3 homeowners insurance tips to know before planting flowers or vegetables

(BPT) – Days are getting longer and warmer, inspiring many to want to spend more time outside. Lots of people enjoy gardening this time of year — it’s an outdoor activity families can do together, especially if parents are looking for ways to keep their children occupied. It’s also a great way to get some fresh air, light exercise, relieve stress and add to your home’s curb appeal.

“Sprucing up your landscaping with some new flower beds and shrubs can give your home a refreshed look,” said Christopher O’Rourke, vice president of property claims at Mercury Insurance. “A well-maintained yard can also help protect against common homeowners insurance claims like water and fire damage. For example, keeping gutters cleared of leaves and debris can help prevent blockages that might direct water into the home. Regularly mowing the lawn, pruning bushes and keeping the yard free of grass clippings and twigs is aesthetically pleasing and can help mitigate against wildfire risk if homeowners live in an area where these are common.”

Here are three additional tips O’Rourke recommends.

1. Well-planned landscaping can help mitigate wildfire risk.

Homeowners who live in areas with dry climates that are susceptible to wildfires should evaluate their landscaping — if laid out in a certain way, it might increase your home’s insurability.

“The plants surrounding a house have one of the greatest influences on its chances of survival,” said Douglas Kent, wildfire expert, author and professor of land management at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Plants within the five feet closest to your home should be fleshy and moist, as they are reluctant to produce a flame. Instead, they’ll sizzle and wilt when exposed to flames and heat. If properly maintained, these plants can catch and extinguish a firebrand.

O’Rourke notes that homeowners who don’t live in fire country can also take precautions to protect against fires. “Trimming tree limbs so they’re at least 10 feet away from your home and pruning unruly bushes can help prevent fires caused by lightning strikes, for example, from jumping onto your roof or exterior walls,” he said.

2. Before hiring expert help, inquire about coverage.

Some gardening jobs may take an expert to complete. However, this brings added exposure to a homeowner if they don’t check on coverage from the contractor. With shovels, rakes and power tools being used, an accident could happen at any moment.

“Before signing a contract with a landscaper or gardener, ask them for their proof of insurance,” said O’Rourke. “If they don’t have coverage, you probably want to find one who does. In most cases, the contractor’s coverage will act as the primary insurance should one of their employees get injured while on the job.”

O’Rourke also recommends homeowners read their insurance policies in full, so they know what is and what isn’t covered in the event of a loss. “Knowledge is power, so understanding your policy is of utmost importance,” he adds. “Talk to your agent if you have questions. They’re also the best resource to help you determine if you have the right amount of coverage.”

3. Consult with your insurance agent after hardscaping.

Most gardens feature a combination of plants and decorative, non-living features or structures, like pathways, fencing or even fountains to help better define and add character to the space. Many homeowners also like to indulge in the warm weather by expanding their outside living space, which can include anything from remodeling a patio to building a garden oasis for relaxing and entertaining.

Regardless of how you may want to enhance your landscape to better showcase — and enjoy — your gardening prowess, it’s a good idea to speak with your insurance agent after making any significant changes to your property.

“Our homes are typically where we spend the majority of our time, so it’s natural to want to customize them to our specific needs and wants. However, renovations — including those done outdoors — can increase a home’s replacement cost if it’s damaged or destroyed,” said O’Rourke. “Talking to your agent about enhancements you’ve made will help ensure you’re properly insured so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for many years to come.”