Yes, we shut off the water main if we are gone overnight or longer. About 12 years ago we had a toilet hose break at the connector to the tank. This happened overnight, but by morning there was an inch of water covering the downstairs, which included hardwood and carpet. Huge mess and inconvenience. I replaced all the toilet hoses with longer ones that “loop” rather than bend to relieve sideways pressure on the plastic connector. As I was doing that a 2nd toilet hose connector upstairs was already cracked but had yet to start leaking. An upstairs flood would be orders of magnitude worse than what we had.
If you are reading this - go check all the toilet hoses in your house - replace those that are bent with ones that are long enough to loop. Peace of mind does not come any cheaper and easier to do.
After the incident, when we left for more than a day, I started shutting off toilets, sinks, the fridge (ice maker/water dispenser), and the laundry - all manually (but could not shut off the showers this way). So, decided to just shut down the house at the main valve, which is outside and on my property.
I once shut down the whole property by mistake for a week and the yard was very thirsty when we got back. Learned which valve is for the house-only at that point.
I’ve had the hot water tank fail, so we shut it off if we are going to be gone more than a few days. Very simple in our house.
Not that shutting it off would eliminate problems, but since our water tank is in the garage, we’d only lose some boxes we should probably get rid of anyway.
As I said in the last thread, I don’t even know where our shut off is. Our water hasn’t been turned off in the 19 years I’ve lived there. I will be having some work done in the Kitchen next year, and I will ask the plumber to locate the valve and make sure it’s in good working order. I think I’m convinced that it’s worth shutting off the water for extended trips. I couldn’t imagine doing it for every trip over half a day. So, crossing my fingers that nothing catastrophic happens in the next few months.
I have a steam heating system which needs to be able to occasionally refill itself; so shutting down the water would mean also shutting down the furnace.
I also have the sort of basement where water drains out automatically, and most of the pipes are in or would drain primarily into the basement, so any damage would be minimized. There are some exceptions; but somebody’s coming by to feed the cats anyway, and possibly to walk the dog.
I do turn off water to the washing machine at the lever right behind it, when I’m not going to be doing laundry again shortly. Washing machine hoses are more likely to give out than house piping.
Inside the house at the meter but not out at the road/curb. Shortly after we got this – place – we had to have the toilet replaced. A couple days later we were just opening the front door after returning from the store when I heard a pop and saw water coming through the kitchen ceiling; the plumber had not replaced the valve or pressure-tested it and it picked that moment to fail. Several years later I was in the basement doing laundry when the tank of the water-heater split. If we’re going to be gone more than 2 nights I shut the house down. And during the winter in the serious cold temps we get sometimes I lower that to one night.
I think it’s really, really important to know how to shut off both water and electricity in an emergency.
Just a few months ago, the icemaker line to the fridge broke and turned the kitchen into a wet skating rink. When I tried to turn it off behind the fridge, the valve broke and even more water began shooting out. I was able to run outside and shut down the whole house in less than a minute. Couldn’t get a plumber to the house until the next day. You can imagine where this horror story would lead without the shutoff valve.
In addition to getting the new icemaker line installed, I changed our washer hoses to the braided metal type after this. When your plumber is there, I’d bet he can tell you some real horror stories about people being gone for weeks with a large leak. On top of the damage, they have to pay the insane charges for all the water they used.
We have a well instead of being connected to public water, so before we go on vacation I always flip the switch to shut off the well pump.
And a pedantic nitpick with respect to the OP: unless you’re digging up the street in front of your house to expose the water main, you’re not shutting off the water “at the main.” The water main in the street is typically 8 inches in diameter. Your water service (typically 1” in diameter) is tapped into the main with a “corporation stop” valve, which is only operated when replacing your service. Closing this valve is the only way to shut off your water “at the main.”
As you go along your water service you then find another valve, called the curb stop. It’s usually located near the curb (hence the name) or on your front property line. This usually has a valve box and operating rod so the water utility can shut off your water if you don’t pay your bill. Finally, inside your house is a third shutoff valve. This is what you are actually referring to. Sometimes it’s called your main shutoff valve, which can obviously lead to confusion. Despite the valve in question being the main shutoff valve for your house, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with the water main in the street.
I never used to shut off the water when we travel. A few years ago we had been gone for a few weeks and everything was fine when we got back. However, the very next day a toilet inlet pipe started leaking and water dripped into the unfinished area of the basement where suitcases are stored. Had that happened say just after we left we would have had a huge problem upon returning. Since then, we shut off the water when we leave.
There are some new gizmos on the market for just this scenario. Moen makes one called Flo - it senses both excess flow for whatever it deems to be too long a time, as well as endless drip-drip-drip leaks. It also does a daily “health check” where it shuts off the water and monitors the pressure in your plumbing - a leak will cause the pressure to drop off quickly. Believe you can either have it automatically shut off the water, or it can alert you via its app or robo-call to give you the option to say “Nothing’s wrong, I’m filling the kids’ pool” or “Yipes!” And yes, you can just have it shut off the water entirely when you’re on vacation, but with all of the monitoring, I can’t see why you’d really need to do that.
There’s a similar thing called Flume that senses leaks, but can only alert you to run off to the shutoff valve.
The Flo model for a typical home water main sells for about $400. No idea what a plumber would charge to install it.
I never did when I owned a home because it was a duplex and there was always someone about. The only shut-off was the gate valve in the street, so there was no way to isolate the units.
Since I’ve sold that place I’ve been renting a condo and the awful way the complex plumbing was designed is both very amusing and mildly frustrating to me. The geniuses that designed this place installed one shut-off per building. That’s right - need to do some remodeling in your place? Everyone in the building is getting their water shut off. Management post notices in the lobby by the elevators. It’s utterly absurd. They at least have sensibly limited said shut-downs to Thursdays after 10 a.m., but it still is silly.
Oh and better have a special shut-off tool on hand if you accidentally whack one of the pre-installed sprinkler heads in your unit while moving around a ladder or something. No unit shut-off means instant flood :).
Hmm, it occurs to me that my heating system pushes hot water around. It’s probably not a good idea to shut off the water. When-ever that happens, it’s a nuisance to get the air out of the heating pipes, and of course I wouldn’t want to leave the house entirely unheated, either.
Just left a claim. Rental property, tenants vacated on Nov 30. Owner returned on Monday Dec 2 morning and found a foot of water in basement. Furnace stopped for whatever reason and pipes froze and burst.
No coverage due to vacancy, over 24 hours between visits.
Never ever crossed my mind to do so. Why would the risk of failure suddenly increase on the week I’m gone than the other 51 weeks of the year? Homeowner for over 30 years and never came home to a water issue.
Risk is uncertainty of outcome. In that sense, the risk definitely does rise during an extended absence, simply because the consequences of a leak left unnoticed for a week will be far worse than the consequences of a leak that gets discovered within a few hours.
No. Never. Even when gone for 5-6 months, no. But our homes in California and Arizona didn’t really demand such during our long absences. If we lived Back East we’d surely consider shutoffs. Our worst came after our Honduras-Alaska drive when the water agency sent a bill for $3000. No, our place wasn’t flooded; they’d changed monitor systems and hadn’t reset our meter so is was only a Computer Error, no charge.
How does the risk rise if I’m here or not? As I said, I’ve owned a home for 30 plus years and have never had a problem that could have been prevented if the water was turned off, so why does anyone think it will suddenly happen if I go away for the weekend?
We did have an expensive water related issue in our basement when the sump pump went out… and we were here the whole time but just hadn’t gone down there in several weeks. The outcome wouldn’t have been any different if the water was turned on or off or if we were home or not.
If you are not there to respond to a problem, the problem can get much worse. Minor issues can turn into disasters. Such negligence can violate the conditions of your insurance coverage.
I see this stuff all the time. Fixing these disasters is what I do for a living. I have dealt with hundreds, maybe thousands of flooded homes. Many of those leaks are spontaneous (poly B plumbing for instance, fridges and other appliances). Thinking it can’t happen because it has not happened in 30 years is a fools game.
First, let me make sure we’re on the same page with terminology. When I say “risk”, I’m speaking not just of the probability of something happening, I’m also speaking of the severity of the negative consequences.
We agree that the probability of water leak does not increase when you are gone for an extended period, compared to your being home for the same length of time. However, IF a leak happens while you’re gone, the consequences are likely to be much more severe than if a leak happens while you’re home (since you’re not around to notice it and take prompt action).
Same probability X shittier outcome = greater risk.
I’m glad you’ve never had a terrible water leak while you were away from home. That doesn’t mean it’ll never happen, it just means you haven’t rolled the dice enough times. It’s your home - if you’re comfortable with the risk, feel free to continue rolling those dice.