Samantha Kohn, Freelance Blogger
As the snow melts and the buds start to form on the trees, many of us are tempted to roll up our sleeves and do some spring cleaning. This change-of-season tradition is about more than just decluttering and re-organizing.
Spring is a rainy season – we’ve all heard the phrase "April showers bring May flowers", and simple logic states that increased rain equals increased risk of flooding.
Many Canadians are unsure exactly what their home insurance covers in terms of flood damage, and this causes more than half of us to worry about spring flooding and the damage it can do to our homes. In fact, 58% of Canadians are worried about the damage that can occur due to severe rains and floods.
A thorough spring cleaning incorporates the exterior of your home just as much as the interior, and the work done to prepare your home for the spring can offer protection from flooding during the rainy days ahead.
Key takeaways on spring cleaning and your home insurance
1. To decrease the likelihood of water damage this spring, there are many steps you can take ahead of time to protect your home (i.e. checking your roof, cleaning your gutters, and de-cluttering your basement).
2. When it comes to flood damage, not all home insurance policies cover it. You'll need to add optional endorsements, such as sewer backup and overland water coverage, to ensure you're fully protected.
3. Be sure to double-check the coverage limits on your policy this spring. There are many reasons why you could be underinsured – with an undisclosed home renovation being a common one.
4. If you're looking to upgrade your home insurance policy for spring, there are many steps you can take to save. Research and compare all your options carefully to ensure you're getting the best rate on the market.
Spring cleaning checklist: home maintenance edition
There are many things you can do to increase your odds of making it through the spring with a dry, undamaged home – here’s a spring-cleaning checklist that will help:
Check your roof – Winter weather can be tough on your roof. In the spring, have your roof inspected to make sure there are no damaged shingles or rotten sections that would allow water to seep into your home.
Clean the gutters – Clogged gutters and downspouts cause water backups, which can pool in a specific area and leak over time. Getting used to cleaning out your gutters and downspouts every spring is an easy way to reduce the chances of water damage.
Keep pumping – Check your sump pump to make sure it’s working as it should. This device is designed to pump water away from your house, which is a very important function in the rainy spring months.
Walk the perimeter – Walk around the perimeter of your home and clear any debris that may be up against your foundation. Water will always find the path of least resistance, so if there are any cracks in your foundation and there is heavy wet debris on top, there’s a good chance the water from that debris will enter your home.
Check your windows and doors – Check the seals around all your windows and doors to make sure they’re intact. Not only will this help keep your temperature-controlled air inside thereby reducing your heating and cooling costs, but it will help keep the water out too.
Shop for sensors – No matter how careful you are, sometimes floods happen, and the key to minimizing damage is getting to the flood right away so the water doesn’t continue to spread, and mould does not have a chance to develop. There are flood sensors and alarms available at most home goods stores, and these can alert you to any potential flooding even if you don’t notice on your own.
Clean out your basement – The basement is a common place for flood damage to occur, so clear the floor in your storage room as part of your spring-cleaning routine. Remove any important or irreplaceable items from the floor in your basement, so if a flood does occur, your valuables are protected.
Spring flooding and your home insurance rate
Just like a history of vehicle damage can impact your car insurance rate, a history of flood damage can increase your home insurance rate.
Insurance companies look at the risk you (and your property bring) to calculate a personalized quote – if you've made a flood claim in the past, you'll likely see your future rate go up. And just living in a flood-prone area can also impact your rate negatively.
Does home insurance cover all water damage?
Insurance provides homeowners with peace of mind, giving them comfort, knowing they'll be financially protected in the event of unexpected damage caused by weather. However, not all weather-related damage is covered by standard home insurance policies and it’s important to know what is included so you avoid a nasty surprise if a flood occurs.
Home insurance policies can differ significantly when it comes to water damage coverage. Water damage often occurs because of long-standing, preventable issues like blocked drains, cracked foundations, sump pump failures, and sewage backups. Because thorough and comprehensive home maintenance can often prevent these issues, much of this damage is not covered by typical home insurance policies.
To put it simply, if the damage is caused by something that’s preventable and is seen as homeowner negligence, most home insurance policies will not provide coverage. However, if the damage occurs because of a sudden and accidental event, most insurance policies will cover the repairs – here are some examples.
Most home insurance policies will cover water damage caused by:
- Sudden leaks caused by exterior damage (e.g. a tree falls, breaking a hole in your roof)
- A pipe in your washing machine or dishwasher that bursts suddenly
Most home insurance policies will not cover water damage caused by:
- A roof leakage caused by old, deteriorating shingles
- A pipe that's been leaking slowly over time
- Water leaking through a broken window seal
Again, remember that every insurance policy is different. So read your terms carefully, and if you're still unsure, reach out to your home insurance representative for more information.
Flood insurance add-ons to your home insurance policy
Many insurance companies offer add-ons, or flood insurance endorsements, which homeowners can purchase at an additional cost. These add-ons complement your existing insurance policy and provide added peace of mind so that if a flood occurs, you will be protected.
Here are the most common home insurance policy flood-prevention add-ons:
Overland flood coverage – This covers damages that occur when water from a lake, river, or ocean overflows and enters the home.
Sewer backup coverage – Just like it sounds, this add-on covers the policyholder for expenses related to backups in the sewers or drains that can cause significant water damage and sanitation issues.
Enhanced water damage coverage – This add-on is broader in scope and provides additional coverage for damage caused by events like sewer backups, sump pump failures, rainstorms or when large amounts of snow and ice melt.
Compare cheap home insurance quotes today.
Updating your home insurance coverage this spring
Aside from checking off all the items on your spring cleaning list, you'll also want to check the coverages on your home insurance policy. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you won't be left underinsured in a worst-case scenario.
Have you completed any renovations or repairs? Renovating can increase your home's replacement value, causing you to become underinsured if you don't update the coverage limit on your policy. On the other hand, some upgrades (such as a new roof replacement) can help lower your risk of making a claim, and in turn, also lower your home insurance rate. So in any case, make sure you inform your provider of any changes made to the property.
Has your home rebuild value changed due to inflation? Inflation isn't just limited to your grocery and gas bills. The materials needed to rebuild your home may have also seen a recent price increase, causing your home rebuild value to rise higher than what's listed on your policy. And while some policies have guaranteed replacement cost coverage, be sure to reach out to your provider if you're unsure.
Have you made any recent home insurance claims? Did your basement already flood last spring? Did you have overland water insurance in place? Did you have enough contents insurance to replace all the damaged items? Evaluating past claims (or even the unforeseen events you didn't end up claiming) can help you determine whether there's a new need for a policy upgrade.
Does your policy protect you against unexpected disasters? While you're now aware that not all home insurance policies cover flood damage, know that it's the same case for some natural disasters. Weather-related events are usually covered, but earthquake insurance is one type of coverage that generally won't be included unless you pay extra.
It's a good idea to contact your provider annually to make sure your coverage limits and options are all up-to-date. The last thing you want when you're already facing the stress of a claim is to find out that your policy isn't as protective as you need it to be.
Read: How much home insurance coverage do I need?
How to get cheaper home insurance this spring
While increasing your home insurance coverage comes with an increased premium, there are many steps you can take to ensure you're paying the cheapest rate possible. Here are three suggestions, but be sure to check out our comprehensive list of ways to save on home insurance for more information.
Install home safety systems – By lowering your risk of having to make a claim, you'll also be lowering your home insurance rate. Ask your insurer about what systems you can install to receive a cheaper quote – for example, some companies will provide discounts to homeowners who install a sump pump.
Bundle your home insurance – If you aren't already bundling your home insurance with other products (e.g. auto insurance, landlord insurance, boat insurance) under one company, it's a good idea to do so when it comes time for a policy renewal. Insurers value loyal customers and will reward them with discounts accordingly.
Shop around and compare home insurance quotes – One of the best ways to save on your home insurance is to look at all your options. Premiums are is calculated differently depending on the provider you choose, so you never know how much you could save just by shopping around – and we can help you compare personalized home insurance quotes in just a few minutes.
The bottom line
The start of spring is a great time to focus on home maintenance, so you’ll be prepared when the rainy season hits. It’s also a great time to review your home insurance coverage and ensure you are adequately protected.
If you’re uncertain whether your home insurance policy provides the right protections, reach out to your provider today. Being aware and proactive now can prevent a very unpleasant surprise down the road.
Broad vs. comprehensive home insurance – what's the difference?
What does my home insurance even cover?