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Christmas Tree Risks (and How Your Insurance Can Help)

Christmas trees are festive and fun, but they can also be an insurance hazard. Protect yourself with full homeowners (renters) and auto insurance this holiday season.

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In the excitement of the Christmas season, it’s easy to neglect the little mishaps that can cause severe damage to your home. Christmas trees are one of the most forgotten hazards. They look bright and festive, but they also hold a lot of potential for damage.

For example, the NFPA Fact Sheet found that between 2011 and 2015, there were 200 home fires related to Christmas trees on average annually. These resulted in 6 civilian deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage. Nearly 1 in every 32 reported Christmas tree fires resulted in death, up from the average of one death per 143 reported home fires in general.

Although rare, Christmas tree fires and incidents do occur… and they can do serious and expensive damage to your home. Protect your holiday cheer with key prevention methods and appropriate insurance. 

1. Tree Fire

Fire is the number one concern with Christmas trees. Most Christmas tree fires (40%) are caused by lighting equipment, followed by decorative lights and involved wiring. Faulty lights or lights hung on a dry tree can be a major fire hazard. Similarly, placing a tree too close to a heat source or using an artificial tree that isn’t flame resistant can both cause significant fires.

Talk to an insurance agent to ensure that your homeowners’ coverage will protect against fire damage as well.

Fire prevention:

  • Only use artificial trees that are identified as fire retardant by the manufacturer.
  • Choose a fresh, green tree. The needles should not fall off when you touch them. If they fall easily, the tree is dry and more likely to cause a fire.
  • Turn off Christmas lights when you leave the house, go to bed, and a few hours each day. If you leave lights on 24/7, they can overheat and cause a fire.
  • Don’t use lights that have a broken cord or loose bulbs.
  • Choose lights that are labeled “fire safe.”
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Position tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, and heat vents.
  • Never block an exit with your tree.
  • Keep the tree hydrated. A 6 foot tree needs 1 gallon of water every two days.
  • When the tree starts to drop a large number of needles and turn brown, dispose of the tree.

2. Falling Tree

If your tree isn’t properly secured, it could be knocked or pulled over easily. This can do damage to family members, pets, furniture, and valuables.

In the case of a fallen tree, you’ll want to ensure you are fully protected with homeowners’ liability coverage (if someone not in your family is injured by the tree while in your home) and contents coverage.

Falling prevention:

  • Never mount a dry tree. Always mount in a container of water.
  • Buy tree cradles/stands that screw into the base of the tree.
  • Before placing tree in stand, cut 1-2 inches off the base using a handheld chainsaw or saw. Place directly into the water after cutting to help it absorb water.
  • Don’t place trees near windows, expensive furniture, or children’s play areas.
  • Always put up the tree with at least two people to avoid injury.
  • Before decorating, let the tree sit overnight to help it “settle” into shape.
  • Pick up needles on a daily basis to prevent pets and infants from ingesting them.

3. Water Leaks

Although you want to keep your tree hydrated to protect from fire and falling, the water in the pot can do damage itself. Spills and leaks can seep out and damage flooring, nearby rugs, and furniture legs. They can also cause slips and falls that can seriously injure someone in your home.

Like with a falling tree, you want to protect your home with liability, contents, and general homeowners’ insurance.

Water damage prevention:

  • Use a stand mat barrier underneath the tree cradle. This should have a vinyl backing to help absorb and trap water.
  • Place a decorative skirt over the cradle to prevent splashes and pets trying to drink the water (and potentially knocking over the tree).
  • Check the base of your tree in the morning and at night to watch for leaks or spills.

4. Fallen Decorations

Decorations on the tree can also do damage, especially with ornaments falling and breaking. This not only a loss of financial and emotional value, but it can also create a hazard for pets, children, and barefoot passers-by who could step on the glass shards. 

Broken decoration prevention:

  • Avoid using small decorations and ornaments if you have kids in the house.
  • Avoid decorations with sharp edges.
  • If using small or sharp decorations, place out of reach of children and pets.
  • Inspect cords to ensure they are not frayed or bitten.
  • Don’t put lights on the tree where pets or kids have access.
  • Ensure that your tinsel and icicles are made of non-leaded material.

5. Tree Transport Accidents

Transporting your tree from the lot to your home can cause serious accidents on the road if you don’t take proper precautions. The tree could damage your own car if improperly mounted. The tree or its branches could also fly off your car and cause an accident. Even if you caused an accident between two other cards and your car didn’t have damage, you would still be on the hook for damage to both parties. In this way, you need to protect yourself with auto property damage liability and auto bodily injury liability.

Tree auto accident prevention:

  • Place a blanket on top of your car or truck before tying down tree to prevent scratches or dents.
  • Tie the tree in tarp or netting to prevent loose branches from falling off.
  • Face the tree with the base of the tree towards the front of the car and the top of the tree towards the back.
  • Secure the tree firmly to the car. Check out this guide for secure tying by Wolf & Iron.
  • Drive slowly and carefully. Avoid potholes and watch for low clearance.

Bonus Tip: Always check your tree before bringing it in the house. You could have insects or birds inside that can fly out and damage your home. Look for critters to avoid bringing any new (unwanted) friends into the home this season.

The Bottom Line

Christmas trees are festive and fun, but they can also be an insurance hazard. Protect yourself with full homeowners (renters) and auto insurance this holiday season.  Start getting quotes with InsuraMatch right now to find the perfect bundle of holiday-friendly insurance!

Categories: Home, Auto, Renters