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Header how to help prevent flood damage at home
• Oct. 3, 2023

Have you ever been nervous to head to your basement after a heavy rainfall or after the snow starts to melt in the spring?

As you creep slowly down the stairs, you hold your breath, as you're not sure whether you'll be greeted by dry floors or a water-logged carpet.

Floods are incredibly common in many parts of Canada – and can be expensive for homeowners. Costs associated with water damage are expected to rise, in part because of more frequent extreme weather events due to climate change, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Floods are generally associated with extreme weather occurrences. Homeowners can take proactive action to reduce their risk of flood-related damage – and municipalities and insurers across Canada have been encouraging homeowners to take proactive steps to mitigate basement flooding. Many municipalities across Canada have enacted flood prevention programs, including rebate opportunities, as incentives for homeowners to make flood prevention-related investments in their properties.

For a recent initiative and public event, TD Insurance collaborated with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) – a world-class disaster research centre in Canada – to retrofit four homes in Edmonton with protective measures against flood damage to expand awareness of some of the options available to homeowners across Canada.

"Flooding in urban areas is a nationwide problem, and we're committed to helping Canadians understand and reduce their climate-related risks," said Jason Thacker, Senior Vice President, Claims, Fraud, Litigation, & Vendor Management, TD Insurance.

"Flooding in urban areas is a nationwide problem, and we're committed to helping Canadians understand and reduce their climate-related risks."

As part of the retrofitting process, each of the homeowners received a free flood inspection from EPCOR Utilities, a utilities company based in Edmonton. ICLR worked with homeowners and local contractors to implement sewer backflow protection measures, enhance lot grading and drainage, and maintain pre-existing basement flood protection systems and identify available subsidies.

"Extreme rainfall is a top disaster driver in Canada. Governments and homeowners should act to protect Canadian homes from the effects of extreme rainfall related flooding," said Paul Kovacs, Founder and Executive Director of ICLR. "Working together, insurers, governments and households can significantly reduce the risk of urban flood impacts."

Here's what those prevention measures could look like for all homeowners across Canada.

Lot grading and drainage

Lot grading refers to how the land slopes around a house to ensure water drains away from the foundation (and hopefully, stays outside, not in).

After it rains, check to see where water pools form around your home – especially if you have an older home. If pools are close to your foundation, you may need to update your grading to help ensure that rainwater drains the right direction away from home.

While you're checking to see where the water pools, look at your downspouts, too. Are they draining far enough away from your home? While there's no hard rule for how far away a downspout should stretch away from your home, conventional wisdom is that they should extend at least 4-feet away from your foundation.

Home maintenance

Keep your eavestroughs and downspouts clean by doing some maintenance each spring and fall. Clear out any debris, such as leaves and twigs, to ensure they can drain properly – and help prevent your roof from flooding.

Backwater valve

If you've ever experienced the horror of sewage entering your living space, you'll understand the benefits of a backwater valve.

A backwater valve can be placed in your home's main sanitary sewer pipe, and it is designed to help prevent sewage from flooding back into your pipes (which is what leads to unfortunate sewage backup floods).

Older homes may not have a backwater valve installed.

Home maintenance

While a backwater valve should work automatically to prevent sewage from flooding your basement, it's not something you can set and forget. Backwater valves require annual maintenance to function properly. EPCOR Utilities offers tips on how you could get started.

Sump pump

Not all homes come with sump pumps installed, especially if they're older (in Ontario, that means built prior to 2017).

Sump pumps can be installed in your basement and they work to keep groundwater from flooding in by pumping it outside of your home. Often, sump pumps are used in tandem with weeping tile – plastic piping that helps keep water away from your foundation.

Home maintenance

All maintenance on a sump pump should be conducted by a qualified plumber, but EPCOR Utilities offers steps homeowners can consider to see if their system is working optimally. For added safety, you can add an alarm to your sump pump to alert you of a failure.

What else can you do to prevent water damage in your home?

  • Periodically check if your roof is in good condition by looking for loose or damaged shingles. You can also look to see if water is getting in by looking for: water stains in your attic, bubbles and cracks in your walls or ceilings, or warped drywall.
  • Protect your belongings, especially in your basement. Consider where you keep valuables and irreplaceable items. Look into waterproof storage containers or a waterproof safe.

You can visit ICLR's website for more resources and information on how to protect your home from flood damage.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Qualified experts should be consulted regarding concerns about water damage in your home.

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