According to researchers, the weather in Canada is getting warmer, wetter and more stormy due to climate change. Extreme events that we used to experience twice a century are now expected to happen every six years.
Did you know that over the past 60 years in Canada:
- average temperatures have increased by 1.3 degrees Celsius;
- average rainfall has increased by 12 per cent; and
- we experience an additional 20 days of rain each year?
While we’re fortunate to live in a country with one of the highest renewable freshwater supplies in the world, this also means flooding is a particular hazard to Canadians as lakes and rivers can overflow following severe storms. As we saw with the catastrophic floods in Ontario and Alberta in 2013, water damage cost Canadians almost 3 billion dollars in insured losses that year.
How can Canadian homeowners best protect themselves and their homes?
Be prepared before water damage strikes
Being prepared is the key to protecting your family and your home from any kind of water damage. You can assess how vulnerable your home is to flooding by looking at the federal government’s Flood Damage Reduction Program to understand what makes an area flood-prone and to see a flood risk map of your neighbourhood. Armed with this information, you can develop a plan to start making your home more water resistant.
Preparing the outside of your home:
- Grade the property surrounding your house to encourage water to drain away from your home’s foundation.
- Landscape your yard with plants that help minimize soil erosion.
- Trim branches from trees growing near, or hanging over your home, so they don’t damage your roof, windows, or siding during a storm.
- Use all-weather sealants around basement windows and ground floor doors, and be diligent about sealing cracks in your foundation and exterior walls.
- Install window well and well covers on basement windows.
- Disconnect downspouts that lead directly to the municipal sewer system and extend them away from your home, preferably draining water at least six feet away.
- Regularly clean and maintain your eavestroughs so that they’re not blocked.
- Keep storm drains near your home clear of leaves and debris.
- Repair or replace your roof if shingles are deteriorating or missing.
- Repair sidewalks, decks, patios and driveways that may have shifted over the years causing water to pool close to your home.
- In winter months, clear snow away from your home’s foundation following every snowfall.
- If your home is prone to water intrusion, consider installing weeping tiles to help keep your basement dry.
Preparing the inside of your home:
- Have a licenced plumber inspect your pipes for corrosion or leaks and make any necessary repairs. Also ask them to examine your sump-pit and sump pump (if you have them) to make sure they’re in good working order.
- If you have a septic system, have it inspected and serviced regularly and according to your household’s needs.
- If you think your home may be water-prone, have a licensed plumber install a backwater valve. These devices are designed to prevent the sanitary sewer line from allowing sewage and water to flow back into your home (which can occur through floor drains, toilets and sinks) when the neighbourhood sewer system overflows.
- Keep floor drains in your basement clear of obstructions.
- Fill any gaps in your basement walls, around windows, doors and all entry points for pipes and cables.
- Store your most valuable possessions on shelves or higher floors in airtight containers, rather than the basement floor (whenever possible).
- To avoid damage to large appliances kept in the basement, like a washer, dryer or HVAC equipment, considering raising them up on concrete slabs. If HVAC equipment can’t be elevated, look into placing it inside a concrete block wall.
- Ensure electrical system components, including service panels, meters, switches, and outlets, are at least 30 centemetres above from the basement floor.
- Install a home monitoring security system that includes water leak sensors and alarms that will alert you to possible leaks.
- Prepare an emergency kit in case you need to leave your home due to severe weather.
- Keep an up-to-date home inventory of what’s in your home, which will make filing a claim easier in the event of damage or property loss.
Be sure to contact your local municipality for information on any incentive and reimbursement programs that may help cover a portion of the cost of installing water damage prevention systems.
Are you covered for water?
Typically, standard home insurance policies in Canada will cover you for water damage caused by issues like burst water pipes and leaking appliances, but many will not automatically cover you for water damage caused by sewer back-up and overland flooding. If you are concerned about water infiltration, look into enhanced water coverage add-ons (also called endorsements) for additional protection. Your insurance agent can tell you what your current policy covers, what additional protection options are available, and if you qualify for the coverage where you live.
There’s no denying that water can be messy, costly, and dangerous. But with a little preparation, you can ensure that your home and your loved ones stay high and dry.