Do you have enough insurance coverage for your basement?

Once bare-walled utility spaces, basements today need more coverage to protect the high-value possessions they harbour

At one time, basements were just glorified furnace rooms, with unfinished floors, storage boxes, exposed insulation and not much else. But in today’s homes, they tend to be secondary living and work spaces, kitted out with stereo equipment, expensive tools, computers, cabinetry and high-end furniture and floor coverings. Yet they’re still the most vulnerable area of the home when it comes to water damage and sewer backup.

“Many people underestimate the cost of a sewer backup loss, and the cost to rebuild,” says Calgary Crowfoot AMA insurance agency manager Karen McDougall. “It’s not just your belongings. Everything has to be torn out and dried. On average, it costs $15,000 just to do cleanup on a sewer backup, before restoration even begins.”

Which means homeowners need to raise their insurance coverage accordingly. The best way to ensure you have enough is to confer with your insurance advisor, says McDougall. To get an accurate picture of your space, advisors will typically ask if your basement is finished and whether there are any special features, such as a bar, a speaker system, high-end light fixtures or crown molding. Then, using a cost calculator, they’ll factor in today’s prices for labour and building supplies. They’ll also suggest you do a full inventory of your belongings, downstairs and up, making note of each item’s replacement value. For a hand with inventory, the Insurance Bureau of Canada recommends free online software called Know Your Stuff. When all’s said and done, you may be surprised to learn just how much value you have underground.


Westworld is the award-winning magazine of the Alberta Motor Association. It offers a mix of travel features, auto trends and special member savings.