How Home Inspections Can Prevent Your Home From Flood


Walking through your possible future home is exhilarating when it matches up with your wants and needs. However, a proper home inspection is critical to ensure your dream home doesn’t become a nightmare – and a big factor can be the presence of existing flood risks, or evidence of them in the past. In fact, water has overtaken fire as the costliest home insurance claim, so it’s vital to understand just how detrimental water damage can be and ensure you’re protected.

Don’t Skip Your Home Inspection

Did you know a home insurance provider likely won’t pay for any damage to your home, including water damage, if you choose to skip your home inspection or disregard their recommendations? An inspection is an important part of the home buying process and can help you avoid costly issues that are lurking behind the drywall, like potential water-related issues. Purchasing a home is an investment, so it’s best to make sure you protect that investment by completing any recommended repairs. Ignoring these puts your home at risk.

Unfortunately, just completing a home inspection and following through on the resulting recommendations doesn’t guarantee you’ll always be protected. Under a traditional comprehensive home insurance policy, an insurance provider will only pay for water damage resulting from a burst pipe, or maybe an appliance failure. But there are a few other water risks that require additional coverage (i.e. endorsements) or the installation of preventative measures to ensure you’re protected.

Explore Sewer Backup Options

Flood insurance policies are adapting to the changing needs of its clients. Still, very few of them provide coverage for sewer backup. A sewer backup is when a city’s main sewage lines are blocked or over–burdened by rain water. Don’t forget to ask your home inspector if there’s a sewer backup valve at the end of the drain in the house. A backup valve is a piece of plastic that prevents the backflow of water. If it detects water backing up, a flap lifts up, and prevents any further flow from entering your home.

If your home doesn’t have one there is always the looming danger that your basement could be flooded with sewage water. If your basement is finished, you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in repair bills. Installing a sewer backup valve will cost around $1,000-$2,000 and there are government rebates. Not only could a sewer backup valve protect your home, it could save you money on your home insurance.

For additional protection, it’s recommended that you add the sewer backup endorsement to your home insurance policy (if it’s not included already). It will help to cover any damages in the event you experience a sewer backup flood.

Add Overland Flood Coverage

Climate change is wreaking havoc on homes across the country. Toronto homes flooded in 2013 due to heavy rainfall and snowmelt. Homes in Ottawa, St. John, and Quebec experienced over $500 million in water damage in 2017 alone. Overland flooding is at the root of the problem.

Large amounts of rain and fast-melting snow lead to rising lakes, rivers, and ponds that overflow onto our streets and into our homes. If your home is located at the bottom of a hill or near a body of water, you have an increased risk of incurring significant damage. Living in a defined flood zone has an impact on the rates you receive from an insurer – expect to pay a bit more due to this risk.

Ask your home inspector to check for a weeping tile system (a drain system either surrounding the exterior of your home, or inside the basement walls) that collects and disperses water away from the home. You could also invest in exterior waterproofing to help keep water from seeping into the foundation. If water gets into the foundation, it can freeze causing cracks to increase in size. Once it melts, it can enter your home. If you don’t have a proper system in place, even leaky eavestroughs could spell trouble. If it’s not there, getting a full system in place will cost tens of thousands of dollars and you should consider it in your offer on the house.

If you believe you’re at risk, take the time to compare home insurance quotes from multiple providers and consider adding the overland flood endorsement to your policy if it’s available. For instance, Aviva insurance has a comprehensive policy that protects your home from overland water, but it’s only available in Ontario and Quebec.

Check for a Sump Pump

If your weeping tile system is on the inside of your home, it likely flows into a sump pit. The sump pit is about a five-to-six-foot deep covered hole in your basement. Inside it, you’ll find the sump pump. The pump sucks in any excess water and pumps it outside and away from your house.

Ask your inspector if there’s one inside the home. Don’t mind its unsightly appearance, having one installed could save your basement from a major flood. It’s also a sure sign you have a weeping tile system. There are also potential home insurance discounts for having a sump pump installed.

Check Drains for Clogs

Ask the inspector to put a camera down the basement drain. If it’s an older house, there could be clay pipes which are prone to breakage and localized clogs (another cause for sewer backup). You may want to consider upgrading the plumbing in your offer. Not only will it decrease your water damage risk, it comes with the additional benefit of better home insurance pricing.

Other Potential Water Damage Risks

If there’s a water manifold – a central distribution system with water shut offs for each room – you can easily shut down one supply, reducing any water damage from any single burst pipe, which is a nice feature in any modern home. If not, make sure you know where the main water shut off is located should such an incident arise.

An aging hot water tank may cost you extra money on gas or electricity, but it could also leak. Ask for the age of the unit, if it’s old, replacing it is about $1,000. If you have a tankless heater, they hold no water, but they can get clogged with sediments in the water. Ask if there is a water filter installed which extends the life of the tankless unit. If not, a filter could run about $2,000 to install.

If the toilets or showers look old, they could be leaking. Look for water damage on the ceiling below the bathrooms. Ask your inspector to look and feel for leaks around the toilet and behind the mixing valve and tub spot in the shower.

Tenants Take Heed, Too

Home inspections are essential. A great home inspection that looks at potential water hazards could save you thousands. As well, if your plan is to rent out a portion of your home, make sure any potential renter gets their own tenant’s insurance. Your home insurance will not cover them, even if their stuff is damaged from water.

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