As severe weather becomes increasingly common due to climate change, the potential for home flooding is growing, too. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that it cost an average of $43,000 to repair a flooded basement in 2018 — but would you rather pay $43,000 or $250?
That question is central to the Home Flood Protection Program spearheaded by the University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, which looks at how prepared Canadians are for basement flooding, and provides guidance to homeowners for limiting their risk for flood damage.
From 2017 to 2018, the Intact Centre offered 510 flood risk assessments to owners of detached and semi-detached homes and townhouses. The service, which lasted between 60 and 90 minutes, equipped homeowners with information on how to limit flood risk in their homes. But it also gave the Intact Centre an opportunity to see how prepared Canadian homeowners were when it came to flood risk.
Turns out, they weren’t very prepared at all.
According to the Intact Centre’s resulting report, 82% of homes had window wells that were neither sealed at the foundation or situated at least 10 to 15 cm above the surface of the ground. Meanwhile, 72% of homes with downspouts and 68% of homes with sump pump discharge pipes unleashed water less than two metres from the home’s foundation.
In addition, 71% of homes had furniture and electronics that were at risk of being damaged in a flood, while 85% of homes with sump pumps did not have back up sump pumps. Another 84% of homes did not have backup power ready in the case of a power outage.
The Intact Centre insists that many of the actions that homeowners can take to mitigate flood risks — like removing debris from their nearest storm drain, making sure the grading around their foundation is correct and installing window wells and covers — cost less than $250.
Still, most homeowners are not taking these steps.
Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre, said that climate change, in combination with land development (which often entails the destruction of terrain that soaks up water, like forests and marshes) is increasing the risk for flooding — and water-related insurance claims. “We’re getting more storms of greater magnitude over shorter periods of time,” he said. “They’re effectively dropping water bombs of rain that contribute to flooding.”
But, he insists that homeowners can take concrete steps to protect their homes, some of which are outlined in the Intact Centre’s report.
“What is shocking is how simple is it, with just a little bit of guidance, to put a lot of these precautionary measures in place,” he said.