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How To Stay Safe on a Motorcycle This Summer

Through the long winter months in the Northland, Minnesotans dream of warmer weather and getting out in the sunshine. Motorcycles are a fun way to enjoy the back roads and scenic highways, but you must know how to stay safe on a motorcycle for the most care-free touring experience.

No matter what you’ll be driving this summer, the Lake Region Independent Agents can find the coverage you need. Visit our website today to schedule a free insurance review or consultation. Our agents are available in Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN. We’ll help you select the best plan on the market for your needs.

How to Stay Safe on a Motorcycle at All Times

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we want to make sure all our clients get out there and enjoy Greater Minnesota. But safety is paramount when you do it on your motorcycle. We’ve assembled several tips to help you enjoy your bike with confidence and care.

Start with the right bike for your body size and experience.

It’s critical to try several different motorcycle models before you make a purchase. You’ll need to determine how much bike is right for your body size and frame. And you need to learn what you feel comfortable supporting. 

For example, it’s unlikely that a 6-foot-6-inch person will feel comfortable riding a smaller sportbike for long periods. On the flip side, a person of smaller stature may feel awkward atop a full-size motorcycle where their feet barely touch the ground. 

There is another crucial bike-size factor for safety. You must make sure you feel confident in supporting and balancing the bike’s weight when you’re at a stop. If you try out a motorcycle and always feel like you’ll tip over, then it may not be the best fit. 

To be safe, you need to be able to:

  • Sit comfortably on the bike.
  • Support the machine’s weight.
  • Lift and lower your feet with ease when transitioning from a stop.

Engine size is another essential aspect of safe motorcycle riding. It’s a good idea to start with a smaller, less powerful engine as a beginning rider. Bigger engines pack more punch and require significant control. 

For newbies and experienced riders alike, make sure you know the bike’s speed and acceleration capabilities. You have to handle the horsepower underneath you before you hit the road.

Take a class (or two or six).

Education and practice are two hallmarks of safe riding in Minnesota and beyond. Minnesota offers a comprehensive menu of safe rider courses all over the state. 

When you sign up for motorcycle safety training, you receive a lot of valuable information. You’ll get online classroom instruction on safe riding practices, applicable laws, and defensive driving techniques. Plus, you will practice your skills on a suitable and dedicated course with a training bike. You’ll learn road skills like:

  • Stopping
  • Shifting 
  • Turning
  • Clutch and throttle control
  • Straight-line riding techniques

Classes target beginners, intermediate riders, and experts. The skills taught in each course differ according to your level of expertise and experience. 

Keep your riding skills fresh by taking a new course before that first long ride of the season, even if it’s a repeat. You’ll likely gain practice in an area where you feel less confident each time you take the class.

Grow an extra set of eyeballs.

Most motorcycle accidents occur because a car driver didn’t see a motorcyclist. You’ll need to hone your defensive driving skills to remain safe on your bike. Be sure to stay clear of other motorists’ blind spots on the road. And don’t assume that cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles can see you.

Get visible with your gear.

It can be tempting to kit yourself out in the classic black leather of the iconic rider. Leather can provide excellent skin protection and keep you warm in the elements. However, high-visibility gear is the way to go for safety.

When you wear bright yellows, greens, and oranges, you’re more visible on the road to other drivers. Visibility means increased safety. Motorists may notice you more quickly during turns, at intersections, or on the freeway. 

With the increasing trendiness of high-vis motorcycle gear, you have a lot of options available. Now there is a wide array of state-of-the-art materials in styles for any preference.

Don’t forget your helmet.

Helmet laws are controversial in many states. But the fact is, motorcycle helmets significantly reduce the instance of head injuries and the risk of death. The statistics are staggering and illustrate the importance of helmet use. When wondering how to stay safe on a motorcycle, using a helmet is critical.

Make sure your helmet is DOT approved and no older than five years for the best protection. Inspect your helmet each season for signs of wear or damage. 

If you purchase a helmet online, be sure the vendor has a comprehensive sizing guide. Quality vendors will have you take your exact measurements and submit them before ordering your helmet.

Your helmet fits properly when it’s snug but comfortable. When wearing your helmet, you should be able to shake your head gently and have the helmet stay put. This is especially important for young riders. Never put an adult helmet on a child. Kids should always have their own properly-fitted protection.

Get Comprehensive Insurance Coverage for Your Motorcycle

Of course, we hope that adopting the above safety precautions means you never get in a motorcycle accident. However, things happen on the road that you can’t control. Be sure you have coverage for every eventuality.

A motorcycle insurance policy from Lake Region Insurance Agency can increase your peace of mind when you’re on the road. Comprehensive coverage can help address medical bills, property damage, liability, and damage to your bike if there is an accident. It can also offer financial protection in the event of theft, vandalism, or fire.

Call or stop by one of our offices, and we’ll shop our extensive network of providers for the best deals. Ride easy knowing that Lake Region Insurance Agency has your back when you’re on the open roads of Greater Minnesota.

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Essential Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

It’s time to open the windows and let in the fresh air. Spring is officially here! How deep does your spring home maintenance checklist go? This time of year, it’s great to go beyond basic spring cleaning to get your house in excellent shape.

Maintenance isn’t the only thing your house needs to stay safe. Make sure you have adequate homeowners insurance in place, as well. Reach out today to the team of independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency for a free review.

Get Started On Your Spring Home Maintenance Checklist 

No matter where you live, spring is a great time to give your home some love and attention. Whether you are emerging from a gloomy winter or just want to freshen up your place, now is the perfect opportunity. With indoor and outdoor projects, you’ll soon get everything ship-shape.

Exterior Maintenance

These projects on your spring home maintenance checklist are best to do before the summer heat arrives.

  • Investigate the Roof – Safely and carefully assess your roof for any damage, leaks, or missing shingles. Or hire a professional to do the inspection for you. Address problem areas quickly so that your roof will last its proper lifespan.
  • Clean the gutters – Clear the gutters of any leaves or debris. Check the downspouts to ensure nothing is clogging them, and caulk any holes to prevent leaking. If they are sagging or are detached, reattach the gutters and replace any old or broken hardware. And make sure that downspouts are draining away from the home’s foundation. 
  • Examine the Concrete – Take a walk around your property to check the concrete patios, driveways, and pool foundations. If there are small cracks, you might be able to fill them with a concrete filler or a water-resistant silicone. However, if the concrete has severe damage, reach out to an expert to talk about replacement.
  • Inspect Faucets – Turn on outdoor faucets and check for any damage after the winter. Watch for leaks since they can strain your water bill. If your water pressure seems unusually low, you may have a cracked or broken pipe. Call a professional for help.
  • Clean the Air Conditioning Unit – Spring is the perfect time to take care of your HVAC system. Vacuum and wipe the vent to get rid of dust, and replace the filters before use. Spring is also an excellent time to schedule an AC tuneup and servicing. 
  • Give Your Deck Some TLC – Check the deck for any loose or missing nails or fasteners. Test the railing and stairs to be sure everything is still attached correctly. Look for water damage and stains, and replace any boards that are loose or rotting. A powerwash can help with the overall appearance of your deck.  
  • Check Your Fence – The winter weather can be hard on wooden structures such as decks and fences. After you care for your deck, it’s time to take a look at your fencing to check for decay and damage. Unless you really love your neighbors, you probably want your fence to remain intact.
  • Assess Windows and Doors – Now is the time to install screens if they aren’t already in place. Patch up tears or purchase a new screen if necessary. Check the seals on your windows to be sure they are ready to keep the summer heat out of your home.
  • Test the Sprinklers – Turn on the sprinklers and check for leaks or broken sprinkler heads. Replace heads and hoses if needed. Adjust the sprinklers so that they spray toward the grass and away from the house, sidewalk, and patios. Make sure to set your timer the way you want it.
  • Dress Up the Landscaping – Clear out the weeds and debris that collected during the winter and pack soil into any low areas in the ground. This step will help prevent flooding from spring rain. Cut back shrub overgrowth and add new plants, if desired. Small changes can make you feel like you have a whole new home with a boost to your curb appeal.

Interior Maintenance

Spring cleaning your home is an excellent way to feel happy in your space. But there are often interior projects that need your attention, too. Your spring home maintenance checklist is just as essential inside as it is outside. 

  • Open the Windows – It’s time to let the spring air in to freshen things up a bit. Clean the window frames of any dust, dirt, or mold that are lurking there.
  • Pay Attention to the Attic and Basement – These two spots are prone to mold growth because they are often damp, dark spaces. Check around the baseboards and lower section of each wall for moisture build-up. Clean up and dry any water to prevent the formation of mold. If you see some suspicious areas, call a professional for help to protect your health and safety. 
  • Do Routine Safety Checks – Test all the smoke and carbon dioxide detectors within your home. If necessary, replace the batteries immediately. Ensure that all exhaust fans are clean and in working order. And if you have a fire extinguisher in your house, make sure it is accessible and that the needle is within the green zone. Don’t have one yet? It’s time to get one.
  • Clean the Furnace – Your furnace has worked hard over the last few months to keep you warm. It now deserves a well-earned cleaning of the filter, motor, and blower. If you do not feel confident cleaning the furnace yourself, call in a professional. They will take care of this vital system so that it can continue to serve you.
  • Plan Other Upgrades – Spring is the perfect time to install new lighting, appliances, or other necessary items for your home. When planning these updates, you should consider energy-efficient options to help reduce utility costs. 

Enjoy a Safe Home This Season

Once you finish your checklist, you will be ready to enjoy the summer. And to be sure your house has the protection it needs, connect with a Lake Region agent today. We offer free insurance quotes and reviews for everything from home to life policies. Call or stop in at one of our Greater Minnesota offices today.

 

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5 Tips for Cleaning Gutters After the Winter

Now that we are fully into springtime and winter is behind us, you’re probably thinking about home maintenance projects. There is plenty to do after the harsh weather has taken its toll. One of the most important projects is to take care of your gutters. With some helpful tips for cleaning gutters, you can tackle this chore with ease.

No matter the season, your home deserves some TLC. One of the best ways to care for your house is to be sure you have adequate homeowners insurance. The friendly agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency can help. Stop by any of our Greater Minnesota offices for a free insurance review.

When is the Best Time to Clean Gutters?

Gutter maintenance is unlikely to be high on your list of favorite activities. But it is a critical component of caring for your home. Fortunately, cleaning the gutters is not something you have to do frequently.

Typically, you should tackle this project every six months. Most homeowners choose to do this as part of their spring cleaning after winter is over. Cleaning out your gutters this time of year helps to keep them working well when the rains come.

On that schedule, you’d do another cleaning after summer ends. Again, you will be able to clear the gutters of leaves and other debris before winter weather arrives.

As is often the case with home maintenance, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Don’t let clogged gutters create problems for you at an inconvenient time.

The Cost of Neglect

Your home’s gutters have one job. They collect precipitation from a home’s roof to direct it away from the house’s foundation. This process protects your house’s roof, siding, and foundation.

As with any kind of pipe, gutters need to be free of obstructions and blockages to fulfill their function. When something blocks your gutters, rainwater can accumulate and overflow. 

Where does the water go when it overflows? It goes to the very place you want it to avoid: your home’s foundation. When water ends up near the foundation, it can seep into your basement or crawlspace.

This issue creates a domino effect of problems since water in the basement can translate into mold growth. And mold can require expensive remediation to keep you and your family safe. Furthermore, foundation repair isn’t cheap. Homeowners can easily spend $10,000 or more to fix damage to this part of their house.

So routine maintenance on your gutters is vital to saving yourself time and trouble in the long run.

Tips for Cleaning Gutters on Your House

When it’s time to handle this chore, there are some simple steps to follow. These tricks and tips for cleaning gutters will help you finish quickly so that you can enjoy the spring weather.

1. Let a Scoop Do the Dirty Work

If you’ve avoided cleaning your gutters because the job is gross and tedious, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are some ways to streamline the task and minimize the “yuck” factor.

The debris that accumulates in your gutter tends to be organic material that decomposes, such as leaves. When this stuff begins to break down, it can congeal into a pretty gloppy mess. 

If scooping slimy matter out of a pipe with your hands doesn’t appeal to you, there’s good news. A plastic scoop cleans gutters efficiently and keeps your hands cleaner in the process.

Once you’ve eliminated the significant blockages, make sure you flush your gutters with a hose. This way, you can be sure you’ve thoroughly dislodged all foreign substances, big and small.

2. Be Smart About Ladder Safety

Ladder-related accidents account for about 300 deaths each year in the United States. So safety is critical during a gutter cleanout. To help keep yourself safe, follow some basic common sense steps:

  • Don’t use the ladder when you are all alone. Let someone know that you will be up there. Ideally, have another person on the ground to help keep the ladder stable.
  • Consider purchasing a ladder stabilizer for added safety, especially if you choose to work alone.
  • Make sure the ladder is tall enough for the job so that you can safely reach the gutters. Overreaching is one of the top causes of falls from ladders.
  • Follow all safety guidelines for your ladder.

3. Dress for the Job 

Gutter cleaning is a dirty job, so be sure to wear old clothes. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts give you the most protection. 

Gloves, a mask, and protective eyewear are also good ideas during this project. Debris can fly up at you as you work to dislodge blockages in the gutters. For ladder safety, be sure to wear sturdy shoes that will stay tied.

4. Have a Plan for the Debris

You might be wondering what you’re supposed to do with the gunk you scoop from your gutter. You don’t want to drop it on your yard or patio, or you’ll be doing double the work to clean it all up again.

Place a tarp below where you can drop all the debris. This step will make it simpler to gather and dump in with the yard debris. For smaller jobs, you could keep a bucket with you and empty it as it fills.

5. Consider Calling in the Pros

Do you have a bigger home or one that’s two stories or higher? Then one of the best tips for cleaning gutters is to hire a professional.

Although it requires an outlay of money, hiring a pro gets the job done quickly and safely. It also doesn’t force you to give up your sunny weekend to clean out the gutters. It’s a win-win!

Protect Your Home with Lake Region Insurance Agency

Your house is probably your most significant investment. Make sure you protect it with sufficient homeowners coverage. The Lake Region independent agents are here to serve you. From auto to life to homeowners insurance, our team can find just what you need.

Lake Region Insurance Agency has been serving the communities of Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN, since 1970. Let our experience guide you as you choose the best protection for your home and property. Reach out today to get started.

 

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What Is the Lifespan of a Roof?

For home and business owners everywhere, your greatest security often comes from what’s over your head: your roof. You may have wondered, “What is the lifespan of a roof?” especially if you noticed any signs of damage the last time you looked.

Since many insurance claims occur because of roof issues, let’s break down how long your roof should last, and what to do when it’s time to repair or replace your roof. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, our customers are also our neighbors. We know how critical it is to feel safe and secure in your home in Greater Minnesota. 

Stop by or call any of the local offices in Cokato, New London, or Willmar, MN, for a free insurance review and quote. We can help you make sure your roof and home have the protection they need. We’ll work with you to find the best coverage at the best value for your total peace of mind.

What Is the Lifespan of a Roof? Depends on the Materials

When installed correctly, roofs are built to last a long time. But they do have expiration dates. The longest-lasting roofs use the right materials for the regional climate. They also receive regular and proactive maintenance.

A well-built roof can last from 10-100 years, depending on the material. That’s a vast range. The more durable roofing materials available today include:

  • Slate – A classic choice for many homeowners, slate provides a long-lasting and beautiful roofing option. It also offers significant curb appeal. Slate tiles are one of the most costly roofing materials on the market today, but you get what you pay for. A slate roof can hold up for 100 years or longer.
  • Concrete tile – A less expensive tile option, concrete tile roofs work well in high-wind areas like the hurricane-prone southeastern United States.
  • Clay or Stone-Coated Steel Tiles – Also resilient to high winds, these tiles last between 40 and 100 years. They are popular and do well in arid climates like the southwestern states. Occasionally, we see them in the Northland.
  • Metal – Some metal roof options like copper or zinc can last up to 100 years or more. Talk about creating a legacy in your home or business. Metal roofing options may also be more environmentally friendly, due to their long life and potential for recycling or repurposing.

While these materials are more costly to purchase and install, their longevity may be well worth the extra investment.

Roofing materials with a shorter lifespan and lower price tag include:

  • Asphalt – Low-end shingles may only last ten years, while top-of-the-line varieties can endure for over 30 years. Be careful about organic asphalt shingles, also called felt mat shingles, in the Northern Minnesota climate. Some types of asphalt don’t fare well in freezing temperatures or high moisture and humidity. 
  • Wood – Though not as common in roofs today, these shingles still make an appearance on older and newer homes alike. You can enjoy wood roofs for up to 30 years with proper maintenance in the right climate. Be careful about insect pests in a wood roof. Cedar shingles have a natural bug resistance and may be a wise choice if you want a wood roof.

Most homeowners opt for the longest-lasting roof they can afford within the budget they have. A quality roof covers more than your head. It can protect all your valuable belongings, memories, and keepsakes for generations to come. And although it is a considerable expense at first, over the lifespan, it is an important investment.

Get a Roof Inspection

It’s difficult to tell precisely how old your roof is unless you oversaw its construction. Or perhaps you have accurate records from a previous owner. Regardless of age, an annual roof inspection is a smart idea. Particularly in areas with harsh climates, roofs can take a beating during the year. 

A qualified roofing contractor or inspector can pinpoint any damage or trouble spots that could shorten the life of your roof. They will look for:

  • Peeling or missing shingles
  • Debris on your roof from tree limbs, leaves, or other materials
  • Water damage or watermarks on ceilings, walls, or in the attic
  • Ice dams in the winter, where ice melts, freezes, and accumulates under the shingles.

So when you are asking, “How long should my roof last?” it will depend a lot on maintenance. Getting regular yearly inspections can help you identify small problems before they become expensive disasters. A roof is typically one of the most costly things to repair or replace on a home. So it pays to keep your roof in top shape with regular maintenance.

Report Damage Claims Accurately and Promptly

Of course, despite your best proactive efforts to prolong the life of your roof, disaster can strike at any time. A robust hail storm, a tornado, or a fire can damage or destroy any roof in a matter of moments.

It’s essential to document any damage with photos and a professional inspection. Do this as soon as the weather or smoke clears, and it’s safe to assess the situation. Many local roofing companies offer emergency services and can help you decide your next steps. 

You’ll need to do the following to restore your roof after a storm or other catastrophic event such as a fire:

  • Have a roofing professional inspect and document the damage to begin filing your homeowner’s insurance claim. Check with your agent to verify coverage. Not every disaster is covered on every policy.
  • Take temporary protective measures to cover holes and leaks or to “Band-Aid” structural issues while planning the next steps.
  • Decide with your roofing contractor or repair specialist whether to fix or replace the roof.
  • Continue following your insurance claims procedure, as detailed in your homeowners’ policy. Be sure to stay in contact with your agent as the process moves forward.

An Expert on Your Side

Lake Region Insurance Agency is here for you and your roof. We help submit a claim whenever Mother Nature or calamity may strike. We work with you from the beginning to be sure you have coverage that fits your needs. 

And as independent agents, we’re on your side for policy choice, speedy claim submission, and prompt payments. Call us or visit our website today for a free insurance review.