For many parts of Canada, our biggest concern during the fall and winter is rain, and resulting water damage. How can we prevent this? What steps can we take to minimize the risk of water damage at this time of year? And, what can we do once we experience a flooded basement? Continue reading for helpful tips.
Preparing for rainy weather
Make sure your roof is well maintained. If your shingles are starting to show some wear, there could be cracks, holes, or just lifting shingles that may allow rainwater to enter your home. Have a roofing expert take a look to see if repairs can be done, or, if your roof has reached its life expectancy, it may be time to replace it. Home insurance policies will generally cover water damage from a hole in your roof caused by a storm, but if it’s due to wear and tear, coverage may be excluded. Talk to your insurance agent, and be sure you have the broadest form of coverage to protect yourself.
Clean out your home’s gutters and downspouts. The gutters and downspouts on your home are designed to carry the rainwater away from the house. If these are clogged with leaves or other debris, water can overflow onto your roof, or down your walls with the potential to cause serious damage. Keeping your gutters and downspouts clear is an easy way to prevent a major loss.
Check your drains. If you have an external drain, possibly on your balcony, or by a door which is below grade, make sure it is clear. If these drains become clogged, water has nowhere to go, but into your house. This type of water damage may or may not be covered by your home insurance policy. Check to make sure you have the broadest type of coverage available.
Make sure your windows are properly installed. If your windows are not properly sealed, water may enter through small cracks. Sometimes a waterproof sealer may be necessary. If you’ve ever noticed water coming in, have an expert take a look, and repair any damage before we get into the heavy rains. Remember, if water is just gradually seeping into your home through cracks around the window or anywhere else in your home, your insurance will not cover the resulting damage.
Put away items that could be damaged by wind. Not only rain, but wind, too, can cause damage in the winter. Make sure anything that can be blown away, is put away. That patio umbrella on your balcony could blow away in a strong wind and may blow right through your sliding glass doors. Or even worse, it could be blown off your balcony causing injury to another person or damage to their property. Your home insurance policy should cover windstorms, but make sure it provides liability insurance as well, to protect you in the event of unintentional damage to third parties.
Trim your trees. If you have any trees on your property, make sure they’re properly trimmed so loose branches don’t break off, damaging your home in a storm. In extreme cases, old or rotting trees may need to be cut down to prevent them crashing into your home in a storm. You might be thinking “Oh well, that’s why I have insurance.” But if this does happen, you’ll have a deductible to pay if the damage to your home is covered by your insurance, irreplaceable possessions could be destroyed, and the removal or replacement of a tree damaged by windstorm may not be covered at all.
Check your furnace. The last thing you want is for your furnace to quit working when the temperature drops, causing your water pipes to freeze and burst. It’s always a good idea to have your heating system checked before winter. And if your heating system is older than 15 or 20 years, it might be time to replace it with a new energy efficient unit. If you’re going on vacation during the winter, check with your insurance provider to make sure coverage is in place while you’re gone. You may need to have a friend check that your heat is on, or you may need to drain your water systems, to prevent those burst pipes.
Make sure you have the best home insurance coverage available. If your home is damaged by wind or water this winter, you want to have the best coverage available to repair your home or to cover damages to a third party. And don’t forget about coverage for additional living expenses. This will cover your extra expenses should you need to move out of your home while repairs are being done. Most home insurance policies cover this automatically after an insured loss occurs, but is the amount sufficient? Your insurance agent can discuss this with you, and increase the amount if necessary.
Minimizing flood damage
So, what can you do to minimize flood damage? You can buy the broadest water protection available, but that still may not cover you for damage caused by flooding. The following steps can help protect some of your valuable items:
- Store important documents and irreplaceable personal items, like photos, up off the floor, preferably in waterproof storage containers.
- Extend rain gutter down spouts away from your house.
- Clean the rain gutters at least once a year to ensure water runs away from your house, and not into your basement.
- Check your rain gutters for damage, and replace any damaged parts.
- Make sure your yard is graded properly, so water runs away from your home.
- Raise your washer and dryer, hot water tank, and furnace off the floor.
- Get a sump pump in the basement to quickly remove any standing water.
- Seal your basement walls with waterproofing compounds to help prevent seepage.
Be sure you do have the broadest water coverage available on your home insurance policy. Water damage in a basement due to a sewer backup can be insured. Coverage is often included in home insurance policies, or it can be added as a separate rider. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you have coverage if water enters your home as a result of an outside drain plugging and backing up.
In Canada, floods can have a devastating impact on homes, so if you live in a flood-prone area, you need to do whatever you can to protect your home from flood damage. Some provinces, such as Alberta, have created interactive websites that provide real-time flood conditions for several communities.
Coping with a flooded basement
Whether it’s due to heavy rains or a burst pipe, do you know what to do if your basement floods? Here are some steps you can take:
- Call your home insurance provider. They can help you locate restoration companies, with the tools, skill, and materials to cope with water damage. Keep any receipts for emergency repair work.
- Open any windows to let air flow through.
- Turn off the electricity, if water is approaching the level of the electrical outlets, or if you see sparks, frayed wires, or power cords submerged in the water. If this involves stepping in water, DON’T DO IT. Call the power company, and get professional advice or assistance. Note that you could be shutting off power to any sump pumps unless there is an emergency battery backup.
- Open a window if you smell gas, or hear a hissing sound. If you turn off the gas, contact a professional to turn it back on. Don’t enter the basement until you’ve determined it’s safe.
- Wear good protective gear, like rubber boots, gloves, safety eyeglasses, and a mask. Flood water could be contaminated with bacteria from raw sewage.
- Take photos of any damage to show to your insurance provider.
- Remove as many of your belongings as you safely can. The longer they’re in the water, the more likely they are to be seriously damaged.
- Use a wet/dry vacuum, mops, or old rags to soak up excess water.
- Roll back or remove rugs close to the source of water.
- Use fans or dehumidifiers to reduce dampness and speed drying.
When your basement floods, even if you have insurance for the loss, it’s your responsibility to prevent any further damage. Do whatever is necessary to protect your property, as long as you can do it safely. Don’t throw away any damaged property until your insurance adjuster has had a chance to take a look at the damage.
Most home insurance policies do provide some coverage for water damage, however, be aware that there are always exclusions. You may also need to specifically request and pay to add the broadest water damage protection to your policy.
At Square One, we automatically protect against most types of water damage on all of our home insurance policies. For more information, or to get a home insurance quote, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933.