As a Home Inspection company, we spend a great deal of our time talking about water: water damage, water intrusion, and alleviating these issues. We are regularly preaching about downspouts, gutters, and grading. We often cite water as the number one enemy of homes, and in light of Toronto's flash-flooding on Monday, now seems like a pertinent time to talk again about water and homeownership.
Of course, we recognize that humans need water to survive and that indoor plumbing has many advantages, but having water in your home where you shouldn’t have water is a problem – a big one. Water-related issues are such a big problem, in fact, that they are beginning to impact insurance policies.
TD Insurance reports that “in recent years, with the Canadian climate changes and aging municipal infrastructure, the insurance industry has experienced a sharp increase in the number of claims related to severe weather and water damages. Water damage-related claims have now surpassed fire as the leading cause of home insurance losses in Canada.” This development has resulted in less coverage being available to Canadians looking to protect their homes from water damage.
Although it may be more difficult to ensure you’re protected from water intrusion through home insurance, there are other steps homeowners can take to help protect themselves. Regular maintenance and a watchful eye can help prevent problems from occurring.
The home has four major areas that homeowners should be conscious of when thinking about water intrusion. We have talked about them at length before, but we’ll outline them below:
- The Roof
Your roof has several areas for you to pay attention to: does your roof have cracked, split, loose or missing shingles or other roof components? Repair or replace them. Where is water going in those areas where your roof changes direction, or where several flashings intersect? If water is staying put, or going into your home, it’s time for a change. Catching issues like these early can make a huge difference in terms of damage and cost.
- Gutters and Downspouts
For a small investment of $50 or less, downspout extensions can help to protect your home by keeping water away from the foundation, avoiding the potential for costly repairs. Non-functioning and improperly installed gutters and downspouts contribute to basement moisture. Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are fully intact, clear of debris, and extend far enough, at least six feet, to direct water away from your home.
- Window Wells
Water and debris can get trapped in your window well, allowing moisture to intrude into your basement. To avoid this, the bottom of your window well should contain several inches of gravel to allow water to drain from the well. A drainage pipe, filled with gravel (to prevent it from collapsing, but still allowing water to pass), should extend down the drainage tile around the perimeter of the footing (if one exists). As an alternative, a clear plastic dome can be installed over the window well to keep water and debris out.
No foundation wall system is completely waterproof. Water accumulating in the soil outside your home will leak through eventually. To combat this, it is essential to keep the soil outside your home dry. Achieving dry soil can be done by ensuring the ground around your home slopes away from your home, rather than towards it. The ground around the home should slope down six inches for the first ten feet away from the home; this can often be achieved by adding topsoil. The theory is simple – if there’s no water in the soil on the outside of the foundation wall, no water will get into the interior.
In light of the insurance updates addressed by TD Insurance and the extreme weather cities such as Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto have been experiencing, we would like to encourage homeowners to review their current home insurance policies to determine the level of coverage they have for water-related issues. In addition, we cannot over-stress the importance of performing the maintenance items discussed above. Being mindful of these areas should help to limit the potential for water damage in your home.
Did you experience flooding during Toronto’s recent extreme storm? The City of Toronto has implemented a new program to help homeowners protect themselves against basement flooding. To learn more about the grants that may be available to you, please click here.