Should I Turn Off the Water to My House When I Go on Vacation? What Happens If I Don’t?

You’re dreaming of your tropical getaway, which is coming up very soon. In your excitement to pack and double-check that your neighbor will come by to feed the cat, your home’s water system is likely going to be the last thing on your mind. Can you leave the water on when you go on vacation? What will happen if you do?

You should turn off the water to your house before you go on vacation. Doing so safeguards you from water damage in case a pipe leaks or bursts when you’re gone. The amount of flooding and water damage that can occur would be catastrophic.

If you’re still not totally convinced, then we recommend you keep reading. In this guide, we’ll tell you why you need to turn off the water before you leave on vacation, how it’s done, and what will happen if you forget.

Do You Need to Turn Off the Water to Your House When Going on Vacation?

A vacation is a chance to take a break from your daily responsibilities at work as well as at home. The leadup is an exciting yet stressful time. As we alluded to in the intro, you have to pack. If you have kids, you’ll assist them with packing as well.

You have to make arrangements for your pets (if you have them) so they don’t starve in your absence. You’ll want to triple-check that you closed and locked all the doors and windows, that you set the thermostat to an ambient temperature, and that you secured the garage.

Even if you do all that, you’re probably still forgetting something – to turn off your water!

Ideally, you want to turn off the water to your house anytime you’ll be gone for longer than 24 hours, whether that’s on a vacation, a business trip, or for any other reason.  

It doesn’t matter whether your vacation is scheduled for the start of the summer or the second week in February, the water should not stay on. 

What Happens If You’re Away and Leave the Water on?

But why not? What’s the harm if you forget to turn off the water? You’ll only be gone for a week, so it’s not like anything bad is going to happen in that time.

That’s the thing, though. There’s no way you can be reasonably sure of that. More than likely, nothing bad will happen, but what if it does? Here are some of the scenarios you have to be ready for if you leave the water on in your home and you’re not there.

Pipe Leaks or Bursts

That leaky pipe that you wanted to call a plumber about has been put out of your mind, as you’re in vacation mode now. The pipe doesn’t have a vacation mode, though. Instead, it continues to strain even in your absence. 

A leaking pipe isn’t the worst thing in the world…if you’re around to spot it. Then you can seep up the water, call a plumber for an emergency appointment, and get the issue dealt with before it becomes more severe. 

Pipe bursts though are always a serious matter. Even if you are home when a pipe bursts, the suddenness of it rarely gives you an opportunity to intervene. When you’re thousands of miles away in sunny Orlando or Bermuda, you’re even more helpless. 


So what happens when a pipe that’s full of water lets all that water go at once? Depending on the pipe and how much water it holds, it could flood the room in which the burst pipe is in. Without anyone there to stop it, the water will continue flooding your home as far as it can go. 

Whether it’s only your bathroom that floods or the entire upstairs again varies based on the severity of the burst pipe, but flooding is detrimental no matter what scale it occurs on. 

Water Damage

When a pipe bursts, you need water remediation immediately. The problem is that you’re on your vacation, so you have no idea what’s happened to your house. 

Let’s say you don’t have any pets at home, so there’s no need for a neighbor or friend to come to the house. You don’t need a house sitter either considering you locked up everything in the home nice and tight.

After relaxing in a sun-drenched paradise for a week or two, you’ll come back to a severely water-damaged home with no prior warning. Wood will be rotted, the wallpaper will be soaked through, electronics will be broken, and the foundation of your home could be waterlogged. 

The damage is going to be so much more expensive to remediate now than it would have been if you had called a professional water damage restoration team right after the pipe burst. Since you weren’t home though, there’s no way you could have done that. 

Mold and Mildew

As if everything that we’ve described to this point wasn’t bad enough, then there are all the lingering side effects of water damage that you have to worry about. You know, like mold and mildew.

The fungi require a dark, moist environment to grow. In some rooms of your home, the mold will have visibly developed on walls and other surfaces. Yet sometimes, mold and mildew can appear where you can’t see it, such as behind the walls. 

It can take months for you to connect the dots and realize that your breathing issues might be caused by mold and mildew. Even then, you’d have to pay someone to destroy your walls, thoroughly scrub away the mold and mildew, and then rebuild the wall.

This is more money out of your pocket when you could have already spent thousands and thousands of dollars at this point on water damage remediation. 

How to Turn Off the Water Supply in Your Home 

Okay, you’re convinced. Before you leave on this vacation (or any other one going forward), you’ll turn the water supply off in your home. 

Well, you’d like to, but you admittedly have no idea how. Here are the steps to follow.

Step 1: Find the Water Supply Valve

Somewhere in your home is a water supply valve. If you’ve ever had any sort of water emergency before, then you should know where to find this valve. 

Maybe you’re lucky and your plumbing has been in tip-top shape. If so, then you’ll have to go hunting for the water supply valve. It can be in a variety of locations on your property, such as near the concrete slab, in a crawlspace, or in the basement. The valve might even be outside. 

Step 2: Turn off and Test the Water Supply Valve

You think you tracked down the water supply valve, but admittedly, you’re not 100 percent sure. That’s why it pays to try out the valve before you assume your water is off and leave for your vacation.

You or someone else in your house should stand by the knob. Then the other person should head towards the nearest faucet. Turn the water supply valve off and then ask the other person to try the faucet. Does it work?

What about the other nearby faucets or other supplies of water such as the shower?

If no water comes out, then you’ve found the correct valve and turned it off properly.

Step 3: Turn Off the Water Heater Too

Since your water heater also uses H2O, it’s best if this isn’t operating either when you’re on vacation just to be on the safe side. 

After that, you’re done! You can now go on vacation with peace of mind that your home will be fine in your absence. 

4 More Home Preparedness Tips Before You Leave on Vacation

Disabling the water supply is far from the only means of readying your home before your vacation. Here are 4 tips that will prepare your home from top to bottom so you have no nagging doubts that wreck your trip.

Cancel Your Mail

Unless your trip is three days long, then you’re going to return to an overstuffed mailbox. Once your local mailman or mailwoman runs out of room in the box, who knows where your mail can go? 

That can be quite problematic if you get bills in the mail or you’re waiting on something important like concert or sports tickets.

To prevent that scenario, head to your post office and ask for an Authorization to Hold Mail form. The form, as the name implies, will stop the post office from delivering your mail for anywhere from three days to a month. 

You will have to return to the post office after your trip to collect your mail, but at least it will all be accounted for.

Connect Your Electronics to a Surge Protector (Or Ideally, Unplug Them)

When you’re away from your home for a while, you have to think about worst-case scenarios, as unpleasant as that can be. In another worst-case scenario, what would you do if your area had a bad thunderstorm while you were on vacation?

You’d want to protect your electronics, right? That’s why now is as good a time as ever to buy some new surge protectors. 

Even with surge protectors, you might want to unplug your valuable electronics. Everything from your TVs to your video game consoles and expensive computers cannot be overcharged by a storm if they’re not plugged in in the first place.

Put Antifreeze in the Toilets

The toilets in your home won’t get water anymore now that you’ve turned off the water supply, but what about the water that’s still sitting in your toilet bowl? Add a few drops of marine antifreeze to the water in each bowl. 

The antifreeze won’t damage your toilet since marine antifreeze is nontoxic, and removing the stuff is as easy as flushing.

Use Timers to Turn Lights Off and On

Here’s a trick that’s Home Alone levels of genius. Rather than just leave some lights on 24/7 throughout the house, which can look suspicious, rig up a few lights to a timer. Set the timer so the lights are on in the evening hours but off overnight and for most of the day.

This pattern of keeping the lights off and on makes it look like someone is home even though no one is.

Final Thoughts

If you’re going on vacation soon, don’t forget to add one more step to your preparedness checklist: turning off the water supply. If a pipe leaks or bursts, you’re preventing catastrophic amounts of water from flooding your home, wrecking everything in its wake, and causing mold and mildew damage to boot.

This one little step can help you truly enjoy your vacation worry-free!


Geoff Southworth is the creator of, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.

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