Your Complete Flood Information Zone

Our climate is changing faster than anyone imagined. Flood waters are on the rise, putting more and more people and property at risk every year. Flood Resources is dedicated to providing education and awareness to homeowners, insurance providers, builders, and municipalities for the prevention of catastrophic flood damage. We believe that cooperation and collaboration among these stakeholders is essential to keeping all of our communities safe.

“Climate change is costing Canadian taxpayers, governments, and businesses billions of dollars each and every year. We must take the necessary steps to limit these losses in the future. The cost of inaction is too high.”– Craig Stewart, Vice-President of Federal Affairs for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Backwater Solutions Canada - Flooded Basement


Causes of Floods

What causes residential sewage backup?

Excess rain

The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction sites that rainfall of just 25 mm on a 900 square foot roof can produce 2000 litres of water. That’s equivalent to filling ten bathtubs! According to Environment Canada, 126 millimetres of rain fell on Toronto during the 2013 storm that swamped the city. You do the math!

Lack of community drainage

Developed areas with minimal green space are prone to flooding because uncovered ground is a natural water drain; asphalt is not. If excess water is unable to drain, called pluvial flooding, it pools and eventually finds its way to lower ground–like your basement.

Overflowing waterways

Rivers, creeks, and ocean shorelines swollen with excess rain may exceed the level of the banks and shores that naturally keep the water at bay. When water breaches its natural barrier, it is called fluvial flooding, and the result could put water-side communities at risk and push municipal drainage systems and sump pumps beyond their capacity.

Municipal system backflow

Pipe corrosion, damage, or outdated and inadequate municipal drainage and sewage systems can fail to remove excess rainwater. The buildup can cause a dangerous backflow that can pond on streets and run back through drainage and sewage pipes, flooding basements, yards, carparks, and businesses. The result can be catastrophic.

Ottawa Citizen Article

This Ottawa Citizen article discusses concerns by The Insurance Bureau of Canada over the consequences of climate change and their proclamation that severe weather has become a priority. The article quotes Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, saying, “Water is the new fire,” and “Insurers are paying out more with regards to water damage claims than fire damage.”
The IBC is calling upon government agencies to build a national flood program to help ease the financial burden of flood protection on a national scale. The article credits Karageorgos for pointing out that “the problem is a function of the country’s aging water and sewer infrastructure combined with storms that are growing in severity and frequency due to climate change.”

You can access the full article here:
Ottawa Citizen: Water is the New Fire National Strategy Needed for Flooding Says Insurance Expert

Assessing Ontario’s Flood Risks

This 22-minute clip of the Agenda with Steve Paikin discusses the rising concern over flooding in Ontario with Blair Feltmate from the University of Waterloo and the Intact Centre on Climate Adaption. Topics include the recent increase in devastating floods, the likelihood of more flooding to come, and ways to better flood-proof homes and municipalities.

Costs of Flooding

Insured Losses

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) breaks down the estimated $1.9 billion in insured losses in 2018 this way:

  •  January storms and floods that caused more than $54 million in insured damage across Eastern Canada
  •  February storms and floods that caused more than $57 million in insured damage across southern Ontario and Quebec
  •  An early-April storm that caused more than $85 million in insured damage across Ontario and Quebec
  •  A mid-April ice storm that affected southern Ontario and resulted in more than $190 million in insured damage
  •  An early-May windstorm that affected Ontario and parts of Quebec and topped $410 million – with $380 million of this damage being in Ontario
  •  Summer storms across the Prairies that caused more than $240 million in insured damage
  •  A flood in Toronto on August 7 that caused over $80 million in insured damage
  • Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes and windstorms on September 21 caused $295 million in insured damage
  •  December storms in British Columbia that caused $37 million in insured damage

The IBC estimates the cost of federal flood disaster relief to be as high as $3.4 billion over the next five years. It is difficult, however, to account for single storm disasters like the one over Toronto in July 2013 that saw insured losses of close to $1 billion from claims related to flooding and sewer backups.

Costs to Homeowner

Although insurance companies are just now beginning to offer specific riders for sewer backup damage, automobile and home insurance will sometimes cover homeowners for sewer damage. If a homeowner is without insurance or their provider does not cover sewer backup, the costs can be staggering.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the average cost of a flood incident to the homeowner is $43,000. That figure does not account for the loss of non-replaceable or sentimental valuables, or the emotional and sometimes physical strain experienced during a disaster of this magnitude. Prevention is better than remediation.


Your Basement is Flooding! What do you do?

Recommended homeowner response to basement flooding:

  1. Make sure all toilets and sinks are clear of obstructions that may prevent proper water flow.
  2. Always wear protective clothing when working in or near sewer water.
  3. If that does not resolve the issue, call 3-1-1 or the designated number of your area Works Department. If requesting city, town, or municipal assistance, ensure someone 18 years or older is at home to meet responding staff.
  4. Verify that your sewer clean-out caps are free from obstruction at least one meter on all sides and that access by responding staff will be unhampered. Normally, clean-out caps are in the basement floor near the water meter.
  5. Avoid using fixtures and appliances which require water until after the issue has been resolved, as any water sent down the drain may end up in your basement.

The Water Has Stopped. Now What?

Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Tips for Starting the Claim Process

  • Call your insurance representative or company. Most insurers have a 24-hour claims service. Be as detailed as possible when providing information.
  • List all damaged or destroyed items. If possible, assemble proofs of purchase, photos, receipts, and warranties. Take photos of damage incurred and keep damaged items, unless they pose a health hazard.
  • Keep all receipts related to cleanup and living expenses if you’ve been displaced. Ask your insurance representative about expenses to which you may be entitled and for what period of time.

Flooding and Your Health

Do NOT enter the flooded area until a qualified professional has determined it is safe to enter.
Gas – If the floodwater is rising high enough to affect any gas-fired equipment (fireplace, furnace, heaters, water heater), contact your gas provider.

Hydro – If floodwaters will or have reached any outlet, plug, panel, or electrical appliance (baseboard heater, cooler, lighted cabinet), you will need to cut power to the house immediately. Contact your hydro provider. Do not enter a flooded basement until your power is off!  Electrical Safety Authority.

Bacteria or viruses – Floodwater is contaminated, especially in flooding caused by sewer backup. The bacteria and viruses within this water may put your health at risk. If you must enter floodwater, make sure you wear protective clothing and a mask and leave no skin exposed to the water. Wash thoroughly after any contact with floodwater.

Items or surfaces that have been in contact with floodwater may also be contaminated. If you cannot sanitize an item exposed to floodwater, dispose of it. Some insurance policies will not cover damages until remediation is done by a qualified professional.

After a flood, mould will begin to grow at an alarming rate. The entire flood area will need to be dried and sanitized before you re-enter your home.
For more information on cleaning and disinfecting affected surfaces, refer to the Government of Canada – Get Prepared or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Flood Insurance

“In today’s world of extreme weather events, $1 billion has become the new normal for yearly catastrophic losses – most of this is due to water-related damage.” –Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Until 2017, most insurance policies in Canada did not cover overland flood damage. With the number and severity of floods rising in recent years, some Canadian insurers are now offering policies that cover overland flood damage. However, if you live in an area identified as a flood plain, those policies may not be available to you.

So, what is covered?

The following are general guidelines followed by many insurance companies in Canada. Speak to your insurance broker for coverage details related to your policy and circumstances. Never assume coverage!

  • If your pipes burst or an appliance fails and floods your basement, your home insurance will cover damages. Be aware, however, that your policy may not cover you if the issue was caused by frozen pipes.
  • If your sewer backs up and floods your basement, you will only be covered if you’ve purchased an optional sewer backup endorsement on your policy. Make sure you have that endorsement in place before the water starts flowing!
  • Remember, even if you have the proper sewer backup endorsement on your policy, and your backwater valve fails because you didn’t keep it properly maintained, your insurance provider may not cover your damages.
  • If during a storm, your home is damaged by hail, wind, or by water entering your home through damage caused during a storm, your insurance policy will likely cover those damages.
  • If your vehicle is damaged by water (or wind, or hail) then comprehensive or all perils policies will cover that damage. Remember, though, neither comprehensive nor all perils coverage is mandatory, so check your policy.
  • If you’ve had a flood and had to move out until remediation is complete, you may be entitled to additional living expenses.

Flood Risks

Flooding can affect households in a variety of locations, whether urban or rural. You do not need to be on a flood plain to be at risk! Whether you live in the outskirts of a small town or downtown in a large city, if your home drainage system is connected to the municipal system, you are at risk for a sewer backup flood.
Currently, according to the IBC-Natural-Infrastructure-Report-2018  there are approximately 2 million Canadian households at risk with sewage backups outpacing all other types of flooding (over 47% of the total) according to the Canadian Institute of Actuaries Seeing Beyond Risk. That number is expected to grow year by year.

Flood Money Article

This article by Canadian Underwriter discusses efforts by the government and the insurance industry to initiate a national approach to residential flood insurance.

Insurance Companies and Their Policies

The link below is a list of insurance companies and their flood policies from FloodSmart Canada. As policies may change year to year, you will need to check with your insurance provider for the most current policy information.


Flood Protection

Protecting a home from sewer backup flooding requires several key steps.

  • First, the home must be equipped with flood protection devices like backwater valves, sump pumps, eaves trough, and downspouts, window well covers, and be optimized for proper drainage.
  • Second, those devices must be maintained and inspected regularly by experienced professionals who can identify problems with existing equipment or gaps in the protective system as a whole.
  • Third, a proper insurance policy with specific flood insurance endorsement should be in place to act as a safety net.
  • Finally, municipalities should be encouraged to update drainage infrastructure to account for rising populations and added strain to community systems.

As the issue of flooding continues to rise over the next several years, cooperation and preventative action by homeowners, municipalities, insurance companies, and home builders will be key to protecting communities across Canada.

Before the Storm

The ‘Before the Storm’ Corporate Knights article discusses flood protection for Canadians from a financial perspective.

“Otherwise stated, for every $1 spent on flood protection, the savings per 10-year period, per household, would equal $4.30. That’s a big savings for individual homeowners, insurers, the housing market, and Canadian society as a whole.”

6 Crucial Steps to Protecting Your Home

1. Backwater Valves
One of the most critical ways to ensure the protection of your basement from floods is by installing a backwater valve. A backwater valve is a one-way or check-valve that allows water to flow in only one direction. It is installed on the main water line that moves wastewater from toilets and sinks in your house into the municipal sewer line.

Backwater valves are essential in preventing sewer backups into your house. During heavy rainfall or when a municipal waste water system fails, water can flow from the city sewer system into your house, filling your home with bacteria and virus-infected sewage. Backwater valves are designed to close when water flows toward your house, effectively sealing the main line and preventing the backflow of sewage.

Backwater valves are so effective in the prevention of basement floods that many municipalities offer subsidies for homeowners looking to install one in their home.

The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction has produced an excellent guide called Protect Your Home From Basement Flooding.

2. Maintenance Programs

Backwater valves are highly effective, but if neglected, they will not continue to function as they should. The Insurance Bureau of Canada agrees. “We recommend having it inspected by a qualified person on a regular basis.”

Installation of a backwater valve is the single best thing you can do as a homeowner to prevent a disastrous sewer back up in your home. A well-functioning backwater valve will prevent contaminated municipal sewer water from entering your home. But, like any continuously operating mechanical device (especially one that operates in a dirty aqueous environment), it is likely to suffer a buildup of waste material and debris that will seriously hamper its functioning. It requires regular maintenance.

A regular maintenance program is essential to keep your backwater valve functioning properly in the event of a sewage backup, and may also help your bottom line. An inspection certificate from a qualified company such as Backwater Solutions Canada may qualify you for a reduction in insurance premiums. [fact check]

What should you expect from a backwater valve maintenance program?

A reputable company that services backwater valves should be able to offer:

  • Cleaning and inspection of your backwater valve twice per year
  • Inspection of all O ring seals to ensure proper seating on the valve
  • Test inspection of your sump pump and drain lines to ensure proper function
  • A thorough inspection of your foundation to assess for leaks and moisture saturation
  • Inspection of all eaves trough and downspouts for proper drainage

When finished, your maintenance company should supply you with a certificate verifying that your backwater valve has been cleaned and is in good working order. That’s important to your insurance carrier. If you are the victim of a flood and they find that you had a backwater valve that was clogged as a result of inadequate maintenance, you may be exempt from coverage!

3. Disconnect from Municipal System

Downspouts direct water runoff from your roof to a drainage system like weeping tile buried in the ground. Water collected in the weeping tile (or foundation drain) will enter the municipal sewage or drainage system. During heavy rain, if too many houses are connected to the municipal drains, the system can become overwhelmed and backup, forcing water into your basement. Many municipalities are asking homeowners to disconnect their foundation drains from the municipal system and instead, direct downspouts out into the yard away from the foundation where they can drain naturally. Disconnecting from the municipal system is also a grant program in some cities.

4. Grading and Slope

If the ground around your home’s foundation does not slope down and away into the yard or another drainage system, you are almost guaranteed to experience leaks at some point. Water will seep down the walls of your foundation and into your home through cracks that form over time. The fix? Build the ground up around your foundation so it measures 10cm to 15cm higher than ground that is 1.5 meters away from the foundation.

When a homebuilder planned the construction of your house, they used architects and surveyors to make sure your property allowed for adequate drainage of excess water. They also made sure that your property grading did not interfere with the grading plan for the houses around you. That planning is necessary for every new build so that runoff from your neighbour’s property doesn’t end up pooling on yours. Sometimes homeowners inadvertently change that drainage plan through unsanctioned DIY projects that go uninspected by City planners. If excess water is consistently pooling in a particular area of your property, or that of your neighbour, it may warrant a call to the City for an inspection of your drainage.

5. Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are designed to manage foundation water that collects on and near your house. Installed in the lowest point in your basement (usually in a sump pit), it uses a float valve to activate the pump when the water level reaches a predetermined height. That water is then directed up and out of the home, away from the foundation. If you disconnect from your municipal system, you will need to install a sump pump. It is important to test your sump pump periodically by lifting the ball valve to make sure it comes on when it should.

If your sump pump has a backup battery system, it is also important to have a qualified person inspect it for carbon monoxide buildup. Fire departments occasionally attend residences where the smoke and gas detectors have sounded, to find a buildup of CO in the backup battery system.

6. Seal Foundation Cracks, Floor Cracks, and Window Wells

Small cracks in your foundation may seem innocuous when compared to the potential of a sewer backup, but some types of cracks signal a weak spot that could become problematic. When water saturates the soil around your foundation, water pressure (or hydrostatic pressure) builds exponentially, forcing water to find even the smallest opening into your basement. Floor cracks are a magnet for hydrostatic pressure! Be sure to seal foundation cracks and window wells to prevent water intrusion. Keeping your basement as dry as possible will also help to prevent mould from finding a home inside your home

Home Flood Protection Checklist
(See Checklist)

Backwater Solutions Canada Maintenance and Inspection Programs
(Water Management Inspection for Home Owners)

Financial Assistance Initiatives and Programs

With the rise in insurance flood claims and personal losses from water damage, many municipalities are stepping up and offering initiatives and incentive programs to assist homeowners who want to invest in disaster prevention. For example, in 2018, the Toronto Star reported that.

Available Funding – Help for Homeowners

Many municipalities provide financial assistance to qualified property owners for the installation of protective plumbing devices like sump pumps and storm and sanitary backwater valves. These devices prevent water and sewage from flooding homes as a result of increased water levels in the City’s sewer and drainage system.

Backwater Valves

Sewer backup related water damage claims are on the rise in Canada. Severe weather, large rainfall events, and sudden, intense downpours are putting extreme stress on municipal sewage systems, causing them to back up into homes. No one wants to come home from work or wake up in the morning to find their basement full of sewer water! It’s a situation that homeowners fear, not only because it can ruin cherished personal belongings, but also because of the extensive cleanup process, insurance claims, and danger to physical and mental health.

Having a backwater valve can be the difference between having a basement filled with sewage water and a dry basement. It’s a simple device that can be installed in your basement to prevent water from entering (or backing up) into your basement when water levels in the sewer are higher than normal.

Backwater valves have an internal flap that is naturally open and allows water to flow from your home to the sewer. However, if water flow changes direction and starts to flow toward your home, the flap will close and seal, blocking water from coming into your basement. Because backwater valves operate in a very dirty environment, it is critical that they are serviced and maintained by a licensed professional at least twice per year to ensure proper operation when you need it the most!

“Toronto last year paid $7.1 million just to subsidize homeowner installation of backwater valves and other measures to reduce the chance of residential basement flooding, up from $3.1 million in 2013.”

Subsidy and Incentive Programs

Note: This list is not comprehensive and does not account for the addition or deletion of incentive programs in municipalities within Canada. Please check your municipality for new incentives or changes in current programs.

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