Travel Tips for Your Home (Encore)

Posted by in Buying/Maintaining a Home | June 20, 2016

Many times we have investigated and evaluated damage that has occurred to a home while the owner was away.   We have seen that a few simple precautions may be taken to reduce the risk or the extent of damage to a home while the occupants are away, especially during an extended time away.

Here are a few of them:

1.  Shut off the water at the main supply (usually near the water meter).  When a water supply line, a toilet, a water heater, a faucet, etc. malfunction and begin to leak while there is no one to take corrective action, we have seen large portions of homes damaged by direct exposure to water or by mold growth.  However, when this is done the pressure should be released in the supply line by opening a faucet to drain water out and allow air into the system: this is usually accomplished by opening a kitchen or sink faucet for a minute or so and allowing the water to drain.

2.  Turn the water heater down to the “Vacation” setting or unplug it, so that it is not needlessly heating water while away .  Heated water can also increase the pressure in a closed water supply system and cause the pressure valve on the heater to release a small amount of water.  Draining water from the line and allowing air to enter reduces that risk.  Unplugging the power line for the exhaust fan on the water heater may also be beneficial, but check with the owners manual for warnings regarding these two practices.

3.  Check all windows and doors for proper closure and sealing to reduce the risk of rainfall infiltrating through these openings.  Check that they are locked also to reduce the risk of burglar infiltration.

4.  Turn the furnace on or off depending on the expected weather in the area while away.  Heating with a furnace  is usually not required to maintain temperatures above freezing in the walls in the late spring, summer, or early fall in Northeast Ohio.  If there is any doubt about ambient temperatures, the furnace may be left on at a lower temperature.  In late fall, winter, and early spring it is probably best to leave the furnace set at the normal temperatures to keep the water lines in the walls from freezing.  If they become damaged by freezing, the damage will probably be noticed shortly after the main water valve is opened.

5.  Pour water into all floor and sink drains (check that wet bar sink that hasn’t been used in a year or so) so that the P-trap or the S-trap is full.  The water in the traps prevents unwanted sewer gases from entering the home.

6.   Check that all lights are turned off, except those operating on timers.

7.   Be sure that the clothes washer, the dishwasher and the ice-maker have been shut off.  Dishwashers and clothes washers have been known to malfunction while one is away.  It is Murphy’s Law.

8.   Be sure that the refrigerator and the freezer doors are fully closed and sealed.

9.   Be sure that all portable heaters are off and properly stored.

9.   Turn your alarm system on, especially those with smoke detectors.

I have saved my own home from two water damage events by simply shutting the water off.  On one, I spotted the water leakage through the ceiling a few minutes after I turned the water back on.  A wood trim nail had penetrated a water supply line and when it had rusted enough, it provided a nice sized hole for water leakage.

Some of these general guidelines may not apply in your situation or may not be prudent because of the type of equipment you own.  You need to assess these guidelines and make your own checklist.

If you have any ideas you would like to suggest, please write to me at  If I get any suggestions, I will print an addendum.

Have a safe and restful vacation!