Water Damage Blues – How To Avoid Them

by | Uncategorized

Water damage—it’s disruptive, costly to repair, and can create health problems.  It’s also the new leading cause of home insurance claims.

On July 8th, 2013, the city of Toronto was hit with a record-breaking 126mm of rain in a mere seven hour period!  This storm of too much rain, falling way too fast overwhelmed the city’s sewer and water systems, flooded many roads and basements and caused more than $850 million in property damage.  However, water damage has many more causes than rainfall, such as:

  • How to Avoid Water Damage in Your HomeHot water tanks
  • Washing machines
  • Refrigerators (particularly with water or ice units)
  • Dishwashers
  • Air conditioners (portable and rooftop)
  • Faulty plumbing
  • Frozen pipes
  • Water from rain and melting snow that leaks into basements, from eavestroughs or roof gutters
  • Surface or overland flood waters
  • Sewer backups
  • Fire-related water damage

How serious a problem is water damage?

Water damage claims are more expensive than fire claims because water damage usually involves removal or “rip out” of walls, flooring, furniture, and fixtures.  In addition to the cost of repairing the structural damage, improper clean-up and repair can leave pooled water behind walls or damp walls and flooring that can harbour mould, which can cause still other problems.
Water damage claims are more costly than ever because there are more appliances in homes that can create problems; they are installed on the main floor rather than in unfinished basements; the value and therefore replacement costs of kitchen appliances, cabinets and flooring, has also increased.
At the same time, the disruption (lost time from work, school, etc.), that results when water damage occurs in the home or suite are hard to quantify.  In some cases, you will need to move out until repairs can be made.

Preventing Water Damage

Some people seem to obsess about the potential for water damage.  They have visions of their washing machine failing while away on vacation and every suite on the 10 floors below them becoming water damaged.  Here are some simple, inexpensive and yet effective ways to ensure your peace-of-mind whenever you leave your home.


  1. Don’t leave your home while the dishwasher or washing machine is running.
  2. Turn off the water to the dishwasher, clothes washer, refrigerator (with water or automatic ice-making features), toilet, and sinks if you are going away for more than a few days.
  3. Replace the rubber hoses on your dishwasher and washing machine with braided stainless steel hoses, particularly the hot water hoses.
  4. While on vacation or away for more than four days, have someone check your home daily, or shut off the water supply and drain the pipes. This is especially important during the heating season, as many insurance policies are void unless you implemented either one of these precautions.
  5. Inspect your water tank regularly for evidence of rusting or pin hole leaks.  The lifespan of water heaters vary; some suggest replacing them every 10 years or sooner if there is evidence of rust or leakage.

Basements & Roofs

  1. Keep all basement floor drains clear of obstruction.
  2. Install a sump pump in your basement and backflow valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections to prevent water or sewage from entering your home.
  3. Make sure there is proper drainage around your home.
  4. Clean the eavestroughs and roof drain spouts once a year.
  5. Check your basement for leaks after heavy rainfall or a quick thaw.
  6. Consider installing water alarms to protect against faulty sump pumps, hot water heaters, condensate drains, sewer drain backups, etc.

Oh no… My Washer Blew a Hose

It’s Saturday afternoon and you come home from shopping only to find that your washer has sprung a leak!  There is two inches of water all over the kitchen and living room floors.  The water is heading to the bedrooms and who knows where else downstairs.  “Panic” is a good word to describe your reaction.  What should you do—immediately?

  1. Never enter a flooded area unless you are absolutely sure it is safe. 
  2. Shut off the water supply to the washer.  It should be on the wall right behind or beside the washer.
  3. Shut off the electricity in every room where there is flooding—only if it safe to do so.  This is done at the electrical panel.  Unplug all appliances and remove them from the flooded area.
  4. Call the claims hotline for your insurance broker or insurance company.  These telephone numbers should be kept with your other emergency numbers.
  5. Begin clean-up.  Start with the most important papers, books, and other possessions that are irreplaceable.  Avoid direct contact with dirty water, human waste or electrical hazards.  (In some cases you may need professional help from a restoration company.)

Why type of insurance should I have?

Insurance against water damage in your home is usually part of your homeowner’s policy.  However, the level of coverage for water damage varies from one policy to another. A basic homeowner’s policy will usually cover water damage caused by water overflow from the plumbing system, water from frozen or burst pipes, but not damage caused by continuous seepage, sewer backup, or hurricane, etc. Therefore, it is important that you understand precisely what your policy covers—and what is excluded.  Additional coverage can be purchased for such things as sewer backup, sump pump or septic tank failure, etc.  BREAKING NEWS: Overland Water coverage is now available in Canada!  Contact us to learn more today!

Contact us to find out the types of coverage that are common for your area, as well as the available options that will ensure coverage appropriate to your unique needs.

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