How You Can Get The Most From Your Homeowners

Part 1: Be Prepared Not Surprised When Disaster (or Damage) Strikes


1. Review Your Policy Every Year

Life changes and market changes can impact your home insurance policy — everything from having a baby to declining property values may mean the insurance policy you have in place should be adjusted.

Kiplinger’s 10 Reasons Your Insurance May Need A Checkup goes through items including

  1. Have you gotten married or divorced?
  2. Have you acquired any new valuables such as jewelry, electronic equipment, fine art, antiques?
  3. Did your teenager get a driver’s license?

New or changed circumstances can mean you should make changes to your policy — reviewing your policy at least once a year will help prevent unpleasant surprises.

2. Understand When You’re Covered and When You’re Not

As The Nest puts it “Insurance pays for sudden, accidental events, not for gradual decline and aging.” If a tree falls on your roof, repairing or replacing the roof should be covered by your policy. If, however, your roof starts leaking after 10 years due to age or general wear and tear, standard home insurance policies won’t cover the cost.

Keep in mind, too, that “wear and tear” vs “natural causes/disasters” can be differently addressed by different insurers and in different parts of the country. Policies in hurricane prone areas such as Texas and Florida generally do not cover roof damage that is caused during a storm.

If you live in a flood prone area (either living near the coast or large body of water or in a hurricane zone), be aware that homeowners insurance doesn’t extend to property damage caused by floods. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute estimates that only about 12 percent of homes in flood prone areas have flood coverage. You can obtain flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Progam. Earthquake damage also requires a separate policy.

3. Make Sure Your Policy Matches Your Needs

Your homeowners insurance policy should be tailored to your life and your home — if you’re not concerned with finding a temporary place to live while repairs are underway, make sure you’re not paying for “displacement coverage,” which provides reimbursement for living costs while you are out of your home.

Confirm whether your policy covers “replacement costs” or “actual cash value.” If you are covered for the “cash value” of an item, its value will be based on the value the item would have had — that is, if your ten year old stereo system is stolen, you will be reimbursed the amount that old stereo would cost. If you’re covered with “replacement cost,” however, your policy should pay to replace that stereo with a comparable brand new one. It’s a good idea to make and maintain a household inventory of the contents of your home (with receipts if you have them), including your clothes and jewelry.

There are online tools that will help you determine replacement costs for your home for less than $10:

  • AccuCoverage walks you through a detailed questionnaire to prepare a fairly specific report outlining the costs of replacing your home
  • HomeSmartReports offers a quick review and then provides high and low estimates for replacing your home, but doesn’t allow for custom features

Homeowners insurance resources

Next Week, Part 2: Saving Money While Keeping Your Home Protected



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Why Indoor Plants Are More Than Just A Pretty Face

How To Improve The Smell and Quality of The Air In Your Home

 Indoor plants offer more than just visual appeal — they can make your home more fragrant, improve air quality and reduce indoor air pollution.

Plants make your home smell nice

There are a variety of low-maintenance indoor plants that will bring the scents of the fresh outdoors and Mother Nature inside your four walls.


(photo from Studio and Garden)

 Geraniums are a hardy plant with a subtle fragrance, geraniums can tolerate hot and cold temperatures, total dryness and are very resistant to pests. The main requirement for healthy geraniums is sunlight — about 8 hours a day — although many garden experts say that fluorescent light can be used to supplement natural sunlight.

For more information on geraniums, check out these resources:

·       How to Take Care of Geraniums in the House from Garden Guides

·       Outdoor-Indoor Geranium Culture from University of Minnesota Extension

·       Geranium Care for the Consumer (PDF) from Milmont Greenhouses

(photo from Houzz)

 Lavender is another fragrant plant that does well indoors with relatively little maintenance — and a lot of sun.

For more information on lavender, check out these resources:

·       Keep Lavender Indoors from The Herb Gardener

·       How to Care for a Lavender Plant Indoors from Garden Guides

Plants clean the air in your home

Indoor air can be 12 times more polluted than outdoor air — a result of pollutants given off by clothing, paint, furniture, cleaning supplies, adhesives and other common materials. In 1989, NASA conducted a study to research ways to clean the atmosphere in future space stations and discovered a variety of indoor plants that help fight pollution inside. More recently, more research has shown that certain indoor plants can remove VOCs and reduce ozone levels inside your home.


(photo of golden pothos from Just Pretty Deep)

 The snake plant, spider plant and golden pothos were selected for the ozone depletion rate study as they tend to be low-cost, low-maintenance and high-foliage plants — all three were shown to reduce ozone levels, equally effectively.

(photo of Asparagus fern from Better Homes and Gardens)

 In the VOC study, 28 different plants were studied and four proved to have the highest removal rates for VOCs — the purple waffle plant, English ivy, variegated wax plant and the Asparagus fern.

 For more information on plants and indoor quality, check these resources:

·       Breath of Fresh Air on Just Pretty Deep

·       Asparagus fern on Better Homes and Gardens

·       Houseplants Cut Indoor Ozone and Common Plants Can Eliminate Indoor Air Pollutants on Science Daily

·       Houseplants Help Clean Indoor Air on University of Minnesota Extension


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For the Birds

Well, the weather outside seems to be cooling down, and animals are preparing for colder winter months. You can help them with these great homemade bird and squirrel feeders. Hang a few of them in your trees and around your yard, and you’ll be sure to have entertainment all winter as you watch your new feathered friends eat from these feeders.

Stock Photo: pine cone bird feeder

Pinecone Bird Feeder:

Step 1: Hot glue a piece of string to the top of a old pinecone.

Step 2: Spread peanut butter on the pinecone (which will be your glue to attach other tasty goodies).

Step 3: Roll your pinecone in corn meal, dried cranberries, raisins, or peanuts.

Step 4: Roll your pinecone in mixed bird seed.

Step 5: Hang your pinecone feeder on a branch with the string.

If you don’t have a pinecone, use a bagel.

Slinky® Bird Feeder:

Step 1: Take a wire hanger and stretch the bottom out so it’s in the shape of an O.

Step 2: Take a pair of pliers and bend each end of a Slinky into a U-shape.

Step 3: Attach one end of the Slinky around the hook part of the hanger. (See photo for reference.)

Step 4: Now spin the Slinky around the hanger until the hanger is in the middle of the Slinky. Take the other side of the Slinky and loop it around the hook part of your wired hanger.

Step 5: Fill your hanger with peanuts, and hang it on a tree branch.







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3 Ways To Make Your Floor Pop

How Shape, Texture and Color Can Make A Difference

 1. It’s not your granddaddy’s hardwood

The Jamie Beckwith Collection of innovative wood flooring plays with pattern, texture and color in wood flooring to create interesting and gorgeous floors.

2. Put a cork in it

Especially well-suited to rooms that see a lot of activity, cork is a natural noise-reducer as well as being more cushioned than most flooring, which is a nice feature in rooms where you may stand much of the time, like your kitchen. Cork comes in a variety of colors and finishes, allowing you to play with pattern — like the dark tile accents in the floor below. Read more about the pros and cons of cork flooring here.

Photo from Better Homes & Gardens

3. Paint the floor red… or blue or checkered or…

From a classic diamond pattern to a blinding white to a pretty pattern, paint can be the easiest way to transform your floor. Check out these photos from Houzz:

A simple diamond pattern by Cameo Homes Inc. as seen on Houzz:

 A prettygingham by The Gaines Group

 as seen on Houzz:

 A pretty white floor from a Houzz user:












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3 Problems Paint Primer Can Solve

Most home DIY-ers know that if you want to turn your ivory walls red, you’d be best served priming the walls first. Paint primer has other uses in your home, too — things you should consider the next time you get an itch to change up the colors in your home.

1. Mildew

It’s true. The very paint on your walls can help you reduce bacteria and the chances of mildew and mold in bathrooms and kitchens, where moisture, steam and evaporation are common. Because paint is porous, moisture can seep through to the walls beneath and not only cause the paint to peel and bubble, which is unattractive, it can lead to mold and mildew.

Vapor-barrier primers are formulated specifically to minimize moisture seeping through the paint to the walls — and to prevent mold and mildew before it grows with a combination of mildewcide and anti-microbial additives.

Bonus hint: if mold and mildew are already a concern, make sure you eliminate it at its source before painting over it.

2. Stains

If you’ve ever had a leak, you’ve seen that cloudy rust-colored ring that water damage can leave on your walls. Stain-blocking primers will not only cover the stain, they will seal it and prevent it from bleeding through to your brand new paint. Smoke and grease can also create stains that may ghost themselves through your new paint job if not properly sealed.

3. Shiny Surfaces

Special primers called “bonding primers” mean that you can paint just about anything, even surfaces on which, in the past, paint was unlikely to stick or stay. Glass, formica and tile are just some of the surfaces you can paint if you first use bonding primer. Generally speaking, bonding primer is not well suited for exterior surfaces, as they are particularly vulnerable to the elements.

Keep your eye out for “self-priming” paints, which have come a long way since their introduction. Dutch Boy, Ace’s Royal, Benjamin Moore’s Aura and PPG’s Pure Performance have all received good reviews for coverage and quality — as well as being low VOC paints. For reviews on more paint brands, check out Interior Paints That Perform from Good Housekeeping.

For more on priming and painting, check out these resources:

Reviews and Product Guides

Tips and Tricks

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5 Apps Every Homeowner or Renter Should Have

1. What’s in your house?

Knowing what you have in your house can be invaluable when disaster strikes — with modern technology, it’s easy to do.

Both MyHome, a smartphone app available for iPhone and Android, and WYO Home Inventory, a free program (Windows) help you inventory the contents of your home.

2. How’s your project going?

Whether you’re re-painting a room, building a new patio or upgrading your kitchen, chances are you are not near your computer — but you might have your phone handy. If you’re an iPhone user, NestPix is for you. This app lets you track, photograph, organize and share all your home DIY, renovation and craft projects.

3. Where are you going to live?

If you’re thinking of moving, check out Realtor and PadMapper for your phone. Realtor (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone) brings you more than 4 million listings and lets you rate and annotate listings that catch your eye. PadMapper (Android, iPhone) brings together apartment listings from multiple free resources, including CraigsList and, and lets you see them on a map of the area you select.

4. Did you remember to…?

Check out HomeSmarts (from the contractor review site ServiceMagic), an app for iPhone and Android that will remind what you need to do and when. You tell the app about your home and it will alert you about round-the-house tasks you might otherwise forget, like changing your HVAC filters or winterizing your sprinklers.

5. What couch should you get?

The site that CNN has called the “Wikipedia of interior and exterior design” has come to your phone: Houzz Interior Design Ideas is now available for the iPhone and iPad. There are more than half a million photos of rooms, products, landscapes, and styles, along with extensive tips, resources and ideas to inspire you.

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3 Ways To Tell If Your Appliances Have Reached Their Expiration Date

1. Take the Kiplinger quiz

Kiplinger surveyed industry experts, trade associations and retailers to find out just how long you should expect home appliances to last — take their quiz and see how well you do when judging the lifespan of the things in your home. Check out their slideshow “Save $50 A Day: Utilities + Home Improvement” for more ideas.

2. Watch the video

iVillage posted a video from The Green Guide earlier this year to walk you through evaluating whether you should repair or replace your appliances.

3. CARE: Compare, Ask, Read, Evaluate offers a ton of tips on how to get the most from your appliances including a series of articles on extending the lifespan of your dishwasher, your range, your refrigerator and more. The very first step is to CARE:

  • compare the cost of repair to the cost of a new appliance — take into consideration energy savings a more modern appliance might offer
  • ask an expert about the problem you’re having to make sure you know the extent of the issue and the repairs entailed
  • read the manual to see if the issue is a common one, and also to check what is covered by the warranty and for how long
  • evaluate the problem to see how much time and money a repair would cost you.

For more on whether to replace or repair, check out Consumer Reports’ repair-or-replace timelines.

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