Do you turn your water off at the main when you travel??

We were gone 8 days, came home to a catastrophic leak in the wall between the shower and kitchen. Massive tearout of lower kitchen cabinets, still working on the shower since the plaster (drywall?) was saturated and all of the tile basically has to come off.
Not the first problem, a toilet intake failed and flooded the house once, but we were home and discovered an inch of water throughout when we got up. Left another time for a long weekend, and the water heater failed.

I am starting to hate running water in my house.

You got Shit Luck and Bad Water.
(Band Name!)

I worked 13 years in water damage mitigation, and your horror story was not uncommon.

My experience indicates most people arranged a house-sitter who would come by once a day or so to check on the property and make sure nothing was amiss. However, this didn’t always prevent water damage as sometimes the house-sitter would fail to notice something, or a leak would happen several hours before the house-sitter’s next visit (still plenty of time for lots of damage to occur, as your own experience will tell you). On rare occasions, the house-sitter would cause a leak.

I really don’t know if turning off the main would address this sort of problem. If it were me, I’d arrange for a house-sitter but failing that, I’d probably just let it be.

I hope you experience a speedy and uneventful repair to your home, and I hope your lifetime allotment of water losses has been met.

After having $40,000 of water damage to a house from a burst pipe while I was away for weeks, you bet your bippy that I turn off the water when I expect to be gone for a long time. Even for half a day. And I now have an alarm if water appears in one part of the basement; it sends a signal to my phone.

We’ve heard of similar horror stories (a friend’s father’s house was essentially destroyed when they left for a few days).

Neighbors of ours had a pipe problem when they were travelling. I don’t recall all the details, but something to do with the HVAC system sucking up some of the spilled water and dampening a chunk of the rest of the house. It was repaired, but I gather it was quite a mess.

Now that I think of it, we should start turning water off when we travel!!

What about concerns over pipes getting air in them etc. ? Are there any problems that might result from water being turned off?

I don’t turn the water off. But when I’m gone for more than two days someone comes by twice daily to feed and water my feline gang. Caretakers are instructed on how to shut off the residence (and irrigation) pumps if need be.

When my wife and I will be gone for more than one night, we:

-shut off the water main
-turn the water heater down to “pilot” (pilot light only, no main burner action)
-crack open the faucet at the kitchen sink to relieve system pressure

One thing that happens is that dissolved gases come out of solution in the water heater, accumulating at the top of the tank. The first time we run the hot water after returning home, these bubbles of gas make their way to wherever we’re running the water. This can result in severe water hammer effects, which is really hard on the pipes, so I always make it a point to purge these bubbles at the kitchen sink, which is fitted with a water hammer arrester that reduces the violence of these effects. The bubbles start to get to the sink at about the same time the warm water arrives; after running the water for maybe a minute longer, the bubbles are all purged out and everything is back to normal.

This doesn’t really get any air into the pipes. The point of cracking the faucet open isn’t to drain the pipes; it just relieves system pressure. With the main valve off, water stops coming out of the faucet once the pipe network (including the water heater tank) has relaxed.

The likelihood and consequences of a water leak scales with the length of one’s absence. When we’re gone for just one night, the whole shutdown/startup procedure seems a bit much. But for anything longer, I can’t see a reason not to shut it down. We recently returned from a 3-week absence; I can’t imagine what we’d have come home to if we had left the water main on and a major leak had developed on the second floor soon after we left.

Yes we do. Any time we’re gone overnight the water is shut off. We also shut off the water heater in case a leak occurs, it could partially empty and burn out its element. Ditto for the icemaker, although I’m not sure what it does when no water is available.

We found out the city frowns on (and will fine) homeowners who access the main valve at the meter, so we had a plumber install another shutoff closer to the house.

Several years ago we were heading out for a weeks vacation at the crack of dawn. While the family loaded themselves into the minivan I ran downstairs to shut the main water valve. When I did, water started dripping from the valve. Not good.

Valves that go unused for extended periods of time sometimes do bad things when eventually called into service.

So now I make sure to do a practice shut-down a week or so before vacation.

Above freezing: Effectivally yes, in that the well pump gets shut off at the circuit breaker and most of the system pressure relieved. I do leave a bit of pressure in mainly for the water heater so it doesn’t ‘offgas’, but if a leak developed it would only be a gallon or two before the pressure tank was out and the flow stopped. Turning off the valve is not in a good place to access.

Below Freezing: I’m torn, sometimes I’ll shut it down other times I will let a faucet drip which requires water pressure. My fear is that the water in the pipes and pressure tank in the crawlspace would freeze without water moving through them. Yes they have heat tape, but its not perfect. When I leave a faucet drip I also empty my icemaker which will cycle through some more water occasionally as it refills, and also set my water filter to backflush every night at 3am which I assume would be the best time to flush the water through the system and replace it with the underground temperature water. That backflushing does move a lot of water. But I really don’t know which is better. I assume that if a pipe burst it would be much better to have the well pump off, as with it on not only do I have a flood but perhaps a burnt out well pump, however the risk of a pipe freezing and breaking is greatly reduced with water flowing.

No, I’ve never turned off water to the whole house. I should go turn off the exterior water for the season, however.


Where (what city) is this? What is “the main valve at the meter?” The valve I use for shutting off our water is just upstream of the meter; both of these are located in our basement, just after the main supply from the city comes up through the concrete floor. Is this the valve you’re talking about?

AIUI there is also another valve outside, underground, near the street that requires a special tool for turning water off and on. This is what the city uses to shut off your water when the bill isn’t getting paid. I can imagine them getting antsy if you mess with this valve.

Seems like there have been several threads on this just recently. Wonder why? Or whether they have always existed and I just noticed them recently.

I remember one poster saying they turned their water off every time they left the house!

In response to the OP - no, we do not.

Fort Worth. We were annexed many years ago, and our new “city” claims ownership of everything their side of the meter. The only valve was the one you describe, outside underground, which shuts off water upstream of the meter. I’ve long had the tool for this (I used to be a city water works repairman) and until getting warned, I simply opened the steel cover and turned it off. My plumber warned me about the city’s dislike of this and the massive cost should I damage* this valve, so I had our own shutoff installed between the house and the meter (on “my” part of the line).

*Repair requires shutting off a segment of the neighborhood somewhere upstream so the line/valve can be repaired. FWIW, I’ve known the plumber for many years both personally and professionally, so this wasn’t him generating extra business.

My main valve is in the crawlspace. If it were in a more convenient location, I’d probably be in the habit of fooling with it. But since it is not, I do not.

I had my water softener valve break when I was gone for a week, so now I turn off the main if I am gone more than two nights.


I would, but the shut off valve and meter is in a crawl space that is a pain in the pass to work in. We’re going away for 2 weeks over Christmas and I would prefer to shut it off, but we have a late flight home and the last thing I want to do is go into the crawl space at 11:30 PM to turn the water on after spending the day travelling.

After the meter, the pipe runs beyond a plywood backer board that all of my boiler accouterments is mounted to, so there is no easy way to splice in a more accessible shutoff valve.

I purchased a remote wifi shutoff valve from Amazon that mounts over the ball valve. It took me an hour of screwing around to get it properly mounted. The first time I tried it, the plastic mounting point cracked.

Now that I think of it, there may be a way that I can cut in a U shape section that brings the valve up to a more accessible location and the back down to rejoin the line…

I don’t, because I don’t know the condition of the valve. As mentioned above, valves that haven’t been operated for a long time can have problems that won’t appear until you try to operate them. We don’t have a tank-type water heater, so that’s not an issue, and I shut off the toilet/sink valves when we’re going to be on a trip.

Thread from a few months ago on the same subject.

Even more extreme than that: Every time they leave the house AND every time they go to bed.