You’ve bought your tickets, made your reservations and packed your suitcases – vacation here you come! There’s a lot to remember and do before taking off for a week or two of relaxation, but the effort is worth it once you get there and can kick back to rejuvenate. As you make a list of details to take care of before leaving, don’t forget to put your plumbing near the top of the list.
Think for a minute about the devastation that would occur to your house if something happened to your plumbing while no one was there for an extended time. By preventing plumbing problems while on vacation, you’ll know that your house will sit tight, waiting for your return.
1.Turn Off Main Valve
The most effective way to make sure that nothing catastrophic happens while you’re on vacation is to turn off the main valve that brings water into your home. With this valve turned off, water shouldn’t be coming into your home. This means that any leaks or bursts shouldn’t pour uncountable gallons of water into your home while you’re gone for two weeks.
Finding the main valve isn’t too hard. If you live in a cold climate, the valve is probably in your basement along the front wall of the house. If you live in a warm climate, it’s probably near your water meter, connected to an exterior wall of your house.
The style of the valve depends on the age of your house. Older homes usually have a gate valve with a round handle that you just turn to the left until it won’t turn anymore. Newer homes usually have a ball valve that looks like a lever. Turn this lever 90 degrees until it’s perpendicular to the pipes.
Go turn on a faucet inside the house after turning off the main valve to make sure you did it correctly.
2.Check Water Lines
It’s not uncommon to have issues with leaks in the water lines inside your house. Because this could create unpleasant messes while you’re gone, take a few minutes to check the water lines. Look at all the water lines connecting appliances, sinks and toilets to make sure you don’t find leaks and cracks. If you find signs of problems, try to replace water lines before you leave.
If you have a sump pump in the basement, it’s a good idea to test it before you take off. Use a bucket to pour water down the sump pit to make the water level higher. Watch to see what happens as the sump pump deals with the extra water – it should pump it out of the basement. If your sump pump doesn’t get rid of the water, you have a potential problem on your hands. Try cleaning the hole in the discharge line to get rid of any clogs. In addition, check the breaker to make sure the sump pump is getting power. It may be a good idea to add backup power for your sump pump to make sure a power outage doesn’t interrupt it.
You won’t be using your exterior faucets while you’re gone, so turn off the water supply to all outdoor faucets. This is especially important if you’ll be away when outdoor temperatures fall below freezing because these temperatures could cause pipes to burst. Open the faucets after you turn off the water to make sure there’s no water remaining in the pipes that could expand and cause a crack.
Check the floor around your water heater to make sure you don’t see any evidence of leaks. If you find problems, fix them promptly before you leave. As long as your water heater is humming along properly, it’s a good idea to set the thermostat to a “vacation” setting so it won’t use energy to heat water while you’re gone. If your water heater is older and it doesn’t have this setting, just turn down the thermostat to prevent it from running while you’re gone.
Unused drains in the house can create some unpleasant situations while you’re gone. You may come back to odors and a build-up of bacteria in your unused drains. This happens because the drains dry out instead of remaining wet with regular use. To make sure this doesn’t happen, add a little water and a special drain maintenance product to every sink, shower and bathtub drain in your house. This will maintain a moist environment in the drains and stop undesired odors from starting.
Once you’ve finished taking care of all these details and tucking your house in for the duration, do a final walk-through from top to bottom to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Check every appliance with a water supply – washing machine, refrigerator, dishwasher and hot water heater – to make sure these appliances are dry and there’s no corrosion on the water lines or connections.
Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to keep an eye on your house while you’re gone. Just walking around the house and looking carefully at the foundation will probably be enough to detect problems going on inside your house. It may be a good idea to leave a key somewhere to give access to your house in an emergency, just to make sure you’ve covered everything.
It’s a lot to think about and remember before you leave, but the peace of mind you’ll have while you’re gone will be worth it. You can spend your vacation relaxing and having fun instead of worrying about what might be happening in your house with your plumbing.