Valley First

Water Damage Tips for Homeowners

Expert tips to help homeowners guard against water damage

When people buy home insurance, most people associate it with protection against fire, or robbery, or natural disasters like earthquakes or storms. It may come as a surprise to many that the number one source of danger to Canadian homes is actually water damage. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, water damage has surpassed fire as the leading cause of personal property claims in Canada, and in the last year alone, 30,000 homes across the country experienced some form of water damage.

For Sue Oliveira, an insurance services manager at Valley First, this finding doesn’t come as a surprise. “Over the last three to five years, we’ve heard from numerous insurance and restoration companies that 80 per cent of insured losses have been water-related,” she says. “Many people may not be aware that it only takes about an inch of water to cause significant damage to your possessions, damage the structural integrity of your home and even lower the value of your home.”

Oliveira adds, “Many people may also not be aware that proper drying procedures are imperative to avoiding mold and mildew build-up and that it’s not heat, but rather air movement that helps dry water-damaged materials as well as the use of moisture extracting equipment.” To help homeowners guard against the threat of water damage, Oliveira offers four simple tips to keep your home safe and dry.

It’s in the details

“Small things can add up to a big difference,” says Oliveira. “Keeping up with routine maintenance of your house like replacing any weathered or worn caulking or grout around your bath tubs, sinks or toilets can help stop most problems before they start. When the caulking starts wearing thin, water can seep into your walls allowing mold to infiltrate and eventually causing water damage.”

Out with the old, in with the new

“Keep track of how old your hot water tank is. If it’s more than 10 years old, it’s probably time to get a new one,” says Oliveira. “It may seem like a big investment, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. There are a lot of options out there now at all different price points—you may want to consider one of the new tank-less models as they’re better for the environment, and with no stored water, there’s a smaller chance of water damage to your home. If you do update your hot water tank, don’t forget to contact your broker to have your information updated with your insurance company—this saves you time and money in the long run.”

Help or hindrance?

“You may think you’re getting ahead of the game by running a couple loads of laundry or dirty dishes while you’re out, but many dishwashers and washing machines are prone to leaks,” says Oliveira. “It might not be worth it to run these machines when no one is home in an effort to save time, only to come home to potential disaster. However, regular maintenance on these appliances like replacing your worn out rubber lines with new braided metal ones can definitely help to prevent accidents.”

Ask a pro

“Don’t take matters into your own hands when you’re a victim of water damage,” says Oliveira. “Seek professional advice, which is often free so that you are informed of the necessary steps to take to ensure the area affected is properly dried. Our homes and personal belongings are often our largest assets, so take care to ensure that both the structural and financial integrity of your home is sound.”

Oliveira adds that it is everyone’s responsibility to know where the main shut-off valve is in their home, including teens and children. “If there’s a leak, the first step is always to shut off the water supply. Make sure everyone in the home can easily access the main valve and be sure that they know who to call in case of emergency. A good rule of thumb is to have your insurance brokerage’s phone number, your insurance policy number and an emergency restoration company’s phone number posted in a central location like the inside of a kitchen or bathroom cabinet door. When you’re trying to contain a leak, time is of the essence, so being able to access it quickly and easily can potentially save you thousands of dollars in damages.”