Prevent and Minimize Property Damage

While the right home insurance coverage can help protect you financially in the event of damage to your home, taking the right steps can help you minimize damage or even prevent it from happening in the first place.

Water Damage

From burst pipes to sewer back-up, the potential for water damage in Canadian homes is fairly significant, and accounts for over 50% of all home insurance claims1. Find out how to help prevent water damage to your home.

How to Minimize Water Damage

If your home has suffered water damage, acting quickly is the key to keeping damage to a minimum and reducing the harmful effects of unwanted water in your home.

  • Make sure you and your family members know where the main water shut off valve is in your home and make sure it is working. If it is stiff, try loosening it with lube.
  • Shut off water supplies if damage is due to a burst pipe or appliance.
  • Remove as much excess water as possible by using a mop, broom or pump. Do not use gas-powered pumps indoors, or electric pumps anywhere near water.
  • Move items out of wet basements or other water logged parts of your home. It is important to document and inventory all damaged items prior to removing and disposing of them. Take pictures and make lists of wet floor coverings, furniture and other soft items.
  • Wipe water from wood furniture after removing lamps and tabletop items. Open drawers and cabinet doors for complete drying (do not force them open).
  • Place aluminum foil, china saucers or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting.
  • Remove and prop up wet upholstery cushions for even drying.
  • Wash contaminated laundry items separate from non-contaminated items, and wash the clothes you wear for cleanup activities.
  • For maximum drying, turn on air conditioning in summer and open windows in winter.
  • Remove valuable oil paintings and art objects and move them to a safe place.
  • Punch small holes in sagging ceilings to relieve trapped water (don't forget to place pans beneath).
  • Thoroughly clean interior wall cavities, cupboards and surfaces using soap and water. If walls have been soaked with water, they will need to be repaired by a professional.
  • If there is water above any electrical outlets in your home, leave immediately unless you have confirmed that your power is off.
  • Throw away any food that may have been in contact with water, and dispose of all food that has been stored in a refrigerator or freezer without power.
  • Contact your insurance provider right away–take photos of the damaged areas and make a list of all damaged items.

If you have water damage, do not:

  • Use any flood-damaged furnaces or water heaters until they have been serviced and certified safe for use by a trained repair person.
  • Leave wet fabrics in place.
  • Leave books, magazines or other coloured items on wet carpets or floors.
  • Use your household vacuum to remove water.
  • Use TVs or other appliances while standing on wet carpet or floors, especially wet concrete floors.
  • Turn on ceiling fixtures if the ceiling is wet, or enter rooms where ceilings are sagging from retained water.
  • Save mattresses and box springs that are wet, as they are difficult to clean and dry before mold can set in.

Typical Causes of Water Damage

Water damage is one of the most common types of damage that can affect a home. Damage can be caused by a number of different factors, so knowing the possible causes can go a long way toward protecting your home.

  • Appliance and indoor plumbing incidents. Includes sudden and accidental water escaping from an indoor plumbing, sprinkler or air-conditioning system, and indoor appliances such as a dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Sewer and sump back-ups. For example, wastewater in the sewer system or the failure of a sump pump which backs up into the home.
  • Water seepage. Most commonly caused by groundwater seeping through cracks in the basement floors or walls, or from cracks in the roof, windows or doors.
  • Water escape. Water damage that may be caused suddenly and accidentally when your bath or sink overflows or a pipe or hose inside your house breaks.
  • Flooding. Caused by water entering your home from natural sources such as lakes and rivers, or large amounts of pooled water.

Preventing Spring Water Damage

The Canadian spring brings about one of the heaviest periods of rainfall of the year. Fortunately, most water damage caused by April showers is preventable. See how.

  • Install rain barrels near downspouts to collect water from rainfall. These help avoid excessive water in taxed sewage systems.
  • Maintain your eavestroughs, and keep them clear of debris.
  • Install downspout disconnections, extensions and splash pads, and always have water flow away from your home.
  • Make sure your roof is in good condition and that shingles are secure. A general rule of thumb is to repair or replace your roof every 15-20 years.
  • Check that all of your windows and doors are secure at least once a year, and re-caulk as needed to help prevent water infiltration.

  • Install a backflow valve in your basement to help avoid sewage backing up into your home during heavy rainstorms.
  • If you’re going away for more than a couple of days, have someone check on your home regularly and ask them to look for any water leakage in the basement or ceilings.
  • Seal cracks in foundation walls and basement floor.
  • Reduce home water use during heavy rainfalls.

Preventing Winter Water Damage

Find out how to help prevent the water inside your pipes from freezing, and avoid the damage that may be caused if a frozen pipe bursts.

  • Before the cold weather arrives, drain swimming pool supply lines and lawn sprinkler systems.
  • Remove, drain and store outdoor hoses at the end of the summer and turn off outside water source.
  • Use caulk to close cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes.
  • Wrap any exposed pipes in foam or fiberglass sleeves.
  • If you have any pipes that are particularly vulnerable to freezing, let a faucet drip to relieve the pressure that builds when the water freezes.
  • If you go on vacation or travel, be careful how much you lower the heat–keeping a steady flow of warm air inside your home will help prevent your pipes from freezing.
  • If going away for an extended period of time during winter, drain your plumbing system to avoid frozen or burst pipes.
  • Have someone check on your home–inside and outside–if you go away for more than two days.

    If you think you have a frozen pipe–for example, if you’re not getting any water out of a faucet–contact a plumber right away to have it fixed.

    It is also possible to thaw a pipe by slowly applying heat, such as with a hand-held hair dryer–just make sure you’re not in or near water while you use anything electrical. Never use a blowtorch or other open flame to try to thaw a pipe.

    If you’ve experienced a burst water pipe, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve, and leave your faucets open until repairs are complete.

Learn how to keep melting snow and ice from entering your home.

When the spring thaw arrives, here’s how to keep melting snow and ice from entering your home.

  • Shovel snow away from your house so that when it melts it doesn't leak into the foundation.
  • Clear snow away from sewers so that melting snow has a place to go.
  • Safely clear ice and snow out of clogged gutters and drains, from around downspouts and direct flow away from walkways and entrances.
  • Have someone professionally remove large accumulations of snow and clear roof vents to prevent water damage to roof.
  • As pipes begin to thaw keep an eye out for leaks.
  • Check your basement regularly for any water entry from sewer drains.
  • Ensure that basement wall and floor cracks are properly sealed, along with basement windows and doors.
  • If you have a finished basement, make sure you have sufficient coverage to protect it from water damage.

Fire and Smoke Damage

If you have a fire in your home, you could be dealing with stains, burns and possible chemical reactions. Get tips for preventing and minimizing fire and smoke damage, including carbon monoxide leaks.

Alarm Location Guidelines

Having properly installed smoke and carbon monoxide alarms can save your life—and the lives of others—in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide leak.

Click the infographic for a recommendation on where to install your alarms.

Fire Alarm / Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector Locations

Carbon Monoxide Prevention

You can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide, so preventing leaks from this toxic gas—and having properly installed carbon monoxide alarms—can mean the difference between life and death.

Click the infographic to see the most common sources of carbon monoxide.

Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Minimizing Fire and Smoke Damage

After sustaining fire damage, it’s only natural to want to clean your property right away. While timely action is important, it’s critical to know what the right steps are and to follow them carefully to avoid causing further damage.

If you have fire and smoke damage, do not:

  • Try to clean any damage yourself, as you could harm your home and belongings even more. It’s wise to hire a professional fire restoration company.
  • Wipe or attempt to wash walls, ceilings or other absorbent surfaces.
  • Use do-it-yourself home carpet or upholstery cleaners.
  • Sit or lie on upholstered furniture. If this can’t be avoided, cover with clean sheets before using.
  • Consume exposed food items or canned goods that have been subjected to excessive heat.
  • Send smoked garments to an ordinary dry cleaner. Improper cleaning may set smoke and odour.
  • Use TVs, stereos, or electrical appliances until cleaned and checked.

Storm Damage

While it’s often tough to predict the weather, you can prepare for all types of conditions to keep your home and your family safe.

Preparing Your Property for a Storm

If you know a storm is coming, how do you get your home ready to take on whatever Mother Nature has to throw at you?

Click the infographic to find out what you can do to make sure your home and your family stay safe and secure.

storm damage infographic thumbnail

Getting Your Home Storm-Ready

Severe weather can put your family and your home in danger. Plus, recovering from storm damage can be expensive. Explore ways to get your home storm-ready.

  • Front Door. Secure your front door with heavy-duty bolts, both at the top of the frame and at the floor.
  • Garage Door. Reinforce your garage door at its weakest point with wood, metal stiffeners or a retrofit kit.
  • Windows and Doors. Install impact-resistant windows and doors, and install storm shutters to all exposed glass surfaces.
  • Roof and Siding. Inspect your roof annually, looking for missing, curled or damaged shingles. Report any updates to your insurance company, as manufacturing defects, as well as aged or poorly maintained roofs and siding are not covered in a home insurance policy.
  • Contractors. When hiring a roofing contractor, make sure they’re properly licensed or bonded. Get a written proposal and warranty outlining any exclusions.
  • Shrubbery. Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed, and remove branches or trees that could fall on your home or others.
  • Patio. Secure or safely store patio furniture and outdoor tools. If a storm is looming, move your automobiles into the garage or under other cover.
  • Inside. Put together an emergency kit of first aid items and supplies, and identify the safest area of your home for shelter.
  • Power. Prepare for the likelihood of a power outage by installing a non-electric stove or heater, or emergency generator. Just be sure that adequate venting is in place and that these devices are operated according to manufacturer guidelines.

Minimizing Storm Damage

Following a severe storm, there are some key areas to focus on in order to prevent further damage.

If you have storm damage, do not:

  • Go on the roof to check damage for yourself. Instead, contact a professional roofer.
  • Enter your home if there is the possibility of structural damage. Wait for a professional to evaluate the extent of the storm damage.
  • Delay when it comes to making temporary repairs. You may be liable for damage that occurs after the storm has passed, so act quickly.
  • Attempt to move downed power lines yourself. Instead, contact the power company so they can take care of any live wires.
  • Use candles at night if your power has gone out, as these can be a fire hazard. Use flashlights instead.

Storm Safety Tips

Here are some tips for staying safe before and during a severe storm:

  • If possible, anchor heavy items outside your home that could become flying debris in high winds.
  • If possible, move vehicles into your garage or under cover.
  • Keep exterior doors and windows closed and stay clear of them.
  • Do not use electrical equipment, including appliances or a computer.
  • Take shelter in the basement, cold cellar, storm shelter or other safe place, along with your pets.
  • If you don’t have a basement, go to the most central room on the lowest level of your home and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • During a tornado, cover yourself with a heavy blanket to protect against flying debris.
  • During a tornado, if you are in a mobile home and have enough time, get out and find shelter in a building, a neighbours’ house or, if necessary, a ditch or a ravine.
  • If a tree has fallen on your home, stay away until a professional can determine whether any structural damage has occurred.

  • Shovel snow away from your house so that when it melts it doesn’t leak into the foundation.
  • Clear snow away from sewers so that melting snow has a place to go.
  • Safely clear ice and snow out of clogged gutters and drains.
  • Safely remove large accumulations of snow and ice from your roof and sheds to reduce pressure from the weight and to reduce chance of water damage when it melts.
  • Check for ice dams and frozen gutters. Ice dams prevent proper drainage in the gutters which allows ice to seep under the roof.
  • Maintain a normal temperature in your home to reduce the risk of freezing pipes.
  • If you have any pipes that are particularly vulnerable to freezing, let a faucet drip to relieve the pressure that builds when water freezes.
  • Wrap exposed pipes in foam or fiberglass sleeves to reduce the risk of freezing.
  • If you have experienced a water pipe burst, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve, and leave your faucets open until repairs are complete.
  • If a tree has fallen on your home, stay away until a professional can determine whether any structural damage has occurred.
  • If you are going to be away from home, have someone responsible check inside and outside your home on a regular basis.

  • If possible, anchor heavy items outside your home that could become flying debris.
  • Do not use electrical equipment, including appliances or a computer.
  • A corded phone is not safe to use during a storm. If necessary, use a cellular or cordless phone.
  • If a tree has fallen on your home, stay away until a professional can determine whether any structural damage has occurred.
  • If you can, move automobiles into the garage or under cover.
  • Keep exterior doors and windows closed and stay clear of windows, glass doors and fireplaces.
  • Check your basement regularly for any water entry.
  • If you are going to be away from your home, ensure someone responsible is checking inside and outside your home on a regular basis.

Earthquake Damage

Earthquakes are tough to predict. Because we don’t know exactly when and if one will happen, it’s important to be prepared.

Preventing Earthquake Damage

To avoid injury, minimize damage to your home and stay safe after an earthquake, here are some valuable tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

  • Develop an emergency plan. Practice what to do during an earthquake and know the safe and dangerous places in your home for taking cover.
  • Plan out your evacuation route and ensure every family member knows it.
  • Make any necessary repairs to your home, especially your chimney and roof tiles if they are showing any signs of weakness.
  • Tie down any appliances that could break gas or water lines if they fall over, such as your water heater.
  • Make sure shelving units are secured to avoid tipping.
  • Move any flammable items away from heat and secure them so that they won’t spill.
  • Put together an emergency supply kit and secure it in a safe, easily accessible place–it’s a good idea to find a spot that can be accessed from outside.
  • If you live in an earthquake prone area such as Quebec or British Columbia, consider adding the Earthquake endorsement to your insurance policy.

Minimizing Earthquake Damage

After an earthquake, the most important thing is to stay safe. Find out how.

  • Wear protective clothing such as gloves and sturdy footwear as you explore the damage to your home.
  • Hire a professional to evaluate whether there is any structural damage to your home before you go inside.
  • Check your utilities. Turn off the gas if there is a leak–gas will smell if it is leaking.
  • Watch for downed wires or other hazards. Stay alert at all times.
  • Make sure your home is secured against possible intruders. Ensure your doors, windows and locks are not damaged–if they are, take necessary steps to keep your home safe (i.e. plywood over broken windows or doors).

If you have earthquake damage, do not:

  • Enter your home before a professional says it is safe to do so.
  • Light matches or turn on the lights until you’re sure there are no gas leaks or other flammable liquids present.
  • Turn off the gas unless you have confirmed there is a leak.
  • Flush toilets, as sewer lines may have been damaged.
  • Use your telephone, unless it’s a life-threatening emergency.
  • Go near downed power lines–stay at least 10 metres away.

Forest Fires

Forest fire season in Canada is typically May to September. If you live in a region prone to forest fires, be prepared and have an emergency plan. Here are some tips for preventing and minimizing forest fire damage.

Preventing Forest Fire Damage

Forest fires can devastate a home and community. Discover some proactive things you can do to protect your home and your family.

  • Have an emergency preparedness kit ready with enough supplies for you and your family to last 72+ hours.
  • Develop an emergency evacuation plan and review it regularly with your family.
  • Keep your mobile phone charged at all times.
  • Keep your gutters clear of debris and leaves at all times.
  • Ensure outdoor water spouts are operational and make repairs if necessary.
  • Keep woodpiles, tree branches, leaves and other flammable materials away from your home.
  • Have a battery-operated radio handy and keep a supply of charged batteries.
  • Consider replacing your roof with fire resistant roofing materials such as clay tile, metal or asphalt shingles.
  • If replacing your windows, consider installing double pane, thermal pane or tempered glass windows versus single pane glass windows.
  • Ensure your chimney is inspected regularly and meets your specific provincial building code requirements.

  • Close all windows and doors to prevent embers from entering your home.
  • Close all interior doors–this can help slow the spread of fire inside your home.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks with water.
  • Turn off propane or natural gas valves.
  • Plug all downspouts and fill the gutters with water.
  • If you have an outdoor hot tub or pool, make them as accessible as possible to firefighters.
  • Fill garbage cans and buckets with water and leave them in easy view outside your home.
  • If safe to do so, hose your house down with water.
  • Make sure your vehicle is filled with gas and parked in the garage or a cleared area facing towards the road. Pack valuables and your emergency kit inside. Keep the windows up and the keys in the ignition.

  • Leave a note inside indicating when you left and where you are going.
  • Gather your family and pets and leave immediately.
  • Lock your home.
  • Drive away from the fire–never towards it.
  • Do not return to your property until advised by authorities.
  • Communicate using non-voice channels like text messaging, email or social media.
  • Conserve your mobile device battery by reducing the screen’s brightness, putting your phone in airplane mode and closing apps you are not using.

Minimizing Forest Fire Damage

After sustaining fire damage, it's only natural to want to clean your property right away. While timely action is important, it’s critical to know what the right steps are and to follow them carefully to avoid causing further damage.

If you have fire and smoke damage, do not:

  • Try to clean any damage yourself, as you could harm your home and belongings even more. It’s wise to hire a professional fire restoration company.
  • Wipe or attempt to wash walls, ceilings or other absorbent surfaces.
  • Use do-it-yourself home carpet or upholstery cleaners.
  • Sit or lie on upholstered furniture. If this can’t be avoided, cover with clean sheets before using.
  • Consume exposed food items or canned goods that have been subjected to excessive heat.
  • Send smoked garments to an ordinary dry cleaner. Improper cleaning may set smoke and odour.
  • Use TVs, stereos, or electrical appliances until cleaned and checked.
  • If the electricity is off, empty your freezer and refrigerator completely.

Power Outage

Whether you’ve dealt with a fire, storm or earthquake, losing power is a common aftereffect. Routine as it may be, the impact of a power outage on your property and your health can be significant if you don’t take the proper steps.

Managing through a Power Outage

Here are some tips to help you manage through a power outage safely.

If your home loses power, do not:

  • Use charcoal or gas barbecues or home generators indoors, as they release carbon monoxide.
  • Leave lit candles unattended.
  • Use flooded appliances or electrical outlets after power is restored, unless they have been checked by a qualified electrician.
  • Open your refrigerator or freezer unless it is absolutely necessary. If a freezer door has been kept closed, food should stay frozen 24-36 hours.
  • Consume food that has been in a refrigerator or freezer without power for more than 24-36 hours. When in doubt, throw it out!

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Insurance Bureau of Canada