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Keeping Dry: How to Prevent or Minimize Water Damage to Your Property

There are few things more frustrating for a homeowner than a flooded basement. It can happen all too easily and, often, without warning.

Flooded basements can be caused by:

  • improper disposal of materials such as fats, oils, grease and diapers;
  • tree roots growing through cracks in the waterlines and causing blockages;
  • sewer backups caused by overloaded stormwater and sanitary sewer infrastructure;
  • frozen water pipes;
  • vandals blocking lines with bricks, wood, oil filters, bed springs, and even Christmas trees in manholes; and
  • illegal hookups allowing excess water into the lines. Outside stairwell drains, sump pumps, roof leaders and drain gutters should never be connected to the sewer system.

What you can do

There are steps you can take to help reduce the chance of your property being damaged by water.

You can:

  • keep floor drains clear of obstruction;
  • arrange to have someone check your property if you are going to be away from home for more than three days;
  • ensure that there is proper grading around your home;
  • install a sump pump;
  • install backflow valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections to prevent water from entering the home;
  • store important documents and irreplaceable personal objects (such as photographs) where they will not get damaged;
  • if you will be away from home during the winter for more than 3 days, drain the plumbing or arrange to have someone come in daily and check your home to ensure that your heat is still on.
  • elevate furnaces, hot water heaters and electrical panels in the basement on masonry or relocate these objects; and
  • avoid finishing areas like basements that may be prone to flooding.

Each insurance policy is different. If you are not sure about your coverage or would like more information about what types of water damage claims will and won’t be covered under your policy, contact your insurance representative.

After you find water…

Be careful!

Do not turn on any electrical switches until your electrical system has been checked. Turn off your main switch by standing on a dry surface and using a piece of heavy rubber, plastic or dry wood. If you have gas service, check for fumes. If you notice an odour, call the gas company immediately.

Protect it

Take steps immediately to protect your property from further damage. Board up holes or shut off water supplies to ensure your belongings are not damaged more than they have been. Move items out of wet basements and away from flooded parts of your home. Save receipts for materials you use. Your insurance company will cover any reasonable costs associated with protecting your property if the loss is covered by the policy.

Call your insurance representative

Let your insurance representative know what has happened as soon as possible. This representative will begin to work with you to ensure the damage is assessed, your insurance company is notified and you are compensated as quickly as possible if the loss is covered by the policy.

Health hazards

During a flood cleanup, the indoor air quality in your home may appear to be the least of your problems. However, failure to remove contaminated materials and reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for micro-organisms such as viruses, bacteria and mould. They can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions and continue to damage materials long after the flood.

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