shoveling snow

Make Snow Shoveling Safe and Easy With These 10 Smart Tips!

Winter means a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, it’s a fun time filled with cold, cozy nights, sipping hot chocolate, and lots of snow to enjoy. To others, it’s a dangerous time of the year when the weather can be unpredictable, especially if a big snowstorm blows through the area.

Before you bundle up and tackle all that snow out there, kick your feet up and read our list of 10 tips to help you shovel snow safely and effectively!

Stretch – Before you head out into all that snow, make sure that you stretch! Stretch your back, shoulders, and hamstrings to make them limber and ready for the task at hand, then dress comfortably in loose, removable layers. Make sure to go at a slow and steady pace when you shovel.

Clean Off Cars First – When it comes to cleaning off snow, it’s best to move from top to bottom. Brush off all the snow on your cars before tackling anything else. Remember to remove the fallen snow away from your car so it can move more easily when you need to use it.

Maintain Good Posture – Think of shoveling snow like moving heavy boxes: lift with your legs, not your back. Keep your back straight as you move from the squat position to the upright position as much as possible, and hold the snow close to your upper body. Remember to keep one hand close the shovel’s blade for better leverage, and don’t twist your upper body as you throw the snow.

Don’t Move Snow Twice – Before you even start shoveling, think about where you’re going to put the snow you pick up. Drop the first shovelful farther away from where you’re standing. Then go ahead and dump the remaining snow closer and closer to where you are so that the last scoops will be moved the shortest distance.

Team Up – Shoveling is definitely no fun, but it’s much better when you team up with a friend or neighbor. You’ll get the job done twice as fast and will have much more fun that way, so call up your buddy or your neighbor next door and get to work!

Stay Hydrated – Make sure to take bottles of water out with you and keep them close by so you can stop and take a drink here and there. You can keep the water either in your car, on your front stoop, in the garage, or another convenient location.

Don’t Be a Perfectionist – Even though the temperatures plummet in the winter, the sun is actually very strong this time of the year. Thanks to the sun’s rays, you don’t have to worry about being super thorough and get every bit of frozen liquid off your sidewalks. Simply clear an area, spread some de-icer around if you need to, and let the sun take care of the rest.

Use Just a Little De-Icer – As soon as you clear an area, go ahead and spread a thin layer of de-icer to keep it clear. A little will work perfectly fine. If you happen to be spreading the de-icer by hand, try to throw the salt, pellets, or granules low the ground so that they can create one unified layer.

Rest Frequently – You might not want to stop as soon as you get a good rhythm, but it’s so important to stop and rest here and there. Remember, when you’re clearing snow by hand, you’re lifting and carrying hundreds of pounds of snow, if not more. Give yourself a break and rest every 10 or 15 minutes, and be sure to take it easy for the rest of the day as soon as you’re finished shoveling.

Get a Head Start – Whenever it’s possible, try to get a head start on your shoveling. It’s much easier to remove snow in thinner layers than in one giant layer. If the forecast calls for a lot of snow, plan on shoveling in many small passes so you don’t strain yourself.

When it comes to winter, anything can happen. You never know when fallen snow from a huge snowstorm might make the roof of your home cave in or if a thick coating of ice could knock out your power. Make sure that you’re prepared for whatever winter has in store and to call us to make sure that your home is properly protected from the elements. Find us online at www.madisonmutual.com or call us 1-800-766-MMIC to talk to one of our friendly professionals today!

winter vacation tips for the home

10 Important Things You Need to Do Before Your Wintertime Vacation

If getting away from the winter cold and snow sounds like a great plan to you, then you might be planning a quick winter getaway somewhere warm. As great as it would be to kick back and soak up some rays in the warm sun by the ocean, there are some drawbacks to vacationing in the winter. Snow storms can occur while you’re out, your pipes could freeze or burst, or you might forget to turn down your heat and be left with a utility bill that skyrocketed because of a brutal cold front that might pass through.

Don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to help prevent any of these scenarios from playing out. Just follow these 10 tips below to keep your house safe from the elements and from burglars, and you’ll be on your way to a relaxing wintertime vacation in no time!

Shut Off Your Water – The winter season is a dangerous time for unattended pipes. Before you go, shut off all the water in your home at your main water valve. This is an easy way to help you prevent your pipes from freezing over or bursting while you’re gone, which can be costly and cause a great deal of damage.

Turn the Heat Down – If no one’s going to be home while you’re on vacation, there’s no sense leaving the heat around 70. Feel free to turn the heat down to 55 degrees. It will help you reduce your utility bills while you’re on vacation.

Turn Down the Hot Water Heater – While it isn’t hazardous to leave your hot water temperature at its regular setting, turning it down to the lowest setting while you’re out can help you save both energy and money. Be sure to put this task on your list of to-dos before you go!

Clean Out the Sink – Have you ever accidentally forgotten to clean the sink trap and then return to a stinky home a few days later? If you have, then you know how unpleasant that can be. Be sure to clean out the sink trap and run the garbage disposal before venturing out. You can also deodorize your sink by throwing in some vinegar, lemon rinds, or baking soda while the disposal runs.

Hold the Mail – A sure sign to burglars that a home is temporarily vacant is seeing piles of mail or newspapers outside the home. Remember to stop by your post office and ask for them to hold all mail for you until you return home. You can also ask a friend, relative, or neighbor you trust to take care of your mail and keep a close eye on your home while you’re on vacation. This will help deter burglars from breaking in.

Put the Lights on Timers – Did you know that more than 2 million burglaries occur in the United States every year? Aside from having your mail be held while you’re out, try putting a few lamps on timers for the evening hours, preferably between 5:30 and 9 p.m., when people are normally up. This will help make it look like you’re still at home and may help in preventing a break-in while you’re gone.

Clean Out the Fridge – Take advantage of the last trash day before you head out and clean out the fridge. You don’t have to get down and dirty with scrubbing the insides down. Just look to see if your drawers contain any old spinach, moldy cheese, old meat, and the like, and dispose of these perishables so they don’t decompose any further.

Ask for Shoveling Assistance – The weather gets tricky during the winter months, especially while your home is left unattended. When a winter storm hits, you’ll want to make sure that the snow is cleared as soon as possible so that the precipitation doesn’t refreeze and cause accidents. Ask your neighbors to shovel any snow that may fall or pay a neighborhood kid to shovel it while you’re out. In return, offer to do the same if they were ever to go out of town in the winter.

Clean the House – While this isn’t a requirement, there isn’t anything like coming home to a clean home after being on vacation. Go ahead and dust, sweep, vacuum, and wash the sheets before heading out. It’s definitely worth the extra energy!

Unplug the Electronics – Did you know that your computer, television, DVD player, and entertainment systems use up power, even when they’re not on? According to the U. S. Department of Energy, this “vampire” usage makes up 10-20% of the electric bills we receive. Don’t pay for energy you aren’t using; remember to unplug all of your electronics before you head out. It’ll save you money and help prevent any fires from occurring while you’re gone!

Before you pack up your car and head out to your wintertime adventure, make sure to stop by to see your friends here at Madison Mutual! We’ll make sure that your home insurance policy is up-to-date in the event that something bad were to happen to your home while you’re soaking up the rays. Give us a call at 1-800-766-MMIC or find us online at www.madisonmutual.com.

Deck

10 Updates That Dramatically Increase Your Home’s Value

If you’ve ever watched one of the many television shows about people looking for their dream homes, you’ll notice certain aspects about the homes that the potential homebuyer likes and dislikes. Though it might feel a bit removed since you’re seeing the debacle through the television screen, these likes and dislikes largely exist in the real world as well. When you’re ready to sell your home, take a look around – do you like what you see? Now put yourself in a potential homebuyer’s shoes. Do you think he or she will truly like your home enough to purchase it as it is or walk away?

If you’re looking to bolster your home’s market value, here are 10 updates to consider to draw in homebuyers and more money!

Add Space and Light – Homebuyers like spaces that have room and lots of light. Cramped and dark spaces simply won’t do. If your home has small rooms that block the flow of natural light, consider knocking down walls that aren’t load-bearing to open up the floor plan some. Give the illusion of a larger living area by combining your living room, dining room, and kitchen. Open up some rooms to create an inviting, happy atmosphere. A house that is airy and bright will draw in homebuyers and make them wish they lived in your home already!

Consider a Home Office – Telecommuting, that is, working from home, is a career trend that’s growing more and more with each passing year. This makes having a home office more of a necessity than a luxury. Create a dedicated workspace to add value to your home! Try converting an unused den, sunroom, or additional bedroom into a business center nestled in the comforts of your home. Make sure that the space has ample cabinetry for storage and that the electrical outlets have been updated.

Enhance Your Curb Appeal – Does your house look inviting from the inside? If it doesn’t, the chances of a potential homebuyer coming in to see what’s inside are quite low. A good first impression can add 5-10% to the value of your home, according to Bankrate.com, so take the time to revitalize your curb appeal. Paint the faded exterior, repair the crooked shutters, and repair your sidewalks or driveway if they need it. Make sure, too, that your lawn is manicured and looking sharp. Adding some colorful, drought-tolerant, and easy-to-care-for plants will also add more appeal to your home’s exterior.

Tack On a Sunroom – Outdoor living has become a very popular trend, so it would be wise to create a space that bridges between your home and outside. Your sunroom can either be unheated (three-season) or heated (four-season) and can include features such as skylights, vaulted or cathedral ceilings, and an array of flooring. Not only will sunrooms be an attractive feature for those who like being outside, but they are also an affordable way of adding some square footage to your home!

Add a Deck – To expand on the outdoor living motif that is dominating today’s housing market, decks are a bargain when it comes to additions. Try to up the ante, if you can, with a large deck that features benches, plenty of space for a table and several guests, and maybe even a built-in fire pit. A higher grade of materials for the flooring and railings will enhance your addition and make it easier to maintain as well.

Grab a Paintbrush – When it comes to freshening up your home, painting is one of the least expensive ways to get the job done. Choose a neutral color or a subtle hue to help potential homebuyers envision themselves living in your home. If you don’t want to choose your colors or don’t have time to paint, consider asking an interior designer for an opinion and allow a professional painter to do the dirty work.

Rev Up the Landscaping – A beautiful landscape can really draw in potential homebuyers, so give some thought on how you can beautify your lawn. Add some paths, plants, lighting, and well-placed accessories to your landscape to make it stand out. Make sure that your landscaping is both attractive yet easy enough for a different homeowner to maintain as well.

Give the Basement a Make-Over – Got an empty basement downstairs? Why not remodel it to give your home additional value? You can easily transform your basement into a recreation room, man cave, media room, or an entertainment space. Feel free to add an extra basement as well – this will dramatically increase your home’s value (besides, who wants to go all the way upstairs to use the bathroom during halftime?). Don’t forget to add some storage space – you can never go wrong with additional storage space!

Add Another Bathroom – If you’ve ever lived in a home with only one bathroom (or not enough bathrooms), then you know how awkward it can be getting ready in the morning or hosting large parties. Adding another bathroom or even a half bath will do wonders in boosting your home’s value. While you don’t have to go too fancy, plenty of space, his and her sinks, spacious showers, and ample storage will go a long way. Keep the flow of your home consistent by making sure that this addition is in the same period as the rest of your home.

Bolster the Kitchen – The kitchen is the heart of the home – it draws in party-goers and is where the family gathers to eat and discusses their days. If you want to draw in potential homebuyers, update your kitchen. Remember to include plenty of counter and cabinet space. While many gravitate toward granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, it’s much more important to ensure that your appliances all match and that your countertops are strong and easy to maintain. Additionally, islands make for a wonderful addition if your kitchen has the space. They provide additional counter space and can be used for a variety of tasks.

We hope that these ideas will help you increase your home’s market value! No matter if you’re buying, selling, or staying put and enjoying your current home, remember that home insurance is always a smart investment to make. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or find us online at www.madisonmutual.com to get the perfect policy for you today!

winter weather

Don’t Let Those Winter Weather Watches and Warnings Confuse You!

The first portion of winter is behind us! Unfortunately for those who long for spring to return, we have 2 more months of winter left, and that means that there’s plenty of time left to get lots of wintry weather in.

It’s essential to stay on top of the forecasts during the winter months, especially if snowfall or other wintry precipitation is expected. Of course, it’s easy to get lost in all the different watches, warnings, and other lingo that forecasters use.

If you’re not sure what a winter storm watch consists of or don’t know the difference between freezing rain and sleet, read up on the following winter weather terms to keep you and your family safe this winter:

    Precipitation Terms

Freezing Rain – This is rain that turns into ice as soon as it hits the ground.

Sleet – Often confused with freezing rain, sleet is rain that freezes into ice pellets as it’s falling. That means that it turns into ice BEFORE it hits the ground.

Snow Flurries – Flurries indicates light snow that is falling for short durations of time. There is little to no accumulation with snow flurries.

Snow Showers – If you’re expecting snow showers, you can look forward to snow falling in varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible with snow showers.

Blowing Snow – Blowing snow constitutes of wind-driven snow that works to reduce visibility. This can include both falling snow or snow that’s already on the ground and is being picked up by the wind. Travel is typically dangerous when blowing snow is predicted.

    Watches and Warnings

Frost/Freeze Warning – When you hear this on the forecast, that means that subzero temperatures are predicted.

Winter Storm Watch – A winter storm watch constitutes of a storm with heavy snow and/or significant ice that is possible within a day or two.

Winter Storm Warning – A winter storm warning means that heavy snow and/or significant ice accumulations are impending or already occurring.

Blizzard Warning – Blizzards are storms that have snow and strong winds of 35 mph or more, which reduces visibility to near zero. They also have deep snow drifts and last for more than 3 hours. If you receive a blizzard warning, it’s smart to stay safe indoors.

Wind Chill – The wind chill is how cold the wind and air feel on your exposed skin. It is not the actual temperature reading but how cold the wind is making the temperature feel.

Wind Chill Advisory – This advisory indicates that the wind chill readings are potentially dangerous with prolonged exposure.

Wind Chill Warning – This warning means that the wind chill readings are expected to be life-threatening within minutes of exposure. It’s best to seek shelter and wait until the warning is lifted, at least.

Knowing the terminology during this cold season will help you understand what is happening and what is predicted to happen outside. It could be the difference between enjoying a snowball fight with friends or getting stranded and put in a dangerous situation in a snowstorm. Be sure to keep this list close to you the next time wintry precipitation of any sort comes your way next! Better yet, be sure to share this blog post with your friends and family on social media so they can stay safe, too!