You go away and enjoy a lovely, relaxing vacation for a few weeks and return home refreshed and ready to take on the world again.

Except…you open the front door and smell that smell.

Mouldy carpets and water-damaged floors, ceilings, furniture…the lot. Your home practically flooded while you were away.

“Why didn’t we turn the water off?” you ask each other.

Good question.

Yes, you should turn off the water when you go on vacation and here we’ll explain why.

Should I turn off the water when I go on vacation

Why is it important to turn off the water?

If you’ve ever had a flooded home, you’ll never enjoy another vacation again unless you turn off the water at the mains next time you go away.

In fact, it’s important for everyone to do this even for an overnight trip away.

Why?

There are plenty of good reasons. Here are three of the main ones:

1. Potentially massive damage

Let’s keep this short and simple: nothing ruins a home quite like water or fire.

Water damage can result from frozen pipes, leaking supply lines, dripping water heaters, or other causes.

Any damage will be greatly reduced by turning off the water before you go on vacation.

2. Potentially massive costs

Even if you’re fully insured, I can guarantee that you’ll still be out of pocket once everything is dried out, cleaned, and replaced if necessary (highly likely). Not to mention the complete rewiring of the electrics, which is often also necessary.

You never fully recover the costs.

You’ll find that many insurers go into “cost minimization” mode. It might be weeks or months before you see any money and it might be less than you expect.

Also, keep in mind that some insurance policies are voided if you don’t shut off your water supply when you’re gone from your home for more than a specified amount of time.

Most residential insurance policies operate under the premise that the home is being tended to daily. If there’s nobody there to watch over it, the policy might be voided.

Check the fine print to find out what happens in such situations and act accordingly.

The costs if you don’t have insurance are often eye-watering.

3. The potential massive stress and inconvenience

While you’re awaiting the insurance decision and the cheque, you may have to find rented accommodation. This adds to the inconvenience.

Then there is the emotional stress of seeing family heirlooms, prized possessions, and memories all succumb to the water. It’s a horrible feeling that no family wants to go through.

Believe me, I’ve seen this happen more than once.

With Calgary’s notoriously unpredictable weather, turning off your water when you go away for any length of time should not even be open for discussion.

When it comes time for a long vacation, in the words of a famous sportswear manufacturer, just do it.

It can save you a load of money, time, stress, and inconvenience.

Should I turn off the water when on vacation in winter?

Yes! That’s probably the most important time to do it though, in truth, plumbing problems can occur in fine or foul weather!

You should remain vigilant and take precautions all year round.

That said, many Albertans like to escape the polar temperatures in these parts in winter. They head south for a few weeks.

But while the cat’s away the ice may play!

Plunging temperatures can play havoc with your water pipes, freezing them up, causing them to burst, and unleashing devastation in your home.

At other times of the year, the effects of any small leak in your plumbing system, which you would catch if you were at home, are multiplied when you’re away.

Water runs under pressure through your pipes so it doesn’t take long for a small problem to turn into a large one if left unchecked.

How to turn off the water to the house

The good news is that the hardest part of turning off the water in your house is remembering to do it.

Put it in the diary.

First, locate the mains water supply valve in your home. You should know where this is anyway, in case there is a plumbing emergency.

The valve should have a wheel control or lever handle to open and close it. It is perfectly safe to turn it off by either turning the wheel clockwise or closing the lever.

If you don’t know where to locate the valve, you may find it:

  • In the basement
  • In the crawl space

  • Outside your home

  • At your concrete slab

Rather than leave it to the last minute before you head off, find it and turn it off to test if the water stops flowing in your house beforehand.

Once you’re sure it all works, you can shut the water off just before you head off on vacation. You will be able to leave, safe in the knowledge that if something bursts or leaks while you’re away, the only water that can possibly run out is the water already in the lines.

That’s a whole lot better than a continuous flow all the while you’re gone!

Does shutting off the water affect the water heater?

When you go on vacation, it’s best to also turn off your water heater, as well as the main water supply.

Turning off the source of the heat (gas, electric) while you’re away will not damage your water heater.

Any other recommended steps while on vacation?

To fully enjoy a worry-free vacation, it is advisable to ask a friend or family member to pay a visit to your home every couple of days to check on things while you’re away.

Not only will this help prevent any plumbing issues. It will also make the house look like people are there, which helps to discourage burglars.

Other steps you may like to take before going on vacation include asking your plumber to:

  • Drain water from the pipes in winter months – to prevent water freezing and bursting the pipes
  • Inspect supply lines to appliances and repair any damaged ones
  • Check your sump pump
  • Check gutters for a buildup of leaves and debris

Don’t leave home without turning off the water

Nobody expects their home to flood. But disasters can and do happen – and when you’re away you can’t do anything about minimizing the damage.

So, do yourself a favour. Remember to shut off the main water supply to your home any time you’re planning to be away for more than 24 hours.

Yes, that includes weekend breaks.

It’s the best way to avoid serious water damage in the event of a plumbing failure.

If you’re concerned about your plumbing before heading off on vacation, call Pete the Plumber on (403) 257-1766.