Flooding is an annual phenomenon, but as a homeowner are you ready for it?
It’s more important than ever to start assessing and protect your property. The potential for flooding in spring 2020 appears to be above normal, with numerous reports indicating higher-than-usual flooding risks. We’ve already seen ice jams causing extreme floods in Alberta, heavy rains in B.C. and the continued threat of flooding in the Great Lakes area.
Basement flooding - on the rise all across Canada – has resulted in billions of dollars of losses, according to a report by the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. The University reports flooding causes are linked to climate changes leading to intense rainfalls, combined with aging municipal infrastructure, growing urban areas and lack of homeowner protection are good reasons to put flood protection measures in place where you live.
Their findings reveal 1.7 million Canadian households – or about one-fifth of the population - are exposed to some sort of flood risk. And, the average price tag of $43,000 per flooded basement.
There are several ways water can get into your home:
- Sewer, septic and water backup: Caused by sudden snowmelts or heavy rain, sewer systems and catch basins fill too quickly or get blocked, causing water or sewage to back up or overflow through inside drains and sump pit drainage systems.
- Flooding: If you live near a creek, river or lake, water levels can change suddenly when severe storms hit or snow melts.
- Storm surge: An abnormal rise in lake or ocean water levels during a storm, when the height of the water goes above the normal level. There’s also a danger of waves caused by storms.
- Surface water: Normally caused by extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall, fast snow melts and when storms bring more water than drains can handle.
- Rising of the water table: When underground water rises to the surface. It can also damage sidewalks, driveways, foundations or walls and floors, causing leaks or sudden breaks.
Know the terms
Not all insurance policies are created equal, so it’s helpful to understand the types of coverage. This can vary depending on where you live. For example, you may not be eligible for some types of coverage if your house is built on a flood plain.
- Overland Flooding - Coverage for water damage caused by overflow of a lake or river, heavy rain or rapid snowmelt that enters your home from a point at or above ground level.
- Sewer Backup - When water backs-up and flows into your home from your municipal sewer system, private septic system or through sump pump failure. This water is a health hazard.
- Groundwater protection - An optional coverage for some homeowner’s policies that offers protection for events when ground water enters your home suddenly and accidentally through basement walls, foundation or floors.
“Extremely severe rainstorm events can overwhelm municipal infrastructure and lead to flooding,” reports the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR). “More often than not, basement flooding is a result of overland flooding, infiltration flooding or sewer backup, or a combination of two or all three of these types of flooding.”
A not-for-profit institute for disaster prevention research, ICLR says climate change scientists have reported severe rainstorms are occurring more often in many parts of Canada, and they are expected to continue to increase in frequency and severity. If you have previously experienced basement flooding, live in a low-lying area or live in an older home, then additional precautions should be taken.
- Inspect & maintain: Have a plumber inspect your drains, sump pumps and backflow prevention devices.
- Backwater valve: This protect against basement plumbing, including the catch basin. Ensure it is maintained and cleaned on a regular basis. Many municipalities have assistance plans for the cost to install these devices.
- Sump pumps: Select the right sump pump for your home by ensuring the motor is large enough to support it. It should have its own outlet and circuit breaker, as well as a battery backup. A warning device can also be installed to signal water build-up in the pit. Again, check for local incentives or rebates.
- Proper landscaping: Adjust the slope of your yard and direct water away from your home. Ensure flower beds don’t allow water to pool up near the building.
- Downspout maintenance: Reconnect all downspout extensions and ensure they’re free of leaves and debris. Make sure they are directed away from your – and your neighbour’s - home.
Be proactive and talk to your broker about what types of water damage are covered under your policy and the coverage limits available before you have to deal with a flood!