Pssst! If you're like 70% of Northwesterners, your big tree out back would like a word with you.
That's because, according to a PEMCO Poll, only about 30% of homeowners take time to look over their trees before winter to make sure splits, rot, disease, or other signs of instability couldn't send them crashing through the roof in the next windstorm.
And, it turns out, your gutters, furnace, chimney, and car have a few secrets they'd like to spill, too.
We asked our claims adjusters to do the talking for them, and they came up with this "Do-It-Now Dozen" to keep your home and car safe through nature's most destructive season:
- Have your furnace and chimney professionally cleaned once a year.
- Clean gutters to prevent ice damming, which can cause roof leaks or make gutters overflow onto the ground, which can cause settling near the foundation and allow water to seep inside the home.
- Disconnect garden hoses and cover outdoor faucets with plastic foam hoods to prevent frozen, burst pipes.
- Drain underground sprinkler systems. Most landscape companies will gladly put you on their annual "blow out" schedule.
- Check drains at the bottom of driveways and exterior stairwells to make sure they're clear of debris and working properly.
- Beef up skimpy insulation in basements, attics, and crawl spaces (taking care not to block vents). Wrap exposed pipes in unheated areas.
- Check your antifreeze. A 50:50 mixture of antifreeze and water is best.
- Get your battery tested if it's more than three years old. Clean corrosion from posts and cables.
- Change your oil. Dirty oil is thick, and cold temperatures make oil even thicker, further reducing its ability to circulate. Also, check your owner's manual to make sure you're using the recommended viscosity.
- Replace wiper blades. They're only good for one year.
- Consider switching to snow tires. If you use studded tires on a front-wheel, four-wheel, or all-wheel drive vehicle, put them on all wheels to improve control. Ignore that well-meaning neighbor who says you can get by if you simply reduce the pressure in your all-season tires. That won't help on ice and snow and actually interferes with steering control.
- Carry an emergency kit that includes gloves, a blanket, warm clothes, nonperishable food and water, sand or non-clumping cat litter (traction if you get stuck), a flashlight, tire chains (and any tools needed), jumper cables, washer fluid, and matches to warm your key if the lock freezes.