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Best Practices for Home Construction Projects

Whether building your home from the ground up or remodeling your current home, with today’s construction costs, and possible delays due to material and labor shortages, construction and renovation can be an expensive and lengthy process. Additionally, the possibility of an accidental fire or other damage increases considerably while a home is under construction. 

Construction-related losses can be minimized or possibly avoided altogether, however, by working with your contractor to implement some relatively simple and potentially life-saving measures. By taking the steps outlined below, the hope is that you will put yourself in position to have a safer construction project.

Safety Products and Systems

Keep a sufficient number of portable fire extinguishers distributed on each level of the home and in the garage in highly visible locations, preferably wall-mounted. Having several fire extinguishers close at hand can help prevent a small fire from causing major damage. We recommend multipurpose models (Type A-B-C) of at least 10 lbs. in weight.

If renovating your home, continue to monitor your alarm system during construction. Replacing smoke detectors with heat sensors should reduce the possibility of false alarms from the dust that may be produced during construction. Another option is to have existing smoke detectors covered with plastic bags or manufactured tops and removed at night, when fires most often occur.

If constructing a new home, install a temporary security and fire alarm system as soon as the house is enclosed. Only a phone line and a temporary power source are needed to give you centrally monitored protection and automatic notification of a fire or break-in after workers have left. There may also be cellular options if a phone line is unavailable.

Also, if building a new home, consider installing a residential sprinkler system, particularly if your property is located in an area that lacks fire hydrants, or may take significant time for the fire department to respond. A residential sprinkler system can suppress a fire, giving the fire department time to respond and set up. If installed during the early stages of construction, a sprinkler system is an affordable way to provide protection against a major fire.

Installing a leak detection system with an automatic water shut-off valve is an inexpensive way to help protect your property from water leaks and pipe bursts after construction is complete. Additionally, you may be eligible for insurance premium discounts that could pay for the system over time.

Site Controls and General Maintenance

Vacant construction sites are susceptible to theft and unwanted visitors. Motion-activated lighting, perimeter fencing, gates or chains across driveways, and monitored security cameras are ways you can protect your home while it is vacant. 

Many commonly used construction materials are highly combustible, so it is important to speak to your contractor about cleaning up every day. Have them make sure scrap lumber, sawdust, cardboard containers and other debris are removed daily and all extension cords are disconnected.

Oily rags and solvents are highly flammable, so have painters remove them at the end of each day or have them stored in U.L.-approved flammable liquid storage cabinets and fireproof cans a safe distance from the structure. Also, establish a no smoking policy and prohibit smoking within 50 feet of the structure.

If there is any soldering or welding taking place, establish a “Hot Works” program that involves having the area inspected before work begins, protection of combustible materials nearby from heat and sparks, and reinspection of the area after work is completed.

Site Control and Safety Product Checklist

We encourage you to discuss these safety points and device installations with your contractor:

  • Are fire extinguishers located on all levels of the house?
  • Have you planned for burglary/fire detection/alarms?
  • Is the worksite secured when the workers aren’t there?
  • Is the worksite always left clean?
  • Do you know if blowtorches or combustible materials will be used, and if so, who will be responsible for them?
  • Is your neighborhood protected by a public fire hydrant?
  • If not, do other steps need to be taken to provide water in the event of a fire?
  • Have you considered the installation of a residential sprinkler system?
  • Have you considered the installation of an automatic water shut-off valve/leak detection system?
  • Are emergency numbers (fire department, police department, ambulance) handy and in a visible spot?
  • Have you ensured that your general contractor maintains insurance with adequate limits of liability and has provided you with an adequate certificate of insurance?

 

Paul Leichtle is a Risk Consultant with Chubb Personal Risk Services.

The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.