Every homeowner absolutely must have homeowner’s insurance. The cost for not having it can be too great if disaster struck. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing I was uninsured.
I bought my policy early last winter and thought I pretty much understood everything in it, as per what was covered and what was not. It turned out that the fine print was unintelligible, at least to me. This brings up a salient point. When buying insurance, ask your agent to spell out, in plain English, just what and what isn’t covered. Then, if you feel that something that isn’t covered should be covered, you can make sure you have the coverage you want and need. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
A recent weather event had me frantic. A violent storm swept through my little town, with some of the heaviest rain I’d ever seen. The results were frightening.
My cellar is wet, since water continually trickles in, year-round. Nothing to be overly concerned about, though, since I just had a new, powerful sump pump installed. I thought this pump was able to handle anything nature could throw at it. Boy, was I wrong.
We ended up with a total of about 5 ½ inches of rain, most of which fell in the course of the afternoon and early evening. The end result was that water flowed into my basement faster than my sump pump could pump it out. This should not have happened, but it did. Point to remember here is to expect the unexpected.
So, I ran across the street and borrowed a portable pump from a neighbor. But even the combined power of the now-two pumps was not enough to keep water from rising. The water was quickly building up around my furnace and water heater, both in the basement.
Now it was time to contact the fire department. The firefighters brought over a powerful pump, the kind that one man had to stand outside and direct the outflow, so that it wouldn’t flail around, wildly. Nonetheless, the combined force of three pumps was still inadequate to the task. Water was now halfway up my furnace and water heater.
The only option then was for another firefighter to bring over yet another pump, this one more powerful than the other. Finally, the combined force of now-four pumps began to overcome the inflow and a long time later, my cellar was if not dry, not filled with water.
Now came the tough part. Since both the furnace and hot water heater were submerged, I worried that I was looking at a huge, unexpected bill. Did my insurance cover this? I thought so but wasn’t exactly sure. Looking through the policy’s legalese didn’t help, so I made a visit to my insurance agent. Fortunately, I was covered. But what if I wasn’t? What would have happened?
This points out the importance of going over every aspect of your homeowner’s policy with your insurance agent, beforehand, before disaster strikes.
My agent told me to get a quote and we’d take it from there. With a 1,100 deductible, the bill would have to be pretty substantial for me to make a claim. Also, making a claim would unfit me for the no-claim benefit of $80 a year off my cost. But I was convinced that my bill would near the $10,000 mark.
My furnace and water heater are old and do not have computer chips. Also, both are top-quality brands. So, I called the furnace repairman, and he came over, looked at both and assured me he could get them going, if he had to rebuild them. I left him to his work.
An hour or so later, he emerged from the cellar and told me I had both hot air and hot water. Both were fixed. Were these units newer, they would have been history. The total bill was $366, which amazed me.
Not everyone can be so fortunate. Also, I question the propriety of having furnaces and hot water heaters in the basement, especially a wet basement. My plan, when finances allow, is to install a heat pump or heat pumps upstairs in a laundry room, along with an electric hot water heater.
Thanks to dedicated firemen and a skilled furnace repairman, I came out of this only slightly bruised. It could have been so much worse.
I learned much from this experience. First, I know to make sure I am fully conversant in my insurance coverage. Second, I know that my old furnace and water heater can’t last forever, and the replacements will go in a safe, dry place. And finally, it pays to have the number of the fire department near at hand.
None of us know when some weather-related event will strike us, with far-reaching consequences. That means we need to be prepared ahead of time. I was not but am now.
One fireman told me that in his 40 years, he had never seen flooding like this and also, the fire department was never called to pump out the basement of the house I now live in. This just goes to show that it can happen, anywhere and at any time.
Bottom line: be prepared.
Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.