Floods: How to protect your home

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Water is the source of life! But when there's three feet of it in your basement, it can be a nightmare. What you may not realize is that water seepage is a fairly common occurrence. Spring floods, sewers backing up... flooding is caused by a number of factors. So how do you know if you've got the right coverage? And what should you do if there's water damage in your home? With our advice, you can rest easy.

Your coverage

Do you know what your home insurance covers when it comes to water damage? Your home insurance policy should protect you against water damage caused by a broken appliance or an oversight. A washing machine that overflows, a water heater that springs a leak, a pipe that bursts... it's all covered! And that's great news.

Where you need to double-check your coverage is for damage in the event of a sewer backup, heavy rainfall or other outside source. That usually requires additional coverage. Be sure to carefully read over your policy. Reach out to your insurer to add any necessary coverage.

The exception

You might think your home insurance doesn’t cover Mother Nature's mood swings. Well, it does! Damage resulting from natural causes, such as lightning, hail and high winds are usually covered. The only exception is flooding as a result of overflowing rivers. 

And why is this not covered? Simply because they’re predictable. In fact, the government provides maps of flood-prone areas. That means people who choose to live there do so at their own risk. If you live in a known flood zone and a flood occurs, you may be eligible for financial assistance from both the provincial and federal governments. If you're considering buying a property near a river or lake, consult the province’s flood-risk areas (This hyperlink will open in a new tab). This will give you a clear picture of the potential risks associated with the home you're interested in.

Preventing water damage

You can't control Mother Nature. However, you can take steps to reduce the risk of water seepage. Here are a few tips that will keep you from becoming Aquaman.

  1. Clear all debris from gutters and window wells. Make sure the water drains properly. This is a good thing to do at least once a year, ideally twice a year. Install extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from the foundation.
  2. Choose durable materials for your basement. Avoid hardwood floors. They warp when wet. Opt instead for ceramic, vinyl or bamboo flooring.
  3. Install an anti-return valve to stop sewer backflow.
  4. Inspect your roof regularly. Shingles should be in good condition. On flat roofs, make sure the gravel completely covers the asphalt layer.
  5. Check the air tightness of your windows and doors. Consider redoing the caulking and changing the weatherstripping.
  6. Grade your land so that water flows away from the foundation.
  7. Install a flood detector if you live in a high-risk area. Store your valuables in watertight containers to protect them.
  8. Reach out to local authorities when a nearby river threatens to overflow. Follow their instructions and keep an eye out for public efforts like sandbag dikes.

The right response to water seepage

Is there water seeping into your home? The first thing to do is cut the electricity in the inundated area. Then contact your insurer. When the damage is extensive, the company will recommend a professional clean-up service. These specialists will be able to fully dry out your home. Here's how to recognize serious water infiltration:

  • Check the water coming out of your faucet. If it's coloured or murky, it is likely contaminated.
  • Touch the floor. Does it feel soft or spongy? This is another tell-tale sign of water damage.
  • Inspect the drainage system to make sure it’s not clogged.
  • Look for cracks or bumps in the floor.
  • Use your nose. Can you smell dampness in the air? Ooh-wee! That’s a sign that water is stagnating somewhere.

Water seepage can be sneaky. Less than 10 centimetres of water in the basement will cause substantial damage, not just to your belongings and home, but it can lead to mold growth. So you need to act fast to avoid long-term problems.

In short, water damage happens. In Quebec, it's the leading cause of home insurance claims. Floods cause a lot of damage. Unfortunately, as a result of climate change, this type of disaster will likely happen more often. Follow our tips on dealing with flooding and get the right insurance.