Water Damage Prevention 101

/ By Cowan Insurance Group

Even an inch of water can cause serious damage to furnishings, carpet, walls, and sentimental items. In an effort to reduce the potential for water damage in your home, we have put together some helpful preventative tips.

Year-round prevention

Spring – Basement Flooding

Melting snow and a rainy spring can potentially bring water indoors in several different ways – from a leak in your foundation, to malfunctioning eaves troughs, to poor lot drainage. A few small fixes could mean you may never have to go fishing for your stored treasures.

  • Clear eaves troughs of leaves and other debris
  • Remove snow accumulation from window wells
  • Make sure your downspouts are extended to drain 1.8 metres away from your foundation. If you don’t have space, install a splash pad.
  • If you have a sump pump, check it regularly to make sure it is working properly
  • Check your roof for loose, cracked or curling shingles

Summer – Rainstorms

Storms have been increasing in severity and frequency in recent years. While we can’t move our houses to avoid the storms completely, we can take steps to reduce the likelihood of damage caused by water that leaks into our homes.

  • Frequently inspect and repair all cracks in your foundation
  • Seal basement windows and the base of ground-level doors with weather protection sealant
  • Consider installing a sump pump, and routinely check it to ensure it is still working
  • Keep all valuables – including important documents – off the ground

Get the home & property coverage you need to protect you from the unexpected.

Fall – Making Preparations

While you may not experience severe storms or the type of rainfall that can bring on water damage, this is the best time to head off any potential problems that could crop up over the winter months.

  • Regularly clean gutters and downspouts so that rainwater can drain away from the home
  • Drain all garden hoses and disconnect them from the house
  • Considering installing a rain barrel to reduce the risk of water seeping into your home
  • Check your roof for loose, cracked, or curling shingles

Winter – Ice Dams and Frozen Pipes

Ice dams are created when the snow on your roof melts and accumulates at the roof’s edge where the temperature is cooler. Ice builds up and blocks water from draining off your roof, causing water to seep under the roof and into your attic and down the inside walls of your home. Frozen water in your pipes can cause pressure to build up between the ice and the closed faucet, causing it to burst.

  • Keep the attic well ventilated – you want your attic to be cool to reduce the chance of ice melting and refreezing
  • Keep your attic floor well insulated to minimize the amount of heat escaping your home
  • If an ice dam forms, call a roofer to remove the ice and snow
  • Turn off your outside tap from the inside, but be sure to leave the exterior tap open
  • Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves

Planning a trip?

Here are a few ways you can protect your home while you’re away:

  • Leave the furnace on at a minimum of 12 degrees Celsius to ensure your pipes don’t freeze in cold weather
  • Turn off the water supply to your washing machine
  • Turn off the water valve to any outside water taps. Consider turning off the main water valve if you’re going to be away for an extended period.
  • Have someone regularly check your home to ensure there hasn’t been any water damage. (*Most insurance policies require regular monitoring if you are going to be away for an extended period.)

Sump pump checklist

A sump pump is your last line of defense against flooding, because it will pump out water before it reaches your basement level. Here are some tips to make sure it is working:

  • Remove the cover and slowly pour a bucket of water into the sump tank
  • Watch for the “float” to rise and trigger the pump
  • Once the pump is engaged, the water level will lower and the float will shut off the pump
  • If it doesn’t kick in, have it checked

We recommend that you review your home insurance policy to see what you are covered for. Does your policy include a sewer back-up endorsement? And what is your deductible on water claims? Knowing your coverage and taking the right preventative measures can save you headaches, worry, and money.

Reporting a water damage claim? Please call our 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-866-912-6926.


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