This article has been updated from a previous version.
Spring has sprung. That means it’s time for the spring rituals: clearing clutter and preparing your home for potential damage when winter finally melts away for good.
The runoff of accumulated snow, compounded by heavy seasonal rain, presents a potential risk to your home. Swollen rivers can also overflow their banks. That makes lower-lying properties especially susceptible to water damage, but the house on the hill isn’t necessarily risk-free, either.
It’s essential to understand the details of your home insurance policy and safeguard your dwelling against spring damage by conducting a thorough inspection on three fronts.
Indoor spring home maintenance
It’s a good idea to start your spring maintenance inside of the home, even while temperatures still linger in the single digits and snow may still be on the ground. Being proactive with your routine checks can also buy you time if an appliance needs to be repaired.
- Check your sump pump. Make sure it’s clear of debris. This task is easier with a pedestal pump than a submersible pump, as pedestal pumps sit on the basement floor rather than in a sump pit, underwater. Also, check the manufacture date of your sump pump. With proper maintenance, a pedestal pump can last up to 30 years, while a submersible pump can only last about 15. If it’s time to replace the pump and it’s electrically powered, consider getting a new one with backup battery power.
- Check your appliances. You don’t want water in your basement, or worse, electrified water. If you don’t have much to store in your chest freezer, consider unplugging it and bringing all frozen items to the kitchen freezer upstairs. If you have a workshop in your basement, unplug the tools when they’re not in use. And if your finished basement has a rec room with a home theatre, for example, consider unplugging that system, too.
- Check your pipes for signs of leakage, especially if you’ve been away for a length of time. If pipes have frozen, they can leak or burst when they thaw.
- Check your foundation for cracks and other signs of water infiltration, like sticking doors or dripping wet windows. Keeping an eye out for foundation cracks will be even more important on the outside of the house.
Outdoor spring home maintenance
Waiting for a dry, mild day may make your outdoor maintenance a little easier. Doing your outdoor checks can also help you find the root of any problems you may have seen inside.
- Dig out potential water hazards. Move any accumulated snow at least three feet away from the house. Think about flood prevention and make sure your outdoor drains are clear as well, so your sump pump can do its job.
- Clear eavestroughs and downspouts. Make sure they’re not frozen or clogged and are running down the grade of your lawn to the street. While you’re at it, eyeball the grade (or slope). The freeze-thaw cycle can change it.
- Clear the sewer grate on the street near you. There may be areas of your neighbourhood where the land is almost V-shaped. Debris often collects at the bottom of these street gulleys on grates, and water and ice accumulate. Make sure that water has a place to go.
- Back to the foundation. Big, zigzag cracks in the side are obvious, but there are more subtle signs toward the top of the house, like ill-fitting window frames with cracks above them, for example. If you’re in doubt, get an inspection.
Review your home insurance policy
Spring is also an excellent time to have a frank discussion with your insurance broker about what is and isn’t covered under your home insurance, and make changes before an expensive disaster arises.
Unfortunately, most basic policies don’t cover the perils of a spring thaw. However, if damage is caused by an insured peril that forces you to leave your home, and you must stay in a hotel, a standard insurance policy may have you covered.
You may have to purchase extended coverage, like sewer backup insurance, which financially protects you if a sewer floods your basement, or overland flood insurance, which covers flood damage caused by an exterior body of water. Water damage resulting from cracks in your foundation, however, may not be covered as the crack may be due to a lack of maintenance.
Ask your broker to explain what is and isn’t covered under your current home insurance policy. The more information you have, the more likely it is you will get the best value from your coverage.
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