Fireplace Maintenance

fireplace maintenanceYour fireplace looks beautiful and adds warmth to your home. It can also be a fire hazard, though. Protect your home and family as you enjoy the beautiful ambiance when you follow a fireplace maintenance schedule and implement safety tips this winter.

Check the Chimney

An essential part of your fireplace, the chimney needs a thorough inspection once a year. Hire a professional to look for cracks and other damage and to clean out combustible buildup like creosote. Then, secure a spark-arrestor screen to the chimney as you prevent dangerous sparks from escaping and damaging animals from entering.

Start the Fire Safely

Before you light a relaxing fire, open the flue. Start the fire with only approved materials like newspaper and dry logs. Once you have the fire going, don’t use it to burn holiday gift wrapping or grill food.

Maintain the Screen or Door

Every fireplace needs a safety screen or glass door. It prevents sparks from flying into your home and discourages your children or pets from reaching into the fireplace. Ensure the screen is constantly in place and free from any damage as you reduce accidental burns and other injuries.

Remove Combustibles

Flammable rugs, draperies, paper and other combustibles should be located at least three feet away from the fireplace. Otherwise, these combustible materials could cause a fire.

Use the Right Tools

Metal tools safely adjust logs and remove ash. Store them near the fireplace (but out of your children’s reach!)

Provide Proper Supervision

Always supervise your fire. If left unattended, sparks could start a fire in your home or your children or pets could walk into the bright but hot embers.

Remove Ash and Coal Properly

A one-inch layer of ash in the firebox insulates the fire. To remove excess ash or coals, wait until they’re completely cool. Use an ash vacuum or metal shovel, and place the materials in a secure metal container outdoors.

You’ll safely enjoy your fireplace all season when you use proper fireplace maintenance procedures. For more fireplace safety tips, visit This Old House online. Keeping your home in top condition can actually help reduce your insurance premiums. Give us a call today to update your home insurance policy and provide a layer of protection for your family and house.

Protect Your Electronics!

protect your electronicsWhether using your electronic devices for socializing, working or gaming, you want to protect your valuables from theft. Follow six tips as you protect your electronics at home, in your vehicle or at a public location like the library or coffee shop.

1. Invest in LoJack

While LoJack is known for automotive theft protection, it can also protect your electronics from theft. Use its software to track your devices, lock them and even remotely delete data.

2. Use a Kensington Lock

Leave your laptop sitting on the table while you check out books, use the bathroom or refill your coffee, and it will probably be stolen. Take precautions and carry your laptop with you or use a small but powerful Kensington lock to secure your laptop to your office, library or dorm desk.

3. Hide Your Devices

From carrying your computer to class in a nondescript bag to placing your GPS in the trunk after you park your car on campus, hiding your devices goes a long way toward preventing their theft. You’ll also want to throw away the device’s packaging so that no one can snoop around your home and see what you own.

4. Lock the Doors

Keep your home and vehicle doors locked, and you deter thieves from accessing your electronics.

5. Register Your Devices

When you buy electronics, take the time to register then with the manufacturer. Those companies often cooperate with the police to find stolen electronics.

6. Buy Theft Insurance

Adding these devices to your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy won’t protect your electronics from theft. However, the right insurance could replace stolen electronics. Give us a call to ensure you have replacement coverage on everything from your laptop and printer to your tablet and MP3 player. To prove the value of the devices you own, save the purchase receipts and record the serial numbers with your insurance policy in a secure location.

Car Maintenance: Winter Weather Checklist

car maintenance

Cold weather is here, but it doesn’t have to slow you down. Have you taken the time to make sure your car is prepped for winter weather? There are several things you can do to protect your vehicle and help it run properly all winter. Here are some car maintenance tips to get you started.

Check the tire tread. In most states, it must be at least 2/32-inches, which you can measure by placing a penny in the tire – adequate tread will cover part of Lincoln’s head. However, because your vehicle’s ability to stop on slippery surfaces decreases when the tread reaches 4/32″, consider replacing worn tires with all-weather tires for better traction.

Change the windshield wipers. These two pieces of equipment clear snow, ice and debris from your windshield. To work properly, they must be free from rips and wear.

Charge the battery. With full juice, your battery’s ready to start no matter how low the temperature falls. Clean the terminals and double check that the battery’s secure, too.

Fill the fluids. Antifreeze, windshield washer, transmission and brake fluid assist your vehicle in running smoothly. Fill these fluids to the recommended level as you prep your vehicle for winter.

Keep your vehicle fueled at all times. You never know when you’ll become stuck in traffic or a snow drift, and you’ll be thankful for a full gas tank in those situations.

Stock an emergency kit. A few supplies assist you in flagging help and staying safe in almost any weather. They include:

  1. A small shovel
  2. Traction material like kitty litter or sand
  3. Flares
  4. Fire extinguisher
  5. Blanket
  6. Charged cellphone
  7. Flashlight and extra batteries
  8. First aid kit
  9. Water and non-perishable food like energy bars or nuts
  10. Small amount of cash for fuel or other emergencies

Update your auto insurance. From fender benders to hail damage, adequate insurance gives you peace of mind and ensures you have financial resources to fix your vehicle.

Don’t let winter weather keep you at home. Follow these car maintenance tips and prepare your vehicle now. For more helpful info, visit www.carcare.org. As always, feel free to give us a call with any questions.

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that means kitchens all around America are ready to see some serious action. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment, with 3 times the average number.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe while you whip up all that delicious goodness next week…

  1. Thanksgiving safety tipsWatch it like a hawk – errr… turkey. Don’t leave your stovetop unattended. Keep an eye on those burners!
  2. Keep the kids occupied. Your stove is going to be hot, and kids should stay at least 3 feet away. Plan to have some cool activities ready for them to help keep them out of the kitchen while you cook.
  3. Check the floor. Try to keep your floor clear of anything that might get tripped over in the chaos of getting everything ready. There’s nothing worse than dropping that dish of Grandma’s mashed potatoes just before it’s time to eat!
  4. Wind it up. We use all kinds of appliances on Thanksgiving – electric knife, coffee maker, mixer, etc. Don’t let those cords dangle off the counter in easy reach of a child.
  5. Arm the Alarms. Check your smoke detectors in advance of the craziness to be sure they have fresh batteries and are functioning properly.

Check out the NFPA website for more safety tips. You can also download the tips here.

Electronics Insurance – is that covered?

Take a minute to count the number of cellphones, TVs, computers, gaming systems and music players in your home. Do you own more than 5, 15 or even 25 devices? What are they all worth? Did you know that your homeowners or renters insurance policy might not cover your electronics? Woah. So what about electronics insurance?

Check Your Homeowners or Renters Insurance PolicyUnder the Contents section of your homeowners policy, take a look at what’s covered. If your electronics aren’t specifically mentioned, ask your agent for details about available coverage. Remember to ask if your devices are covered in case they’re damaged accidentally, dropped, immersed in liquid, cracked, vandalized, stolen or affected by a power surge.electronics insuranceThink About Actual Versus Replacement ValueYou may have purchased your computer a few years ago for $300, but replacing it with a comparable model today may cost $700. Be sure your insurance policy covers the cost of replacing all your electronic devices. The extra premium you’ll pay is usually only a few dollars but pays for itself multiple times over if you need to file a claim.

Consider the Deductible

Most homeowners policies include a $500 deductible that’s your responsibility to pay if you file a claim. Your deductible might even be higher if you’re on a strict budget. Include that deductible into your calculations as you decide how much coverage you need for your devices.

Keep Thorough Records

Insurance companies typically need to see proof before they pay a claim. So, carefully store all your receipts when you purchase electronics and accessories. Additionally, record the serial numbers and take pictures of all your insured devices. Copies of these records should be kept in a fireproof safe and at a friend’s house or safe deposit box. Update the records as you buy, sell and upgrade electronics.

Call your insurance agent today to add the necessary electronics insurance coverage you need. Then, stay in touch, enjoy your favorite tunes and watch the movies you like with peace of mind.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

You know you need auto and home insurance, but should you look online for a policy or talk to an agent? Consider your personal preferences and several pros and cons of each method before you decide where to purchase your insurance policies.

Online Pros:

  • Convenience: Click the mouse and instantly compare different coverage amounts and see quotes from several companies.
  • No Obligation to Buy: Never feel pressured to buy a policy. Simply opt out of receiving future quotes or communication from comparison sites.

Online Cons:independent agent

  • Impersonal: Online policies don’t allow you to build a relationship with a person who knows and understands you.
  • Security: All your data is compiled and compared over the Internet, making your information an easy target for thieves. Plus, less reputable comparison sites may sell your data to third parties.

Agent Pros:

  • Relationship: To an agent, particularly one in your hometown, you’re more than a number. He or she builds a relationship with you and your family, see you at the grocery store and local events and truly has your best interests in mind.
  • Get Answers: If you have a question about your policy or coverage, call your agent and receive answers from a live person.
  • Negotiate Price: In cases, an insurance agent can negotiate a policy’s price. They also know you and can recommend money-saving discounts and other ways to reduce insurance costs.
  • Comparison Shopping: An independent agent can look at several different carriers to find the best fit for YOU – both coverage and price-wise. They have multiple options at their fingertips and can provide a variety of options.

Agent Cons:

  • Inconvenient: Most offices have limited evening and weekend hours, so you can’t buy or make adjustments to your policy 24/7.

Buying insurance is a necessity. While buying online and from a local agent both have pros and cons, find the personalized service you need when you purchase from an in-person agent. Give us a call today!

Nightmare on Elm Street

Halloween SafetyWhat do you get when you take hundreds of pedestrians trick-or-treating and add potentially impaired party-goers behind the wheel? A scary combination, that’s what.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Halloween is consistently one of the top three days for pedestrian injuries and fatalities. What’s more, 48 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities on Halloween night in 2012 involved a drunk driver.

Here are some Halloween safety tips to help you avoid a nightmare on Elm Street:

BEHIND THE WHEEL

  • Slow down! Drive at least 5 mph under the speed limit, especially in residential areas. This will give you extra time to react to children who might dart into the street.
  • Light it up. Turn on your headlights — even in the daytime — to make yourself more visible.
  • Drive sober. Designated drivers are cool. If you’ll be imbibing of some witch’s brew, get yourself a DD.

PARENTS

  • Tackle it together. Make sure all trick-or-treaters up to the age of 12 (at least) are accompanied by an adult.
  • Have a plan. Review safety precautions and discuss the route you’ll take ahead of time. Remind kids never to cross the street mid-block or between cars. Go over pedestrian and traffic safety rules with your children.
  • Save it for later. Have the little ones wait to eat those treats until you’ve had a chance to go through them to make sure everything is ok. It’s sad that this precaution is necessary, but it’s also reality of the world we live in.

For more Halloween Safety Tips, visit the AAA website. And from all of us at Mason & Mason, have a safe and Happy Halloween!

No Shave November (for Jennifer Mimms)

No Shave November

Sometimes you hear a story and it just touches your heart.  That’s what happened when I learned that Jennifer Mimms had a tumor growing in her spine, which turned out to be lymphoma. And she has three young children. I mean… can you imagine?

Actually, I can. Five years ago (to this week) doctors found a tumor encased in my husband’s spinal column – just like Jennifer. The diagnosis was lymphoma - just like Jennifer. We had (have) three children – just like Jennifer.

I remember feeling overwhelmed, first by the circumstances, and then by the way our friends and family — our community — surrounded us with love and prayer, and financial support at a time when our family desperately needed it. We could not have gotten through that difficult ordeal without all of you.

When I learned what my son-in-love’s sister Jennifer was dealing with, I wanted to make sure she and her family received the same kind of support we did. And so the Mason & Mason “No Shave November (for Jennifer)” event was born. The rules are very simple, and there are so many ways you can help.

1. Join the “No Shave November (for Jennifer Mimms)” Community on Facebook.

2. Donate $10 (or more) to support Jennifer Mimms and her family (mail to PO Box 750, North Conway, NH 03845 – Attention: Heather Clement)

2. DO NOT SHAVE.

3. Invite your friends to get in on the action by telling them about the event and sending them the links.

4. Post your pics in the community facebook page.

 

It’s that easy. Won’t you join us in helping this family? SHAVE THE DATE!
Jennifer Mimms No Shave NovemberAbout Jennifer Mimms:

Jennifer Mimms is a young mom of three awesome kids who are her entire life, along with her long time partner, Evan. Not too long ago Jenn started having some symptoms that made her visit her doctor. Shortly after her visit she received the shocking news that she had a tumor on her spine. After the removal of the tumor and more testing, she learned that she does in fact have cancer, a form of Lymphoma. Jenn still has a lot more tests ahead of her to figure out exactly what is wrong and where the cancer is coming from. As if life isn’t tough enough trying to raise three children in the world today, add in a medical problem this serious and it could be enough to sink a young family. Your generous donations willgo towards the basic needs of the family, such as bills, groceries and gas to get to and from treatments. Jenn is currently in the hospital for chemo treatments, five days per week.

Just Keep Swimming…

poolpoolswimming poolBut check your insurance first!

Summertime fun often includes swimming in the pool. Whether you already have a pool in your backyard or are thinking about putting one in this year, consider whether your home insurance will cover your swimming pool (or how you might have it adjusted so that it does!)

Personal Liability Coverage

If someone is injured while swimming in your pool, the personal liability coverage on your homeowners insurance policy will pay for it. Update this coverage amount when you install your pool to ensure it’s sufficient.

Related Structure Coverage

Your insurance company may classify your new in-ground pool as a related structure, similar to a storage shed or detached garage. Increase the related structure coverage on your homeowners insurance policy to cover damage to your pool. Keep in mind that this coverage won’t pay for swimming pool maintenance.

Geography Matters

The majority of backyard pools are found in warm climates. Based on this fact, insurance costs for your pool may be cheaper if you live in the warmer southern states and more expensive if you live in cooler northern states.

Erect a Fence

To prevent accidents in the pool, many insurance companies stipulate that you surround your pool with a fence that includes a self-latching gate. Consider whether or not you have the space and ability to erect a fence before you install a swimming pool.

Consider the Diving Board or Slide

Some insurance companies won’t cover accidents that happen on the diving board or slide. That policy will influence whether or not you install one of those pool accessories.

Consider an Umbrella Policy 

Even if your homeowners insurance policy covers your swimming pool, consider an umbrella policy. It provides extra coverage after your homeowners insurance limits are met. The extra protection gives you peace of mind if you need to file any pool-related claims.

A backyard pool provides hours of fun every summer. Before you install one, though, talk to your insurance agent. Get all the facts about whether your company offers swimming pool coverage and how much it will cost.

And use these safety steps from The Pool Safely campaign to keep your friends and family safe.

Prevent Burglary with these Landscaping Tricks

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, roughly two million burglaries occur each year. Protect your home and family from burglary when you implement five landscaping tricks that don’t compromise your home’s exterior appearance or value.

burglary1. Place Hostile Plants by Entryways
Burglars typically target easily accessible windows and doors. By placing hostile plants loaded with thorns, briars and brambles near these entryways, you discourage potential burglars. Several hostile plants to consider include roses, holly, raspberries, bird’s nest spruces, needle bushes and Spanish bayonet.

2. Trim Shrubbery Near the House
Overgrown shrubs, bushes and flowering plants look untidy, and they give burglars plenty of places to hide. They also prevent neighbors and anyone on the street from seeing suspicious behavior near your home. Protect your home when you keep shrubbery trimmed to lower than three feet tall all along the exterior of your home. Remember to trim plants away from the sides of your home too.

3. Use Noisy Ground Cover
Burglars try to be as quiet as possible, but noisy ground cover around your windows and doors alerts you to their every move. Pea gravel or other crunching stones do the trick, and you can find these burglar deterrents in colors that match your existing landscaping.

4. Install Short Privacy Fencing
Tall fences and tree barriers increase privacy, but they also obscure burglars. Install short fencing with an open design instead. If you already planted trees or shrubs, trim them so that the canopy starts at eight feet or higher off the ground.

5. Turn on the Lights
Most outdoor landscaping includes lighting of some sort. Opt for strategically placed motion-activated lighting to reduce your chances of being burglarized. Place these lights near all your doors and windows and along pathways. They frighten burglars away and warn you when someone walks near your home.

The crew at Mason & Mason encourages you to use the landscaping tricks to help prevent burglary in your home. We’d also love to find you the best homeowners insurance policy to meet your needs.