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Water Damage: What is Covered, What Isn’t and How You Can Prevent It

For the last few years, water damage claims have surpassed claims for fire damage. The reason for the increase appears to be severe weather that causes flooding, sewer back-ups and water forcefully entering your home.

Many homeowners assume that they are covered for all types of water damage. But a standard home insurance policy covers only certain types of water damage.

What is covered, and what isn’t?

Basically, your home insurance policy should cover any accidental water release inside your home such as a water line break, or overflowing appliances. This type of water damage is “clean water damage”.

However, as the homeowner, you are also expected to do your part to prevent potential water damage. If you are away from your home for a lengthy period, and you neglect to turn off your main water tap or have someone check on your home – you could be denied coverage if your pipes freeze in your absence.

Any water coming into your home from pipes, drains, septic tank, eavestroughs or down spouts is known as “dirty water damage”, and this type of water damage is usually not covered. It is possible to add sewer back-up coverage to your home insurance policy however, and it is probably a good idea if you live in an area that is a high-risk area for flooding.

Flooding is another type of water damage caused by rivers and lakes overflowing onto dry land. This type of water damage can devastate homes, businesses, vehicles and anything else in its path. Unfortunately, there is currently no insurance coverage available in Canada for overland flooding.

Protecting your home from water damage

Water damage can be very expensive and destroy some things that are simply not replaceable like family photos. It pays to take precautions to protect your property. Here are some tips:

  • Move your valuable items from the basement to upper floors.
  • If your home has galvanized pipes, look into replacing them as soon as possible. This type of pipe is prone to leaks and could burst.
  • Check for small cracks in the tub and shower grouting, which can let water seep into the walls where it will rot.
  • Install flood-prevention devices such as: back water valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections to help protect against sewer backup; a water sensor that detects water levels in parts of your home and alerts you if they rise above a normal level; and a sump pump, which is used to remove any water accumulating in your basement. Make sure your sump pump has a built-in alarm that alerts you if the pump fails.
  • After it rains, check your basement for water. If water has made its way in, it’s possible that you have foundation cracks that need repair.
  • Inspect the hoses and washers on appliances that use water (dishwasher, washing machine) regularly for cracks or signs of wear.
  • Keep a household inventory. If you do sustain water damage and need to file a claim, it will make things much easier.

There are several things you can do outside your home to prevent a water invasion such as keeping your eavestroughs clear, moving snow away from your downspouts, and not letting snow pile up against your house. Read more tips here.

It’s hard to imagine your home and life being devastated by water, but as everyone is well aware – it happens. Know what your insurance policy covers, and do what you can keep your family home safe from water damage.

Water Damage: What is Covered, What Isn’t and How You Can Prevent It

The Insurance Bureau of Canada states that the Canadian insurance industry pays $1.7 billion each year in claims due to water damage.