All posts by Sherene Cole

Pipeline Problems – Common causes of Water Damage – Part 1

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Problems in the pipelines usually result from one of the following: Sewer Back-ups, Burst Pipes, Ice Damming & Home Appliances/Human error. Your property insurance policy may respond to losses in some situations; other situations are maintenance related and not an insurance matter. In this article, we will address those problems caused by Sewer- back-up and ice-Damming.

Sewer backups – Pipes and Sewer Blockage:

There are four main causes for pipe and sewer blockages and while some are simple to detect and easy to prevent, some are hidden and can hardly ever be detected before the damage occurs.

1. Solid Flushes

the most common cause of sewage backup is a blockage of the lateral service pipe between the home and the city main. This is usually caused by solid objects accidentally flushed down a household drain,
like hair, dirt, or solid materials such as disposable diapers and other debris that are too large for wastewater pipes to handle. Grease accumulation is another cause.

This problem is usually local and when you experience it, only water from your home will be backing up. If you turn off the water, it will slowly drain, but the problem is likely to return as you turn on the water again – so call in a plumber or qualified contractor.

2. Structural Defects

Structural defects happen due to system deterioration in both pipes and manholes. These defects include problems with sewer service lines such as pipe collapses, cracks, holes, misaligned pipe, and offset joints. Often this is an issue with the local municipality and you may need to involve them for resolution.

3. Root Infiltration

Tree roots are a major cause of backups. Tree roots can enter the service pipe at joints and travel a long way, causing blockages along the way. Tree roots can also create structural defects when they crack and break pipes as they grow.

4. Flooding of Sanitary Sewers

During heavy rains the sewer lines fill up with water much faster than they drain due to insufficient system capacity. This fact may lead to a sewage backup as the water flows back through residential floor drains and causes overflows.
Ice Damming:

Ice dams form when melting snow on a roof refreezes at the edge of a roof. Why does snow melt on your roof when it’s freezing outside? Fair question. It melts because the underside of the roof in the attic is above 32 degrees Fahrenheit which warms the outside roof surface to the point that snow melts. Ice dams start or get worse after a heavy snow because of its insulating properties. Since snow is such a good insulator, the outside roof surface is able to warm up easier from the warm attic space, thereby melting the snow faster.

When roof snow is melted by a warm attic space, the water runs between the snow and the warm roof surface. The water then freezes and turns to ice when it gets past the exterior wall and hits a cold unheated roof edge or gutter. When the water flow hits the ice it creates a larger and larger ice dam.

As property coverage can vary considerably from type of policy and one insurer to another, if you are unclear about how your own policy would apply to any of these circumstances it is always best to discuss with your broker.


By | Home | No Comments

attic image
After a recent rainstorm, the bathroom ceiling of a North Etobicoke home came crashing down without warning. An investigation revealed that the homeowner had racoons as tenants. The critters, in their quest to make themselves at home caused major damage to the attic. resulting in the water penetration which led to the bathroom ceiling collapse.

Have you discovered critters such as mice, squirrels, racoons, bats or bees living in your attic? Have you ever even seen your attic? Homeowners who don’t pay attention to what’s going on in their attics can face serious and costly damage to their entire home.

Rodents in the attic can be a nuisance at best, and if not dealt with quickly, they can easily become home wreckers. Racoons & squirrels have been known to chew through electrical wires in attics. It almost always ends badly for the animals, but sparks from their gnawing can set a house on fire.

Many attics also house mechanical equipment, such as central air conditioning systems, exhaust fans, electrical junction boxes and plumbing. Homeowners should regularly make sure that any system that is connected to an electrical or water source in their attic is in good working condition. A burst pipe or a clogged drain in the attic could lead to widespread water damage on the floors below.

Adding to the risk of loss, many homeowners store valuables, such as antiques, art and family heirlooms, in their attics. Others use their attics for storage of seasonal clothing, luggage, family photographs, memorabilia and other items. These valuables are often exposed to significant temperature fluctuations throughout the year, which can hasten their deterioration. It is recommended that fragile valuables be stored in another part of the house that is not subject to extreme hot or cold temperatures. It is also a good idea to have your attic equipped with alarm systems to detect smoke, water leaks and extreme temperatures.

The greater Toronto area has seen quite an increase in the racoon population, and it seems they are determined to stick around. Check your attic regularly for any signs of disturbance and take corrective action to decrease potential loss to your property.

CAR INSURANCE – Tips & Myths

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Tip #1 –  Adding the OPCF 27 Endorsement to your existing automobile policy (often referred to as the Rental Vehicle Insurance Endorsement) is a cost effective alternative to purchasing the insurance offered by a car rental company when renting a car in North America.  Note: The OPCF 27 only applies to  the drivers listed on your policy, so if drivers other than those actually listed on your policy will be operating the rental vehicle, then the OPCF 27 will not be sufficient and you  should consider purchasing the insurance offered by the rental company.

Tip #2 – Tickets received outside of the province will show up on your motor vehicle record (MVR). Ontario has a reciprocating agreement with many US jurisdictions to report infractions. Also, tickets stay on your record for 3 years from the date of conviction. For example, if you got a speeding ticket in June 2012, and went to court in May of 2013 and charges were reduced, rather than thrown out, then it will be May of 2016 before the ticket comes off your record.

Tip #3 – If you car is hit while parked and the responsible party is not identified (hit and run), then the cost of repairs will only be covered if you have collision coverage.   A hit and run incident is considered a collision claim and is subject to your collision deductible. Why does the deductible apply if it’s not your fault?  Well, one of the requirements of waiving the deductible is that the responsible party can be identified, which unfortunately isn’t the case here. Note:  You must  report a hit and run  incident to police in order to avoid the claim being recorded as ‘at-fault’.

Tip #4 – Accidents must be reported to the nearest Collision Reporting Centre (CRC)– Report accidents as soon as possible to police local to the area of the accident. For example, if you live in Toronto but got in an accident in Hamilton, you must report the incident to the police in Hamilton and not Toronto. If you don’t know where the closest reporting centre is located, ask the police during your initial call to them.

Tip #5 – Accidents that occur with a rented vehicle often show up on your auto insurance history (autoplus) report.  While your current insurance company may not even be involved in the claims process, the accident itself does become part of your insurance history as it follows your driver’s license number.



Myth#1 – Red cars cost more to insure:  Wrong, but sometimes specific models within a model line-up may be more expensive to insure (the two door version versus its four door counterpart).

Myth#2 – Leased or financed vehicles cost more to insure: Not true:  type of financing on a vehicle has no bearing on the premium.  What does matter includes but is not limited to:  Where you live, the make and model of the vehicle, your use and the kilometers driven,  coverage’s purchased and the license and insurance history of all persons assigned as drivers to the vehicle.

Myth #3 – Tickets have no impact on your insurance as long as no demerit points were applied.  Wrong again!  Nearly any ticket you receive relating to your use or operation of the vehicle (other than parking tickets) will have an impact, regardless of whether or not it came with demerit points.



By | Auto | One Comment

After years of justifying that my well thread all season radials were good enough for the winter roads, I finally decided to invest in a set of winter tires this year.

For the money, it was a wise move and it made a world of difference in my driving experience.

When you consider that winter tires lengthen the use of our summer tires, the cost difference is not that great.  A combination of snows and summers should last about 4 years on average vs just summer/all weathers with same mileage, about 2 years.

The majority of Ontario drivers understand the importance of snow tires for safer driving, but only about half actually install them on their own vehicles, according to a recent survey commissioned by Centennial College’s School of Transportation.

Among just over 800 Ontario drivers surveyed online, 79% said that snow tires create a safer winter driving experience, with 87% also understanding that all-wheel drive vehicles also require the special tires.

Still, only 53% of drivers in the province actually install snow tires, the survey suggests.

A slightly higher percentage of women install the tires (55% compared with 52% of men). That’s despite a higher percentage of women (47%) than men (28%) saying they get nervous and stressed about winter driving.

Forty percent of men also say they are confident in their winter driving skills, compared with only 16% of women surveyed.

Overall, 44% of drivers between 18 and 34 say winter driving makes them stressed, compared with only 31% for those 55 and older.

“The vast majority of Ontario drivers know they should use winter tires but only half do so,” Stephen Leroux, a Centennial College automotive professor commented in a statement on the survey results. “This truly is a conundrum for all road users.”

Several Ontario insurance companies now give discounts of up to 10%, if your car is equipped with winter tires from November – April of each year. Isn’t that another good reason to get them installed?

What to Do if Your House is Broken Into

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Despite your best efforts, a burglar may still penetrate your home. If you return to find that your house has been robbed:

  • Don’t stay – Always think of your safety first
  • Never confront a burglar or block the exit route
  • Go immediately to a neighbour’s home or nearby location and phone the police

13 Things to Do Before Going on Vacation

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If you are going on vacation, it is especially important to make your home appear inhabited. To fully protect your home you will need to enlist the help of trusted neighbours, family and friends. Here are some things that you can do:

  • Stop all mail delivery.
  • Arrange for a neighbour to cut the grass or shovel snow.
  • Cancel all deliveries during the time you will be away.
  • Maintain normal lighting patterns by using electronic timers.
  • Ask a neighbour to put one of their garbage bags in front of your house on collection day.
  • Leave a radio on, with a timer if necessary to simulate normal use.
  • Ask a neighbour to park in your driveway.
  • Arrange for neighbours to pick up flyers.
  • Don’t talk about your vacation plans with strangers or service people.
  • Use your work address on your luggage tags so a potential burglar won’t know where your empty house is.
  • If practical, remove valuables from your home. Small valuables should be stored in a safety deposit box.
  • Lock garage door.

Note: Before you leave, you should tell someone you trust:

  • That you will be away
  • How long you will be absent
  • Whether or not you will have a house sitter
  • The number where you can be reached

17 Tips for Outside Your Home

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There are many things that you can do to the exterior of your house or in the yard to deter burglars and make it more difficult to force entry.

  • Keep your shrubbery cut back so that it doesn’t block windows and doors.
  • Secure window air conditioners from the inside.
  • Illuminate as much of your property as possible.
  • Exterior doors should be solid, not hollow. Metal doors provide the best protection against forced entry.
  • Use a fencing style that would not conceal a burglar’s activities. Remember if you can’t see out, others can’t see in.
  • Secure any glass that is less than 40′ from a door lock. Either coat exterior glass with an acrylic or polycarbonate to strengthen, or replace with laminated or tempered glass.
  • Door hinges that are on the outside should have a non-removable center pin that can’t be tampered with.
  • Install deadbolt locks.
  • Dogs are great deterrents to burglars. Even a strategically placed “Beware of Dog” sticker can make a burglar think twice. Of course, vicious dogs are never a good idea. If your dog bites someone, you might find yourself in court. A dog that barks is better than one that bites.
  • Place hinged security bars over basement windows. Remember to keep the key nearby for emergency exits.
  • Pin sliding patio doors together when closed. Another easy security step is to drill a hole in the upper track and insert a screw that extends out into the runner to prevent the door from being lifted up and out of its track.
  • Ensure that a burglar cannot access the roof from high trees or a ladder left outside.
What NOT to Do
  • Don’t put up a nameplate outside of your house with your full name. A burglar can use this information to look up your number in the phone book and call to see if you are home.
  • Don’t leave a note on the door or in the mailbox telling a friend/family member that you aren’t home.
  • Don’t leave spare keys in an obvious place such as the mailbox or under the front door mat. This makes it very easy for a burglar to rob your house quickly without forcing entry.
  • Don’t leave cash and handbags in view in your home.
  • Don’t leave any doors unlocked when you are at the other end of the house or in the yard.

3 Quick Tips for Inside your Home

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The goal of indoor crime proofing is to secure your premises, and to make them appear occupied at all times. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Secure your premises.
    • Close blinds and curtains at night so that a burglar can’t scope your belongings.
    • Lock all doors and windows before leaving.
    • Lock windows so that they can’t be opened from the outside. If they can’t be locked, you can pin them by drilling a hole through both window frames and inserting a bolt or metal pin. The pin must be easily removable for emergency situations.
    • Home burglar alarm systems are a great deterrent. Even if you have an alarm system, don’t neglect the other security measures available to you. An alarm provides an extra layer of security, but is no replacement for good common sense. Alarm owners should still do what they can to make sure their home is not an attractive target for thieves.
  • Make your home look occupied at all times.
    • Use timers to maintain normal lighting patterns.
    • Leave a radio on when you are away from your home for short periods of time.
  • Protect your valuables.
    • Consider marking your valuables indelibly (engraved) with your drivers licence or social insurance number.
    • Take an inventory of your home with a videotape and/or photographs.
    • Keep jewellery and negotiables in a safety deposit box or an unlikely place (i.e. Not your bedroom).

Crime Prevention Tips

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Burglary is always a crime of opportunity. Here are some interesting facts you should know about burglary:

  • Studies show that most burglars attack during the daytime when dense bushes and trees protect them from view, and the building appears unoccupied
  • One-third of burglars enter from the basement
  • One-third of burglars force entry through a window or door
  • One-third of burglars gain access from an unlocked/open door or window

To best protect your home, look at it from a burglar’s perspective. What are the vulnerable parts? If you take a few simple and inexpensive steps to make sure your home is not an attractive target, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

Slip and Fall Loss Prevention Tips

By | Business/Commercial | No Comments
  • Inspect the interior of your premises on a regular basis for unsafe conditions that could lead to a slip & fall loss. Maintain a daily log of when the inspection was done, what conditions were noted and what corrective action was taken.
  • Floors should be kept clean and in good repair at all times, with loose or defective flooring being replaced immediately.
  • Ensure that aisles are kept clear and free of fallen merchandise or stock. (e.g. fruit, vegetables, clothes etc.)
  • During periods of inclement weather, all entrances should have mats or rugs to help keep the floor clean and dry. Damaged mats should be replaced as soon as possible.
  • Non-slip wax should be used on floor surfaces, where required.
  • Water and other spills should be mopped up immediately and a Caution-Wet Floor sign should be posted.
  • For surfaces that are consistently slippery, specialized non-slip epoxy coatings or non-skid flooring materials may be used.
  • For spills involving oil or other industrial materials, absorbent non-combustible cleaning materials should be used.
  • Ensure that all entranceways and aisles are clear of obstructions and/or promotional displays.
  • Inspect the exterior of your premises on a regular basis for unsafe conditions that could lead to a slip & fall loss. Maintain a daily log of when the inspection was done, what conditions were noted and what corrective action was taken.
  • Any damage to stairs, sidewalks and pavement should be repaired as soon as possible, with signs and barriers posted, until such time as repairs are completed.
  • A snow and ice removal program should be implemented and adhered to, with a single individual having responsibility for the program.
  • Have the appropriate equipment, tools and materials available for use by your staff, in the case of a weather related emergency. e.g. shovels, salt, sand etc.
  • Professional snow removal contractors should be contracted to plow, sand and salt your parking and walkway facilities. Ensure that the contractor keeps a comprehensive log of the work performed.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts and ensure that melt water is directed away from sidewalks and walkways. Check that exterior lighting is adequate and check on a regular basis for malfunctioning light fixtures.
  • Establish and maintain a daily garbage removal program, whereby the walkways and sidewalks are swept and the debris removed on a regular basis.