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Preventing Water Damage While You're Away

Water damage doesn't take a holiday

Water damage doesn't take a holiday. Here are some tips to help you avoid water damage while you're away on holidays.

Shut off the main valve: you'll want to do this to prevent any chance of damage while you're away. Typically you'll find the main shutoff in the basement near the front of your house. It could also be outside attached to an exterior wall or in an underground box with a lid.

In older homes the gate valve is most common. It has a round handle and needs to either be fully open or fully closed...water flowing through a partially closed gate valve can wear away the metal and cause the valve to fail over time. In newer homes you generally find a ball valve which has a lever handle that needs to be turned 90 degrees to turn the water off or on. You can tell immediately if it's open or not: in the closed position the lever is perpendicular to the pipes and in the open position it's parallel.

If you've never turned your water off before, test it before you go away. Turn a faucet on somewhere in the house then shut off the main water valve...the water flow should stop.

If you have a well, shut off the well's electrical switch when you leave for an extended period so it won't pump any water while you're away.

Shut off water supply valves: if you can't shut off the main water supply because you have someone watering the plants or you have an automatic sprinkler system, shut off the valves to the most common sources of water damage such as dishwashers, icemakers and washing machines, in case a hose cracks or lets go. Individual shut off valves are installed on supply lines on things like toilets and faucets.

Check all supply lines: rubber or plastic supply lines can become brittle and can leak or even break as they age. Since you'll be turning off supply valves, inspect the lines too. If you find any leaks, cracks, bulges or signs of corrosion replace the lines before you leave town. Stainless steel braided hoses are best as they last longer than rubber or plastic, and they also prevent rodents from shewing through them.

Test your sump pump: before you leave fill the sump pit with water to make sure the pump is actually pumping the water out. If it doesn't, be sure the sump pump is plugged in (this is a very common oversight!) and check the breaker as well. Also consider adding a backup battery to your pump so that it functions during power outages. Make sure the outlet pipe isn't clogged and that the motor is sunning smoothly.

Check your gutters: a 1,000 square foot roof will shed about 2,500L of water during a one-inch rainfall, or about 400L per downspout if you have six. It seems obvious but ensure gutters and downspouts are clear and that they empty away from the foundation of your home. Downspouts should discharge water at least 10 feet from your house, so consider adding extensions if yours don't.

Consider installing a water flow sensor: these can be installed on a home's main water line. It's programmed to allow normal water flow during a certain period of time. If water flow exceeds this specified amount a valve will close to stop the water.

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