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Spring Water Damage Prevention

Guthrie Insurance

Spring is now just around the corner. More snow may fall and it will certainlyi melt again. With it will come the inevitible April showers and the big water claim season will be upon us once again. The sewers aren't all getting fixed at once. Water losses now exceed total losses from both fire and theft combined. Unfortunately, this water damage trend is no fleeting phenomenon.

According to municipal architects across Canada, the lack of funding dedicated to our ever-aging sewer infrastructure will only mean an increased number of claims. Some of Canada's older cities, like Montreal and Toronto, understand the need to replace and improve aging infrastructure but it takes considerable time and money.

With notable and near record breaking rainfall across Canada, and snow fall records, severe weather continues to challenge our ability to keep water losses in check. With Canadian summers resulting in more rainy events and Canadian winters experiencing more extreme weather and temperature fluctuations, it's expected that claims will continue to rise.

Another aspect of the rising cost of claims is the increasing trend for homeowners to renovate and finish basements thereby creating more family living space. What used to be concrete flooring and walls, all easily repairable, is now lavish entertainment and living areas, complete with big-screen TV's, hard wood floors, designer furnishings and a cost per square foot more in line with that of the rest of the home. Given these trends, water damage to basements is an obvious driver of increased water related claims costs.

Here are some timely tips to help you keep your home and business dry and hopefully water damage free.

- Clear overflowing eavestroughs and downspouts of leaves and other debris that prevent proper drainage;

- Remove the bulk of snow off of the roof following a snowstorm, as it not only reduces the potential for ice damming, but removes a lot of weight from the roof. Hiring a professional is recommended; Avoid climbing on the roof by using a long-handled metal rake to remove snow and stay away from electrical wires;

- Elevate furnaces, hot water heaters and electrical panels in the basement or relocate them to a higher level.

- Do not finish areas of a basement that may be prone to leakage or other water damage;

- Raise any personal belongings that you have stored in the basement off the floor to prevent potential water damage;store important documents and irreplaceable personal objects (such as photographs) where they will not get damaged;

- Check the attic to ensure the floor is insulated and the condition of the roof from the inside;

- Ensure you have proper roof ventilation, as a cool attic during winter months stops the thaw/freeze cycle and eliminates roof damming;

- All attic doors located in conditioned spaces should be properly insulated, sealed and weather stripped, and all hidden penetrations (i.e. stack vents, partition walls, electrical chases) should be properly sealed and insulated as well.

- Check for and repair leaks in walls, floors, windows and foundations;

- Disconnect eaves trough downspouts if connected to a weeping tile system and make sure they are draining properly, ideally 1.8 meters (six feet) from your basement walls;otherwise, water from the downspouts could leak into your basement.

- Install flood-proofing devices, such as back-water valves, sump pumps, floor drains or caps, and check these items routinely to ensure they're working properly. These typs of loss control and mitigation initiatives are exceptionally important, especially in urban centers where losses caused by weather conditions (rain and heavy snow build up) are compounded by poordrainage infrastructure;

- Plant trees and other native species;

- Consider soft-surface landscaping that allows storm water to soak into the ground rather than run directly into the local sewer systems (i.e. increased sodded areas, porous pavement).

- On extremely cold days, leave kitchen and bathroom cabinets open to expose pipes to warmer air.

- Insulate any exposed pipes.

- Know where your water shut-off valve is located in case you need to turn off the water in an emergency.

- Check storm sewers on street to make sure they are not blocked with snow or debris and water can drain freely;

- Make sure your roof is in good condition and that shingles are secure.

- At least once a year, check that all of your windows and doors are secure and re-caulk as needed to help prevent water from seeping in.

- Create an emergency preparedness plan for your family and assemble an emergency kit for water, flood or other emergencies – flashlight and batteries, battery-operated radio, etc.

- Shovel snow away from the house, especially basement windows.

- If you are going to be away from your home during the heating season shut off the water at the main and draing the plumbing system or arrange to have someone come in daily and check your home to ensure that your heat is still on (along with clearing walks, driveway, pick up papers, etc.).

- Consider a water and/or temperature alarm system;

- ensure that there is proper grading around your home;

- Prepare a detailed home inventory. This can be done as photos or video;

- Drains can get clogged up with the improper disposal of materials such as fats, oils, grease and diapers;
tree roots growing through cracks in the waterlines and causing blockages;

- vandals blocking lines with bricks, wood, oil filters, bed springs, and even Christmas trees in manholes; and
illegal hookups allowing excess water into the lines. Outside stairwell drains, sump pumps, roof leaders and drain gutters should never be connected to the sewer system.

- keep floor drains clear of obstruction;

If you should find water, be careful!

- Do not turn on any electrical switches until your electrical system has been checked. Turn off your main switch by standing on a dry surface and using a piece of heavy rubber, plastic or dry wood.

- If you have gas service, check for fumes. If you notice an odour, call the gas company immediately.

- Take steps immediately to protect your property from further damage. Board up holes or shut off water supplies to ensure your belongings are not damaged more than they have been. Move items out of wet basements and away from flooded parts of your home. Save receipts for materials you use. Your insurance company will cover any reasonable costs associated with protecting your property if the loss is covered by the policy.

- Let your insurance representative know what has happened as soon as possible. This representative will begin to work with you to ensure the damage is assessed, your insurance company is notified and you are compensated as quickly as possible if the loss is covered by the policy.

- During a flood cleanup, the indoor air quality in your home may appear to be the least of your problems. However, failure to remove contaminated materials and reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for micro-organisms such as viruses, bacteria and mould. They can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions and continue to damage materials long after the flood.

Have a safe and dry Spring!

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