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Private: The Ultimate Plumbing Service Guide to Preparing Your Plumbing System Before a Vacation

All you really want to think about is hitting the road for the big vacation. After all, you've been waiting on this for a long time and have a bit of cabin fever with the lack of travel over the past year.

You've stopped the mail and the newspaper delivery. You've got a kennel reservation for your pets and have a neighbor watching your home. However, everything isn't quite ready for you to leave.

Before you take that plane, train, or automobile, you need to consider preparing your plumbing system for the breakaway.

Why Do You Need to Prepare Your Plumbing?

It's a good bet that something, like a water main break or a toilet problem, could happen while you are away. Other modern conveniences in your home from garbage disposals to water heaters can also malfunction while you are gone. Doing a few things before you leave will prevent the unthinkable from happening.

Plus, implementing a few plumbing strategies will help reduce your water and energy costs. You shouldn't have to pay for things you aren't using, right?

A lot of what is suggested are things that should be done annually as a part of regular maintenance. Getting ready for a vacation can be a great motivator to get them done.

What to Check Well in Advance of Vacation

People don't often think about their plumbing until something breaks. Keeping tabs on what needs to be maintained will mean less work you will have to do as the days approach your vacation time.

Preparing to leave during the winter months requires a different approach than vacationing in the summer months.

Vacation Checklist for Summer or Winter

You should inspect your pipes to check for any leaks. Call a plumber to go ahead and get them fixed. A leak occurring while you're on vacation can cause costly damage. You don't want that kind of surprise when you return.

Looking for leaks doesn't just mean scoping out the outdoor faucets or the kitchen sink. Here is a list of things you should check for a final leak inspection:

  • Check your appliances to make sure they aren't leaking. Look under the refrigerator, dishwasher, and around the washing machine.
  • Be sure to check under the sinks as well as the faucets.
  • Look at all the pipes under the counters. If you see dripping, stains, or other moisture signs, call a plumber to come to repair them.
  • Also, check out the showers and tubs to make sure there isn't a hidden leak and also look around the toilets. Toilets are a common place for leaks.

You don't want a toilet to suddenly spring a leak while you're gone. That would cause extensive damage to the floor and would cause even more damage if the toilet is on the second floor.

Winter Plumbing Preparations

There are additional things you will need to address if you plan to go away for a winter break. This is especially true if you plan to spend the entire winter away.

Wrap Outdoor Faucets

You will need to prepare your outdoor faucets if you are going to be leaving town during the winter. Wrapping your outdoor faucets should be done well in advance of winter or traveling.

Wrap Pipes in Unheated Spaces

Wrapping pipes in unheated spaces of your house is important because a solid freeze can cause a break and you don't want that to happen, especially while you're away.

This is a project you can do yourself with a little guidance and instruction. Although wrapping pipes isn't difficult, it will take some time to make it a weekend project.

You can pick up some pipe insulation and tape or find an install kit at the hardware store. The kits are particularly useful because they come with a thermostat and are mean to help protect pipes in the coldest of temperatures for long periods of time. This is a perfect option if you are planning an extended winter getaway.

Get Your Furnace Inspected

Something else to do well before vacationing during a winter break is to have your furnace serviced. You want to have some clean filters and make sure it's running correctly.

Schedule to Get Pipes Drained

Those who are planning to leave for the entire winter or an extended winter holiday may want to call a plumber to come to drain the pipes in the house before leaving. Water left in the pipes can cause them to freeze and break. You don't want that to happen while you are gone.

Be sure to make an appointment to do that well ahead of time. You don't want to have to complete the task of trying to find a plumber to do the job at the last minute as you are trying to leave.

Get Your Water Heater Serviced

Something else you will want to do well ahead of a trip, particularly a winter trip, is to have a plumb tune-up of your water heater. You want to make sure it is functioning well so that there aren't any problems while you are away.

The fall is a good time to have a plumber drain it and give it a full inspection.

Doing all these types of things well in advance of your trip will ensure that you won't come back to problems that have accumulated over your vacation time.

Things to Do Three Days Before Leaving

Check the sump pump or septic tank. Sump pumps are great for keeping basements and crawlspaces dry but it could fail if there is a major rainfall while your away. A few days before a vacation is the right time to make sure it's working.

Pour a bucket of water into your sump pit and see if it kicks on. Call a plumber if nothing happens.

Septic tanks can also cause unexpected problems. Make sure yours runs well by dumping some RidX Septic Treatment down your toilets and flush. It will help break down muck in your septic tank so it's doesn't start overflowing while you are away.

If you have time, it would be good to schedule to have your septic cleaned if it hasn't been cleaned in at least five years. This isn't completely necessary but a septic service provider can check it for cracks or other problems while it is being cleaned. That would be one less worry while you're away.

Check your drains

One last thing to do a few days before leaving for vacation is to check your drains. Clogged drains are common. Even though it won't cause any major problems while you're away, a clogged drain is something you don't want to come home to.

Chemicals exist that you can pour down your drain as a preventive measure. Today is the day to do that. Be sure to wash it down with water so chemicals don't remain in your pipes.

Do a final check for any leaks.

You may not have noticed that one of the faucets is leaking but replacing a gasket will prevent it from continuing, especially if you plan to leave your water on. Look for leaks around the yard as well to make sure everything is in order.

You can always tell you have a water leak in your yard if a spot on the ground is suddenly mushy. Call a plumber if something looks out of line from the normal appearance.

Things to Do Two Days Before Leaving

Those who don't plan on watering yards or plants while vacationing should take some time to drain the outside hoses and sprinklers. You don't want a leaky hose or sprinkler to raise our water bills while you are away.

You should also put them away so they don't get damaged by a hot sun or freeze with colder temperatures.

Some taking an extended trip may want to keep their lawn and plants watered while they are away. There are two ways to handle that. First, make sure timers are set for your irrigation system. You should set any timers for twice a day where plants are watered in the early morning and late afternoon.

Homeowners who want to keep plants and gardens watered but don't have an irrigation system can buy a soaker hose. Soaker hoses can also be connected to a timer so you won't have to worry about plants getting too much or too little water.

Clean out the refrigerator.

You aren't going to want to come home to rotten food. Go through your refrigerator and freeze what you can. Throw away what you can. Take some time to wipe it down and sanitize it too.

Things to Do the Day Before

Check appliances. People don't think about their appliances when they prepare to go on vacation. Yet, appliances that use water and electricity should be checked before you leave. Make sure the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer are empty.

It is good to leave the doors open to the machines when you leave the house these machines air out and you don't come home to mildew. You should also make sure they are turned off unplugged when you leave.

Check garbage disposal

It's not that a nasty garbage disposal will lead to a disaster while you are away but it will emit a smell that won't be welcoming when you come home. Pour some white vinegar down it and let it run with water for a few minutes.

Things to Do the Day of Departure

Set your water heater. Setting your water heater to a lesser temperature will save on energy costs. Some water heaters have a vacation mode that you can utilize. If yours doesn't, you can turn it off completely. That will save you some dollars on energy while you're gone.

Those who have a gas water heater shouldn't turn it off completely but can set the temperature lower to conserve energy.

Turn off the main water tap.

It is advisable to turn off the main water to your home while you are away. This will prevent water lines from bursting while you are gone. The best advice is to turn it off at the street because water mains in the yard could spring a leak and pour hundreds of gallons into your yard before you get back.

You can also turn the water off at the house by turning off the main water line. You won't need to do that if you do it at the street.

A special turn tool is typically used to turn the water off at the street. They can be purchased at any hardware store.

Drain toilets and add antifreeze.

Once you turn off the main water tap, flush the toilets to drain them. This is more important in winter than in summer because it prevents your toilets from freezing and cracking if your furnace stops working.

You will see there remains some water in the toilet. Add some antifreeze to it to prevent it from freezing should the temperatures dip.

Adjust the thermostat.

The final thing you should do before you leave for your trip is adjust your thermostat. Since no one will be there, you don't need it to be either cool in the summer or warm in the winter. It should be set to 85 for summer weather and 65 for winter temperatures.

Just don't turn it off. You want air to circulate while you're gone. That way moisture won't produce condensation.

A programmable thermostat is a wonderful device. It would keep it at the vacation temp while you're away and reset it to your livable temperature while you are traveling home so you walk into a perfectly temped home.

Conclusion

It takes extra time and planning to make sure your plumbing is in order before your vacation. However, you will find that a little bit of investment will save you a lot of headaches later and allows you to have peace of mind while you are living your stress-free vacation days.

Written by Tanya Klien

Plumbing Emergency Toronto

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