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Basements, Flooding and Insurance

If your drove around Toronto after the recent mega you probably saw the result of a lot of flooded basements on front lawns. Carpets, drywall, soaked furniture…it could be found in abundance. To add to this horror, what would have been even more shocking for people was that when they called their insurance company to make a claim for the flooding, they were probably told that flooding is not covered! Even a well-known insurer encouraging their clients over the radio to call them to start a claim process and get their lives back to normal doesn’t cover flooding! This company happened to be my insurance company and when I enquired out of curiosity to find out if my primary residence and rental properties were covered, I was told unless it’s a sewer back up, no. (It was little comfort to know I was all set if an earthquake hit!)

For insurance companies, water has now superseded fire as the leading cause of claims and with extreme weather and climate change the new norm, they’re now facing billions of dollars in claims which won’t be sustainable. What will this mean for home owners? For sure higher premiums, and potentially insurance companies withdrawing coverage in these new high risk areas.

So what can we do with the prospect of higher insurance, or no insurance when it comes to extreme weather that might cause flooding? One of the answers and a concept you’ll likely start to hear more of is “self-insurance.” Google “self-insurance” and most results will refer to the idea that you put away an “emergency fund” to cover specific issues, whether they’re related to your health, car or home. The idea of an emergency fund is a good one for all kinds of reasons but self-insurance can go beyond the idea of paying yourself a premium to deal with future events. Rather than having insurance for an event, the idea will be to implement preventative measures to try and avoid a “claim” scenario all together.

So what does “self-insurance” mean when it comes to basement flooding? What follows are some ideas to help keep your basement dry and avoid the cost of major repairs due to flooding. I’ve tried to stick with simple and cost effective ideas that are relative easy to implement, but fall short of a full on basement water proofing.

  1. Remember that home inspection report you got with your house that said you needed to do some grading work around the perimeter so water flowed away rather than towards your home? Time to do it. When water can flow away quickly from the foundation of a house it can help reduce the volume of water near this vulnerable area and potentially avoid the water coming in.
  2. Ensure your eaves trough system is working effectively and dumping water far enough away. Both these points are minor things that can have a big impact.
  3. Make sure any drains near basement doors are clear of debris on, or around them to prevent blockage. If you have leaves at the top of the stairs, guess where they’re going to get washed down to when the rain starts pouring. You also want to make sure the drain is big enough to quickly handle a large volume of water and prevent it from rising to a level where it can go under your basement door.
  4. When it comes to basement doors, consider some type of raised curb/barrier to buy your drain extra time to move the water! I’m not sure about building codes when it comes to something like this, but I’m also not sure that our building codes are prepared for climate change and I’d rather keep water out of my basement!!
  5. Your next line of defense is installing a sump pump. A sump pump consists of a pit below the floor level of the basement which naturally draws water into it and then pumps it out. Sump pumps are requirement in new home construction, but with most of the older housing stock in Toronto, they don’t exist.
  6. If you’re going to install a sump pump, purchasing a generator with it shouldn’t even be in question. Without power the sump pump doesn’t work, and given the likely hood of extreme weather events knocking out the power, you don’t want to be caught without electricity. No Power, No Pump!
  7. Given the inadequacy of the City’s sewer system to handle huge volumes of water in such a short period of time, the risk of sewage backing up into your basement is probably higher than you think. One way to prevent this is to install a sewer back-up value. The installation of this device prevents sewage water from flowing back into your house. When there’s to much water in the system, it will look for any space to get out, and that includes the waste pipes in your home.


Depending on the preventative measures you want to take and what is needed for your home, the cost of these solutions can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. In the scheme of things, it’s going to cost you less to implement these measures now, then deal with a wrecked basement which may not be covered by your insurance! Above and beyond these relatively simple measures, you can get into basement waterproofing, the cost of which is much greater. Hopefully as people implement these types of measures, insurance companies will pass on reduced premiums for the lowered risk (kind of like having a fire hydrant in front of your house)…it’s definitely a questions worth asking.


For more info on these and other preventative measures check out or contact a reputable plumbing/basement contractor.


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