Be prepared for the spring thaw – most homeowners can’t afford not to


Spring can be a potentially dangerous time of year for homeowners. It’s the time of year when flooding is most likely to damage a home.

Be prepared for the spring thaw – most homeowners can’t afford not to

In many ways spring is the most wonderful time of year, isn’t it? The snow is melting, the days are getting longer and we develop that euphoric feeling of knowing we’ll be able to get out and about more after a long, cold winter.

But spring can also be a potentially dangerous time of year for homeowners, especially those who live in flood-prone areas along rivers or streams. It’s the time of year when flooding is most likely to damage a home. The sudden melting of snow, the thawing of ice underground, and the expectation of heavy rain in early spring almost always combine for a realistic possibility of an emergency. And this has the potential to happen anywhere there’s water, not just along major rivers.

But there are several things homeowners can do to ensure they’re safe. It all starts with being proactive and prepared.

  1. Watch forecasts. Watch weather forecasts and pay attention to updates from your local conservation authority. Conservation authorities monitor conditions along watersheds regularly in the spring and issue flood advisories or warnings. They aren’t normally responsible for bringing sandbags right to your door; the service they provide is helping residents stay informed.
  2. Prepare the outside of your home. This includes shovelling snow away from the foundation of your home and from windows. Also check for obstructions that could prevent melting snow from draining away from your house, and clear a path for the water. Make sure there’s no debris in gutters or down sprouts. If necessary, address any ground sloping issues around your house, if they’re likely to cause excess water to flow inside.
  3. Prepare the inside of your home. Install a sump pump and make sure it’s working. If it requires batteries, make sure you have extras. If it’s electrical, you may also want to have a backup generator so it will still work if your home loses power, which is always a possibility in a major flood. It’s also a good idea to move valuable items in the lower level of your home to the upstairs during flood season – just in case.

Here’s the biggest reason why it’s important to take these steps. There’s no guarantee that homeowners who experience damage from floods will make up their losses from insurance claims. Some Canadians may have extended water coverage as part of their home policy, but that is used more for protection from sewer backups. A flood, for insurance purposes, is usually defined as water flowing overland and seeping in through, cracks and doors. This type of coverage isn’t conveniently available to Canadians. If you’re worried about flood damage in your home, talk to your insurance advisor about the coverage that’s best for you. In the meantime, use those extra daylight hours in spring to get working around your house. Good fortune always favours the prepared.