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Protecting yourself and your backyard upgrades this summer

Turning your backyard into a private oasis is never a bad idea, but forgetting to properly insure your upgraded property is. Make sure you have the right home insurance coverage to protect your latest personal investment.

This post was originally published on April 14, 2021, and was updated on July 31, 2023.

A home is the biggest investment most people make in their lifetimes, and maintaining that investment means regular upkeep of the property. 

For many, a backyard is an important extension of their living space. Do a quick search on any social media platform and you’ll see thousands of photos and videos of backyard pools, landscaping projects, outdoor kitchens, firepits and elaborate decks and patios

Creating an outdoor oasis behind your home is a great way to build a space where you can entertain friends, keep your kids busy and active, or simply sit back and enjoy some fresh air and your favourite hobby. 

These upgrades also increase the value of your home, which can change your needs in terms of property insurance coverage.

In many cases, backyard upgrades also include processes or items that increase the risk of an accident for which you may be liable. That’s why it’s so important to review your home insurance policy and ensure your investment is protected in case it’s ever damaged or destroyed, and you’re protected in case an accident happens in your backyard paradise.

What is landscaping liability insurance?

Most backyard renovations include landscaping. If you’re putting in a pool, you’ll need landscaping around it. If you’re building a jungle gym for the kids, there’ll likely be landscaping involved there too. Even if you’re creating a fire pit, there’s a good chance you’ll surround it with patio stones and maybe some plants. All of this is considered landscaping. 

When you hire landscapers, you are hiring people to come onto your property and do strenuous labour including digging, cutting, sawing, pulling, and lifting which requires physical strength and often heavy machinery. 

While most of these projects are completed smoothly and without incident, unfortunately, accidents happen. And whenever manual labour and heavy machinery are involved, the potential for equipment to be damaged or a person to be injured increases.

Landscaping liability insurance is something a homeowner can purchase to protect them from the liability they may face if a landscaper is hurt while working on their property.

Are you looking for the best home insurance rate?

In less than 5 minutes, you can compare multiple home insurance quotes from Canada's top providers for free. Comparing rates online could save you hundreds of dollars.

What does a homeowner’s policy not provide protection for?

When it comes to home insurance, most comprehensive policies cover damage to landscaping, decks, pools and backyard structures like firepits or sheds if they are ever vandalized or damaged in a storm. 

However, the amount of coverage provided can differ significantly depending on your policy, so if you decide to get fancy and invest in some mature or valuable plants or stones, it’s a good idea to call your insurance broker first and determine if you need additional coverage. 

Your homeowner’s insurance also carries a certain level of liability that protects you if someone is hurt on your property. However, the amount of coverage is also dependent on the specifics of your policy. Similar to the landscaping insurance discussed above, liability insurance will protect you from having to pay out-of-pocket to cover the expenses related to an injury or death that takes place on your property.

If you are updating your backyard with a feature that could be considered high-risk, like a pool or play structure, it’s important to be well-insured in case someone is hurt. 

Property insurance may also not cover damage to your home caused by leaks or flooding, depending on the cause of the flood or the optional add-ons you’ve purchased for your policy. 

Read more about flood insurance coverages

How does a backyard pool impact my home insurance?

Putting in a swimming pool will increase your insurance premiums so it’s important to let your provider know before the pool is complete. 

Insurance premiums are calculated based on how much risk the insurance provider takes on by insuring you. According to the Government of Canada, 55% of drownings occur in swimming pools, making it clear that putting a swimming pool in your backyard does mean there’s a greater chance that someone could drown than there would be if you did not have the pool. It only makes sense that your premiums would increase by getting a pool. However, the increase is nominal (usually around $50-$75 per month) and well worth the peace of mind it brings. 

If you’re putting in a brand-new pool, you’ll also need to reach out to your municipal government to request an inspection for a new pool, which will require an inspection. This will include checking for things such as gates, fences, and other safety precautions. A lack of inspection leads to a lack of insurance when you need it most.

But there’s another risk lurking behind all that fun in the sun. If an above-ground pool collapses, spilling out tens of thousands of litres of water, your basement could flood.

Overland water is a flood insurance add-on to your home insurance policy. Much like sewer backup insurance, it’s not a default coverage option and must be added. Even if you have an in-ground pool, a significant rainstorm can cause it to overflow. Preparation is key to protection.

Again, the most critical part for pool owners is to up their third-party liability coverage to ensure they’re protected. 

How insurance works for outbuildings (sheds, gazebos, saunas, and pergolas)

Typically any outbuildings (or detached structures) are covered for up to 10% of your home’s value as listed on your insurance policy. It’s likely enough money for an average home depot shed or gazebo.

But, if you’re thinking of building a sweet boathouse with a built-in kitchen, TV, and wet bar to entertain your guests, consider upping your outbuilding limit. Keep in mind, some insurers won’t allow you to up the limit, so you may need to switch home insurance companies to find the protection you need.

For example, upgrading your old dilapidated shed to a luxury oasis may cost $40,000 to build. If something were to happen, you don’t want to be paying out of pocket to rebuild or replace it. Always remember to keep your provider informed and your coverage up to date. It may increase your insurance by a few hundred bucks a year, but provide you with valuable peace of mind to keep the party going. 

Insurance for decks and fences

Decks and fences, whether attached to your home or not, are part of your primary dwelling coverage.  A material change to your backyard requires you to notify your insurer so that you have coverage for the upgrades.

Now, if you’re replacing a worn-down wood fence with another, or replacing the boards on an existing deck, it shouldn’t affect your premium.

However, installing a multi-level deck with stairs on both sides and a built-in hot tub, your insurance company should know. They’ll likely increase the replacement value of your home, which will result in a slight increase to your premiums – likely only $10-$20 per month.

The risk of someone falling down all those stairs increases, so, again, make sure to discuss increasing your liability coverage.

Learn more about how to calculate how much home insurance you need

Are you looking for the best home insurance rate?

In less than 5 minutes, you can compare multiple home insurance quotes from Canada's top providers for free. Comparing rates online could save you hundreds of dollars.

What factors can increase the cost of property insurance?

The rates insurers charge for homeowners insurance depend on a number of factors, but they mainly come down to the amount of risk an insurance company takes on by insuring your home. When your home is more expensive to repair or replace, more likely to be damaged, or there are items on your property that make it more likely for someone to be hurt, your insurance premiums will be higher than if these risks were lower. 

Here are some examples.

  1. The replacement value of your home. 

It’s fairly self-explanatory that a $2-million home would cost an insurer more to replace than a $700,000-home if there were to be a fire or tornado. This means that the $2-million home will be more costly to insure.

2. Risk factors in the home. 

Some insurers will charge more to insure a home that houses certain breeds of dog such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, or homes that are heated with a wood-burning stove as this increases the risk of fire, and the cost to insure a home increases if there is no fire station nearby.

3. The level of coverage.

Policies that cover $2 million in liability are more expensive than those that offer $1 million in liability. Premiums will also fluctuate based on your deductible, and whether you purchase add-on coverage like flood protection, sewer and water backup, or floaters for individual items such as valuable jewelry or art.

How do I reduce the cost of my homeowners insurance premiums?

There are steps you can take to help reduce the cost of your property insurance premiums.

These include: 

  • Home improvements that reduce the risk of fire or water damage, including a new roof, hail-resistant siding, or a modern heating system if you are still using oil or knob-and-tooth wiring. 

  • Security devices like video surveillance and an alarm system reduce the likelihood of break-ins or theft, which lowers the risk taken on by the insurer. 

  • Increasing your deductible can go a long way in reducing your premiums. 

  • Removing risk factors like trampolines will also reduce the likelihood of someone being hurt on your property.

The bottom line

Home insurance offers important protection that ensures your property and its contents are covered if they are damaged or destroyed. It also protects you, the homeowner, from liability if someone is injured at your home. 

When you make upgrades to your living space, whether that’s indoors or out, it’s important to check in with your insurance provider so you know exactly how much coverage you have. 

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