Preventing Water Damage

Water damage is the leading cause of reported claims in Canada. Help protect your home and your property by taking care and being aware of ways to prevent water damage.


  • Clear eaves troughs of leaves and debris at least once a year (late fall).
  • Make sure that the water run-off is far enough away from the foundation.
  • Make sure there is at least 200 mm (8 in.) clearance between finished ground level and the bottom of the downspout; otherwise consider installing window wells.
  • Inspect the foundation of your house and have any cracks repaired.
  • Make sure your asphalt roof shingles are not worn or curling.
  • Drain the pipe when you pack your garden hose away for the winter.


On appliances or plumbing fixtures, replace plastic or rubber water supply lines with flexible steel braided hoses.
If you're away for more than four consecutive days during the colder season, have someone check the heating system daily, or shut off the water and drain the pipes before you leave.
Properly insulate and ventilate your attic.
Consider connecting your plumbing and heating system to a 24-hour monitored alarm service.

In the basement

  • Do not cover floor drains.
  • Store items in plastic storage containers on raised shelving.
  • Check your basement for leaks after heavy rainfall or a rapid thaw.
  • Get professional help
  • Install a sewer backup prevention valve on your home's main line.
  • Create a sump pit and install a sump pump with reliable back-up power.
  • Ensure waste water pipes are not blocked by tree roots.
  • Disconnect downspouts draining directly into the sewer system and redirect them at least 6 feet away from your home's foundation.
  • Make sure your lot is graded to aid drainage away from your home.
  • If you have a septic system, have it serviced regularly.

Water Damage Checklist 

Water-damage has now surpassed fire as Canada’s leading cause of personal property claims. Examples of water damage include flooding, sewage backup, broken pipes, leaky plumbing, and more. To help avoid water damage in your home, take a few simple precautions to ensure it doesn’t happen to you.

Inside your home
  • Talk to your insurance broker to review your policy and learn what coverage exists in regards to water damage
  • Buy or increase your sewer backup coverage as needed
  • Install a sewer backup prevention valve on the main line of your home
  • Install water monitors that alert you if a leak occurs and shut off the main water supply if moisture is detected
  • Inspect all plumbing for signs of cracks or leaks, and replace older plumbing
  • Inspect older appliances, particularly washing machine and dishwasher hoses, and replace them with steel  braided hoses.
  • On appliances and/or plumbing fixtures, replace old and worn rubber hoses with flexible steel braided hoses
  • Avoid pouring fats, oils and grease down household drains
  • Check water supply lines regularly for leaks and loose connections
  • Check caulk and grout around bathtubs and showers and retouch as necessary
  • Before the winter, drain all pipes and garden hoses
  • Keep storm sewer grates clear of leaves and debris
  • Reduce home water use during heavy rainfall and rapid thaw to reduce pressure on sewage systems and potential for water back-up.

Outside your home
  • Disconnect downspouts draining directly into the sewer system and redirect them at least 6 feet away from your home’s foundation; test downspouts to ensure proper drainage from the roof
  • Ensure your lot is graded to aid drainage away from your home
  • Make considerations for reverse sloped driveways
  • Ensure there is at least 200 mm (8 in) clearance between finished ground level and the bottom of the downspout; otherwise consider installing window wells
  • Ensure waste water lines are not blocked by tree roots
  • Ensure you roof doesn’t have loose or curled shingles
  • If you have a septic system, have it pumped and serviced regularly

Foundations and Basements

Your home's foundation and basement are areas where significant, and often expensive, damage can occur. The origin of leaks is often traced to the foundation. Minor cracks in the foundation are not normally cause for concern; however, major cracks can represent substantial movement and can allow water to seep into your basement. Filling in foundation cracks and stopping them from spreading helps to prevent water damage and serious structural issues. To avoid water damage in your basement:
  • Find and seal any cracks in foundation walls and basement floor
  • Avoid remodeling or finishing basements
  • Avoid storing items directly on the basement floor (store items in plastic storage containers on raised shelving)
  • Be sure to keep floor drains unobstructed
  • Always check your basement for leaks after heavy rainfall or a rapid thaw
Sump Pumps and Backwater Valves
A sump pump is a common and effective basement water collection system. Sump pumps collect water from the weeping tiles around basements and send it outside, away from your home. The sump pump is activated by a float switch that turns on when the water in the sump rises past a certain level. To ensure your sump pump is in good working order, check the float to ensure it’s clean and moving freely by slowly pouring water into the sump tank. Watch for the float to rise and start the pump. Once the pump starts, the water level will quickly lower and the float will shut off the pump.

A backwater valve is a one way control value installed directly on the main sewer drain of the property. The valve is designed to prevent sewage in an overloaded or blocked sewer line from backing up into the home. Many municipalities amended their building codes to ensure that backwater valves are installed in all newly constructed homes.


With the snow continuing to fall this winter, it’s important to keep in mind that roof collapse from snow load can occur, causing damage to your home.

How roof collapse happens
Building designs determine how much loading a roof can withstand. Although a collapse can occur on any roof surface, flat roofs are more susceptible to snow and ice accumulation and ice blockages.

Other contributing factors

Clogged drains, gutters and downspouts – On any roof surface, a clogged drain will prevent water from rain or melted snow to leave. Rain or melting snow from warm weather following a snowfall can be trapped on roofs because drains are still frozen.

Ice dams – On sloped roofs, heat radiating from the attic space can melt snow on the roof which will then refreeze by the gutters, completely blocking them off. These ice dams allow snow and water to remain on the roof where it can force itself into the building structure; here it can cause rotted wood, mildew, mould or damaged insulation. Over time, the rotted roofing structure will be weakened thus decreasing the snow load capacity of the roof.

Age – Older roof coverings will deteriorate, sealants will shrink, and water leaking will occur.


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