Don’t Let Water Damage Destroy Your Home

Water damage is always an unplanned and unbudgeted event.  Insurance companies tell us it is the most common form of property disaster.  The causes are varied and the damage can be big or small, from plumbing failures and backups to water ingress through roof or walls.  One common thread exists in all cases, the necessity for prompt professional attention to prevent major damage to building materials and contents.   Some materials that are restorable if treated immediately can deteriorate to non-restorable condition when left only a few hours or days.  Other potential repercussions to unmitigated water damages are mould growth, bacterial growth/cross contamination and dry rot of structural building materials.

Here are a few tips to help prevent water damage in your home.

Don’t just look for the tell tale signs of leak – like water stains on the ceiling or a drip under the sink.  When these signs appear the water damage has already happened.

Find possible culprits and check them routinely.

In the Kitchen:

The Sink: check the caulking around the sink and repair/replace when necessary. Check pipes for leaks.  Watch the drain, a slow drain is the sign of a clog building.  Check faucet for leaks.

The Dishwasher: check hoses for aging and proper connection to the water supply.  Watch the area around/under for signs of leaking: warping, discolouration, “mushy” floor material.

The Fridge: Check the rubber door seals on your fridge and freezer to make sure you’re getting a proper seal.  Check the Drain Pan.  Check the Defrost Drain. This can become clogged with debris or freeze shut.  Check your icemaker to ensure hose connections are secure.

In The Bathroom:

Toilets: Watch for no or slow draining, this could mean something is stuck.  Be aware that cleaning tablets containing chlorine can corrode internal parts.

Sinks: Check under the sink for aging pipes and proper connections.  Routinely clear the drain to dislodge hair and beauty products from building up.

Showers and Tubs: This is a very common source of water damage.  Check the caulking and grout and repair/replace when necessary.  A leak may be hidden behind the wall, watch for staining and soft spots around walls and flooring nearby.

Laundry or Utility Room:

Washing Machine: Check hoses regularly for damage.  Replace immediately if a problem is found. Most manufacturers recommend replacing the hoses every 5 years, however I recommend changing all supply lines to braided stainless steel hoses.  To prevent hose kinking leave at least 4 inches between water connection and back of the machine.

Water Heater: Most units last between 8 – 15 years.  Watch for wet spot in the pan or rusting on the tank to signal a leak.

On The Roof:

Debris: Keep roof free of debris (leaves, twigs, etc) any item that could clog the gutters and prevent drainage.

Soffits and Roof Vents: Make sure these are installed properly and functioning.  These prevent heat and moisture buildup and extend your roofs life.

Shingles: Ensure all damaged shingles are repaired and replaced.

Attic Space: Check the attic around flues and vents for leaks.


Perimeter Drains: Have your drain tile around the foundation inspected by a qualified drainage contractor. Special cameras can show you the condition present and identify if and where blockages are. If your home is over 15 years old, has trees or large shrubbery close to the house and you’ve never checked, don’t wait. Thereafter check it every 5 years.

Two final important tips:

Though we all do it to maximize the valuable free time we have in a day it is not advisable to leave dishwashers and washing machines running when you leave the house. If something breaks/burst/overflows while you are away, a small mop-up job will turn into a huge mess best left to the professionals.

Ensure the main water shut off to your home is in good repair and its location is known to every member of the household.

Shutting off the main water supply is the quickest way to stop the leak.  Not a fix but it will give you time to assess and create an action plan for repair.  It is of course always best to have a professional repair any water damage event to ensure there is no future repercussions such as mould growth or major structural damage.

22 Jun | No replies

Hard lesson to learn – Natural disasters teach value of renters insurance

As posted on
June 2, 2011

Natural disasters teach value of renters insurance

Slave Lake residents turn to friends, family in the wake of fires.

Contrary to how some might expect a man in his industry to react, Henry Blumenthal shudders when he sees headlines like those coming out of Slave Lake.

“It makes me very sad,” Blumenthal, a VP and Chief Underwriter for TD Insurance, says of the Alberta town, which was levelled by a runaway wildfire last month. Many apartment units, housing hundreds of residents, were also destroyed by the inferno.

“It’s very difficult for those people, who will have to go back to mom’s place or get some help financially. It’s a disaster not only emotionally but financially, too.”

Blumenthal can see this perspective because, sadly, he knows the stats. The apartment buildings lost in the Slave Lake fires are comprised mainly of renters, and renters, the TD exec knows, are uninsured more often that not.

According to the latest Statistics Canada estimate, using 2009 data, only about 44 per cent of renters in Canada hold renters’ insurance, which covers tenants from perils like theft and damage caused by fire and water.

Where uninsured residents exposed to the Slave Lake fires are concerned, many may have lost everything, with little recourse to recover the value of their destroyed possessions.

Such tragedies are of no consolation to TD’s Blumenthal, even though his industry may stand to profit from burned tenants reaching out for help. Instead, the Slave Lake fires may become the latest chapter in Blumenthal’s crusade to get every Canadian renter covered.

Because home insurance is not regulated in Canada – coverage isn’t legally mandatory in the same line as auto insurance, for instance – many Canadian renters never seriously consider taking out a policy, Blumenthal notes.

Yet while it is not considered with the same seriousness as auto insurance, renters’ insurance is often lumped in the same pricing classification as car coverage – which is to say, people think it costs an arm and a leg. The reality couldn’t be more different.

As one industry rep told MSN recently, renters’ insurance can be had for “about the cost of a pizza a month” in most cases, a characterization Blumenthal signs off on.

According to Blumenthal, just 10-15 minutes on the phone with a representative can land many Canadian renters with coverage for as little as $20-$30 a month. If you happen to have a car, bundling your auto and renters’ insurance with TD can lower the cost of tenant coverage to as little as $10-$15 a month.

And don’t sneeze at what these low-cost plans can bring. Most TD renters’ insurance plans start with $25,000-$30,000 worth of contents protection – coverage to your material assets in the face of fire, floods and theft – as well as million-dollar liability coverage, which is what may matter most should misfortune strike.

“People think about their possessions, but they forget about their liability,” Blumenthal says.

This isn’t something Canadians should be shamed about. It’s natural, in the face of disaster, to consider your personal belongings first. After all, what else is your apartment or condo filled with?

But the liability that comes with “simple negligence,” in the TD underwriter’s words, can be costly, and may be the above-all-else reason to consider renters’ coverage.

Blumenthal offers a hypothetical, though one rooted in years of experience. Let’s say you’re cooking dinner in your unit, which sits in an apartment building surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds, of other tenants.

Maybe the phone rings, and the stove catches fire – “Totally by accident,” Blumenthal interjects – and you set fire to your building, damaging other units. Such a scenario, however grim or unlikely, could lead to a lawsuit. Unless you hold renters’ insurance, like those TD policies that offer million-dollar liability protection, tenants would be alone to incur those legal costs.

This, Blumenthal says, should be a selling point to young Canadians that rent.

“You’re just starting in life, you just got a new job and got out of mom and dad’s place,” the TD exec says, noting the high cost of a tenant liability lawsuit. “That’s not a good experience to start with, having a strong level of debt like that.”

Blumenthal’s advice for renters? Talk to your insurance representative, who should be able to offer inexpensive coverage – even cheaper if you also hold auto insurance with your provider.

In less than 15 minutes, Canadians can have coverage over the phone, or they can log onto, where they can view different policy options and find a free quote for what coverage they may need based on their assets, possessions and risk level.

Fortunately, Blumenthal says he sees an uptick in renters taking out coverage, thanks largely to many Canadian landlords now requiring their tenants to have protection before they rent. “The trend is favourable now,” the TD exec says.

But there’s still a long way to go. Blumenthal hopes to promote the affordability of renters’ insurance to as many Canadians as possible, especially younger tenants who may not otherwise consider protection.

Because, as insurers see when tragedies like the Slave Lake fires hit, what remains when misfortune hits isn’t much.

“Sometimes victims are left with nothing,” Blumenthal says.

6 Jun | No replies