Spring has sprung. So it’s time for the spring rituals: clearing clutter and preparing your home for potential spring damage when winter finally melts away.

The runoff of accumulated snow, compounded by heavy seasonal rains, presents a potential risk to your home. Also, swollen rivers can overflow their banks. That makes lower-lying properties especially susceptible, but the house on the hill can’t be complacent, either.

It’s essential to understand the details of your home insurance policy, and safeguard your dwelling against spring damage by thorough inspection on three fronts.

What to Do Inside Your Home

The battle can be fought from the inside out since inspection can begin while we’re still buried in snow, and the temperature is “not-going-out” degrees Celsius.

  • Check your sump pump. Make sure it’s clear of debris. This task is easier with a pedestal pump, which is above the floor in the basement than a submersible one. Also, check the date of manufacture of your sump pump. With proper maintenance, a pedestal pump can last 25 to 30 years; a submersible about 15. If it’s time to replace the pump and it’s electrically powered, consider getting one with backup battery power.
  • Check your appliances. You don’t want water in your basement, or worse, electrified water in your basement. If you’ve worked your way through most of the contents of the chest freezer over the winter, maybe the rest can come up to the kitchen freezer and the basement device unplugged. Do you have a workshop in your basement? Unplug the tools if they’re not in use. If your finished basement has a rec room with a home theatre or such, it’s more complicated, but if you can turn it off, you can unplug it.
  • 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 symptoms of water infiltration, especially around windows. Sticking doors can be a symptom. Keeping an eye out for foundation cracks will be even more important when we get to the outside of the house.

What to Do Outside of Your Home

  • Dig out. Get the 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. 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 geography is almost V-shaped; at the bottom of these street gulleys, debris often collects 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; there are more subtle signs toward the top of the house: 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 in your household insurance, and make changes before an expensive disaster.

Unfortunately, most basic policies don’t cover the perils of a spring thaw. But 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 will cover you for that.

You may have to purchase extended coverage for other perils, though, like sewer backup mitigation, which protects you if a sewer backs up into your basement, overland flooding, and more. Water damage resulting from cracks in your foundation, however, may not be covered as the crack may be due to a lack of maintenance.

Envision likely and possible spring damage scenarios and ask your broker to explain, line by line, what is covered and what isn’t. The more information you have about home insurance policies and premiums, the more likely it is you will get the best value from your coverage.

Dave Webb

Dave Webb is a writer and editor of 30 years’ experience. He has written about municipal politics, conservation issues, information technology, medical technology, music, and the manmade diamond industry along with insurance. And some sports. He is also an avid semi-professional roots musician. He lives in Toronto.

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