Three Ways to Avoid Water Damage When You're Not Home
No matter what time of year it is, if you’re going to be away from your home for an extended amount of time – even just overnight – it’s a smart idea to turn off your water until you return home. Why? Because it doesn’t take very much water to cause a whole lot of damage! If your pipes freeze and burst while you’re gone, or if a washer hose ruptures or a supply line leaks, major water damage can occur! There are a few things you can do before heading out of town to give you peace of mind when it comes to the state of your home’s water.
Shut off the Main Water Valve
Your safest bet is to turn off the main water valve. Make sure the adults in your home know where the main shutoff valve is and know how to turn it on and off. (Knowing this will also come in handy if you’re at home during an emergency, so the water can quickly be shut off!) Locate the main water valve near your water meter usually located in the basement, near the front of the house, attached to the outside of the home’s exterior, or in an underground box in the yard.
There are two types of main shutoff valves. You’ll probably find what’s called a “gate valve” if you’re in an older home. Turn the rounded handles a certain number of times to open or close the valve. The “ball valve” is more common today. Turn the lever-like handle 90 degrees in order to turn the water on or off. If this valve crosses the pipes, it’s closed; if it’s parallel to them, it’s open.
Test shutting off the valve ahead of time by locating the main shutoff valve, turning it off, and running a faucet. If no water comes out, you’ve successfully turned off your home’s water supply!
Turn off Individual Water Valves
But what if you’re leaving during the summer and you can’t turn off your entire water supply because you have automatic sprinklers? If this is the case, you can simply turn off individual water valves to the water sources with the highest damage risk. These sources include the dishwasher, washing machine, and ice-maker. Individual shutoff valves tend to be located directly on the supply lines leading to most appliances, including toilets and faucets. Usually, this will be a small rounded handle that you’ll turn clockwise. Doing this will turn off the water to that source. (Take note that the ice-maker shutoff valve may be under the sink or in the basement!)
If you’ll be shutting off individual water supplies, it’s a good idea to kill two birds with one stone and check your supply lines themselves. They can become weak over time, resulting in leaks, cracks, or bulging. If you notice these or other forms of corrosion, you may want to repair or replace them before leaving.
Turn off Water Supply to Outdoor Faucets
If you’re leaving during the colder seasons, it’s a good idea to also shut off the water to your outdoor faucets as well. Their shutoff valve will most likely be located inside your house. Shut it off before you head out the door. Once you’ve shut off the valve, turn on the exterior faucet to drain any excess water. And remember to detach the hoses, too!
If you follow these simple steps, you can rest easy knowing your home won’t be at risk of water damage while you’re away!