Homeowners risking basement flooding when protection is low cost

Homeowners should act to protect their most valuable asset against the risk of basement flooding.

The University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation has published a report on the most common flood risks for Canadian homeowners; and the most cost-effective protective measures they can take.

"For many Canadians, their home is their biggest asset and ultimately their retirement fund," said Blair Feltmate, Head of the Intact Centre and a professor at Waterloo's Faculty of Environment. "To protect that investment, any homeowner who lives where it rains can easily and cost-effectively deploy simple measures to lower their chances of experiencing basement flooding."

The report says that investing $250 or less can help protect against the risk of a basement flood which cost an average $43,000 to repair in 2018.

The report looked at home assessments in southern Ontario and Saskatchewan in 2017/2018 and identified several common issues.

Inside the home, these included: no backup sump pump or backup power (85%), furniture and electronics at risk of water damage (71%), a lack of maintenance of backwater valves (53%), and a failure to maintain sump pumps (40%).

Meanwhile, outside the home the most common issues were: low window wells (82%), downspouts that deposit water less than 2 meters from the foundation (78%), poor grading that directs water towards the foundation (69%), and cracks or gaps in the basement windows (63%).

"Our project tested the effectiveness of various outreach approaches to motivate residents to address basement flood risk," said Cheryl Evans, Director of the Home Flood Protection Program at the Intact Centre. "Sending out flyers and posting tips on social media helps to raise awareness, but that is not enough. Residents trust advice from flood-

impacted neighbours, insurance providers and even informed staff at hardware stores."

Flood risk reduction tips
Examples of easily deployable steps that residents can take to reduce flood risk include:

  • Completing spring and fall maintenance of existing flood protection features in their homes, which includes clearing out nearby storm drains, removing debris from eaves troughs, testing sump pumps and cleaning out backwater valves.
  • Completing flood protection upgrades themselves, including storing valuables and hazardous materials in watertight containers and raising them off the floor, installing window well covers and extending sump pump discharge pipes and downspouts at least 2 meters away from the foundation or to the nearest drainage swale.
  • Working with contractors and seeking permits and flood protection subsidies from their local municipalities to disconnect their downspouts from foundation drains, raise the height of window wells, install backwater valves and install a backup sump pump and backup power supply.

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