Is Your Home Ready for the Wet Weather on Its Way?

As spring turns into summer, you can expect a storm or two (or three) in the forecast.

For fear of jinxing it, I’m just going to say it: We likely won’t need to worry about winter storms for the next six months or so. We need to shift our attention away from blizzards and ice storms to thunderstorms and torrential rains. But is your house and property ready to weather a spring or summer storm? We’re not talking about your run of the mill shower either. We’re talking about the type of extreme weather that prompts Environment Canada to issue a weather warning or alert.

High winds, lightning, and heavy rain can cause considerable damage to your home, but there are precautions you can take today to minimize the chance you’ll find yourself wading through water and needing to rely on your home insurance.

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20 Tips to Prevent Water Damage to Your Home

While the costs to repair a water damaged home can be expensive (basement repairs alone average $43,000), many of the preventative measures to minimize the threat of water damage are not. And at a time when everyone is home in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no better time to tackle some of the projects on the list.

The following, compiled from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), Government of Canada, and the University of Waterloo’s Flood Smart Canada project offers a variety of tips (or projects) that you can act on now that will help when the weather outside is wet.

10 ‘Inside the Home’ Ways to Minimize the Threat of Water Damage

  1. Do not pour fats, oils, or grease down your drain because when you do, it sticks to the pipes and eventually will cause a blockage.
  2. Do not flush items down the toilet that shouldn’t be flushed. That includes paper towels, sanitary products, or those so-called flushable wipes (they’re not, really).
  3. Minimize your home water use (e.g. dishwasher and washing machine) during heavy rainfalls. Don’t add to the strain on the system if you can help it.
  4. Keep your basement floor drains clear of obstructions.
  5. Install shelves in the basement to keep items you store down there off the floor.
  6. Do not store valuables and important documents in the basement; store them upstairs where they are less likely to be damaged.
  7. Use water-resistant materials if a basement renovation is in the plans for this year. A basement reno is also the ideal time to elevate and secure large appliances, like your furnace, hot water tank, and laundry so they’re not sitting on the basement floor.
  8. Test your sump pump several times a year to ensure it is working. Also, look into getting a battery-powered back-up should there be a power outage.
  9. Place water detectors in areas where water may leak or enter the home.
  10. Install a backflow valve on your home’s sewer line to prevent a back-up. This valve could be your last line of defence against an overwhelmed storm system that’s trying to flow water (often sewage) back up into your basement.

10 ‘Outside the Home’ Projects to Prevent Home Flooding

  1. Regularly clear the storm drains near your home to ensure they’re clear of leaves and debris, especially when you know a storm is brewing and in the forecast.
  2. Every other month clean your eavestroughs and downspouts of leaves and debris to ensure the water drains off the roof freely.
  3. Landscape your yard and gardens with plants and vegetation that will minimize soil erosion.
  4. Use a rain barrel to catch runoff.
  5. Disconnect your downspouts if they drain directly into your municipality’s storm system. Most municipalities require this nowadays as it overloads the storm system, increasing the odds of a sewer back-up into the home.
  6. Ensure your downspouts extend at least 2 metres from your home’s foundation and that the water drains away from the house.
  7. If water runs towards your house, rather than away from it, it’s time to address the grading of your lot to ensure there’s a slope away from the foundation. Pay particular attention to your sidewalk, patio, deck, and driveway.
  8. Repair foundation cracks when spotted, and if the caulking around your home’s windows and doors is showing signs of age, it’s time to reseal them.
  9. Repair or replace your roof if shingles are deteriorating or missing.
  10. Install covers that protect basement window wells from accumulating water.

Is Your Home’s Content Inventory List Up-to-Date?

As much as we all want to hope for the best, we need to plan for the worst because sometimes no amount of precautions can stop the water from making its way into your home. It’s imperative to have an up-to-date home inventory of your possessions. It will make the claims process go infinitely smoother.

Creating a home inventory — a list of your belongings and possessions — doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Your home inventory can take a variety of forms. For example, you can create a written list, a video covering your entire home, or a collection of photographs providing evidence of your belongings. If spreadsheets are your thing, the IBC has a great home inventory guide to help you get started that walks you through your home room-by-room, floor-by-floor.

Is Your Home Covered for Weather-Related Water Damage?

An IBC survey in 2018 found that almost 45% of Canadians who have a ground-level home think they have flood insurance as part of their home insurance policy. In Canada, however, there are two types of weather-related water coverages available, and they’re both optional. You would have specifically needed to add the coverage to your policy because it is not automatically included in a standard policy because there’s an extra fee:

  1. Overland flooding: Provides financial relief from water damage that is the result of a body of water that overflows its normal boundaries. It may also provide protection from surface water that’s the result of a heavy rainfall, although coverage specifics will vary by insurer.
  2. Sewer back-up: This optional add-on to your home insurance policy will protect you from the costs of extensive damages and clean up if there is a sewer back-up into your home.

If you’re unsure of what type of coverage you have, call your insurance provider. Have them explain to you how you’re covered -- and how you’re not -- when it comes to water damage. These are the types of important things to know in advance, especially given the increasing frequency and severity of storms in Canada.

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