Protect Your Home from Flooding

Woman on the phone as she evaluates her home flooding

Weather in Canada is getting warmer, wetter and stormier due to climate change. Extreme weather events that we used to experience twice a century are now expected to happen every six years.

Did you know that since the late 1940’s, 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 begin to assess how vulnerable your home is to flooding by using 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. With this information, you can develop a plan to start making your home more water resistant.

Preparing the outside of your home:

  • 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.
  • Work with a licenced professional to 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.
  • Keep storm drains near your home, as well as your eavestrough clear of leaves and debris.
  • Repair or replace your roof if shingles are deteriorating or missing.

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.

Preparing the inside of your home:

  • 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.
  • 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, consider 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 centimetres above the basement floor.
  • Install a home monitoring security system that includes water leak sensors and alarms that can alert you to possible leaks.

In the event of a storm, be sure to review your emergency preparedness plan. Make sure all family members have each other’s contact information and know where to meet in case of an emergency. Learn about the emergency plans at your workplace and your children’s school or daycare.

Am I covered for water?

Typically, standard home insurance policies in Canada can cover you for water damage caused by issues like burst water pipes and leaking appliances, but many will not automatically provide coverage 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 and what additional protection options are available.

There’s no denying that water can be messy, costly and dangerous. But, with a little preparation, you can reduce the risk and help your home and your loved ones stay high and dry.

Disclaimer: This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.