Preparing for the Big Melt

Tips to Help Reduce Potential Water Damage at Home

Spring is almost here and while many of us will welcome warmer temperatures, some may see water levels rise due to increased rainfall, combined with meltwater as things thaw out. Rising water levels can lead to severe water issues, including sewer backup and property damage. Sewer backup is a type of water intrusion that occurs when water gets into a home through its lower levels via plumbing fixtures, including floor drains, basement toilets, sinks, and showers.  It’s typically caused when a neighbourhood’s sewer system is overwhelmed and can be a real issue for homeowners who are unprepared.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canadian insurance claims for basement water damage are estimated at $140 million each year, so it’s important to prepare your home and family to reduce your risk.

To help protect what you have today and to better prepare for the unexpected, here are some tips to help prevent possible water damage this spring.

Be prepared in advance

Keep water away. Investigate your property options around lot grading and back filling to help redirect  water away from your home and foundation.

Prepare your home. Install window wells and well covers to improve drainage around basement windows and help prevent water from entering. Seal cracks in foundation walls and basement floors to reduce the chance of infiltration flooding. Disconnect downspouts that lead directly to the municipal sewer system and extend them away from your home (ensuring you don’t direct water toward neighbouring properties!). If your home is prone to water intrusion, consider installing weeping tiles, or a backwater valve to help keep your basement dry.

Check your property. Before things really start melting, give the property surrounding your home a once over. This includes making sure debris (leaves, garbage and snow) aren’t blocking any sewer grates near your property and clearing them if needed, as well as making a path for water to the grate. While you’re at it, take some time to clear any remaining snow away from your home’s foundation.

Get things off the floor. If possible, store items on shelves rather than directly on the basement floor. To keep important documents safe, store them in water-tight plastic containers.

Plan ahead. Create an emergency preparedness plan and kit in case waters get so high you have to evacuate. The kit should have a three-day supply of food, water, and other essential items.

Know you’re covered. Review your insurance policy and talk to your insurance agent to make sure you and your home have the coverage you need.

Daylily shoot in the snow

Once the water starts flowing

Watch for water intrusion.  During heavy rain or flood conditions, monitor the lower levels of your home for water intrusion. If water is starting to get into your home, shut off the electricity.  If possible, block sewers in the basement to avoid backflow. Go quickly to upper floors of your home and turn on a battery-operated radio or television to listen for the latest emergency information.

Listen for updates. If you are told to leave your home, grab your emergency preparedness kit and go to your designated shelter. Be sure to follow the recommended evacuation routes and never take shortcuts.

Keep out of any standing water. Hazards from floating debris, sewer contamination, live electrical wires, and slippery footing can make wading in flood waters extremely dangerous.

If outdoors. Climb to high ground in a highly visible and safe area. Never cross floodwaters because water as shallow as 15 centimetres could sweep you off your feet.

Inside Your Car. If you come to a flooded area, turn around, head for elevated ground, and park there. If your car becomes stuck in floodwater, avoid remaining in your vehicle because as little as 60 centimetres of water can carry a car away.

After the damage

Return when it’s safe. Head home only when emergency authorities have advised you it is safe to do so.

Keep the power off. Do not turn on the power in your home after significant water damage. Ask your hydro company for assistance.

Record the damage. If possible, record details of any damage before you clean up. Take photos or video to help with your insurance company’s assessment.

Contact your insurance company.  Once you’ve assessed the damage as best you can, contact your insurance company.

For more information on how you can protect your home from severe weather, visit the Canada Mortgage Housing Association.