Archive | January, 2012

Preparing for Potential Orange County Wildfires In Winter

Wildfires in this winter’s unusually dry climate are no joke. This photo of the Reno fire recently is courtesy of ABC News.

Recent wildfires erupting in Reno are an unfortunate reminder to us Southern Californians that we too are prone to these fiery disasters. More than 4,000 Nevada residents had to evacuate their homes this past week due to wildfires threatening their home.  Southern California has been uncharacteristically dry this winter, even for us—the rainfall a couple days ago was the first we’ve had in who knows how long! And though our quintessentially warm climates definitely give us bragging rights, they also leave us susceptible to dangerous wildfires. It has been an unusually warm winter lately, and although we love the 80-degree weather in January, it also leaves us worrying about the well-being of Southern Californians— Continue Reading →

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How to Prevent Water Damage Inside Your Home

Laguna Beach's Main Beach boardwalk was completely destroyed in December 2010 due to flash flooding.

There’s obvious ways to prevent water damage from happening in your home that are just common sense—don’t let your 5-year-old run the bath water for themselves, for instance, or hiring a professional install your windows so you know that they are watertight.

But there’s smaller, less obvious ways that you can prevent water damage, mainly by regularly checking the areas that are most likely to suffer from it. Modern homes have plenty of appliances, sinks, showers and other places where water is merely controlled by hoses, taps or buttons. And we all know how electricity and water do not mix!

Some places in America have basements, but California homes don’t usually feature them. This list focuses on the types of appliances and items you’d find in a home in Orange County, the Inland Empire, San Diego and Los Angeles.

The Kitchen

Where should you start when you’re trying to prevent water damage? The kitchen: a place where water’s running through appliances and pipes throughout much of the day, especially if you have small children.

  • The Dishwasher: Periodically check for leaks under the sink where the hose connects to the water supply. Look around the base of the dishwasher for evidence of leaks, such as discolored, warped or soft flooring materials, or water damage to nearby cabinets.
  • The Refrigerator: If your refrigerator has an icemaker, make sure the hose connection is securely attached to the water supply line. Also, a wet spot on the floor may be a sign of a crimped icemaker line about to burst.
  • The Sink: Replace deteriorated caulk around sinks, and check the pipes under the sink for leaks. A slow-draining pipe may indicate a partially blocked drain that needs cleaning.

The Bathroom

Not surprisingly, the bathroom has several common culprits that cause water damage. This room in the house is practically a water park—that’s what the kids seem to think, anyway:

  • Showers And Bathtubs: Remove and replace deteriorated or cracked caulk and grout. Water from a broken supply pipe behind the wall can leak through these damaged sealants, causing stains or soft areas around nearby walls and floors. Leaking drain pipes and shower pan leaks are also common sources of water damage. If necessary, contact a plumber or contractor for help.
  • Sinks: Check under the sink for leaks from water supply lines or drainpipes. If necessary, contact a plumber or contractor for help.
  • Toilets: Clogs can result from too much toilet paper or objects such as hanging bowl deodorants. Also, some chlorine tablet cleaners may corrode internal plastic or rubber parts, leading to a leak. And those are just the logical reasons for toilet clogs—do factor in what your toddler may have decided to put in the toilet just to see it go down (and let’s hope it wasn’t a family pet). Again, don’t hesitate to call in a professional, although they probably won’t be able to save a flushed hamster.

The Laundry Or Utility Room

  • Washing Machine: Check hoses regularly for bulging, cracking, fraying, and leaks around hose ends. Replace the hose if a problem is found or every 3 to 5 years as part of a proactive maintenance program. To help make sure the hose doesn’t kink, leave at least 4 inches (or 11 centimeters) between the water connection and the back of the washing machine. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully.
  • Water Heater: Most water heaters last 8 to 15 years. Wet spots on the floor or a rusted tank may signal a leak. Water heaters should be installed on the lowest level of the home, next to a floor drain, or inside a drain pan piped to the floor drain.

Your next question is probably: Does my household insurance cover floods? It depends on what causes the flood. If it’s a flood from something listed above, the likelihood is yes, you are covered. If water invades your home because the rainstorm caused your pool to overflow and flood your home, that might be another story.

With the rainy season coming up, you should check with your insurance company and have them explain your coverage to you. Of course, if you’re a BMR customer, just call us up and we’ll explain exactly what you’re covered for! If you’re not, we would love the opportunity to review your policies and see if we can save you money while getting you the perfect coverage.

It’s going to rain this weekend, so don’t delay in checking your coverage. We might not get months of winter weather here, but our storms can cause flash flooding. Call us now: 714-838-1911

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Do You Support the Nationwide Texting Ban?

It's funny because it's true. Don't cause an accident because you're texting while driving!

Orange County is probably one of the worst offenders in violating the texting ban. Let’s face it, Los Angeles and Orange County have some of the worst traffic in the United States, and because of our minimal public transport systems, we don’t have much choice than to use our cars.

(That said, we also have some of the best weather in the world, and should probably start using our bicycles a little more!) Continue Reading →

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BMR’s Top Five Home-Improvement Tips for 2012

Although many of you may be still be recovering from the weekend’s parties, we at BMR Insurance are, as always, focused on the well-being of our customers. That’s why we’ve knuckled down and thought about the things it would be best for our homeowners insurance customers to do in 2012, and here’s what we came up with.

First of all, once your head clears from the champagne overdose, have a look at your  2012 budget for repairs and maintenance on your home, and see what you can afford. If possible, work in these five projects that will be important for the protection of your home and family in the coming year.

1. Batten the Hatches: We’re not advocating that you put in a full security system, with cameras and motion sensors—that is, unless you can afford it. But if you can’t, there’s a lot of simple things that you can do to improve the security at your home that won’t break the bank. Some of these tips can help you save on your insurance premiums too!

Start by having a look at the shrubbery outside of your windows that are visible from the street. Either cut down or thin shrubs and bushes that would give intruders a place to hide, or replace them with something nice and thorny, like cacti, rosebushes, hawthorne, pyracantha or even “hardy orange”, which also produces fruit!

Then look at your door and window locks on access points to your home, and see if they need replacing or reinforcing. If you can’t afford a high-end security system, there are still motion-detector outdoor lights that are budget-friendly that deter burglars.

Also look at securing doggie doors, or replacing a door if the doggie-door entrance is now unused. You can also add a metal screen or decorative wrought-iron gate to your front door, which will not just add curb appeal, it can also increase the value.

Check with your local post office to see if they will deliver to a mail slot built into your door, to replace your street-side mailbox. This will prevent identity thieves from getting checks and credit card numbers.

2. Think Green: No, we don’t mean recycle in the usual sense, but when you think of remodeling, don’t just go to the local Home Depot or lumberyard and start buying new materials. There are many architectural salvage places in Southern California, like Tony’s Architectural Salvage on N. Olive Street just off the Circle in Orange. It’s right in the heart of Orange County’s small Victorian district, so there are many a great find to be had. Look for decorative hardware, light fixtures, wood cabinets (made like they used to!), ornate crown moldings, real floorboards and plumbing fixtures.

3. Be Legit: Before you start adding on the new deck or garage, you’re probably aware that you’ll need to check with the city and get a permit—especially in places like Laguna Beach with their formidable Design Review Board. But what about electricity or plumbing upgrades? Changing out your water heater? Altering your driveway? Replacing shingles or changing the location of your sink or tub? That’s right, you need permits for all of those things. And before you think that the city will never know your toilet moved from one side of the bathroom to another, just wait until it floods and you need to claim on insurance…

4. Code Red: Was your home built before 2000? There were a lot of homes built in Orange County in the 60s and 70s—and did you know that Tustin is one of the oldest cities in the county? It was incorporated in 1927, but it sprang up around El Camino Real in the 1880s. And Irvine began in 1971, so most of The O.C. has homes built before the turn of the latest century. So why not bring your home up to code, especially if you have children? Here’s few that can not just save you money in the long run, it will also increase safety:

  • Hard-wired smoke alarms in every bedroom and in the hallway outside of sleeping areas
  • Ground-fault circuit interrupter receptacles in the bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room, garage and any other space where both water and electricity are available
  • Powerful and water-efficient toilets to replace old, water-guzzling ones
  • Larger, dual-pane, windows — with at least 3½ feet of open, removable area that will allow a firefighter and his air tank easy access
  • Handrails on all staircases both internal and external
  • A water heater expansion tank, which can prevent extra pressure and the possibility of an explosion

5. Rainy Day: When it rains in SoCal, and it does, it usually comes hard and fast. And that’s why we need to be prepared. Did you know that even a fairly new and sturdy roof can be penetrated by wind-driven rain? Many of us were affected by the windstorms that came through the Southland in November and December, and it’s likely that your roof is damaged without you even knowing.

Mold damage is three times more expensive to repair than water damage. And if the damage was done because of an earlier problem that wasn’t fixed, you may have a hard time claiming on insurance. Have a professional check your roof for leaks, especially if you have a contemporary-style home with a flat roof.

You should be able to carefully use a ladder to check skylights for caulking that has deteriorated, and replace it with polyurethane caulk—our recommendation, as it keeps the water out better than acrylic or latex. Clean out your gutters and make sure that you don’t have places where water can pool near your house walls, which can cause slab leaks and foundation damage.

And if you are looking for flood insurance, please call us immediately. Some homeowners policies do not include flooding, and you could be under a false impression that you have complete coverage. If you are a current BMR customer, it’s likely we discussed this with you when you bought the policy; and if you’re not, we will be happy to review your policy for you at no charge. Call us on (714) 939-1811 or use our online form.

We wish you all a wonderful, prosperous and safe 2012! Happy New Year from all of us at BMR!

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