Adding a deck or hot tub to your backyard is an exciting investment in your outdoor living space. Congratulations on making your backyard an even more enjoyable place to spend time with family and friends! It is wise to consider how your backyard renovation will affect your home insurance coverage. Here is what you need to know about making those improvements to your yard.

Always keep your insurance company in the loop
You need to let your insurers know anytime you renovate or construct additions on your property. Not informing your insurance company about your deck or hot tub could leave you open to claim denial on grounds of misrepresentation in the future, which is not fun for anybody. It is also likely that adding a deck and hot tub to your property will cost more than a few thousand dollars, so you need to work with your insurance provider to make sure you adjust your insurance coverage for the new, increased value of your home.

Your insurer will likely factor a deck attached to your house into your home’s reconstruction cost. This will probably lead to a slight increase in your premiums, but will help make sure the entire value of your home is covered under your policy. Covering your addition protects the investment you put in to have it built, after all.

Ask your insurer about what perils your property is currently insured against. If your current policy doesn’t cover acts of nature like windstorms or hail, you may want to consider purchasing all risk insurance to protect your new backyard investments. You will also want to consider whether your new deck or hot tub are subject to actual cash value or replacement cost coverage. Replacement cost coverage will help you pay to replace your deck or hot tub if they are damaged, whereas “actual cash value” policies can only payout the value of these items minus the depreciation in their value.

Inspect your home for structural damage and ask for proof that your contractor is insured
Before you head off to a hardware store or look into hiring a contractor for your backyard renovations, you should assess the condition of any part of your home that will be connected to, or could be affected by your deck or hot tub installation. If you notice anything wrong with the structure of your home, such as cracks in your foundation, you should report the issue to your insurer and have it fixed as soon as possible. This will help protect you down the road if you need to make a claim for a flooded basement.

In addition to an inspection, take pictures of the parts of your property that could be affected by deck or hot tub installations. These photos will be helpful if you need to make a claim against a company you have hired to work on your renovations. Any company you hire to install or service your deck and hot tub should have their own insurance policy to cover damages that could occur while working on your property. Make sure you ask for proof of their insurance coverage before letting them start a project!

Do not skimp on safety precautions
Your insurance company wants everyone who steps foot in your backyard to be as safe as possible, and so do your local building authorities. Make sure you obtain all of the proper building permits from your municipality and follow all of their construction and safe-use requirements.

  • Check by-laws regarding the height and type of fencing needed to enclose your backyard.
  • Many municipalities will require you to install fencing with lockable gates and construct potential hazards (like hot tubs) a certain distance from your fence.
  • Make sure you have the required safety equipment on hand, like a secure hot tub cover, proper drain covers, temperature controls, and lighting equipment for night-time safety.

Even if your backyard fixtures are up to code by your city’s standards, double-check that your insurance company does not have additional safety requirements.

Liability protection is important
Making sure your new backyard additions follow all of the relevant safety standards will help protect you from legal liability and possible denial of insurance claims in case someone injures himself or herself in your backyard. If you don’t already have personal liability insurance coverage for your property, now is a good time to get it. Hot tubs and raised decks can cause accidents as small as fractured ankles, but that can cost money if you’re held legally responsible and sued.

Having liability insurance coverage will help cover any legal fees due to unforeseen accidents, but you’re still responsible for taking all reasonable steps to maintain a safe environment on your property at all times.

  • Never leave your hot tub unattended without securing it with a lockable cover.
  • Have your hot tub and deck serviced and inspected regularly to ensure all components are working properly.
  • Regularly clean your hot tub, treat and test its water quality to stop the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Do not let children play in your backyard unsupervised.
  • Don’t allow children younger than 7 years old to use your hot tub.
  • Do not let guests use your hot tub alone.
  • Be especially cautious not to serve too much alcohol to your guests.
  • Practice year-round maintenance, including properly securing your hot tub for the winter, and removing snow/ice from your deck.
  • If you decide to use your hot tub in the winter, be sure to follow your hot tub manufacturer’s winter operation instructions.

What about other backyard renovations?
The insurance requirements for swimming pools are similar to those of hot tubs. However, an in-ground swimming pool with a diving board and a slide will likely be more expensive to insure than a hot tub or deck.

Always give your insurer a detailed description of any new backyard renovation projects, including the construction of a shed, treehouse and any landscaping work that will add value to your property.

Your deck or hot tub will add a great deal of value to your home. It makes sense that these high-ticket renovations will also add financial value to your home that needs to be protected by your insurance policy. Once you know that your insurer covers your backyard additions, you will have the peace of mind you need to relax in your new outdoor entertainment hub. Stay safe and have fun!

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