the coast, a flood insurance policy may be needed. In addition, many states now use percentage deductibles on homeowners insurance policies as opposed to a dollar deductible. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, a separate policy would also be required. Living in dense, wildfire areas may also cost more to insure.
  • When both the primary and secondary or seasonal residences are in the same state, the secondary location usually can be added by an endorsement. Otherwise, a separate policy must be issued.
  • Check with your insurance agent or company to determine how the two-home lifestyle will affect your homeowners policy.


When you return, restore any services that were discontinued.

  • Turn on the water valve and/or supply lines to each plumbing fixture and carefully check for leaks. Seals can dry out when they are without water for a period of time, so run water through every faucet to flush out the water lines and drains to make sure they are in proper working order.
  • Creating a routine each time you leave your home alone for an extended period of time can reduce the likelihood of a disaster, and keep work to a minimum when you return.

This valuable information is brought to you in partnership of SafePoint Insurance and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety - 4775 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33617 - DisasterSafety.org

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Safepoint Insurance Company
8761 N 56th Street
Box 292547
Tampa, FL 33617