“In Canada, water damage is the leading cause of property damage,” says Carole Nader, manager for general insurance products for TD Insurance. “We’ve seen a steady increase in claims due to water damage over the years. Today, approximately half of claims filed by homeowners are water related

That’s not surprising when you consider that, in Canada, we have at least 20 more days of rain per year than we did in the 1950s. So it is more important than ever to safeguard our homes. “Maintaining your home is necessary to protect your investment, and keep your family safe, comfortable and healthy,” says Ms. Nader. “That makes preventing water damage a part of any good home maintenance plan.” .

Spot the signs

“Some signs of water damage are easy to spot,” explains Ms. Nader, “But you may need to do a bit of detective work for others.” Keep a lookout for:

  • Water spots on ceilings and walls
  • Bubbling or discoloured paint
  • Discoloured flooring
  • Soft spots on floors or drywall
  • Strange odours
  • Humidity and dampness
  • Unusual sounds (which may indicate leaks in water lines or pipes) or mold in older homes

“If you spot any of these, you’ll need to look for the source of the problem. Where is the water coming from?” she continues. “Since water seeps and flows, it could have started in another part of your house, possibly behind a wall.” Once you find the origin of the problem, get it fixed as soon as possible.

The inside story on water damage prevention

A number of things can cause indoor water damage, including leaks or overflow from pipes, sinks, tubs, toilets, appliances and just about anything that contains water (like an aquarium, waterbed or potted plants).

“Condo owners should take note of in-suite water heaters,” advises Carole Nader. “It’s not just your unit that can be affected. If your water heater leaks and causes damage outside of your unit, you may be held liable for it.”

Here are a few tips to help prevent interior water damage:

  • If your pipes don’t already have one, install an accessible back-up valve to prevent water back-up. Depending on your plumbing system, you may need more than one. Ask your plumber for advice.
  • Repair leaky faucets and dripping toilets.
  • Replace wax toilet rings if they’re leaking.
  • Keep houseplants on saucers to avoid overflow onto your floor.
  • If necessary, use a dehumidifier in damp areas such as basements.
  • Ensure your bathroom and kitchen are well vented to help avoid humidity and moisture accumulation.
  • Replace washing machine hoses that are cracked or show wear-and-tear
  • Clear any obstructions (like lint) in your dryer’s exhaust hose and external vent to help prevent moisture build-up.
  • Install a water damage detection device.
  • Install a sump pump in your basement if you’re in an area where flooding or sewer backups are common. Once installed, test it regularly.

Keep the outdoors out

“Essentially, you want to keep water from rain and snow outdoors,” says Ms. Nader. Here are just a few easy ways to do that:

  • Have your roof inspected for cracks, breaks, and loose or missing shingles.
  • Clear gutters and downspouts of leaves and dirt.
  • Ensure your downspouts extend 1.8 metres away from your home.
  • Inspect and seal chimneys, vents and skylights.
  • Repair or replace weather barriers and caulking around doors and windows to keep them watertight.
  • Replace missing screws (which can create openings for water) on exterior siding.
  • Keep any source of water, such as snow, away from your home’s exterior walls.

Check your coverage

“When it comes to water damage, insurance coverage varies widely across the country,” explains Ms. Nader. “The type of coverage available and the premiums charged depend on where you live.”

In general, across Canada, basic home insurance will cover water damage due to:

  • Heating system rupture
  • Plumbing system rupture
  • Sprinkling system rupture
  • Air conditioning system rupture
  • Escape of water from a waterbed, aquarium or appliances
  • Escape of water from a public water main

“Insurance will cover the results of water damage, for example repairing ruined floors due to an air conditioner leak. However, it won’t cover fixing the air conditioning unit,” clarifies Ms. Nader. “Also note that a deductible may apply and that water damage insurance does not cover floods.”

Lastly, since your best defence against water damage is a good offence, find your home’s water weak spots and address them before damage occurs. Also check your homeowner’s policy. If you have any questions, speak to your insurance company for advice on coverage to suit your needs.