How homeowners can protect themselves from basement flooding: Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation

New report identifies cost-effective ways homeowners can protect themselves from the top climate change cost in Canada – basement flooding

Waterloo, ON (Apr. 16, 2019) – With the right information, and often for less than $250, homeowners can protect themselves from the increasing risks of basement flooding, according to a report from the University of Waterloo.

A new, multi-year project carried out by Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation has identified the most common flood risks for Canadian homeowners, and has identified the most cost-effective steps that homeowners can take to protect themselves from basement flooding.  In light of a major report recently released from Environment and Climate Change Canada, highlighting the increasing risk of future flooding, guidance on home flood protection is timely.

“For many Canadians, their home is their biggest asset and ultimately their retirement fund,” said Blair Feltmate, Head of the Intact Centre and a professor at Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment. “To protect that investment, any homeowner who lives where it rains can easily and cost-effectively deploy simple measures to lower their chances of experiencing basement flooding.”

“To date, many homeowners have simply not known what to do to protect their homes from flooding – this report corrects that omission by identifying actions that most homeowners can act upon, generally over a weekend.”

The project examined results from home flood risk assessments completed by flood risk assessors at over 500 homes in southern Ontario and Saskatchewan in 2017 and 2018. The report summarizes the most common factors that put homes at increased risk of water flowing into basements through ground level windows, through basement drains and seeping in through basement walls.

Home assessments in Ontario found a number of common issues inside the home, including no backup sump pump or backup power (85 per cent), furniture and electronics at risk of water damage (71 per cent), a lack of maintenance of backwater valves (53 per cent), and a failure to maintain sump pumps (40 per cent).

Assessments also found common issues outside the home, including low window wells (82 per cent), downspouts that deposit water less than 2 meters from the foundation (78 per cent), poor grading that directs water towards the foundation (69 per cent), and cracks or gaps in the basement windows (63 per cent).

The report also identified step-by-step actions that can be taken by residents, often for less than $250. That is money wisely invested, given that the average cost of repairing damage from a basement flood reached $43,000 in 2018.

Examples of easily deployable steps that residents can take to reduce flood risk include:

  • Completing spring and fall maintenance of existing flood protection features in their homes, which includes clearing out nearby storm drains, removing debris from eaves troughs, testing sump pumps and cleaning out backwater valves.
  • Completing flood protection upgrades themselves, including storing valuables and hazardous materials in watertight containers and raising them off the floor, installing window well covers and extending sump pump discharge pipes and downspouts at least 2 meters away from the foundation or to the nearest drainage swale.
  • Working with contractors and seeking permits and flood protection subsidies from their local municipalities to disconnect their downspouts from foundation drains, raise the height of window wells, install backwater valves and install a backup sump pump and backup power supply.

The project determined that conversations and in-person professional advice were the best way to encourage homeowners to take the necessary steps to protect their properties.

“Our project tested the effectiveness of various outreach approaches to motivate residents to address basement flood risk,” said Cheryl Evans, Director of the Home Flood Protection Program at the Intact Centre. “Sending out flyers and posting tips on social media helps to raise awareness, but that is not enough. Residents trust advice from flood-impacted neighbours, insurance providers and even informed staff at hardware stores.”

“One-on-one conversations with people they trust make all the difference for many people.”

Following the assessment, 79 per cent of residents surveyed took at least one action to reduce their flood risks, and after 6 months 71 per cent of residents took at least one additional action. Over 60 per cent of the actions taken by homeowners cost less than $500.

Visit for flood protection videos, fact sheets and cost-effective tips for reducing flood risk.

Support for the Ontario component project was received from Intact Financial Corporation, the Ontario government, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the City of Toronto, and the City of Burlington.

Infographic: ‘Three Steps To Cost-Effective Basement Flood Protection’

Three Steps To Cost-Effective Basement Flood Protection (Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, University of Waterloo)

Three Steps To Cost-Effective Basement Flood Protection
(Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, University of Waterloo)

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About Intact Financial Corporation

Intact Financial Corporation (TSX: IFC) is the largest provider of property and casualty (P&C) insurance in Canada and a leading provider of specialty insurance in North America, with close to $10 billion in total annual premiums. The Company has over 13,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than five million personal, business, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada and the U.S. In Canada, Intact distributes insurance under the Intact Insurance brand through a wide network of brokers, including its wholly-owned subsidiary BrokerLink, and directly to consumers through belairdirect. In the U.S., OneBeacon Insurance Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary, provides specialty insurance products through independent agencies, brokers, wholesalers and managing general agencies. For more information, visit

Intact Insurance is Canada’s largest home, auto and business insurance company, the choice of more than four million consumers. Its coast-to-coast presence and its strong relationship with insurance brokers mean the company can provide the outstanding service, comfort and continuity customers deserve. Intact Insurance is a member company of Intact Financial Corporation. For more information, visit

The Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation (ICCA) was developed after five years of research and discussions with the University of Waterloo. The ICCA is a national applied research centre focused on bringing practical and cost-effective solutions to address climate change and extreme weather events. Every Canadian has felt the effects of climate change in recent years. The ICCA serves as an incubator to promote new ideas on how we, as a country, can adapt to the ever-changing weather.

About the University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo is one of Canada’s top innovation universities. With more than 36,000 students and the world’s largest co-operative education system of its kind, its unmatched entrepreneurial culture, combined with an intensive focus on research, powers one of the top innovation hubs in the world. For more information about Waterloo, please visit

About Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties. For more information, visit

SOURCE: Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo (via Insurance Bureau of Canada)

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