How to prevent water leaks in your Olympia, WA homeThe unfortunate reality of home or condo ownership is that over time you will most likely develop a leak that could cause major damage if it goes unchecked. If you own a home or condo, regularly check these places for leaks that can cause damage and may go unnoticed.

The Water Heater

Your water heater has a lifespan of approximately 10-12 years. Some go much longer, but that’s just betting that luck is on your side. When water heaters do fail, they unfortunately leak water out the base and all over. By nature, a water heater will continue refilling itself as it drains, so you could have quite a mess on your hands.

Toilet & Sink Lines

If you haven’t already installed braided stainless water lines, do it now! This is the simplest way to protect your home from water damage. The vinyl variety have a tendency to develop bulges, are easily damaged by getting bumped around or can develop cracks as the plastic ages. It also is not a bad idea to regularly inspect all lines in the house for drips.

Washing Machine Supply Lines

A washing machine supply line is typically accessible to view behind your washing machine. These lines are larger than most other supply lines in your home because they provide more water so it is especially important to monitor these and install braided stainless supply lines.

Refrigerator Ice Maker Line

This hidden water supply line can be a big problem! Because it is hidden behind your massive refrigerator, leaking supply lines can go unnoticed for months and be dripping onto your floor and into your crawl space. With the help of a friend or family member, make it a practice to pull out your refrigerator and inspect the lines at least once a year. While you have it out, you can clean your vents at the base of the refrigerator improving the efficiency of the unit.

P-Trap connections

P-traps are the connections for drains under your sinks. As many of us store items alongside these drains, they get bumped quite a bit! If a connection becomes loose or damaged, it can cause a slow leak under the sink. Check for leaks under your sinks regularly to avoid a costly water damage claim or ruining your cabinets.

Utilize Water Alarms to Help Monitor for Leaks

One quick way to continually monitor your home for leaks is to install an inexpensive water sensor. You can find a five pack of them for about $40. Water Sensors are inexpensive and can help you monitor the hard to reach areas like water heaters and refrigerator water supply lines. These sensors act similarly to a smoke detector and sound a loud alarm when the sensors come in contact with water.

Prevention is the best way to avoid a water damage claim in your home.

If you have questions about your home or condo insurance, contact Cross Insurance Agency. We have locations throughout Washington State in Olympia, Centralia, Vancouver, Tacoma and Marysville. We have years of insurance experience and can help you insure everything from your home to your auto or business Insurance. We live where you do and are an independent insurance agent, so we can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out our website, 24/7.

How to prepare your home to sell in Olympia, WAPreparing to sell your home can be a large undertaking. Often, people put off repairs on their home that don’t bother them, but would certainly deter prospective buyers or set off an alarm to a home inspector of other problems. If you’re preparing to sell your home, follow these steps to ensure you get the top dollar and avoid any unexpected last-minute repairs.

Fix any major, obvious repairs:

Do you have gutters that are falling off of your home or does your house paint need some touch-up? Repairs like this can be fixed for as little as a couple of dollars but add tremendous appeal to your home. Look around your home for small items that could easily be repaired.

Complete any unfinished remodeling projects:

You may have lived with that single paned aluminum slider door for 10 years even though all the other windows and doors are energy efficient vinyl. By replacing the door it gives your home a finished appeal that buyers are looking for. Many home buyers don’t want to take on a project.

Declutter your home:

Many of us have collections of some sort. Antiques, glasses, toys, DVDs and the like. Additionally, personal pictures of family, friends and yourself. Pack these items away so the home buyers can visualize themselves in your home.

Clean:

Cleaning your home and all of the surfaces allow the homebuyer to see your home at its best. Dust the tops of the refrigerator, window sills, furniture and any other flat surface. Put clothes away neatly into closets or dressers. Consider, for a small fee, you can hire a cleaning company to clean your home from top to bottom ensuring you get top dollar for your sale.

Add some color to your curb:

It’s hard not to judge a home from the outside even though most of our time is spent inside of our homes. Adding some potted plants and color to the outside of your home is a great way to welcome buyers. If you don’t want to spend much on landscaping, consider a nice potted plant next to the front door full of color and vibrancy.

Ask your realtor for blunt advice:

Your realtor wants you to get as much for your home as possible. Ask them to walk through your home with a notepad and give you suggestions on what would improve the appearance of the home. Don’t take it personally, while your home is cherished and you likely have many great memories there, at this point its business.

As you move on from your home, consider what your new home purchase may be like. We’d be happy to provide you with quotes along the way for everything from insuring the property, to earthquake and flood insurance. If you’re going to be renting for a while or moving into a condo, we offer both renters and condo insurance as well. The insurance agents at Cross Insurance Agency have locations throughout Washington State in Olympia, Centralia, Vancouver, Tacoma and Marysville. We have years of insurance experience and can help you insure everything. We live where you do and are an independent insurance agent, so we can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out our website, 24/7.

Six Areas to Look to Prevent a Costly Repair

We all know that owning a home is an expensive investment. Unfortunately, you can’t just move in and let it set. Homes require constant maintenance to ensure you don’t get costly damage. We suggest doing a yearly home inspection.

Most people will never venture up onto their roof to see what is going on up there.  A homes roof takes a beating. In the summer, it bakes and the sealant can shrink and expand hundreds of times each year. Making sure your roofing is up to par will save you from costly damage such as mold, water damage, sagging rooflines, pests and much more.

During winter, rainwater can find its way through tiny cracks causing moisture in your attic or between the layers of roofing. Identifying these issues early on can save you thousands of dollars in repairs to the roof itself, drywall, mold or go into your walls creating all sorts of havoc.  It is critically important to understand that your home insurance does NOT cover water intrusion damages caused by deferred maintenance.

Things to look for on your roof inspection:

  1. Missing or damaged shingles
    1. Shingles can become damaged by wind and hail or even just years of use. When inspecting your shingles, make sure the granules are covering the shingle. Ensuring that your shingles are in proper working order will ensure water stays out of your home.
    2. Look for curling shingles, or if wood, cracked or decayed shingles.
  2. Flashing
    1. Your flashing is the metal pieces that go around skylights, butt up against walls and down the valleys on your roof.
    2. Make sure these pieces are whole and without damage such as being twisted upwards, or having holes in them from rust or other damages.
  3. Flat Roofs: Look for obvious patches, cracks, tears, or blisters.
  4. Gutters: Make sure your gutters are clear from debris, are not leaking and are butted up tight against the structure.
  5. Chimneys: Ensure your chimney cap is on tight and if it is brick, inspect for cracks.
  6. Ventilation: Make sure your ventilation caps are clear of obstruction.

Inspecting your roof is a quick and easy job. Take your time and be careful while up there as there are many trip hazards and climbing on and off of the roof onto a ladder can be tricky. But, if done safely, a roof inspection can identify problems that would normally not be covered by your homeowners insurance.

If you have questions about your home, auto or commercial insurance, call the insurance agents at Cross Insurance Agency. They have locations throughout Washington State in Olympia, Centralia, Vancouver and Marysville. They have years of insurance experience and can help you insure everything from your home to your auto or business Insurance. They live where you do and are an independent insurance agent, so they can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out their website, 24/7.

Key Tips to Prevent Mold

How to Avoid Mold in your Olympia, WA home Every home in the US is vulnerable to mold damage and now that we’re coming into the cooler winter months, mold can thrive. Mold really needs one thing to grow: moisture.

Protect your home from mold by identifying and eliminating sources of moisture. Moisture can enter your home through many different areas including:

  • Damaged roof flashing
  • Damaged or worn out shingles
  • A downspout that is not properly setup to push water away from your home or foundation
  • A leaky pipe
  • Condensation from your laundry, shower or kitchen
  • A crawl space with no vapor barrier or an improperly installed vapor barrier
  • Single pane windows that are sweating
  • Seeping up through the floor

Eliminating these common problems is fairly simple. Identifying where the issues are coming from are sometimes more tricky as water can travel great distances before it makes it mark known. Look for mold on walls, around windows and in the corners of a room. Sometimes mold can grow under your carpet on cement slabs so if your basement smells moldy, that would be a good place to check.

There are many ways to remove moisture from your home. In bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens, install exhaust fans to remove excess moisture from laundry, showers and cooking. Without these fans, moisture can seep upwards and into your attic producing another hidden problem. A fan will quickly pull the excess moisture out of the room. Be sure to closely look at the size of the fan you install because a fan that is too small for the room may not even make a difference.

If moisture is entering your home through your crawlspace, a simple visual inspection can be completed. First, look to see if a vapor barrier exists (a black plastic). Make sure it is covering the entire surface, goes up over any pier blocks and extends to the edges of your foundation. If it doesn’t, consider a quick weekend project to remedy the issue.

If you have questions about your home, auto or commercial insurance, call the insurance agents at Cross Insurance Agency. They have locations throughout Washington State in Olympia, Centralia, Vancouver and Marysville. They have years of insurance experience and can help you insure everything from your home to your auto or business Insurance. They live where you do and are an independent insurance agent, so they can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out their website, 24/7.

Protecting your Home from Rodents and Rodent Damage

Prevent Rodent Damage in Olympia, WAYou’ve spent a lot of time making your house perfect and keeping it clean. Don’t let a rodent destroy the inner workings of your home!

A single rat can destroy insulation, chew through wires, weaken floor joists and even chew through brick! Not to mention they carry disease and leave droppings wherever they go. The droppings will soak into insulation and the odors can emanate into your home.

Pest control and crawl space cleaning is big business. Just check a search online and see all the companies that do it. With hundreds of thousands of homes damaged each year in the U.S., these companies keep busy removing and repairing homes damaged by pests. Don’t fall victim!

Rodent damage is not typically covered by your home insurance policy. For most losses to be considered, it needs to be “sudden and accidental.” A rodent making a home in the crawl space of your home may come overnight, but the damage they cause is caused over a period of months, or even years.

So, how do rodents get into your home? A rat, for instance, has a very soft skeleton and can squeeze through the smallest of gaps. It is important to look at all areas that enter your crawlspace.

Crawlspace areas to check:

  • Screens that cover vents (ensure there are no gaps or holes)
  • Gaps around brickwork (if gaps exist, use expanding foam, mortar or weather stripping to fill the space)
  • Access panels (ensure the access door fits tightly and gaps do not exist)

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Never store food in your garage or crawl space
  • Keep trash in tight containers
  • Keep weeds and other plants away from your home so they can’t hide near your home
  • Don’t keep pet food in a garage or other outdoor area
  • Don’t stack items near your home where they could hide (lumber piles, wood piles etc.)

If you suspect a rodent may be in your crawl space, look for hanging insulation and feces left near the walls. Consider calling a professional to come and take a look. Keeping your crawl space clean is important to the inner air in your home, so if your crawl space has been damaged get a quote to repair and replace the insulation.

If you have questions about your home, auto or commercial insurance, call the insurance agents at Cross Insurance Agency. They have locations throughout Washington State in Olympia, Centralia, Vancouver and Marysville. They have years of insurance experience and can help you insure everything from your home to your auto or business Insurance. They live where you do and are an independent insurance agent, so they can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out their website, 24/7.

Avoid an Insurance Nightmare – Do Your Homework Before Hiring a Contractor from Craigslist

Hiring a Contractor from Craigslist in Olympia, WASo, you’re planning a home remodel or some landscape work – great! Most people start this process by laying out exactly what they’d like, then calling out to multiple companies to get the best quotes to have the job completed. After all, this is your palace and it should be exactly as you’d like it!

So, you browse the internet and find a contractor on the popular site, Craigslist or other internet directory who will perform your job for ½ of what your other quotes are. Can this be too good to be true? Maybe… Craigslist and other free classified ads are terrific resources for all sorts of goods and services. However, when you’re inviting in a contractor to your home, be sure to ask them for credentials before they come over to give you a bid. Following these steps can save you from theft, liability and even money.

  1. Research and ask questions: If you found a great contractor and you like him/her, ask them if they have a website or if there is someone who has had work done by them recently that you can talk to. If a contractor is proud of the work they do, they should have several resources for you to call. It is okay to ask for reference and most people expect it. Most small businesses survive off of word-of-mouth advertising, so don’t be shy.
  2. Utilize the internet to look up their license: Contractors are required to have a license to perform work. You can utilize your states resources to find these contractors. An internet search will provide you with some quick references. You can even make your job quicker by asking them to provide you with a copy of their license or number.
  3. Documentation: Ask the contractor for a copy of their license as well as documentation of their insurance and bond. Note: Check the dates on the license as well as the insurance to ensure they’re currently in force or active.
  4. Get specific: Not only is it important to protect your insurance from a scam, but ensure your pocketbook doesn’t get taken for a ride too. Ask questions like, “Is this an estimate or a final bid?” “Does this estimate include parts and labor?” “Can I see where you’re buying the products beforehand?” The more questions you ask, the better you will feel and the more the contractor will understand that you’re educated on this process.

Hiring a contractor this way can be a great option! It is possible to really save money on these services, but just using some simple, quick research and asking the right questions can save you a bundle as well as a headache! As far as saving money on your home goes, contact the insurance agents at Cross Insurance Agency. They have locations throughout Washington State in Olympia, Centralia, Vancouver and Marysville. They have years of insurance experience and can help you insure everything from your home to your auto or business Insurance. They live where you do and are an independent insurance agent, so they can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out their website, 24/7.

Keeping your Home in Olympia, WA Safe from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Safety in Olympia, WAOur homes should be places of comfort, relaxation and memories. That’s why it is important to protect your homes from dangers such as fires, theft and one people too often overlook: carbon monoxide (CO).

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced when fuels such as wood, oil, natural gas and propane are not efficiently burned. Carbon monoxide can be produced by your household equipment such as generators, lawn mowers, barbeques and your furnace.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that each year, 170 people in the United States are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes. These deaths can be caused when equipment malfunctions or when the products are used in areas that are not properly ventilated, such as a closed room.

The Center for Disease Control lists the common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning as headache, dizziness, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

The good news about all this is that protecting your family from CO poisoning is relatively simple.

Follow these tips for Carbon Monoxide poisoning prevention:

  • Always have your home’s gas burning furnace, water heater and fireplace serviced by a professional. A professional will ensure the appliance is burning properly and is properly vented.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home (newly constructed homes, apartments and condominiums will likely already have these installed). For an extra level of protection, consider installing a CO alarm in every bedroom of your house.
  • Never leave a car idling in a garage
  • Keep portable generators at least 20feet from an open window
  • Never use a charcoal barbeque inside a home, tent or camper
  • Never use a gas oven to heat a home

Even a single carbon monoxide detector in your home could save lives. If you rent a home or apartment that does not currently have a carbon monoxide detector, ask your landlord to provide one. Many states require that homes have them installed. Review your state laws here.

If you have questions about your home, auto or commercial insurance, call the insurance agents at Cross Insurance Agency. They have locations throughout Washington State in Olympia, Centralia, Vancouver and Marysville. They have years of insurance experience and can help you insure everything from your home to your auto or business Insurance. They live where you do and are an independent insurance agent, so they can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out their website, 24/7.

How to Keep and Maintain a Fire Extinguisher in your Home

Fire Extinguisher Safety in Olympia, WAYour home is much more than the place that you live or where you sleep. It is where you create memories, raise a family and have family and friends over to visit. Keeping everyone safe while they’re there should be a first priority. But, when was the last time you looked at your fire extinguisher to ensure it would perform if a fire broke out in your home?

A fire extinguisher is arguably one of the most important pieces of safety equipment in your home or apartment (second only to a smoke detector) and should be kept up at regular intervals. Just because you have a fire extinguisher in the home doesn’t mean that it will function in case of emergency. With these tips, however, you’ll be better set in case of emergency and in the event you have to use an extinguisher to put out a fire.

1.) Inspect your extinguisher once per month.

Inspecting your fire extinguisher will ensure the canister is charged and ready to work in case of a fire. You should inspect the extinguisher for damage and check the charge meter (typically a green to red meter near the top). Try to inspect your fire extinguisher monthly to ensure it is where you left it and that the extinguisher is in good shape.

2.) Maintenance

Your fire extinguisher really doesn’t require much, but should be maintained at least one time per year. Like any pressurized system, the canister will lose pressure over time. Ensure that it is “charged” and if required, get it recharged or replace the extinguisher.

Other items that should be considered are:

  • Is your extinguisher accessible? Are there items in front of your extinguisher that would cost you time or block your access to it in case of emergency?
  • Is the needle pointing to green on your extinguisher’s gauge?
  • Is the nozzle in good shape (perhaps it was dropped and damaged). If not, replace the extinguisher.
  • Is the pin intact and appear to be in good shape?
  • Is the canister itself in good shape and free of dents, rust or obvious signs of leaks?

Keeping your fire extinguishers in your home in good working order is just one of the important steps to keeping your home and house guests safe. It is also a way to avoid a costly and emotional homeowner’s insurance claim. If you have questions about your home, auto or commercial insurance, call the insurance agents at Cross Insurance Agency. They have locations throughout Washington State in Olympia, Centralia, Vancouver and Marysville. They have years of insurance experience and can help you insure everything from your home to your auto or business Insurance. They live where you do and are an independent insurance agent, so they can help you find the right company to fit your needs. You can also check out their website, 24/7.