Turning off the main water supply to your home is the best defense against flooding caused by a burst pipe or other plumbing failure. “If you’re going to have a leaky supply line, it’s going to happen while you’re away,” says Fred Spaulding, president of Quality Home Improvements, Inc., in Kingwood, Texas. And a major leak could be catastrophic if nobody’s around to deal with it. In the Houston area, where he lives, for example, hot-water tanks are placed in attics to avoid taking up floor space in living areas. “If that water tank leaks, you’d better catch it quickly,” he says. “I’ve seen cabinets in kitchens destroyed. It only takes a little bit of a leak.”
Closing the valve on the main supply line cuts off water to the house, but still allows outside sprinklers to work. If you do spring a leak inside, the line will be under some initial pressure, but it will not continue to spray water. “Instead of literally thousands of gallons of water, you might have a 50-gallon leak from the hot-water tank,” Spaulding says. “There is no downside to turning off the water. It takes a little bit of time, and it can save thousands of dollars in potential water damage.”
If you don’t want to turn off the water to the whole house, at least close the hot- and cold-water valves on the washing machine hoses. That’ll prevent flooding should the hoses burst while you’re away.
Pro tip: Replace standard rubber washing-machine hoses with hoses made of stainless-steel mesh; they’re much stronger and less likely to burst.