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Home Insurance

A Homeowner’s Guide to a Safer Home

By RBC Insurance • Published June 9, 2023 • 7 Min Read

Repairs are a home-ownership reality, but creating a safe home can be easier with a little planning. Regular maintenance and preventative measures can help make things safer around your home and even help avoid filing a claim with your insurance company.

Here are some tips to help make your home safer, inside and out:

How to prevent damage inside your home

Water damage

There are many ways water can damage your home, from leaky pipes to storm damage, and some types of water damage aren’t covered by standard insurance policies. That’s why learning how water can affect your home is extra-important — as is finding ways to keep water at bay.

Common causes of water damage include:

  • Burst pipes due to poor insulation, freezing, and poor maintenance in and around water supply lines
  • Leaks from appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines
  • Seasonal flooding, made worse by improper drainage and property grading
  • Overflows or backups from excessive debris buildup in drains, pipes and eavestroughs
  • Sewer backups and water main breaks
  • Plumbing leaks behind walls or from upstairs units
  • Tree roots growing into pipes or foundation
  • Roof damage

Ways to help prevent water damage include:

  • Have a professional plumber install pipes and plumbing like toilets and sinks and diagnose any issues causing recurring problems
  • Prevent leaks by inspecting appliances, installing leak detectors and upgrading rubber water supply lines to steel
  • Ensure your property is properly graded for drainage to prevent water from entering your home, like adding a slope away from your house in your yard
  • Install drain filters on all sinks and appliances and clean them regularly
  • Have a backwater valve or a sump pump installed. You can also purchase pump alarms that alert you if the pump fails or water levels are too high
  • Regularly clean eavestroughs, downspouts and stormwater pipes. Ensure they are clear, and move water at least four feet away from your house
  • If you’re going away in the winter, drain the plumbing or have someone regularly stop by to check that your heating is working and your pipes aren’t freezing

Read your insurance policy and speak with your insurance advisor to understand what type of water damage is covered by homeowner’s insurance and your specific policy. Ask if your insurance company offers additional optional coverages for water damage.

Electrical damage

What’s hidden behind our walls can have a big impact on the safety of our homes. Ensuring your electrical wiring is up to code can help protect your house against electrical damage. A home inspector or electrician can help you determine if your electrical is safe and not causing any hazards.

Common causes of electrical fire damage include:

  • Faulty electrical systems, or outdated wiring, like knob-and-tube
  • Improper use of appliances and using old or damaged appliances
  • Improper use of extension cords, like connecting extension cords together or overloading them
  • Space heaters

Fire damage

House fire damage, including smoke damage, can have devastating consequences for your home and belongings.

Common causes of house fires include:

  • Cooking with oil or grease
  • Lit cigarettes and candles left burning or knocked over
  • Unattended open flames or heating sources
  • Dryer fires caused by improper use or clogged vents, lint traps and ducts

Tips for fire prevention at home:

  • Ensure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working and regularly maintain them
  • Make sure you have fire extinguishers in your home, and everyone knows where they are and how to use them
  • Clean grease off of your stove burners and grills, and make sure when cooking to stay under the flashpoints (the different temperatures that cooking oils can smoke or catch fire)
  • Ensure electrical systems and appliances are in good shape and used properly
  • Avoid smoking indoors, particularly in bed, where fires can easily start
  • Never leave open flames unattended or near pets and children, as they may easily be knocked over
  • Check to make sure your dryer has proper clearance and all traps, vents and ducts are regularly cleaned

Also, create an escape plan with your household so everyone knows what to do and how to get out safely in the event of a fire. A family escape plan can include details like where to meet away from the home (such as at a neighbour’s home) and ways you can help slow the spread of fire; for example, by shutting doors. Online resources from the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs can help you design a plan and learn more about how to prevent house fires.

Theft prevention

Keeping your home safe also includes protecting it from break-ins, which can lead to damage to your house as well as the expense of replacing stolen items.

Common residential break-ins:

  • Occur during daylight hours — not just at night
  • Are often perpetrated by amateur burglars
  • May result in broken locks, doors and windows as well as other vandalism

Tips to help deter thefts:

  • Install a centrally monitored home security system or video cameras
  • Ensure proper maintenance of all potential entry points
  • Keep valuables in a safe or safety deposit box
  • Set lights on timers
  • Install a motion detector on outside lights
  • Avoid sharing on social media when you are away. (Post your vacation pictures after you’ve returned)
  • Don’t leave hidden keys outside. Your hiding spot might be easily found
  • If you leave, have a trusted neighbour or house sitter regularly check on your home and collect your mail. Ask your insurance company how often you need someone to regularly check on your home during your absence. Most insurance policies require someone to check on your home at least every 7 days.

How to make the outside of your home safer

Wind and weather

Extreme weather cost $3.1 billion in insured damages in Canada in 2022. Weather events, from severe storms to damaging winds, happen across the country all year and can cause damage to exterior elements of your home, including:

  • windows and doors
  • roofing, siding and fencing
  • exposed pipes, vents and ductwork
  • trees and other landscape features

Tips to help avoid wind damage:

  • Proper maintenance can be a big help. Inspect for signs of damage or worn materials and replace elements as they age, like roof shingles
  • Cover exposed pipes and vents to protect them from extreme temperatures
  • Trim trees to prevent damage during storms and call professionals to assess tree health
  • Clear snow and ice
  • Add sealant to windows and weather stripping around doors to help protect from flooding and water damage

How to make a home insurance claim

Despite your best efforts, damage or theft to your property can happen, and that’s when your insurance company can help.

Try to make a claim as soon as you can. Include as much info as possible about anything that’s been damaged or stolen, such as:

  • Age of the items
  • Manufacturer
  • Model or serial number
  • Purchase price and whether it was new or used
  • Types of material used in the items
  • Date of installation
  • Receipts
  • Manuals
  • Photos and proof of ownership

Your insurance claim will be reviewed by a claims advisor, who may handle it over the phone or send a claims adjuster out to assess your claim and provide an estimate on the timing for replacements and repairs. Insurance companies can often refer you to trusted and preferred vendors who guarantee their work and get you back quickly on your feet.

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*Home and auto insurance products are distributed by RBC Insurance Agency Ltd. and underwritten by Aviva General Insurance Company. In Quebec, RBC Insurance Agency Ltd. Is registered as a damage insurance agency. As a result of government-run auto insurance plans, auto insurance is not available through RBC Insurance in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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