10 Tips to Prevent Water Damage

10 things you should be doing to prevent water damage

Water-related claims are a major concern for all Ontario homeowners. With the recent increase in both frequency and severity of extreme weather events, water has become the leading cause of home insurance claims and is now considered to be the #1 threat to all homes in Canada.

Protecting your home from water-related damage can seem like a daunting task for even the most experienced homeowner, and it is impossible to eliminate every risk. However, there are several simple things everyone can do to drastically reduce their chances of experiencing a sudden water loss.

We’ve compiled our list of the 10 easiest preventative measures you can take to help reduce the risk of water damage to your home.

Check your roof

At least twice per year, do a quick visual check of your roof to make sure there are no signs of deterioration. Look for cracked, curling or missing shingles; any of these can be an early sign that your roof needs to be repaired or replaced. If you are unsure, have a professional perform an inspection.

Maintain your slope

Proper grading is essential to direct surface water away from your home and prevent pooling around your foundation walls. You should maintain a minimum of a five-degree slope away from your home, on all sides. To check your slope, measure a straight line out six feet from your foundation wall; then make sure the ground at that spot is at least three inches lower than the ground at the foundation wall.

Extend your downspouts

Downspout extensions are an excellent way to redirect rainwater away from your foundation walls. Attach an elbow at the bottom of your downspout, and then connect a downspout extension; it should extend at least 1.8 metres away from your exterior walls, and be pointed away from your house.

Drain your exterior taps

Outdoor water taps are especially vulnerable to freezing in the winter months. It is very important to take three simple steps before the cold weather hits; 1. Detach and drain your garden hose. 2. Close the shut-off valve to each exterior tap. (this is the valve inside your home that controls the flow of water to the outdoor tap.) 3. Drain the faucet; open the tap on the exterior of the home and allow any residual water to drain out of the pipe. Following these three simple steps will help prevent your exterior taps from freezing or cracking during the winter months.

Use rain barrels

Consider using rain barrels to collect rainwater and further reduce the risk of groundwater from pooling and seeping into your basement. Rainwater is excellent for watering your garden, and can also be a great way to save a few bucks on your monthly water bills!

Locate your main water valve

Knowing how and where to shut off the main water supply in your home is very important. In fact, it could be the difference between a minor or major water damage loss. If a pipe in your home bursts, the first thing you should do is shut off the main water supply to your home; this will stop the flow of water, and hopefully minimize the resulting damage.

Check your hot water tank

A leak in your water tank has the potential to cause a tremendous amount of damage to your home, especially if your tank is located on the main level or in a finished basement. Have your water tank inspected regularly or replaced if older than 10 years. If you’re not sure how old your tank is, you can find the manufacturing date on the certification plate, usually located on the front of the unit. If it is time to replace your tank, consider upgrading to a tankless system; they are far more efficient which will save you money on your monthly bills, and you may also qualify for an additional discount on your home insurance policy.

Check your sump pump

If you have a sump pump, it should be tested regularly to ensure the check valve is functioning and water is being pumped out of the sump pit and not flowing back into your basement. A simple way to do this is to dump a bucket of water into the sump pit. This added water should trigger the check valve and, if your sump pump is working properly, it will kick on to start pumping water out. If you think there may be an issue with your sump pump, or if you are not comfortable checking this on your own, call a licensed plumber. For more information, check out the video from our water prevention series, ‘what is a sump pump?

Inspect your washing machine hoses

If you are still using rubber hoses for your washing machine, we strongly suggest you upgrade to stainless steel braided hoses. Because they can deteriorate more rapidly, rubber hoses are a common cause of water damage in homes. In newer homes with laundry rooms located on the main or upper levels, this can lead to extensive damage and more expensive insurance claims. Make sure you inspect your hoses often, and if they show any signs of wear such as cracks, corrosion and/or swelling, replace them immediately; ideally with stainless steel braided hoses.

Protect your house when away on vacation

If you’re going to be away from your home for more than a few consecutive days during the winter months, be sure you turn off the main water supply and drain your pipes before you leave. It is also a good idea to ask a friend or neighbour to check on your home regularly while you’re away to make sure your heating system is working properly. In fact, most property insurance policies have guidelines that you must follow when leaving your home unattended for periods longer than a few days. To make sure you’re covered in the event of a loss, consult your policy documents or contact your insurance broker before leaving your home unattended.

Property insurance policies do not provide coverage for every type of water damage risk. It is important to review your policy details and ensure you have the most comprehensive water damage protection available for your home.

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