5 On Your Side

Vacation checklist: Turn off the water

Posted October 6, 2014

WRAL photographer Tom Normanly went on vacation with his family, and they returned to find water pooled throughout their home. A friend had called with the bad news.

“She said there's water everywhere. ‘Something broke in the bathroom, and there's water all over your house,’” Normanly recalled.

The hose that supplies water to a toilet in the home came loose and sprayed water for two days. Water spread to the back bedrooms, the living room, everywhere.

"The carpet was soaked,” Normanly said. “When you walked on it, it sloshed everywhere"

The family’s new cork kitchen floor was so swollen with water, Normanly said, it was about 6 inches high.

The hose to the toilet was “flailing all over the place, and the water was just shooting everywhere,” he said.

Ryan Oakley is a contractor for Emerg+NC Property Rescuers. He said he gets similar calls about three to five times a week.

“The most common things we see are the supply lines for the washing machine, ice maker supply lines, because they're typically held on by a little plastic nut, and that's under constant pressure,” Oakley said.

An easy fix for anyone headed out of town is to shut off the water.

"It never dawned on me to turn my water off,” Normanly said.

Depending on the age of the home, a whole-house valve could be in a hall closet, near the water heater or just inside the crawl space. If the main valve is on the street, a key is required.

Plumbing experts also recommend checking appliance supply lines for corrosion and changing them every five to seven years with stainless steel braided ones, which typically cost less than $10. That’s much less than the cost of flooding repairs.

"I think between replacing everything and fixing everything and drying everything out, it's going to be near $80,000,” Normanly said.

It’s worth noting that water damage is the second most frequently filed insurance claim in the United States.

The Normanlys spent two months in a hotel and were finally able to move back into their home this past weekend. And they now say whenever they will be away for more than 24 hours, they will turn off their water.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Ijaz Fahted Oct 7, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Thanks for that. That was the first thing that came to mind when I read this article. WRAL should really add that information so someone doesn't get hit with another repair because they followed incomplete information.

    You have great advise. Thanks!

  • hardycitrus Oct 7, 2014

    If your house is more than 15 years old, those valves are probably corroded and trying to close them will make them leak!

    For this reason have that shutoff valve replaced long before you go on vacation.

    Also my plumber tells me that Cary will fine homeowners for shutting off the water at the curb, but I have done it several times (see the note above about leaky valves!). You can get the shutoff valve wrench at Harbor Freight and it is good to have!

  • Scott Householder Oct 7, 2014
    user avatar

    I wouldn't leave it on more than an hour or so with the water turned off. You'll chance blowing an upper element.

  • Bob Smith Oct 7, 2014
    user avatar

    Good information. We always turn water off at water main when traveling. Can use a pair of pliers, or get a water main wrench (not sure what called) at hardware stores for about ten dollars. Also we shut off water to washing machine after washing clothes in case the hose bursts as we have turn-off valves to washing machine.

  • Doug Hanthorn Oct 7, 2014
    user avatar

    Hey, NCPLUMBER, if you are still listening, how long would say you could leave the water heater on when you turn off the water? I should think quite a while. 10 days?

  • Doug Hanthorn Oct 7, 2014
    user avatar

    "just inside the crawlspace", LMAO. To get to mine, you need full spelunking gear, hard hat, head mounted light, knee pads, spider web avoidance device, and you have to get a tetanus shot when you finally climb out. If you climb out. The black widow spider that lives just inside the entrance may get you. It doesn't depend on the age of your home. It depends on the mental age of the id iot hired by the builder to install your plumbing.

  • Scott Householder Oct 7, 2014
    user avatar

    I cannot stress enough the importance of turning off the water to your home when leaving for more than 24 hours. Have a plumber to install a readily accessible whole house shut-off valve if you do not have one already. If your valve is more than 10 years old and it is a gate valve (round wheel handle), have that swapped out to a ball valve (1/4 turn lever handle) as these are much more dependable and last a lot longer. This is a far cheaper alternative to 80 grand, 2 months in a cramped motel and a fight with your insurance company.
    Oh, and a good set of washing machine hoses runs about $25-$30 at Home Depot & Lowe's, an ice maker line is around $12-$20, depending on the length of line. If possible, turn the water off at the street. Remember to turn power off to electric water heaters when turning water off for an extended period. Its a little inconvenient but a flood is FAR more inconvenient. I've been a plumber in the Triangle for @ 25 years and see this all too often.

  • Karie West Oct 6, 2014
    user avatar

    Recently my water filter in my refrigerator cracked. Water filled up the refrigerator and bins then spilled out onto the kitchen floor. I was lucky that I was home at the time. It flooded the kitchen but didn't get too far into the living room due to a carpet strip across the floor.
    If you don't use your 'in the door' water feature very often in your refrigerator, shut the water line off. If I had been at work 8-10 hours, the whole house would have been flooded. Shut the water lines off to appliances that you do not use every day. Make it a habit. Otherwise, you may come home to a flooded house. If your insurance does not cover water damage, as many policies do not, then you are screwed.