Is Your Backyard Safe?

Ah, summer. The kids are cartwheeling in the backyard, the neighbors are playing on the swing set, the smell of summertime cocktails and BBQs fill the air. What could go wrong? Well, that idyllic scene is full of many safety hazards – with everything from poison ivy to potholes!

Use this backyard safety checklist to make sure your backyard is secure, and then enjoy the summer fun knowing your friends and family are safe!

  1. Patio maintenance. Many patios are ignored for the majority of the year, and then when summer rolls around, we expect them to do their job without realizing they need a little TLC.
    • Wooden decks are susceptible to water damage. Look for any warped or rotting boards that need replacing.
    • Brick or stone patios can experience broken tiles, crumbling bricks or missing grout that can quickly turn into a safety hazard if not mended.
    • All patios and decks should have treatments and seals applied regularly. Check with your local home improvement store to identify the right one for your outdoor space.
  2. Poisonous plants and pesticides. Whether you’re hiking on a path or just working around the yard, it’s important to be aware of the many toxic plants throughout the U.S. – as well as the poisonous chemicals that might be right in your garden shed. Here’s what to lookout for:
    • Poison ivy might be the most common poisonous plant, but there are some others you should get familiar with as well, like oleander, European yew and white snakeroot.
    • If you treat your lawn with herbicides or pesticides, make sure kids and pets are indoors. Store both nontoxic and toxic pesticides and herbicides in an area inaccessible to your kids and pets in locked storage containers.
  3. Playground safety. Scraped knees are a normal part of being a kid, but play sets can be full of hazards that create threatening injuries and should be checked regularly.
    • Bees and wasps love creating nests in playground equipment – especially if it’s wood-based. You should check regularly for these potentially dangerous nests, as well as any loose bolts, railings or rotting wood to remove, tighten or repair before giving your kids the go-ahead to play all day.
    • Heat can be another danger. If you don’t have an awning or playground canopy, be aware the equipment can heat up enough during the day to cause burns in the summer months, especially slides and swings.
    • Trampolines are a fun summer activity, but to ensure the safety of jumpers, trampolines should always be anchored down, and have secured padding and hole-free, fray-free netting.
  4. Potholes. Uneven sidewalks or steep hills can turn a lovely day in the sun into a day at the emergency room. Make sure to check your yard regularly for potholes and other hazards.
  5. Pool safety. We have an entire blog post on pool safety, but we had to squeeze in this extra reminder because pool safety should be a top priority for everyone this summer. Recently we came across an article on top pool safety products, which include items like this pool alarm to make your pool experience even safer.

Now get back to grilling, swimming, sipping and cartwheeling!

Going Beyond Spring Cleaning: 7 Must-Do Maintenance Missions

Last year, we shared Your Ultimate Guide to Spring Cleaning…inside the house. This year, let’s tackle some of the maintenance missions for other areas around your home that may need some TLC as we head into spring.

  1. Walk around your home. Take a quick inventory of the outside of your home. Check the foundation for any sign of erosion or water damage; make sure the siding or masonry are in good shape; use binoculars to take a peek at your roof for any shingle shifting, broken or missing shingles, nail pops or black stains, which are actually algae feeding on the limestone filler in shingles.
  2. Check the chimney. Make sure your brick or stone chimney joints are secure and don’t have any vegetation growing into them, which can lead to water infiltration. You may even consider resealing your chimney to prevent future water seepage.
  3. Get a handle on the gutters. Depending on the style of your gutters, it’s super easy for leaves and debris to get caught in them, which can lead to mold and mildew, attract unwanted mosquitos, and cause overflowing that can damage your siding, foundation and landscaping.
  4. Arm your AC for warmer weather. This includes cleaning or changing the filters monthly, washing the coils and condenser, if applicable, and trimming any vegetation that’s creeping into or around the AC to keep it clear.
  5. Mind the gap(s). Seal up any holes where bugs or vermin can infiltrate your home – both outside and inside – including in the foundation, windows, screens, pipes, etc. Termites alone cause $5 billion in property damage every year in the U.S., according to the National Pest Management Association.
  6. Power up! Determine if it’s time for a good power washing of your driveway, sidewalk or patio to remove mildew or discoloration and ready your outdoor spaces for the warmer weather, or if you should reseal or restain your deck to keep it protected.
  7. De-gunk your grill. If your grill sits outside in the colder months, you’ll want to check the burner jets for clogs or debris, make sure any hoses and connections are secure and in good working condition, and check your propane tank level. If you kick it old-school with a charcoal grill, give it a good cleaning to remove any grease residue and leftover ash.

Now…bring on the warm weather!

2018 Policy Changes

It’s a fresh new year, and while you’re well on your way to achieving all your New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget to review your insurance coverage at the beginning of each year to make sure you don’t have any coverage gaps. Here is a checklist of what you should revisit each year for all your insurance policies.

Auto Insurance

An annual auto insurance policy checkup is just as important as taking your car in for service. If you’re like most policyholders, your payments are scheduled each month, and your insurance automatically renews yearly. This doesn’t leave much (if any) time for reviewing your policy and updating your agent about what has changed in the previous 365 days! Consider these changes when you review your car insurance at the beginning of each year.

  • State Cell Phone Laws: Many states passed stricter laws on cell phone use while driving in the last few years. Some phones now even come with a ‘do not disturb while driving’ feature to help avoid distraction from incoming notifications. Make sure you’re up to date with the newest cell phone laws in your state. If talking on the phone and texting while driving isn’t illegal in your state, we encourage you to make a family rule that cell phones should always be put away while driving. Learn More.
  • Vehicle Age: As your vehicle ages its value can decrease. There are many ways to save money while still having proper coverage. Call your insurance agent, and discuss some of the pros and cons of lowering your coverage as your vehicle matures.
  • New Drivers: Kids become teenagers quickly! Before you know it your youngest child is getting a driver’s permit. Even if your teenager doesn’t have their own vehicle, they need to be added to your policy.
  • Driving Plans: Do you plan on driving more or less this year than last year? Do you have a big family road trip scheduled for 2018? Consider adding some additional coverage or dropping coverage you no longer need. Call your agent to brainstorm how you can save money while still having peace of mind.
  • Emergency Kit: Double-check nothing is missing from your vehicle emergency kit. Check out this blog post to learn what items to include in your kit.

Home and Farmowners Insurance

Reviewing your home or farmowner policy may not be high on your New Year checklist, but it is well worth the time and effort. Reviewing your policy will save you money and frustration down the road. Consider these categories while evaluating your coverage.

  • Improvement: Did you make renovations in 2017? A new kitchen, bathroom or a finished basement can significantly increase the value of your home. You may need to expand your coverage.
  • Value: Most home values increase with time. If you have lived in your home for 10 years or more, you may have a coverage gap. The price you paid for your home could be very different than amount of money it would take to rebuild it today. Update your coverage to your home value opposed to the purchase price.
  • Land or Valuables: Did you purchase new machinery for your farm or additional land? Update your agent at the beginning of each year to make sure your new assets are included in your coverage.
  • Emergency Kit: Double-check nothing is missing from your home emergency kit and that your kit includes all necessary items. Learn more on our blog.

Additional Items To Review

There is more to your family safety than just your insurance coverage. Here are some other simple items to review and maintain now that another calendar year is in full swing.

  • Change all your online passwords. Never use the same password for every account, and change passwords at least every year.
  • Update your home inventory list with any new items you acquired last year.
  • Change batteries in your smoke detectors, and install or update carbon monoxide detectors.

Now that your coverage and safety needs have been updated and double-checked, it’s time to celebrate an excellent start to a fantastic new year!

Selecting Christmas Tree

Selecting, Maintaining and Disposing of a Christmas Tree

It’s that time of year again: Time to add a Christmas tree to your holiday decor. Whether you already have your tree up and decorated or are waiting to find the perfect pine closer to Christmas, it’s officially the season to fill your home with cheer!

With everyone thinking about wish lists, holiday shopping and giving to the less fortunate, it’s easy to overlook the fact that most home fires occur in December – especially right around Christmas time. Christmas trees start an average of 230 fires yearly, and these fires cause $18.3 million in property damage.

But holiday tree fires are easy to avoid. There are steps you can take to protect yourself – and your home – while still enjoying the fresh scent of pine for the holidays. So grab a cup of hot cocoa and read up on how to properly select, maintain and dispose of a real Christmas tree.

Selecting a Tree

Tree type: The best type of tree for avoiding fires is a flame retardant or artificial tree. But, if you want a live tree for the holidays, make sure to select a fresh tree. A dry tree can go up in flames in a matter of seconds. It’s much harder for a fresh tree to catch fire.

Branch test: To check the freshness of a live tree, take hold of one of the branches about six inches from the tip, and pull your hand toward you, allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. The needles should adhere to the branch and not fall off in your hand.

Trunk test: Next, bump the base of the tree lightly against the ground a few times. If a large number of outside needles fall off, you most likely have chosen a dry tree; so keep looking. When you find a tree where only a few needles drop off, the tree is fresh enough to stay in your home through the holidays.

The aroma: Smell your tree! The tree should be very fragrant and have a bright green color. Any dullness in color or smell means the tree isn’t fresh enough to be safe in your home.

Maintaining a Tree

Tree type: Your newly selected Christmas tree will last longer and look better if it’s cared for properly. Here’s what you need to keep in mind while decorating and caring for your new tree:

Place: The placement of any Christmas tree – live or fake – is very important. Find a place away from candles and 3 feet from any heat sources in your home.

Hydration: Once you’ve found the perfect place for your tree, put a live tree in cold water immediately. Clean, cold water is the only requirement when it comes to maintaining freshness. Keep your tree stand filled with water at all times. Never let a live tree go without water; it will dry very quickly, even without water for a short period. A fresh tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 23 hours after being cut!

Safety: Next, check your smoke alarms. The home smoke alarm is credited as the most significant fire prevention tool in the last part of the 20th century, so make sure you’re using this fantastic device and that it’s always in working order.

Decoration: Once you’ve selected a safe place for your tree and checked the surrounding area, you’re ready for decorations! Look over the decorations for any hazards, and purchase new sets of lights if your lights are old, frayed or broken, which can easily cause a fire.

Monitor: Make a habit of monitoring your tree for dryness every day. Any sign of needle loss could be an indication that the tree is dry and should be removed from the house immediately. If you suspect your tree is dry, use the tips outlined above to check for freshness again and to make sure your tree hasn’t turned into a fire hazard.

Turn out the lights: Once your tree is up and looking beautifully fresh and decorated, remember to turn off the lights when you’re leaving the house – even if you go outside for a few minutes. You should never leave Christmas tree lights on when you aren’t home, and always turn the lights off before you go to bed. Make turning off the lights part of your daily and nightly routine.

Enjoy: Now, enjoy your tree! Fill the base up with presents and relish in the scent and ambiance it brings to your home this holiday season.

Disposing of a Tree

A tree that is well-maintained will stay fresh for about a month in your home. You should never keep a live Christmas tree in your home for more than 35 days after it’s cut. After about a month, it will have dried out to the point of becoming a fire hazard.

If you’re buying a precut tree, make sure to ask when it was harvested so you know the date it should be removed from your home.

Un-decorate: Disposing of a live tree can be as much of a family tradition as selecting it. Get the entire family involved, make some hot apple cider, and remove all the lights and decorations from the tree.

Don’t burn: Most Christmas trees contain a lot of sap, which can create chimney fires. So never burn a Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Instead, recycle or dispose of your tree safely.

Curbside disposal: Almost every city has a curbside tree pick-up. One tip when trying to find the day of your local pick-up is to search for both “Christmas tree” and “Holiday tree,” since many areas now refer to them both ways. A good rule of thumb: Most tree pick-ups are two weeks after Christmas.

Non-profit disposal: Many non-profits also offer pick-up services. Some Boy Scout troops provide a pick-up for a small donation (often $5). A little donation goes a long way, and it’s always a good idea to donate back to your local organizations.

Cutting the tree yourself: If you miss your local collection period, you also have the option of cutting up the tree yourself. It should be cut so that it fits into your green yard waste container for regular pick-up.

Remember, safety is an important part of every holiday tradition.

Now that you know the necessary safety steps for selecting, maintaining and disposing of a live Christmas tree, enjoy your time with friends and family knowing you’ve taken the steps necessary to help protect your home from fires.

Madison Mutual wishes you a wonderful Christmas and a New Year filled with love, peace and joy.

How to Shut Off Utilities When Disaster Strikes

Natural disasters can strike without warning, and every emergency plan should include knowing how to shut off your utilities. Understanding utility warning signs and deciding whether services need to be turned off could be the difference between life and death.

Leak Warning Signs and How to Shut Off Natural Gas

Any smell of natural gas inside your home is a danger sign. You might also be able to hear a hissing noise. If you start to notice any of these warning signs, open a window and leave your house immediately. Turn off your gas meter as soon as possible and call 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s home.

There are several different gas meter configurations; so to be safe, contact your gas company in advance so they can help you complete your emergency plan and tell you the exact steps for shutting off the gas utility.

These are the basic steps for turning off natural gas.

    1. First, locate the shut-off valve.
    2. Using a cut-off tool or wrench, turn the rectangular knob one quarter-turn clockwise to the horizontal position.
    3. Call 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s home.

Don’t use your telephone – or any other type of electronic devices that have batteries of any kind – if you suspect a gas leak. These devices can spark explosions.

Never use matches, lighters, appliances or any electrical switches around a gas leak.

Remember your gas can only be restored by a professional. So it’s important to be able to identify the warning signs of a gas leak and be confident there is a problem before shutting off the utility.

How to Shut Off Water After an Emergency

Earthquakes and freezing weather can cause water pipes to burst, which can lead to flooding. If you have experienced an earthquake or natural disaster, it’s usually recommended to turn off your water utility in case water lines have cracked. When water lines break, the water supply is compromised. So keep your water shut off until you know it’s safe to drink.

Water lines usually have an easy-to-identify shut-off valve, but it’s still important to locate it as part of your disaster plan. You can always contact a local plumber to help you find the valve. It might be a good idea to label the water valve so everyone in the house can locate it quickly after a disaster.

If your house doesn’t have a hand-operated master shut-off valve, you may want to consider installing one. It will make it much easier to shut off your water in an emergency.

These are the basic steps for turning off your water.

    1. Find your shut-off valve in the basement. It may be set into a wall or on the water pipe leading to the water heater.
    2. Locate the shut-off valves on either side of the pressure tank if your water comes from a ground well. Turn off both valves.
    3. Shut off the water by turning the valve clockwise until it won’t turn anymore.

Your sewer system could be damaged in a disaster so make sure to set up a backup method for waste collection in your emergency plan.

How to Shut Off Electricity and Fire Warning Signs

A natural disaster can disrupt your electrical service or create fire hazards. If you see sparks or smell any burning, you should shut off your electricity immediately. Electrical sparks can ignite even more disasters in your home. It’s recommended that all responsible household members know where and how to shut off electricity.

If you have a basement that is usually where the electrical circuit box is located. Be sure everyone in your home knows where the circuit box is located. If you have trouble finding your circuit box, contact a qualified electrician so they can help you complete your disaster plan.

Make sure you have a working flashlight available, with extra batteries before turning off electricity.

These are the basic steps for shutting off electricity.

    1. For a circuit breaker panel, shut off the power by turning all circuit breaker switches to the “off” position – individual circuits first, then the main circuit.
    2. For a fuse box, pull out the two main (cartridge) fuses.
    3. Never step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker.

If you are using a generator as a backup power supply, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you’re running the generator safely.

Safety and Utilities

Your emergency plan is not complete without knowing how to turn off your utilities safely.

Emergency kits are an important part of disaster preparedness. Read more on what should be included in your emergency plan here .

It’s important to be prepared because anything can happen.

6 Little-Known Ways to Drive Safer

Everyone knows to use their blinker, check their side view mirrors and obey the speed limit when they’re still sitting in a car seat.

Everyone knows these pillars of safe driving reduce the amount of accidents and their associated damages.

But not everyone knows the finer, almost esoteric, ways to be a true champion of driving.

So, buckle up and use these tips the next time you start your car.

1. Wear Some Shades When It’s Raining

Using windshield wipers when it’s raining is a given. Wearing shades while using your windshield wipers isn’t.

Believe it or not, putting on a pair of sunglasses with polarized lenses helps you see better during a downpour – or when it’s snowing or foggy for that matter.


Polarized sunglasses counteract the effects of scattered or reflected light experienced from the prism of moisture in the air. Put simply: They help focus light.

Speaking of light…

2. There’s No Such Thing as Overusing Your Headlights

If you’re the proud owner of a semi-modern car that’s equipped with Daytime Running Lights (DRL), then you’re more or less covered – although it should be noted that by turning on your headlights, you’re also turning on your taillights, which reduces the likelihood of being rear-ended.

But for those with a more “old-fashioned” car, make turning on your headlights as much a part of your driving routine as putting your car into drive.

Countries with 24-hour headlight rules like Canada, Norway, and Sweden, have shown a 5 to 10% decrease in the number of collisions by enacting this bit of driving safety into law.

3. (Don’t) Pump the Brakes

Of all the things that can happen when you’re driving, experiencing a tire blowout is easily one that induces the most panic.

Your first instinct, fueled by adrenaline, is going to scream: “STOP!”


Instead of pumping the brakes, pump the gas.

With a blown tire, you’re working with 25% less momentum as you were milliseconds before. To maintain your pace, you need to accelerate, which is a little more difficult to do when your foot is pressing the wrong pedal.

Bonus tip: You can avoid the likelihood of getting a blowout by ensuring your tires are properly inflated – and get better traction, too.

4. Just Skidding

Fun fact: When your car hydroplanes, there’s so much water built up in your tires, they lose contact with the road or ground, giving a sense of momentary flight. Hence the name.

Not so fun fact: 1.5 million car crashes happen every year when there’s water on the road – more than ice or snow.

While the safest thing any driver can do is to stay off the road when driving conditions aren’t ideal, that’s simply not a reality.

So, if you need to drive in the middle of a downpour and find your car hydroplaning, here’s the first thing you need to do: Nothing at all for as long as your tires aren’t touching the ground.

While this split-second of inactivity might feel like the longest of your life, wait for the skid to stop. And while your heart is racing, do the opposite with your foot on the gas pedal: Ease it off.

But what about your eyes and hands? What should they be doing?

The same thing as they should do with a skid in rain, ice or snow: Coordinate their movement. Keep looking at where you want your car to go and steer towards that point gently.

This is true regardless of whether it’s the front, back or all wheels doing the skidding.

5. Know What Time It Is

“10 and 2.”

Those are the numbers that have been drilled into every driver’s head informing where hands belong on a steering wheel.

But things have changed.

Thanks to airbags, the recommendation has been updated to “9 and 3.”

The reasons are twofold: It makes hand-over-hand steering maneuvers easier and reduces the likelihood of wrist and arm fractures stemming from these body parts hitting the A-pillars (the part of your car that holds the windshield in place) and rearview mirrors when airbags are deployed.

6. Wait for a Certain Shade of Green

You’re a relatively good driver. Or, at least you’re trying to be.

How do we know? You’re reading this blog.

But here’s the thing: not everyone places quite the priority on safety as you do. A lot of drivers are impatient. Impulsive.

Need more proof?

Consider that 165,000 accidents happen every year when people run red lights. Another 700,000 occur from people who blow through stop signs. That’s nearly a million accidents every year – or 2,369 every day.

That’s a lot of (frightening) statistics. So, what should you do in light of them?

If you’re the first car at a red light, look both ways before crossing the intersection when the light turns green.

If you’re at a stop sign, scan both ways before resuming your drive, just to be safe.

Will you annoy the driver that’s behind you every now and then? Yes.

Will you get honked at more than before? Indeed.

But there will come a time when your safety-first approach will avoid an accident for you – and the driver behind you.

Safety Pays

There you have it: Some not-so-commonly used ways to make you statistically less likely to get into an accident.

And safety pays, literally, in the form of reduced premiums.

Madison Mutual offers other simple ways for you to save on your auto insurance.

Find an agent nearest you to discuss all our affordable coverage options.

And most importantly, stay safe out there on the road.

A home thermostat is rising in temperature

Top 7 Tricks to Beat the Heat (Without Breaking the Bank)

Ever wonder why July seems like it’s the hottest month of the year? Well, according to The Weather Channel, that’s because it is.

Here in the Midwest, it’s not uncommon for cooling costs alone to be more than $300 while Mother Nature does her best furnace impression.

So, here are seven simple things you can do this weekend to save money the rest of this summer – and every summer from here on out – on keeping your cool. Literally.


One of the most budget-friendly things a homeowner can do to cut cooling costs is to plant a tree in a sensible spot.

Not only will the shade be free, so will the fruit (if you plant a fruit-bearing type).

But not everyone has the space, green thumb, or patience needed for a tree to grow.

That’s where awnings come in.

Adding one to southern or western facing windows can reduce heat gains by as much as 70%!

Prices vary widely depending on the size and style, so shop around. And while there is an upfront investment if you go this route, the costs should be recouped in a few short summers.


Are you 100% certain all the vents throughout your house are open? Truly positive?

Take two minutes just to make sure. And while you’re at it, consider rearranging any furniture that might be blocking airflow. Your thermostat is set to hit a specific number. The fewer vents that are open, the harder your system needs to work to do what you’re asking it to.


Here’s an extra incentive for you to fully switch to LED bulbs if you haven’t already: They emit even less heat than CFL bulbs, meaning less energy is needed to cool the rooms when your lamps are on.

And with many electric companies offering attractive rebates or incentives (not to mention the wonder of Amazon), it’s entirely possible to outfit every light and lamp in your home with LED bulbs for next to nothing.


While it’s generally recommended to hire a professional for an air conditioner tune-up, you can do a little yourself to keep it running smoothly:

  • Clear grass clippings, leaves and other debris away from the unit. For best airflow, nothing should be around your air conditioner within a two-foot radius
  • Using a hose, remove the top of the unit and spray from the inside out. This will help loosen or remove items that would otherwise make your unit work harder than it needs to. IMPORTANT: Be sure to shut off power to the unit to avoid potential injury!
  • You know the thin mesh covering of your AC unit? That’s called the fin. And you can clean it with something called… a fin comb. Simply running one through the outer covering will help keep the unit clean of clogs and straighten out bent fins. Be gentle when combing though! The fins are delicate and can get bent if caution isn’t used.


Ceiling fans don’t actually make rooms cooler. They just make rooms feel cooler – as long as the fan is running the right way: Counterclockwise.

How do you know if it is?

Stand directly beneath it and watch the blades spin; they should be moving from the top left to the bottom right, back to the top.

An even easier way: you should be able to feel air moving. If you don’t, the fan is spinning clockwise.

If you need to change the way your fan is spinning, it’s literally as easy as flipping a switch (usually near the light encasement, on the side).


This is especially true when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Instead of running the air on full blast, fill up a rubber hot water bottle and stick it in the freezer. Then bring it up with you, throw it under the covers and: Presto! Your bed is now at least a few degrees cooler.

If you have satin or silk sheets, swap them for breathable cotton until the leaves start changing color.

And if you really don’t want to be a hothead, using a buckwheat pillow during the summer can keep you from getting drenched in sweat while you try to sleep.


Not you: Your appliances – especially those producing heat, like your dishwasher or dryer.

Instead of running these during the daytime or peak-heat hours, try waiting until dusk or a little later. Doing so will keep the temperature inside your house more comfortable and manageable.

For the truly vigilant, consider handwashing your dishes or using an old-fashioned clothesline.

There we have it: Seven things you can do this weekend (or even tonight) to lower your cooling costs from now on.

And here’s a bonus tip for saving more money every month: Reviewing your home insurance policy to make sure you have the level of coverage you need without paying too much.

Find an agent nearest you or call 800-766-MMIC (6642).

A happy family unpacks boxes in the living room of their new home

Smart Moves: The Best Time of Year to Find Your New Home

Packing up and settling in somewhere new is a big move. Without careful planning, you may miss big opportunities to get the abode of your dreams or save major dollars. So when is the best time of the year to start looking for your new dwelling?

First, outline your goals for your new home and decide what is most important to you — this will influence when you should start shopping. There are two key factors that typically influence movers to select one time of year vs. another: Those who wish to have a selection of homes, or those who are looking for the best deal.

Seeking Selection
If you’re looking for options, move when the masses move: May through September. Families often move when kids are on summer vacation, and college students are shifting their living situations as well; so there are usually more options available. Plus, nice weather is ideal for the actual move day. However, because so many others have the same plan, prices may be higher due to increased demand. If you plan on hiring a moving company for move-in day, secure the date a few months in advance to ensure their availability.

Desiring Deals
Find the best deals during fall and winter. Although you might not have the same selection as the warm summer months, you will have less competition to get the place you want. During this time, property managers and landlords are looking to fill their vacant properties. For even better savings, browse areas with new properties that need to be filled. In addition to finding better deals during this non-peak moving season, securing a moving company should be a breeze at this time.

Your personal circumstances are ultimately going to influence the best time for your move. Families are most likely best moving in the summer so kids have time to settle in before the school year begins. If you have flexibility, the non-peak season may be your best route to saving money on your dream destination.

How to Give Notice

    1. Read your lease.
    Check your lease to see when it ends, and look for any additional terms that may affect you. Your lease should list how to give notice of leaving, the return of your deposit, and how damage and cleaning fees will be addressed.
    2. Put your notice in writing.
    First, draft your notice in writing with your exact move-out date — this is called an “Intent to Vacate” letter. When you send it to your landlord or property manager’s office, be sure to have the letter signed for delivery so you have its arrival on record. For extra consideration, talk to your landlord in person about your intent to move. This may also clear up any questions regarding your lease.

Move-in Day
Be sure to check the forecast and avoid moving during severe weather if possible. A universal rule is to avoid scheduling your move-in day around the holidays. Not only will it be more difficult to find others to help, there also will be more cars on the road, making your move slow.

After you’ve settled in your new home, talk to your local Madison Mutual agent today to review your homeowners insurance policy. Renters, we have policies built for you as well! Contact an agent close to you to see how we can help protect your abode.

Roof Care 101: Repair vs. Replace

Storm season is approaching, which means the elements may wreak havoc on your roof. You may find a leak or missing shingles, but how do you know if you should repair or replace your roof?


If you have a suspicion that the roof may need repairs or need to be replaced, start in the attic. Look for beams of sunlight coming through the roof boards, this could indicate a leaky roof. If light can shine through, so can other elements, like rain and snow.


Only one area is damaged

It’s definitely easier to repair or replace a small section that’s restricted to one area.

Only a few shingles are affected

If only a few shingles are affected, you can simply repair or replace those. But if your shingles look worn across the whole roof, you may consider replacing it.

There’s one leak

Be sure to get any leak fixed quickly before it causes further damage to your home.



Cracked shingles

Storms can be quite the hazard for shingles. If multiple shingles are cracked, a new roof may be in order.

Curled shingle edges

You’ll recognize curled shingles if the edges turn upward or the middle of the shingles are coming up. Look at your roof from the point that receives the most direct sunlight. This will give you an easier viewpoint to tell if the shingles are curling.

Sagging roof

If your roof looks like it’s sagging, this could become a big problem to your home. Look for rotting boards and trapped moisture. Visible moss on the surface can be an indicator of trapped moisture.

A general rule is to get your roof inspected about once a year and after each severe weather event, including heavy wind, hail or snow. Be sure to contact a professional roofing contractor for a full evaluation or to ask any questions regarding the care of your roof.


Wet Conditions

Always wait to work on the roof’s dry surface, even if you’re just examining it. If work has begun on your roof and the forecast calls for rain, stop work altogether. With the right tools and know-how, you can protect your hard work from succumbing to the rainfall.

  1. Do not start roofing when the roof sheathing is wet.
  2. Be sure to have tarps ready to go in the chance of a rain shower.
  3. Cover the decking with tarp while the weather turns wet.
  4. Allow the roof deck to fully dry if it has gotten wet already.

Just as you would not work in rainy or icy conditions, do not expect your roofing contractors to do so either. In fact, if a worker continues to work in the chance of rain showers, this may be a red flag. Roofing in the rain is not only unsafe for those working on it, it can also expose your home to damage.

Your roof keeps you covered, and Madison Mutual knows how important coverage is for you and your home. Contact a Madison Mutual agent today to find the best home insurance policy for you.


10 Simple Steps to Keep Your Home in Shape

Maintaining your home can be a daunting task at first. Unexpected mishaps occur, causing homeowners and landlords costly repairs. But with diligent checkups, you can prevent those mishaps from getting unmanageable and keep your home in shape all year long. Below are 10 basic maintenance routines that can save you headaches and prevent major repairs.

  1. Routine checkups

Start simple: Test and replace the batteries for your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Even hard-wired smoke detectors have backup batteries that need to be tested and replaced. This routine checkup can prevent massive home damage and keep your loved ones safe.

  1. Yes, fire extinguishers do expire

If you’re not sure if you can still rely on your fire extinguisher, check the pressure gauge. If the needle is in the green, your fire extinguisher is in the clear. Otherwise, it’s time to get a new one.

  1. You have the power

Every month, test all Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) outlets by pressing the “test” button or using a GFCI tester. Call a professional electrician to help if you’re unsure.

  1. Clean air, clean home

Change your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) filters every one to three months, depending on your household. If you have a large household with pets, your filter may need to be checked more often. If your filter is damaged, replace immediately. Regular filter changes are key to maintaining healthy air quality in your home. Bonus benefit: increased HVAC efficiency, which means lower cost to run.

  1. Test the waters

If you have rooms that aren’t occupied daily, such as a guest bathroom, be sure to run the faucet and flush the toilet. This will help prevent grime or buildup.

  1. Rinse and repeat

If your washing machine and dryer are not routinely monitored, it can be hazardous to your home. Regularly check for exhaust to come out of your dryer. (Tip: it should smell like fresh laundry!) If exhaust is not coming out, check for blockages — this may require a professional. Additionally, be sure there are no leaks in your supply hose. If you have a metal supply hose, tighten it until it cannot be tightened any further.

  1. Clean the lint

Always clean the dryer lint screen after every load of laundry to prevent fires!

  1. Basement patrol

Don’t forget about the basement! Take a look through the area for any repairs and mold. If your concrete walls are visible, make note of any cracks and water because these can be indicators of foundation issues. Use a piece of chalk to mark any cracks so you can track the “growth.”

  1. Chimney sweep

To prevent a chimney fire, check the chimney, fireplace and vents at least once a year to remove buildup of soot and creosote. Removing creosote can be a challenge, so it’s recommended to have your chimney inspected by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweep. Another tip: Never burn trash, cardboard boxes or trees in your fireplace because these can spark fires!

  1. Deep clean

Just as dentists recommend flossing your teeth in addition to daily brushing, it’s recommended to give your home a deep clean to enhance home care. Take one day a month to walk through your home and clean all the nooks and crannies. This includes baseboards, doorframes, cabinets and more. A clean home is a healthy home.


By regularly completing these 10 basic tips, you reduce your risk of frequent and costly home repairs. When in doubt, contact an experienced plumber, electrician or other professional.

As all homeowners know, anything can happen; so make sure your property is covered with a home insurance policy from Madison Mutual. Be a champion of safety and contact an agent today to determine the best coverage for you.