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Mitigating Water Damage. It’s hard to overstate the level of damage that water can do to your home. Water damage has now surpassed fire as the number one cause of insurance claims and is seven times more common than theft insurance claims. Water is easily the most pervasive offender and 51% of property insurance claims in Canada stem from water, and with the value of water damage claims steadily rising, smart homeowners are taking steps to manage their insurance costs by proactively protecting their properties. One of the most common homeowners insurance claims – water damage –  is completely preventable.

The most common causes of water damage to homes

  • Appliance leaks such as dishwasher, clothes washer, water dispensing fridge, ice making fridge, hot water tanks.
  • Burst pipes that have frozen and thawed put excessive pressure on pipes and over time causes wear and weakness.
  • Leaky fixtures or old worn caulking around showers and bathtubs.
  • A faulty sump pump or not having one at all.
  • Overflowing eavestroughs or leaking/plugged downspouts.
  • Cracks in the foundation or basement walls that slowly cause water damage that may not be readily visible.
  • A blockage between your home and the sewer system in the street.

There are many ways that water can cause problems, and just as many ways to proactively protect your building from them. Here are a few:

Sewer Leak:When the pipes are blocked or the sewer is beyond its capacity, sewage is pushed out into your toilets, sinks or floor drains. You can protect your property against this by having your pipes checked annually for invasive roots, ensuring that nothing goes down the drain that might block the pipes over time, such as grease, or taking the extra step of having a backwater valve installed on your pipes. And because sewer backup develops gradually, having a plumber check your pipes annually can save you a great deal of time and money down the road.

Backwater Valves: An effective prevention strategy to sewer back up flooding is to install a sump pump and backwater values. These types of installations may have to be approved by the municipality and it is recommended that the work be performed by a qualified plumber.

Flood Sensor Devices: A flood sensor device coupled with a water valve close device can be activated via a smart device. The system includes a small device that can be set under hot water tanks, bathtubs, dishwashers or where any plumbing pipes are located in the house. If a leak occurs this will set off the sensor. There are many flood detections systems on the market such as the Fibaro Flood  System equipped with electrovalves will close off the water supply and an alert to minimize damage caused by the failure. Wherever you are, this foolproof device will help keep your home safe from extensive water damage.

“Many insurers have discounts for where backwater valves and other preventative measures are installed”

Building Structure: Your roof, windows, and walls are the backbone of your home but they need to be monitored to ensure that water isn’t compromising their ability. Standing water, often masked by landscaping or bushes, can cause your exterior walls to deteriorate, and moisture caused by leaky windows and roofs often leads to mould or puddled water in your building. The most effective way to protect the structure of your building is to conduct regular, scheduled assessments of your roof, external walls, and windows to address any issues before they become significant, as well as ensuring that bushes and soil are well away from the building.

HVAC/Water Heater: Your heating systems need to be monitored as well. The HVAC works by collecting moisture, but this can backfire if the collection systems are faulty or failing, causing mold and water damage. This risk increases with your hot water tank – when the lining of the tank erodes over time, the water held within the tank can leak, or worse, be released completely. Both systems require careful, regular checks, and professionals recommend that your water tank should be replaced every 10 years.

Appliances & Plumbing: Regularly inspect all plumbing for leaks and cracks and worn fittings and pipes. Inspect old appliances, have them serviced or replaced. Where applicable install backflow valves and upgrade to braided hoses.

Be prepared, prevent water damage

The secret weapon that will ultimately protect your home from water damage is a clearly laid out mitigation plan that outlines emergency procedures in the case of a building leak, so that water damage is minimized.

Your plan should include:

  • A map that shows the location of water shut off valves, and instructions on how to turn them on and off
  • Instructions regarding sprinkler systems
  • An up-to-date emergency contact list with both internal and external contacts
  • Copies of all critical hardcopy documents kept offsite/online
  • Keep all floor drains and sink drains unobstructed, including outdoor deck drains
  • When on holiday during the winter assign a person to check in on your home daily. Many insurance policies make this mandatory if you are away for more than 4 consecutive days.
  • Consider using a water sensor system detection system with shut off valves or connecting the plumbing and heating system to a 24 hour monitored alarm service

There’s no point in having a water damage mitigation plan if no one understands it, so make sure that it is well communicated, and everyone in the home and any hired contractors is trained on how to address emergency water issues.

If you own or live in a condo, ask your property management company if they have a water mitigation plan and bylaws for contractors working in or on the building. Experiencing water damage from others or tenants can be a nightmare depending on what type of insurance each owner holds. The best thing is to lobby for the entire building to have a water mitigation plan.  A small problem can turn into a big problem very quickly for an entire building.

Insurance has your back and your property

Proactively planning for water problems will help you avoid or contain the inevitable damage, but the final step is having a well-crafted insurance policy to back you up so that if a water emergency happens to your property, you can protect your financial investment. Talk to the experts at Reliance Insurance at 604.255.4616 about high-value home insurance and how it can support you when water ingress damages your property.


City of Burnaby: Water & Sewers

City of Vancouver: Fix leaks, floods and sewage problems

City of Vancouver: Check for leaks guide

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