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Have you ever wondered what the most common causes of damage around the house are? Whether you’re about to buy a new home or you’ve lived there for years, knowing what can go wrong can help you better protect your house, and save you the time and the hassle of repairs.

Travelers analyzed eight years of claim data to identify the five most frequent causes of home damage.1 “From windstorms to water damage, we see thousands of homeowners claims a year,” said Pat Gee, Travelers Senior Vice President of Auto, Property & Catastrophe Claim. “By sharing some of the insights that the data provides, we want to help homeowners avoid these common causes of claims.”

Taking immediate short-term steps and planning long-term measures can help to prepare your home to better withstand common causes of property damage.

1. Windstorms

Accounting for nearly a quarter (24 percent) of all losses, windstorms top the list of the most frequent causes of homeowners claims.

Short-term steps:

  • Homeowners can cut trees to reduce the risk of tree-related damage, which causes hundreds of millions of dollars of damage each year, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).2

Long-term steps:

  • The IBHS FORTIFIED Home™ program is a building standard that addresses high winds and damaging hail. FORTIFIED Home offers three levels of designations for both new and existing homes – bronze, silver and gold. Achieving a FORTIFIED Home status often includes steps such as taping roof deck seams, anchoring porches, carports and other attached structures, and anchoring the roof structure to the exterior wall, and the wall to the foundation.

2. Water damage, non-weather

20 percent of claims result from water damage unrelated to weather events. Water leaks from pipes, water heaters, air conditioning units, refrigerators and washing machines are among the most common causes of damage.

Short-term steps:

  • Know how to shut off your main water supply. If you will be away from home for an extended period, consider shutting off the water supply and draining the pipes.
  • Inspect appliances, such as water heaters, showers, tubs, toilets, sinks and dishwashers annually, and have them repaired if there are any signs of leaks or corrosion. When possible, install water heaters and washing machines in areas with floor drains to minimize damage if leaks should occur.
  • Check pipes for leaks and cracks, and appliance hoses and plumbing fittings for signs of breakage, crimping or bending.

Long-term steps:

  • Install a smart water main shut-off device with sensors that can detect the presence of water and shut off the main water supply. Some devices can also send alerts to your smartphone notifying you of water leaks so you can take steps to contain the damage.
  • Consider placing sensors near washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, hot water heaters, sinks, toilets and other items that are connected to water supplies.

3. Hail

16 percent of claims are due to hail.

Short-term steps:

  • Consider signing up for local weather alerts, which deliver warnings when hail storms are approaching your area.
  • Bring patio furniture indoors or move it to a covered area when not in use to help protect it from damage.
  • Whenever possible, park in a covered area or garage.

Long-term steps:

  • Check out the IBHS list of hail-prone areas, which uses radar-based hail measurements and storm reports to identify areas with a risk of relatively frequent damaging hail events of 1-inch or larger, or less frequent hail with up to a 2-inch diameter or larger. For hail-prone areas, IBHS recommends impact-rated roof coverings.

4. Water damage, weather-related

11 percent of claims are due to weather-related water damage, such as ice-dam related losses or roof or flashing leaks caused by rain, ice melting or snow.

Short-term steps:

  • Knowing how to identify and remove ice dams from your roof can help protect against water damage during the winter. If ice dams are not removed, water from melting snow may back up underneath roof shingles and make its way into your home.
  • Clear gutters of leaves and other debris to help with drainage all year round.

Long-term steps:

  • Take steps in advance to prevent ice dams from forming, such as insulating your attic, improving ventilation and installing a water repellant membrane underneath roof shingles when replacing the roof covering.
  • Insulate pipes to help prevent freezing.

5. Theft

6 percent of claims are due to theft from the premises.

Short-term steps:

  • Always close and lock all windows and doors to prevent easy access to your home.
  • Appear home, even if you are away, by placing some home lighting on timers and arranging for friends or family to check for flyers and packages that can suggest you are away.

Long-term steps:

  • Consider installing a home security system. Smart home automation technology offers a number of features, including intrusion alarms, remotely monitored video cameras, smart locks and doorbells, and smart light bulbs.
  • Clear away any overgrown landscaping that could provide potential hiding spots for thieves and consider installing exterior lighting to illuminate areas around your home.

These are just a few of the short and long-term steps that you can take to help protect your home and reduce your risk of property damage. Knowing the particular risks in your geographic area can help you focus your home improvement time and energy on the projects that make the most sense for your home.

1 Travelers Claim data, 2009-2016.
2 FORTIFIED Home High Wind Hail Standards (PDF)

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