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Reduce your risk of basement flooding

We provide information on how to reduce the chances of experiencing basement flooding and other types of water damage. We also provide some background information and descriptions of municipal sewer and stormwater management issues that have led to basement flooding problems. It is our hope that this website will provide useful guidance to municipal governments, insurance companies and homeowners who would like to reduce the chances of experiencing basement flooding, and other forms of water damage.

The Problem

  • SEWER BACKUP

     

  • INFILTRATION

     

  • OVERLAND FLOODING

     

Homeowner

Homeowners often do not think about sewer systems and stormwater management until there is a problem. You might think that since you live on top of a hill, or since you’ve never had any problems with basement flooding in the past that you are safe. This is not necessarily the case. Flooding events in several communities have affected many people who were thought to have lived in areas where basement flooding could not occur.

Basement flooding can cause significant damage to your personal property and can have serious repercussions for the livability of your home. Basement flood impacts include:

• Damage to basement flooring and wall materials.
• Loss of furniture and entertainment systems.
• Damage to irreplaceable sentimental items.
• Food spoilage.
• Damage to furnaces, water heaters, and the home’s electrical system.
• Structural damage to the home, including possible damage to the foundation.
• Damage to property stored in the basement.

Aside from reducing damages to your house and personal property, by reducing basement flooding you can protect yourself and your family from possible health impacts from a flood event, including respiratory problems from dampness and mould growth.

Much of the sewer infrastructure in Canada is getting older. Many communities have had problems with cracked underground sewer pipes, which allow a constant flow of groundwater into the system; a situation that can reduce the ability of the system to handle heavy rainfall. Further, climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events. That means that the heavy rainfalls of the past will occur more often in the future, causing more flood events.

What’s more, homeowners can have problems with basement flooding even when there has been no major rainfall event. The condition of your own sanitary sewer lateral, the underground pipe that connects your home to the municipal sanitary sewer system, can result in sewer backup, especially when there are problems with build-up of debris in your lateral or in the municipal sanitary sewer system.

All things considered, it is a good idea for any homeowner to protect their home from basement flooding – it is better to be safe than sorry.

Handbook for reducing basement flooding

List of Government Subsidy Programs

Several municipalities across Canada offer financial assistance through partial subsidies for basement flood reduction measures. Subsidy programs have been developed by some municipalities, with the goal of increasing homeowner uptake of measures including downspout and foundation drain disconnection, backwater valve installation, and repairing sewer laterals.

Subsidy programs may be available to everyone in a city, only to individuals who have experienced basement flooding, or to homeowners who are in an area that may be vulnerable to basement flooding. Grant programs are often directed to properties that have experienced flooding from sewer backup associated with the city sewer system, rather than flooding associated with infiltration or overland flows.

Brantford, Ontario
http://www.brantford.ca/Communications/2011-01-05%20Final%20Revised%202010%20Basement%20Flooding%20Grant%20Program%20General%20Information.pdf

Durham Region, Ontario
http://www.durham.ca/departments/works/sewer/basementflooding/sump_pump_loan_application.pdf

Greater Sudbury, Ontario
http://www.city.greatersudbury.on.ca/cms/index.cfm?app=wastewater&lang=en&currID=10283

Halton Region (Burlington, Oakville, etc.), Ontario
http://www.halton.ca/living_in_halton/housing/home_property_owners/basement_flooding/basement_flooding_prevention_subsidy_program/

Hamilton, Ontario
http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PublicWorks/WaterAndWasteWaterDev/ProtectivePlumbingProgram.htm

Kingston, Ontario
http://www.utilitieskingston.com/Water/basementflooding/preventative.aspx?wopenpane=2

London, Ontario
http://www.london.ca/d.aspx?s=/Sewer_and_Wastewater/Basement_Flooding_Grant_Program.htm

Niagara Falls, Ontario
http://www.niagarafalls.ca/living/environment/wrap.aspx

Ottawa, Ontario
http://ottawa.ca/en/env_water/tlg/alw/funding/protective_plumbing/index.html

Peel/Mississauga, Ontario
http://www.peelregion.ca/pw/water/sewage-trtmt/remediation-program.htm

St. Catharines, Ontario
http://www.stcatharines.ca/en/livein/AssistanceProgramsForResidentialPropertyOwners.asp?_mid_=10407

Toronto, Ontario
http://www.toronto.ca/water/sewers/basement_flooding.htm

Vaughan, Ontario
http://www.city.vaughan.on.ca/vaughan/departments/public_works/pdf/Back-water%20Valve%20Installation%20Subsidy.pdf

Welland, Ontario
http://www.welland.ca/Building/SWAP.asp

Windsor, Ontario
http://www.citywindsor.ca/residents/maintenanceandfieldservices/Sewers-/Pages/Basement-Flooding-Protection-Subsidy-Program-(BFP).aspx

Edmonton, Alberta
http://www.edmonton.ca/for_residents/flooding_sewers/backwater-valve-subsidy-program.aspx

Humboldt, Saskatchewan
http://www.cityofhumboldt.ca/default.aspx?page=25

Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
http://www.citypa.ca/Portals/0/PDF/PW/2008%2001%2030%20-%20Flood%20Protection%20Program.pdf

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
http://www.saskatoon.ca/DEPARTMENTS/Infrastructure%20Services/Public%20Works/Water%20and%20Sewer/Basement%20Flooding/Pages/default.aspx

Winnipeg, Manitoba

http://winnipeg.ca/waterandwaste/drainageFlooding/basementFloodingProtectionSubsidyProgram.stm

Brandon, Mantioba
http://brandon.ca/public-notices/309-additional-funding-for-2011-sump-pump-a-backwater-valve-program

Moncton, New Brunswick
http://www.moncton.ca/Government/Departments/Building_Inspection/Backwater_Valve_Incentive_Program.htm

Do you know of a municipality or city with a basement flooding/stormwater subsidy program that’s not on our list? Let us know…

Municipality

Urban flooding presents a severe and continuing problem for municipalities across Canada. Several recent events have exemplified the financial and social impact of severe urban flooding events, including the August 19, 2005 event in Southern Ontario, which resulted in over $500 million in insured damages and caused significant damage to infrastructure throughout the Greater Toronto Area, from Hamilton to Durham Region. Residents in the City of Hamilton have endured numerous basement flood events over the past five years, from July 26, 2005 and the August 19, 2005 storm to as recently as Autumn, 2010. Other recent severe events include flooding in Southern Alberta in 2005, resulting in $300 million in insured damages, and the 2004 flood event in Peterborough, Ontario, resulting in over $87 million in insured damages. The 2004 event in Peterborough also resulted in provincial disaster relief payments of $25 million, almost $6 million of which was paid to residents.

Aside from damage to infrastructure and the impact to the homes of their citizens, municipalities have also faced litigation associated with basement flooding, including the municipalities of Thunder Bay, Port Alberni, St. John’s and Kenora. In early 2010, the City of Stratford settled a class-action lawsuit related to a flood event in July, 2002. Under the settlement, $7.7 million was to be paid to approximately 800 homeowners in the city.

Municipal governments across Canada are working hard to reduce urban flood problems. Many cities are replacing and updating aging sewer systems and building additional capacity into existing systems. However, improving sewer infrastructure is an expensive and long-term process. In many cases, these projects will take several years to complete.

Reflecting the role of private property owners in urban flood reduction, many Canadian municipalities have employed programs to increase public awareness of urban flood risk and encourage the adoption of mitigation measures. There may be several components to these programs, including educational programs, by-laws and financial incentive programs.

Handbook for reducing basement flooding

List of Government Subsidy Programs

Several municipalities across Canada offer financial assistance through partial subsidies for basement flood reduction measures. Subsidy programs have been developed by some municipalities, with the goal of increasing homeowner uptake of measures including downspout and foundation drain disconnection, backwater valve installation, and repairing sewer laterals.

Subsidy programs may be available to everyone in a city, only to individuals who have experienced basement flooding, or to homeowners who are in an area that may be vulnerable to basement flooding. Grant programs are often directed to properties that have experienced flooding from sewer backup associated with the city sewer system, rather than flooding associated with infiltration or overland flows.

Brantford, Ontario
http://www.brantford.ca/Communications/2011-01-05%20Final%20Revised%202010%20Basement%20Flooding%20Grant%20Program%20General%20Information.pdf

Durham Region, Ontario
http://www.durham.ca/departments/works/sewer/basementflooding/sump_pump_loan_application.pdf

Greater Sudbury, Ontario
http://www.city.greatersudbury.on.ca/cms/index.cfm?app=wastewater&lang=en&currID=10283

Halton Region (Burlington, Oakville, etc.), Ontario
http://www.halton.ca/living_in_halton/housing/home_property_owners/basement_flooding/basement_flooding_prevention_subsidy_program/

Hamilton, Ontario
http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PublicWorks/WaterAndWasteWaterDev/ProtectivePlumbingProgram.htm

Kingston, Ontario
http://www.utilitieskingston.com/Water/basementflooding/preventative.aspx?wopenpane=2

London, Ontario
http://www.london.ca/d.aspx?s=/Sewer_and_Wastewater/Basement_Flooding_Grant_Program.htm

Niagara Falls, Ontario
http://www.niagarafalls.ca/living/environment/wrap.aspx

Ottawa, Ontario
http://ottawa.ca/en/env_water/tlg/alw/funding/protective_plumbing/index.html

Peel/Mississauga, Ontario
http://www.peelregion.ca/pw/water/sewage-trtmt/remediation-program.htm

St. Catharines, Ontario
http://www.stcatharines.ca/en/livein/AssistanceProgramsForResidentialPropertyOwners.asp?_mid_=10407

Toronto, Ontario
http://www.toronto.ca/water/sewers/basement_flooding.htm

Vaughan, Ontario
http://www.city.vaughan.on.ca/vaughan/departments/public_works/pdf/Back-water%20Valve%20Installation%20Subsidy.pdf

Welland, Ontario
http://www.welland.ca/Building/SWAP.asp

Windsor, Ontario
http://www.citywindsor.ca/residents/maintenanceandfieldservices/Sewers-/Pages/Basement-Flooding-Protection-Subsidy-Program-(BFP).aspx

Edmonton, Alberta
http://www.edmonton.ca/for_residents/flooding_sewers/backwater-valve-subsidy-program.aspx

Humboldt, Saskatchewan
http://www.cityofhumboldt.ca/default.aspx?page=25

Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
http://www.citypa.ca/Portals/0/PDF/PW/2008%2001%2030%20-%20Flood%20Protection%20Program.pdf

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
http://www.saskatoon.ca/DEPARTMENTS/Infrastructure%20Services/Public%20Works/Water%20and%20Sewer/Basement%20Flooding/Pages/default.aspx

Winnipeg, Manitoba

http://winnipeg.ca/waterandwaste/drainageFlooding/basementFloodingProtectionSubsidyProgram.stm

Brandon, Mantioba
http://brandon.ca/public-notices/309-additional-funding-for-2011-sump-pump-a-backwater-valve-program

Moncton, New Brunswick
http://www.moncton.ca/Government/Departments/Building_Inspection/Backwater_Valve_Incentive_Program.htm

Do you know of a municipality or city with a basement flooding/stormwater subsidy program that’s not on our list? Let us know…

Insurer

The Canadian property and casualty insurance industry has experienced significant losses from basement flooding over the past few years. Specific examples of large loss events include the August 19, 2005 extreme rainfall event in southern Ontario, which resulted in over $500 million in total insurance claims, $247 million of which was attributed to claims from sewer backup in homes. Also in 2005, flooding in southern Alberta resulted in approximately $300 million in insurance payouts, $145 million of which was attributed to sewer backup claims, and Edmonton experienced a sever rainfall event that resulted in $143 million in sewer backup claims in July, 2004.

The weather system that caused flooding in Edmonton in early July 2004 later swung around Canada and combined with another system to cause extreme rainfall in Peterborough, Ontario, resulting in over $87 million in insurance claims.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has estimated that water damages cost insurers $1.7 billion per year, and claims from basement flooding comprise a significant portion of this figure. Insurers have begun to address the issues of basement flooding through several approaches, including funding research on basement flood risk identification and risk mitigation, and incentivizing risk reduction measures by homeowners.

Handbook for reducing basement flooding

Click here for a list of Canadian municipal subsidy and loan programs for basement flood reduction

Several municipalities across Canada offer financial assistance through partial subsidies for basement flood reduction measures. Subsidy programs have been developed by some municipalities, with the goal of increasing homeowner uptake of measures including downspout and foundation drain disconnection, backwater valve installation, and repairing sewer laterals.

Subsidy programs may be available to everyone in a city, only to individuals who have experienced basement flooding, or to homeowners who are in an area that may be vulnerable to basement flooding. Grant programs are often directed to properties that have experienced flooding from sewer backup associated with the city sewer system, rather than flooding associated with infiltration or overland flows.

Brantford, Ontario
http://www.brantford.ca/Communications/2011-01-05%20Final%20Revised%202010%20Basement%20Flooding%20Grant%20Program%20General%20Information.pdf

Durham Region, Ontario
http://www.durham.ca/departments/works/sewer/basementflooding/sump_pump_loan_application.pdf

Greater Sudbury, Ontario
http://www.city.greatersudbury.on.ca/cms/index.cfm?app=wastewater&lang=en&currID=10283

Halton Region (Burlington, Oakville, etc.), Ontario
http://www.halton.ca/living_in_halton/housing/home_property_owners/basement_flooding/basement_flooding_prevention_subsidy_program/

Hamilton, Ontario
http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PublicWorks/WaterAndWasteWaterDev/ProtectivePlumbingProgram.htm

Kingston, Ontario
http://www.utilitieskingston.com/Water/basementflooding/preventative.aspx?wopenpane=2

London, Ontario
http://www.london.ca/d.aspx?s=/Sewer_and_Wastewater/Basement_Flooding_Grant_Program.htm

Niagara Falls, Ontario
http://www.niagarafalls.ca/living/environment/wrap.aspx

Ottawa, Ontario
http://ottawa.ca/en/env_water/tlg/alw/funding/protective_plumbing/index.html

Peel/Mississauga, Ontario
http://www.peelregion.ca/pw/water/sewage-trtmt/remediation-program.htm

St. Catharines, Ontario
http://www.stcatharines.ca/en/livein/AssistanceProgramsForResidentialPropertyOwners.asp?_mid_=10407

Toronto, Ontario
http://www.toronto.ca/water/sewers/basement_flooding.htm

Vaughan, Ontario
http://www.city.vaughan.on.ca/vaughan/departments/public_works/pdf/Back-water%20Valve%20Installation%20Subsidy.pdf

Welland, Ontario
http://www.welland.ca/Building/SWAP.asp

Windsor, Ontario
http://www.citywindsor.ca/residents/maintenanceandfieldservices/Sewers-/Pages/Basement-Flooding-Protection-Subsidy-Program-(BFP).aspx

Edmonton, Alberta
http://www.edmonton.ca/for_residents/flooding_sewers/backwater-valve-subsidy-program.aspx

Humboldt, Saskatchewan
http://www.cityofhumboldt.ca/default.aspx?page=25

Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
http://www.citypa.ca/Portals/0/PDF/PW/2008%2001%2030%20-%20Flood%20Protection%20Program.pdf

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
http://www.saskatoon.ca/DEPARTMENTS/Infrastructure%20Services/Public%20Works/Water%20and%20Sewer/Basement%20Flooding/Pages/default.aspx

Winnipeg, Manitoba

http://winnipeg.ca/waterandwaste/drainageFlooding/basementFloodingProtectionSubsidyProgram.stm

Brandon, Manitoba
http://brandon.ca/public-notices/309-additional-funding-for-2011-sump-pump-a-backwater-valve-program

Moncton, New Brunswick
http://www.moncton.ca/Government/Departments/Building_Inspection/Backwater_Valve_Incentive_Program.htm

Do you know of a municipality or city with a basement flooding/stormwater subsidy program that’s not on our list? Let us know…

Resources

This page contains information and free resources that municipalities, insurers, insurance brokers and other stakeholders can use to develop their own educational materials on basement flood risk reduction and homeowners can use to become better informed about the risk and how to reduce the chances of experiencing a flooded basement.

Handbook for reducing basement flooding

This handbook provides information on how you can reduce your chances and your neighbours’ chances of having basement flooding. There are 20 flood reduction options in this handbook. This handbook also provides some background information and descriptions of municipal sewer and stormwater management issues that have led to basement flooding problems. It is our hope that this handbook will provide useful guidance to any homeowner who would like to reduce their chances of having basement flooding.

Handbook for reducing basement flooding

Guide de prévention des inondations de sous-sols

Basement flooding booklet for homeowners

This booklet is a synthesized version of the Handbook for reducing basement flooding, providing basic tips to homeowners without overwhelming them with the fuller, more complex issues contained in the handbook. The booklet also contains a checklist to help homeowners measure their risk of basement flooding.

Protect your home from basement flooding booklet

Protégez votre maison contre les inondations de sous-sols

Focus on:

Sump pump systems

This booklet explains what sump pump systems are, what they do, how they can fail, and how they should be tested and maintained. The booklet also provides advice on what to consider when having a sump pump system installed, or when replacing an old pump.

Focus on Sump pump systems booklet

Backwater Valves

This booklet explains what backwater valves are, what they do, how they can fail, and how they should be inspected and maintained. The booklet also provides advice on what to consider when having a backwater valve installed and goes through the different types of backwater valves.

Focus on Backwater valves booklet

Videos on reducing the risk of experiencing basement flooding

Six videos on how to reduce basement flooding (ICLR)

Six brief narrated animations illustrating various aspects of basement flooding (ICLR)

Glossary of water damage-related terms

Backwater valve (sometimes referred to as a backflow valve): A valve that is placed in the sewer lateral that helps to prevent water from backing up from the municipal sewer into the basement.

Catch basin: Catch basins direct surface stormwater to the underground storm or combined sewer system.

Cleanout port: Cleanout ports allow for access to the home’s sewer laterals for cleaning and maintenance purposes. Cleanout ports may be located either in the basement, close to where the sanitary sewer lateral enters the basement, or outside of the home, usually somewhere close to the foundation or between the home and the street.

Combined sewer: A sewer that has been designed to convey both sanitary sewage and storm sewage. This type of sewer often services older areas of Canadian communities.

Combined sewer overflow (CSO): Combined sewers are designed to automatically bypass treatment facilities and re-route excess, untreated sewage to local surface water bodies when they become overwhelmed with excess sanitary and storm sewage. This automatic bypassing is called a combined sewer overflow.

Exfiltrate: Exfiltration occurs when high pressure water or sewage is forced out of sewer pipes or sewer laterals through cracks or loose joints in the pipes.

Foundation drain: See “Weeping tile.”

Groundwater: Water that is contained within soil and between rocks below the earth’s surface.

Infiltration and inflow: Infiltration occurs when groundwater infiltrates into the sanitary sewer system (for example, through cracks in pipes and loose pipe joints). Inflow occurs when excess stormwater enters the sanitary system directly, for example, through downspout connections, leaky manholes, and cross-connections where parts of the storm sewer system have been accidentally or illegally connected into the sanitary sewer system.

Infiltration flooding: Flooding that enters the home through cracks in the basement floors and walls. This water “infiltrates” through the ground and into the basement. One in five year storm: A storm that has a 1 in 5 chance of occurring in any given year.

One in one hundred year storm: A storm that has a 1 in 100 chance of occurring in any given year.

One in two year storm: A storm that has a 1 in 2 chance of occurring in any given year.

Overland flooding: Water that flows over the surface of public and private property, and can enter homes and buildings through doors, windows, vents, and other above-ground openings.

Overland flow route: A pre-determined route that is designed to direct overland rainwater and snow-melt flow in a controlled manner. Overland flow routes may include streets with heightened curbs or ditches, and often direct flows to nearby lakes, streams or rivers or to underground storm sewer systems.

Permeable and impermeable: Permeable surfaces, including grassy yards, have the ability to absorb a limited amount of rainfall. Impermeable surfaces, including paved driveways and roofs, have no ability to absorb rainwater. Soil may also be permeable or impermeable. For example, the backfill area around a home may be composed of more pervious soils, and undisturbed soils may be less pervious.

Sanitary sewage: Sewage that is created by use of a building’s plumbing (for example, sinks, toilets, dishwashers, laundry machines) and is considered a highly contaminated health hazard.

Sanitary sewer: An underground sewer-pipe that is designed to convey only sanitary sewage.

Sanitary sewer lateral: An underground pipe that connects a home’s plumbing to the municipal sanitary or combined sewer system.

Sewer backup: Sewage that is forced back through storm and sanitary sewer laterals from sanitary, storm or combined sewers. Sewage flooding typically enters lower levels of a home through plumbing fixtures, including floor drains, sewer cleanouts and basement toilets, sinks and showers.

Storm sewage: Storm sewage is created directly by rainfall and snowmelt. This water is cleaner than sanitary sewage, but can be contaminated with chemicals and debris.

Storm sewer: An underground sewer-pipe that is designed to convey only stormwater flows.

Storm sewer lateral: An underground pipe that connects a home to the underground, municipal storm sewer system.

Stormwater management: The practice of managing overland and underground water flows created by rainfall and snow-melt. Stormwater management is commonly the responsibility of the municipal government.

Sump-pit: A sump-pit collects water from the home’s weeping tiles.

Sump-pump: A sump-pump is a device that is placed into the sump-pit to pump weeping tile discharge out of the basement.

Surcharge: The technical term for water backup in a sewer pipe due to insufficient capacity from overloading or blockage. See “Sewer backup.”

Swale: A grassy, shallow ditch-like depression used to direct stormwater flows.

Urban flooding: Urban flooding occurs in urban areas, where there is a high concentration of buildings and impermeable surfaces, such as roadways, parking lots and roofs. This type of flooding can result from heavy rainfall, snowmelt or surcharging sewer systems. Urban flooding can occur in areas that are not at risk of flooding from rivers or other natural surface water bodies.

Weeping tile: A series of tiles or a perforated pipe located along the bottom of a building’s foundation that is used to collect and drain groundwater away from the building.