Home insurance risks: Avoiding water damage

Water damage is currently the number one cause of residential insurance claims and accounts for approximately 40% of total claims payouts. Water damage can result from a broken pipe, an overflowing toilet, a leaky roof, or sewer backup. The damage may be so extensive that the home is unlivable while repairs are being made and belongings are cleaned or replaced. Even a very small amount of water or sewage material can create a significant problem. A wet house has a high risk of mold development and health risk to the people living in it.

However, many of the most common water damage problems can be prevented with regular home maintenance and inspection.

Some suggestions to help prevent water damage are as follows:
•    Adhere to the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations for your hot water tank. Hot water tanks have a life expectancy of 10 years but this depends on water quality, usage, and maintenance.

•    Inspect all sinks, tubs, showers, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, water filters, and fridges for signs of water damage and wear on a regular basis. Contact a plumber sooner rather than later if you think there is a problem.

•    Check appliance hoses for soft or weak spots every 6 months. Make sure there are no kinks. Replace hoses with quality steel-braided hoses when they show wear and tear, or every 5 years, whichever occurs first.

•    Turn the tap to your washing ma­chine off when it is not in use. Most hoses are not designed for constant household water pressure of 70 psi. A broken washing machine hose will release approximately 650 gallons (2460 litres) of water per hour.

•    Water sensors can be used to prevent damage. They can either sound an alarm or they can shut off the water to the dwelling. Some new models do not require any hard wiring or plumbing as they simply attach to a faucet. Consult with your plumber for details. 

•    Turn off the water to the fridge, dishwasher, and any other water appliance before you leave home for a few days.

•    Keep basement floor drains unobstructed and uncovered. Keep items stored in the basement in plastic containers on raised shelving. Make a habit of checking the basement for leaks after heavy rainfall or rapid thaw.

•    Clean eaves troughs and downspouts at least once per year to keep them clear of leaves and debris. Dirty drains present a greater risk for backup or breakage.

•    Consult a roofing professional in the winter if there are signs of ice dam­ming on your roof. Ice damming is usually due to improper ventilation or insulation in the attic. It can cause considerable damage to a home and potential injury to its residents.

•    During the winter season, ensure adequate heating to prevent pipes from freezing. If you are traveling, have someone check the home daily to ensure it is adequately heated and pipes remain frost-free. If no one can check the home for you, turn off the main water line and drain all pipes, water appliances, and the hot water tank. 

•    Consult a professional before doing any plumbing repairs yourself.

If your home does suffer water damage, consider the following suggestions: 
•    Do not turn on any electrical switches until your electrical system has been checked. Turn off your main electrical switch by standing on a dry surface and using a piece of heavy rubber, plastic or dry wood to move the switch. If you have gas service, check for fumes. If you notice an odor, call the gas company immediately. 

•    Attempt to protect your property from further damage. Board up holes and shut off the water supply to ensure your belongings do not suffer any additional water damage. Move items out of wet basements and away from flooded parts of your home to minimize your losses. Save receipts for materials you use. Your insurance company will cover any reasonable costs associated with protecting your property if the loss is covered by the policy. 

•    Let your insurance representative know what has happened as soon as possible. They will begin to work with you to ensure the damage is assessed, your insurance company is notified, and you are compensated as quickly as possible if the loss is covered by the policy. 

•    During a flood cleanup, the indoor air quality in your home may appear to be the least of your problems. However, failure to remove contaminated materials and reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for microorganisms that can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions, and continue to damage materials long after the flood. 

For more information on property and casualty insurance, BCMA members are invited to contact The Mardon Group at 1 866-846-4467 or email info@mgins.ca.
—Sinden Luciuk
BCMA Insurance Manager

Sinden Luciuk,. Home insurance risks: Avoiding water damage. BCMJ, Vol. 55, No. 7, September, 2013, Page(s) 336 - News.



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