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Preventing water damage

Our prevention advisors see water damage incidents on a daily basis. Some losses are major, while others aren't, but the good news is that they're usually avoidable. To help you identify water damage risks in your home, we've put together a series of illustrated sheets based on our experts' experience and advice.

Preventing water damage in your basement



Potential causes of water seepage into the basement:

Ground sloping in the wrong direction

If the ground around your house slopes down toward the building, water will flow toward the foundation. Water can then seep through a crack or other opening.

Gutters that aren't doing their job

Gutters are designed to direct water away from the foundation. Keeping your gutters clean and properly connected (using a downspout extension, for example) ensures that they work properly.

Basement windows that leak or are too close to the ground

To prevent water from seeping through the windows, make sure they're properly sealed and are at least 20 cm above the outdoor ground level. If not, window wells should be added.

Problems with the foundation

Seek the advice of a contractor if cracks more than 3.2 mm wide appear in the foundation or if you see efflorescence (white rings) on the interior walls of your unfinished basement.

Defective subsoil drainage pipe

The subsoil drainage pipe (foundation drain or weeping tile) drains excess groundwater from around the foundation. If water seeps in where the basement walls and floor meet, it may be a sign that your subsoil drainage pipe is obstructed. You should seek the advice of a foundation expert.

Defective retention tank (holding pond or sump)

The retention tank is located in the basement. It temporarily holds water coming from the subsoil drain before releasing it into the building's drainage system. If it's not working properly, it may overflow.

One of the main causes of sewer backups is:

A poorly maintained backwater valve

Most homes have a backwater valve. This essential component of your plumbing system is designed to prevent sewers from backing up into your plumbing fixtures. Once you've found the valve in your basement, check the condition of the flap and clean it if necessary.

Want to learn more about how to prevent water damage? See our handy guide on:

Preventing water damage in the basement

You should check the following components and fixtures in your plumbing system:

Main water supply

As soon as you see water damage (e.g., water leaking from a toilet, washing machine, dishwasher, water heater, etc.), your first reaction should be to shut off the water supply. Shut off the water near the appliance, or shut off the main water supply in the basement.

Washing machine

Water pressure in the hot and cold water hoses causes them to wear down over time. At the first sign of wear, replace them with braided steel hoses. Turning off the taps after each wash is also a good way of preventing serious water damage.


Water supply and drainage hoses can wear down over time and cause leaks. You should also check that the gasket around the door is clean and in good condition.

Water heater

Water heaters should be replaced every 12 years—or sooner if there are signs of deterioration (e.g., rust, seepage, etc.). You may also want to install a leak detector; a device which will automatically shut off the water supply at the source.

Outside tap

Before winter, shut off the outside water supply and remove the hose. Conventional taps should be drained first to prevent the pipes from freezing. See the illustrated sheet for an explanation of how to do this.

Galvanized steel pipes

Houses built in 1950 and earlier often have galvanized steel pipes. Since they last about 40 to 50 years, they should be replaced.

Pipes during a prolonged absence in winter

If the power goes out during a severe cold spell, your pipes could freeze and burst. If you leave home for more than a week, ask someone to stop by once a week to make sure the heat is on, or drain the pipes before leaving. See the illustrated sheet for more details.

Want to learn more about how to prevent water damage? See our handy guide on:

Preventing water damage caused by plumbing fixtures

Check the following structures for snow buildup:

The roof

  • Snow and ice buildup
    Your roof needs to be cleared when a significant amount of snow or ice has built up on it—particularly if you have 70 cm (about 2 ft.) of snow or 5 cm (about 2 in.) of ice.
  • Ice dams
    When a building loses heat through the roof, it melts the snow, causing water to flow to the lowest part of the roof, where it freezes. Ice builds up along the edge of the roof, creating dams that prevent water from draining properly from the roof. As a result, water can build up and seep through the walls and ceiling.

Who can remove snow?

Because your safety is important, do not attempt to remove the snow and ice yourself. Hire a snow removal company with the proper equipment and techniques.

Stairs, doors and balconies

Remove snow and ice right away, especially from emergency exits.

Above ground swimming pools

Above ground swimming pools are not designed to withstand the pressure of heavy snow and ice buildup. Also, melting snow in the spring can turn to ice and expand when the weather turns colder, potentially damaging the pool, especially its cover.

Remove snow to prevent your pool from collapsing under the weight of snow The illustrated sheet explains how.

Hot tubs

Remove snow after a major snowfall to ensure there's no buildup which can damage the cover.

Temporary carports

Temporary carports aren't designed to withstand excessive snow and ice buildup. As they often collapse, you should work from the outside rather from the inside to remove snow from the top of the carport.

Oil and gas appliances

Make sure there's adequate clearance around tanks and pipes and that they're easily accessible and protected from snow and ice falling from the roof.

Want to learn more about how to prevent snow and ice damage? See our handy guide on:

Preventing damage caused by snow and ice

Your home insurance

Your home insurance from Desjardins Insurance covers certain types of water damage (e.g., if your dishwasher breaks and damages your kitchen). You can also get additional coverage to protect you against other types of water damage. Speak with your licensed insurance advisor for more information.

In case of a loss

In the event of water damage, call a claims advisor to determine what needs to be done and start the claims process.

Finally, remember that an inventory of your belongings can be very helpful. Take the time to make this list so that in the event of a claim you're prepared.


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These tips are provided for information purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.

Full details regarding coverage and exclusions can be found in the home insurance policy, which always prevails. Some conditions, limitations and exclusions may apply.

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