Home maintenance: What’s the life expectancy of various parts of your home?

tools in a blue jean back pocketOngoing home maintenance is important in preventing any losses that may trigger insurance claims. It can be helpful to have a guideline to gauge the expected lifespan of certain home infrastructure systems and components. When it comes to experts about home longevity, who could be better than the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)? On their site, they offer general guidelines on how many years of service a home owner can reasonably expect from the various components of a home. They caution that “…numerous factors — including use, maintenance, climate, advances in technology and simple consumer preferences — can have a dramatic effect on the longevity of a product.”

Here’s a sampling of a few items that they list:

  • Roofing. Slate, copper and clay/concrete roofs have a 50-year life expectancy; asphalt-shingle roofs, 20 years; fiber cement shingles, 25 years; and wood shakes, 30 years. However, the life of a roof depends on local weather conditions, proper building and design, material quality and adequate maintenance.
  • Countertops. Natural stone, which is less expensive than a few years ago and gaining in popularity, can last a lifetime. Cultured marble, by contrast, is relatively short-lived, with an age expectancy of 20 years.
  • Garages. Garage doors last 10 to 15 years, and light inserts for 20.

Another useful guide is InterNACHI’s Standard Estimated Life Expectancy Chart for Homes from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. These charts offer predicted life expectancy of home appliances, products, materials, systems and components.

For a guide to the life expectancy of major home appliances, Mr.Appliance offers a low, high and average expectancy for ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves and more.

“Bad Breaks”: RJ Mitte talks to millennials about insurance

RJ Mitte — star of the hit television series “Breaking Bad” — talks about insurance in a new series of video shorts called “Bad Breaks” which are designed to raise awareness in millennials about the importance of insurance. The series is part of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Insure U. If you aren’t familiar with Insure U, check it out it’s an informative, objective user-friendly resource for reliable information about insurance. It’s designed to help educate insurance consumers about various insurance products and how to avoid being scammed. It also offers tools and resources from state insurance regulators.

RJ’s Bad Breaks: Auto Accidents Aplenty is the first release – two more are planned.

College survival guide: Safety tips, what to pack, dorm hacks

Students walking on campus On University Campus

Recently, we posted about college students and insurance. Today, we have some additional college prep resources — sort of an all-purpose college survival guide. First and foremost we have links to several safety & security checklists because all the insurance in the world won’t help if you don’t make safety a priority. We also have links to what to pack guides, tips for first year students and advice for how to eat healthy while in college.

Campus Security Checklist

Security Safety Checklist

Campus and dorm fires

Campus and dorm fire safety tips

What to Bring for Campus Living and How to Pack in 3 Easy Steps

List of Items Not to Bring to College: Dorm Room Contraband

Off-to-College Checklist

10 Tips To Survive Your First Year Of College

Your First Year of College: 25 Strategies and Tips to Help You Survive and Thrive Your Freshman Year and Beyond

42 College Tips I Learned Freshman Year

27 Ways To Eat Like An Adult In College

10 Easy Ways to Eat Healthy in College (It’s Possible, We Promise!)

36 Life Hacks Every College Student Should Know

Take advantage of tax free shopping this weekend


Save some money this weekend! In Massachusetts, the 6.25% sales tax is being waived as a tax holiday over Aug. 15-16, an annual tradition that goes back more than a decade. Buy almost any purchase of goods tax-free if they have a price tag of $2,500 or less – excluding motor vehicles, motor boats, tobacco, gas or meals. Connecticut also kicks off a tax-free week from Aug 16 through Aug. 22, but it’s limited to clothing items of $100 or less. (Note – in prior years, it was good for clothing items of $300 or less.)

In both states, you can purchase multiple items, as long as no individual item exceeds the limit. You can also get the tax breaks at online retailers.

We encourage you to do some research and shop local. Retailers typically sweeten the pot by adding their own discounts and sales to coordinate with these tax-free holidays — some deals are very generous! But remember, whether you shop in your community or online, be a smart and cautious shopper: identity thieves don’t take holidays.

2015 Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday Weekend – Aug. 15-16

You can learn the ins and outs of the 2015 Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday Weekend at the Department of Revenue site. Here’s a quick summary:

“The Act provides that the sales tax holiday will occur on August 15 and 16, 2015 and on those days, non-business sales at retail of single items of tangible personal property costing $2,500 or less are exempt from sales and use taxes, subject to certain exclusions. The following do not qualify for the sales tax holiday exemption and remain subject to tax: all motor vehicles, motorboats, meals, telecommunications services, gas, steam, electricity, tobacco products and any single item whose price is in excess of $2,500. “

The posting provides quite a bit of detail about the rules – check it out if you have questions about the particulars. Here are some other resources:

Massachusetts sales tax holiday weekend 2015: Your guide to skipping the state’s sales tax

Retailers to extend tax-free weekend

2015 Connecticut Tax-Free Week – Aug. 16 through 22

The Hartford Courant offers a good explainer of how the holiday works, along with some Q&A: What’s Tax-Free, What’s Not During CT’s Tax-Free Week.

“The new state budget, which took effect July 1, waives the 6.35 percent sales tax on most clothing items, shoes and boots priced under $100 during this period. Since 2000, the tax exemption has applied to items priced under $300.”

The Courant notes that sales tax is exempted for Connecticut residents who shop online or by phone if purchased during tax-free week, regardless of when purchases are delivered. Items placed on layaway during the week are also tax-free. But out-of-state residents need to shop in Connecticut stores to get the break.

Here’s another resource to learn more:
Connecticut tax free week 2015: Your guide to state’s annual clothing sales tax break

If you are traveling and will miss the Massachusetts and Connecticut sales, residents can shop online. Plus, several states offer tax-free weekends – check them out to see if they coincide with your travels.

Kids heading off to college? Double check insurance coverage first


If you have a child headed off to college, it’s time to check your current insurance policies and have a talk with your insurance agent to ensure your student has adequate protection.

Homeowners / renters insurance
If your student will be living in a dorm, their possessions may be covered by your homeowners policy for perils like fire, theft, vandalism and natural disasters such as a hurricane. But your coverage may have limits – the Insurance Information Institute (III) explains:

“Other policies may limit the amount of coverage for a college student’s belongings to 10 percent of the total amount of a policy’s overall coverage for personal possessions. So if parents have $100,000 worth of personal possessions insurance for the family’s primary residence, for example, only $10,000 would be applicable to possessions in their youngster’s dorm room.”

If your student has expensive electronic equipment, as many students do, you should check limits to ensure you have adequate coverage. Laptops, smartphones, tablets and TVs can add up! Plus, talk over cost/benefit scenarios related to deductibles with your agent. You want them high enough to keep insurance rates reasonable but not so high that it will create a hardship to replace a stolen laptop.

Not in a dorm? If students will be living in an apartment, your homeowners probably will not cover them. Renters insurance is inexpensive and may be the best bet. See our recent post that covers myths and misconceptions about renters insurance.

Auto insurance
If your student is under the age of 25 and college is within 100 miles of your home, he or she may be covered by your policy. If further than 100 miles away, the student still may be covered on your policy if they only drive while visiting your home. If your student will only be driving while on college breaks, talk to your agent to see if this could help to lower rates – you may be able to get a discount.

If your student will be 100+ miles away with a car, a separate policy may be required. Talk to your agent to determine the best option for your situation. III also suggests checking to see if your student is eligible for any “good student” discounts or whether safe driver training programs could reduce rates.

Tuition Insurance
Check to see what the college refund policy is. If tuition is very high, you may want to talk to your agent about a specialty tuition reimbursement insurance coverage that would kick in if the student had to leave school due to an unforeseen illness or physical disability – or in the event of the student’s death. Typically, these plans do not provide reimbursement for students who are expelled or who decide to leave the college for other reasons.

Identity theft insurance
Students are at high risk for identity theft. You may want to educate them about safety concerns and it might be worth investing in an ID theft protection product.

Stand-alone coverage for electronics

III suggests this option: “Parents may want to look into acquiring stand-alone policies for desktop computers, laptops, tablets and iPads, and other electronics as they may provide coverage against accidental damage, liquid spills and other events not included under a standard homeowners or renters policy. Keep in mind that if you are using a credit card to buy such items, some insurance protection may also be available through the card itself.”