ICLR’s Windsor basement flood home retrofit

0 May 20, 2015 at 2:13 pm by

On May 8, ICLR unveiled its latest home retrofit project, this time in Windsor, Ontario. The home was retrofitted to reduce (we never say eliminate) the risk of basement flooding. Again, ICLR chose Emergency Preparedness Week (May 3 to 9) to leverage the publicity that that event produces and use it to underscore the importance of homeowners taking action to protect themselves against severe weather.

The retrofit home is located in an area of Windsor that was particularly hard-hit during a pair of heavy rainfall events last year (indeed, the homeowner experienced two basement floods in 2014, one minor and the other more significant. Both were caused by sump pump failure).

The retrofit featured the installation of several basement flood mitigation measures. These measures included:

  • Installation of a backwater valve on the sanitary sewer connection
  • A sump system to manage foundation drainage water
  • Installation of a water-powered backup sump pump system
  • Provision of a sump pump alarm system
  • Alteration of lot-grading to facilitate surface drainage
  • Disconnection of downspouts
  • Downspout extensions
  • Provision of a 72-hour emergency kit

In order to select a home, an ICLR staffer visited Windsor and hand delivered 200 post cards to homes in the problem neighbourhood. Amazingly, only three homeowners responded, providing a good indication of just how challenging it can be to encourage homeowners to take mitigative action against severe weather. (Basement flooding is particularly difficult as homeowners tend to blame the local government, regardless of the cause.)

Through the gracious assistance of the local chapter of the Insurance Institute of Ontario, local insurance professionals were invited to stop by before the main media event to be given personal tours of the home and ask questions about backwater valves, sump pumps and the like. Several took us up on the offer, with one individual even coming over from Michigan to attend the event. A large contingent from the City of Windsor also stopped by.

ICLR has been working on basement flood mitigation for a number of years now. Among its many resources, ICLR has produced a ‘Handbook for Reducing Basement Flooding’, a publication that addresses the concerns of homeowners, local governments and insurance companies of the increasing instances of basement flooding. It contains 20 measures that homeowners can take to reduce their risks and their neighbourhoods’ risk of basement flooding. ICLR has also produced a smaller, more readable version of the handbook that is more manageable for the average homeowner. Both the handbook and the booklet can be downloaded for free at www.iclr.org.

The Institute has also produced a series of five ‘how to’ videos and six narrated animations on reducing the risk of basement flooding. These videos can be viewed on ICLR’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/ICLRinfo

ICLR also recently released a book outlining how Canadian communities large and small are taking action to reduce the risk of basement flooding and damage to property from sewer back-up. ‘Cities adapt to extreme rainfall: Celebrating local leadership’ describes 20 of the many successful local projects currently under way or already completed in communities working to address the risks associated with extreme rainfall. The book can also be downloaded for free at www.iclr.org


Over the years, ICLR has retroffited a number of houses, daycare centres and one community centre against local perils. These include:

  • London – tornado (2003)
  • Halifax – hurricane (2004)
  • Vancouver – earthquake (2005)
  • Ottawa – winter storm (2006)
  • Edmonton – tornado (2007)
  • Montreal – ice storm (2008)
  • Toronto – winter storm/blackout (2009)
    • North York – basement flooding (Aug. 19, 2009)
  • Jasper – wildfire (2010)
  • Hamilton – basement flooding (2011)
  • Moncton – basement flooding (2012)
  • Quebec – earthquake and winter storm (2013)
  • Burlington – basement flooding (2014)
  • Windsor – basement flooding (2015)

Our retrofit program not only allows us to draw attention to the importance of mitigation of severe weather events at the lot or private property level, it also affords us an opportunity to learn a thing or two that we weren’t aware of before. This is particularly true of basement flood retrofits, as the problem and its solution is often very technically complicated and no two retrofits are alike. Some of our learnings are discussed in ‘Customizing home retrofits’ (Canadian Underwriter, July 2012).

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