Damage from frozen pipes, burst washing machine hoses, leaking water pipes, and dripping water heaters costs billions. This checklist will help you avoid problems with leaking water in your home.
How To Shut Off the Main Water Valve
Before you go out of town, you need to shut off the main water valve to prevent any changes related to water damage while you are away. Many water meters have two valves: one on the street side and one on the house side. If you live in colder climates, the main shutoff valve is usually in the basement near the front of the house. It is outside the house in warmer climates, attached to the outside wall, or in an underground box with a removable cover.
There are two types of basic shutoff valves: the gate and ball valves. A gate valve is common in older homes and has a circular handle that must be turned several times to open or close the gate valve. Water flowing through a partially open gate valve can wear down the metal over time and cause the gate valve to fail. Ball valves are more common in new construction and have a lever handle that must be turned 90 degrees to turn the water on/off. You can tell right away whether it’s open or not: In the closed position, the lever is perpendicular to the pipes, and in the open position, it’s parallel.
If you’ve not shut off the main water valve before, check it before going on vacation. You’ll need a crescent wrench, a bucket, and pliers. Turn on a faucet somewhere in the house and turn off the main water valve. The water flow should stop. The old gate valve may break, so be careful how you handle it. If the valve is jammed, leave it alone. If it’s leaking or won’t shut off, call a licensed plumber to replace the valve or replace it yourself if you’re comfortable with uncomplicated plumbing work. You’ll need to call the water company (and possibly pay a small fee) to shut off the water in your home while repairs are being made. As soon as you turn off the water immediately call our licensed plumber in Etobicoke. Or if you can’t find the valve, we’ll try to help you find it.
If you have a well, turn off the electrical well switch when you go away for an extended period, so it doesn’t pump water while you’re gone.
Types of Water Shut-Off Valves
There are two types of basic water main shutoff valves. Gate valves (above) are common in older homes. The valve closes when the wedge-shaped brass obturator is lowered into the slot. Ball valves (bottom), which contain a stainless steel swivel ball with a hole drilled in the center, are less prone to wear and tear.
Outdoor Water Shut-Off Valve
The main water shutoff valve is usually located outside, attached to an exterior wall or in an accessible underground box in warm climates.
An Indoor Water Shut-off Valve
The main water shutoff valve is usually in the basement in colder climates.
Shutting off the main valve, which controls all the water in your home, is the best protection against catastrophic water damage. Everyone in your home should know where the main water shutoff valve is so they can stop the water in an emergency. And you should turn it off every time you leave your home, even overnight. If you don’t know where it is, look for your water meter; the main shutoff valve will be nearby.
How To Shut Off Water Supply Valves
If you can’t shut off your main water supply because you have an automatic watering system or someone is watering your plants while you’re away, shut off the valves on the most common sources of water damage, such as dishwashers, ice makers and washing machines, in case a hose breaks or fails. Individual shutoff valves or “stoppers” are installed on the lines of most appliances, as well as toilets and faucets. Stop valves usually have a small round or oval handle that must be turned clockwise to shut off water flow.
The shutoff valve for your refrigerator ice maker may be located under the sink or in the basement. If your shutoff valve looks like the one shown at right, consider replacing it with a standard shutoff valve. Did you know that saddle valves violate building codes in some areas? Here are other readily available products that do violate building codes.
How To Check Plumbing Lines
Rubber or plastic lines leading from stop-valves to appliances, faucets and toilets become brittle with age and can leak or even break. Since you’re fiddling with shutoff valves anyway, check the supply lines. If you find leaks, cracks, bulges or signs of corrosion, replace the lines before you leave town. The best choice is piping encased in stainless steel braid. A pair of washer hoses costs less than $20 at appliance stores. You can also buy shorter options for faucets or the toilet. Here are the main signs that you need to replace your plumbing.
Don’t wait until the vacations to check your power lines. In 10 minutes and with a flashlight, you can check every pipe in your house.
Stainless steel braided hoses last longer than rubber and plastic hoses and are less prone to leaks. They also prevent mice from chewing through your pipes. Here’s how to prepare your gutters for fall and winter.
How To Test A Sump Pump
Sump pump systems help prevent groundwater from entering your basement. Before letting go, check your pump by filling the sump pump with water and ensuring the pump is pumping water.
If it doesn’t, make sure the pump is plugged in (a surprisingly common oversight) and check the breaker. Also, make sure the outlet pipe is not frozen or clogged and that it directs the water away from the house. Clean the hole in the outlet pipe and check the smooth running of the motor. Also, consider installing a backup battery on your sump pump to keep it running during the power outages that seem to come with heavy downpours.
How To Turn Off The Water In Outdoor Faucets
Outdoor faucets are the first plumbing parts that freeze and burst when the temperature drops. Therefore, always close the shutoff valve inside the house (see Figure B) before vacation. Even if you have a frost-resistant faucet, this is a good idea since you will likely turn down the thermostat when you leave home. After turning off the water supply, open the outside faucets to drain any remaining water from the pipes. Never leave the hose connected to the outside faucet: it traps water in the faucet, which can freeze and crack the faucet. If you want read more about plumbing fixtures check this article.
Another tip for avoiding frozen plumbing is to turn down the temperature to 60 degrees F, but not lower when you leave. You want the house to be warm enough to keep the water pipes running through the exterior walls from freezing and bursting.