News & Information

Homeowners Insurance Flood Vs Sewer Back-Up

Global Administrator

hat's the distinction between Flood and Sewer Back-up? A flood can be caused by spring run-off, melting snow, an overflowing river, lake or stream, or even a swimming pool. Excessive groundwater build-up that enters your home via leaks or seepage is also considered flooding. Whether aided by wind or an Act of God, damage to your home caused by a flood is not covered. Most homeowners' policies will cover other types of water damage provided the cause is "sudden and accidental" and is not caused by freezing. This could include the sudden failure of a heating or air conditioning system, an overflowing washing machine, a blocked toilet, accidental sprinkler going off or a burst water pipe. The key words are 'sudden' and 'accidental'. Water entering the home through leaks,cracks and seepage are considered to be the responsibility of the owner and should be prevented through routine home maintenance.

Sewer back-ups occur when massive volumes of water overload a drainage system. Once the waste water rises above your basement drains, a back-flow into your home results. Sewer back-ups can introduce black mould, harmful bacteria and sewage waste into your home, creating health risks and extensive damage. Depending on where your home is located, sewer back-up insurance may be available to help cover losses or damage caused by water that has accidentally escaped from a sewer, drain, storm drain, sump, septic tank, eaves trough or downspout. Call us to find out more and refer to previous articles on Sewer Back-Up prevention.

5 steps to prevent or limit water damage to your home

  1. If your area is susceptible to sewer back-up, make sure your home has a *back-flow valve and plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connectors installed.
  2. If you don't have a sump pump, install one. If you do have a sump pump, test it to make sure it is working.
  3. Store items in plastic containers or on shelving at least 12" off the basement floor.
  4. Keep eaves troughs and downspouts clear of debris and make sure water flow is directed away from the foundation.
  5. Finally, as simple as it sounds, make sure your lot is properly graded to direct run-off away from the foundation and entrance ways.

*Information on a back-flow valve

Preventative Measures

The best protection available for a dwelling is the installation of a back flow valve (may also be called a back water, check or gate valve). There are two types – "normally open" and "normally closed". Both can be very effective in preventing sewer back-up losses. However, installation of the 'normally closed' variety may be impractical or not permitted by building code in some situations.
"Normally Open" Valves

How they work: This valve is installed on the main dwelling drain. The valve remains open allowing drainage of water from the residence until a backward flow of waste water causes the valve to close. Once closed, no water/waste can enter the dwelling. When the water pressure has subsided, the valve will return to its original 'open' position until another back flow occurs.

Normally open valves are approved by Ontario Building Code (item, and Canadian National Plumbing Code (item 4.6.4). Normally open valves are easier to install and maintain because only one valve is required on the main dwelling drain. Most municipalities require building permit for installation.

"Normally Closed" Valves

How they work: These valves are installed on each individual branch drain or fixture. The valve remains closed until waste outflow from the residence pushes it open. Once the outflow has passed, the spring-loaded valve closes again until the next outflow.

Normally Closed valves may not be approved by building or plumbing code in all areas. Installation is more complex and potentially more expensive since a valve is required on each branch drain/fixture.

Additional water damage prevention information from our partner, Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co -


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