Shamil Shamilov and his wife lived in Toronto’s Midtown neighbourhood a few years ago where houses and the city’s infrastructure are older—in particular, sewer pipes are narrower—and where the couple experienced two ghastly floods.
“Along Avenue Rd. and Lawrence Ave., there are a lot of sewer backups. My house that flooded was at Lawrence and Keele, and for normal flooding you could do the waterproofing and protect most of the house, but sewer backups is the risk that come with buying in an older neighbourhood because the stormwater infrastructure is outdated and that means pipes can go over capacity,” said Shamilov.
“If an area is prone to flooding, you put a good sump pump in and do waterproofing, but with a sewer backup, even if you put in a backwater valve, it doesn’t always work because you’re supposed to clean it from debris every now and then.”
The first flood in Shamilov’s house was caused by a sewer backup, which spilled out of the toilet and bathtub, and compelled him to undertake a renovation that involved thoroughly investing in waterproofing the house, a sump pump and a backwater valve. Unfortunately, none of those measures prevented a second flood.
“Two years later, the sewer backed up again even though I took all the precautions, because this area is prone to sewer backups and my backwater water value didn’t work,” he said. “My wife and I were celebrating our anniversary that day and were about to go out for dinner when the toilet and bathtub flooded. We listed the house, sold it and moved into a loft downtown.”
The Shamilovs called a disaster restoration company after both floods, which involved pumping out the contents of the flood, then cutting out damaged baseboards, drywall and flooring, and then chemically treating the affected areas. Unsurprisingly, Shamilov, whose insurance company covered the expensive process the first time, had a higher deductible the second time because the area is a known flood zone.
Asked if his company receives plenty of phone calls for flooding from Midtown addresses, Tony Lleschi, a certified technician and senior manager at Restoration Group, said, “Oh yeah. That is a low-peak area and the water races up through the draining system, backs up and that creates a lot of flooding around the area.”
The result is often similar to what happened at the former Shamilov residence, he added, because not very many of Midtown’s older homes have sup pumps. Moreover, people don’t typically invest in preventative measures because of their hefty price tags. However, because the restoration process is twofold—there’s the emergency remediation and then the repairs, each of which run between $6,000-40,000—it might be wise to make adjustments.
“We get calls from Midtown all throughout the year, any time there’s bad weather. Sometimes we only get a couple of calls a month, and a month later we’ll get 40. It depends on the weather but we always get calls from the area,” said Lleschi, adding that there’s often a concentration of calls from the east part of Midtown by the Don Valley Parkway, which itself was the scene of severe flooding in 2013.
“People can, of course, look at systems and see what can be done to upgrade them, and make sure to always look around the property for waterproofing. Always check the basements to see if systems need upgrading. The city helps subsidize the cost of flood prevention, too.”