shutting off water before vacation ?

abbey_cnyOctober 3, 2012

I recently saw a bit on DIY Network about preventing potential water damage while on vacation. It showed how to shut off the water at the sink, toilets, washer, etc. Would it be just as effective to shut off the water to the whole house while on vacation? That would require one shut off instead of running to multiple rooms to individually do the shut offs. Just curious as I have never done this before but would like to before my next vacation, and I want to do it the proper way to avoid a disaster!

Thanks.

Abbey

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mike_kaiser_gw

Yes, turning off the water at the main valve would accomplish the same thing. I'm familiar with a family that had a line burst during an extended vacation doing many thousands of dollars worth of damage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 7:36AM
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abbey_cny

Thanks Mike! It seemed like shutting off the main water valve would accomplish the same thing, but I know that sometimes things aren't quite as simple as they appear, so I wanted to make sure.

Abbey

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 1:00PM
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rwiegand

If you have a boiler fed by your main water supply you wouldn't want to turn it off in the wintertime lest you return to a lot of frozen pipes.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 1:50PM
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abbey_cny

No boiler to worry about thank goodness! Most of my vacations are in the warmer weather which precludes the possibility of frozen pipes. But I appreciate the advice!

Abbey

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 6:46PM
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dedtired

Yes! Turn off the water. My friend's house was nearly destroyed by a flood in the house when they were away.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 8:39PM
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texasredhead

The most common sourse of water problems is ice maker lines that go through an attic. Ours doesn't and I have never shut off water even when we are gone for a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 10:07AM
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Confire

Turing off your water is a very good idea. Back about 10 years as a firefighter, I responded to a home that was reported to have smoke coming out of the eaves. It turned out that it was steam. With the homeowner away for the weekend the hot water hose going to the washer sprang a small leak. Not a lot of water leaking but the hot water made steam, the steam filled entire the house. Everything in the house was ruined. The sheetrock swelled up and was coming off the walls and part of the ceiling had come down. The damage was unbelievable.
So, not only shut off your water but occasionally check the condition of your hoses and lines going to your sinks & stools.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 3:01PM
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suburbanmd

You might want to cut the power to any plumbed-in devices that could be damaged if the water drained out of them. I unplug the instant-hot in the kitchen. And I turn the water heater down to minimum temperature ("vacation" setting). Would be even better to turn it off completely, but then I'd have to relight the pilot light to get it working again.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:10AM
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mountaineergirl

Yes most definitely turn off the water. We returned from a 4-day trip about 6 weeks ago to find a part in the tank of an upstairs toilet broke and the water flowed out of the tank. Entire flooring in the house (3600 sq ft), ceilings, walls, kitchen cabinets, appliances - all getting replaced. Our house looks like a war zone. I think it will be months before we move back in. That's one mistake we won't make again.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 8:23PM
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alan_s_thefirst

Scary. Our house is going to be unoccupied most of the winter, although we're going to be an hour and a half away, and my neighbours will look in on it. I'm in a cold area so the insurance co is pretty strict about it.

I put in a Floodstop shutoff, they market them as being installed next to your washing machine or water heater, but I put mine right after the water main shutoff. They're a full flow ball valve so, when open, offer no impediment to water flow. They have a battery backup as well as a plug adapter. You can also attach multiple sensors (sensors are very simple and you could make your own if you wanted) and place them in potential problem areas, and there's an output for an alarm system so it can trigger an alert. I really like it, and it does work.

I got mine from Aartech Canada, but you can get them from Amazon, Smarthome and other places.

The only alternative to daily (DAILY!) walk-throughs when the house is unoccupied according to the insurance co, UNLESS I drain all the appliances. I'm not sure what that really entails, but I'm assuming RV antifreeze in the bottom of the dishwasher, washing machine etc.

I'd be ok with that, but if I want to work on the house or whatever during the winter, I'd have to turn all the water back on.

If the water's shut off, obviously the HW heater needs to be turned off (gas, normally vented) but should I drain it? It has a vacuum breaker, and I'd leave hot taps on upstairs to ensure it has air flow into it.

Our water is very soft, which I'm sure is a good thing in this mothballing scenario.

I'm a plan-for-the-worst-hope-for-the-best type, so I'm progressively replacing all the sink and toilet shutoffs with ball valves, and putting in Floodsafe hoses. http://www.wattscanada.ca/pages/whatsnew/floodsafe_connectors.asp

I plan to have my alarm system installed, with smoke and heat detectors tied in, together with water and low temp detection, as well as intrusion, sometime during this time. There's some talk about doing a seasonal disconnect on the phone and internet, so that could pose some issues for the alarm communicating.

Here is a link that might be useful: Floodstop

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 12:07AM
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alan_s_thefirst

If you're not already paranoid, I was looking at the hoses that were supplied with a new washing machine (I never use them, I always use the braided stainless ones) and was interested to note they had a "replace by" date on them!

Only around three years, too. I figured such hoses had a finite life and planned to replace them periodically, but I've never seen a date put on them. I wonder if that might become an issue with insurance companies?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 12:29AM
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mountaineergirl

Those floodstop things look pretty cool but would one really need to install so many? why not just at the main valve? and even then, if the main valve is turned off, no need for one at all, except just for when you're away at work. a lot of damage can happen in just a few hours.

Our son was in our house 2 days prior to our returning home, nothing was wrong at that point. Isn't it strange that these things never happen when you're home??!!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 7:54AM
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alan_s_thefirst

It is odd, but Murphy's law I guess.

You're right, the floodstop hoses aren't really going to help if you shut off the water main, but, like you said, when you go out just for a few hours it can happen.

Another essential piece of hardware we all need is a pressure regulator at the point of entry to the house - if there's some sort of issue with the water service, the pressure could go up enough to damage stuff, including split lines. I discovered the one in my house was faulty and my water pressure sat around 130 psi for who knows how long. Fortunately, all my stuff is copper and there was never an issue.

I actually have gauges in my mechanical room now. One before the proposed (not yet installed) water filter, one after. Not only does it show me the pressure of the supply, it'll show when the filter needs to be changed (when there's an appreciable difference between the supply, and the line after the filter.)

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 1:18PM
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alan_s_thefirst

Meant to mention, the two most overlooked potential flood points are dishwashers, and washing machines.

I've seen a solenoid valve in a washing machine fail, fortunately I was home at the time. Lots of water in a short time.

Those handy box-in-the-wall things they have for washing machines now make shutting them off easy.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 1:56PM
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toxcrusadr

Years ago after Christmas break I went with my parents to take my sister back to college. My sister, bless her heart, instead of turning DOWN the thermostat on the way out the door, turned it to OFF. In Northern IL at New Year's, that was a problem. Two days later we came back to find the house at 25 degrees and the water frozen in the toilets. Miraculously, nothing broke. We thawed things out and went on our merry way.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 4:10PM
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alan_s_thefirst

Did you buy a lottery ticket after that? You should have...

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 2:11PM
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barbcollins

DH is a plumber and insists on shutting off the water whenever we go out of town.

He gets calls regularly for pinhole leaks in copper pipes. I would hate to think what a pinhole leak could do in a couple weeks unnoticed.

He also turns off the breaker for the water heater, but that is more for energy saving than anything else.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 2:46AM
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dkenny

want to carry this just a little safer??

turn the water off..using the valve or a switch(well pump owners)..

then...

flush a toilet..that's right lower the pressure in the pipes.its easy to do..

hey after 10yrs in the handyman business and all the problems a simple water leak can cause, we now turn our water pump off before we leave for a weekend.

-dkenny

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 10:04PM
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alan_s_thefirst

That's exactly what I did with the floodstop automatic valve, it makes the most sense to put it at the main shutoff, and just run remote sensors to the problem areas.

Good call on the flushing trick, do it at the lowest level you can in the house.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 2:38AM
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suburbanmd

One possible problem with turning off the well pump: If you have a well pit with a sump pump, and the sump pump is on the same circuit as the well pump, then you'll be shutting off the sump pump too.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 1:48PM
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RickSingh

Is below steps fine ? I am too paranoid about disturbing pressure in pipes and the extra precaution causing problem then benefits

Before going to vacation
========================

* Turn off water at main either at street access point or house access point
* Flush a toilet to lower pressure
* Put water heater on vacation mode
* Put house heater at 55-60 range

Coming back
===========
* Drain all pipes by opening all faucets and then leave only two faucets open one at higher level in house and one at lower level in house
* Turn on main water supply
* Put heater back on warm or hot setting

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 4:47PM
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ImRobo

I want to shut off the water while on vacation. Do I need to turn the gas off on water heater. ( evaporation or no ? )

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 8:26AM
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airqual_guy

Some years back I read that, in terms of total dollars, home insurance companies annually paid out more for claims resulting from burst washing machine hoses than any other type of homeowner insurance claim.
I've done some remodeling in the last few years, and I always spend the extra bucks for the braided steel supply lines for sinks, toilets, dishwashers, and fridge supply lines.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:46AM
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suburbanmd

I know four people who had leak disasters because of toilet fill hose failures (the tube from the wall or floor to the toilet tank). Two happened while on vacation, the other two while out for the day or sleeping. Haven't heard of anyone with washing machine hose failures, for what that's worth. Personally I think a whole-house leak detection system like Leak Defense makes a lot of sense. It detects water flow above a user-set threshold, for more than a user-set length of time. There are different settings for "Home" mode and "Away" mode. If water flows for too long, it closes a valve on the main inlet line. The control panel is near the entrance door, and we put it into Away mode when leaving even for a little while. It's given me some peace-of-mind.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 3:08PM
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Donny Loaderman

A lot of people are saying to turn off the water main when you're going to be away. That's fine - until you return and turn the water back ON. The sudden repressurization of the line can result in an air-hammer and burst hoses UNLESS you turn off the supply valves at the washing machine as well. If the supply valves at the machine are turned off, the air-hammer won't strain the rubber hose when the main is turned back on. Either way, when you turn the water back on, do it slowly to minimize the air-hammer effect, preferably with both the main shut off and the local supply lines at the washing machine.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2015 at 5:16PM
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abbey_cny

Hi Donny, Thanks for that suggestion. I am one of those paranoid homeowners so I always turn off the supply valves at the washing machine after I use it. I also replaced the rubber hoses with braided aluminum so I think I will be ok. But that is another reason for me to continue shutting off those hoses after the wash is done. Better safe than sorry.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2015 at 2:00PM
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toxcrusadr

It's a good idea to cycle valves anyway, especially if you have hard water. Mineral deposits can cake up a valve so bad that you can't turn it when you have to!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2015 at 4:01PM
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southerncanuck

My sis in law recently had a hose from their shallow well pump let go in their vacation home in eastern Ontario. The cottage is basically a complete rebuild including some floor joists and all flooring, insulation and drywall.. 5000 litres of water from the cistern poured into the cottage. I always switch the pump to off if we are away overnight. Also select the hot water tank to vacation mode if away for a longer period.. When Mom and Dad were Snowbirds I went to check the home and the relief valve from the HW tank popped open. The basement was full of steam. No damage as the drain was open on the basement floor and it couldn't have been long since the steam was only in the basement when I got there. I did buy a lottery ticket but didn't win nada.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2015 at 11:56AM
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