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Old 09-15-2013, 08:48 PM   #81
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We have a condo in Phoenix that can sit empty for several months. We noticed that the toilets got dry, but didn't think that much about it - until we had a rat come up the toilet! He chewed the bottom of the seat to get out. When we got there and discovered this, we flushed several times to get water back in. DH sat down (guys, you may want to stop reading here) and felt something bump him in a sensitive area - he jumped up (yes, screaming!) and there was another rat in the bowl. He was a little worse for wear, and more flushes got rid of him.

We found out (after much research) that when there's a toilet on the first story, the drain pipe doesn't slope much - and when it's dry, it's a highway to your house! Ever since then, we use a combination of saran wrap and mineral oil. We pour just enough mineral oil to cover the surface of the water. I don't know if that's any better or worse than vegetable oil. It does work to maintain the water level, though.

Getting rid of the first rat was another story....

Also - if you stop the newspaper, make sure that you have a neighbor watching out for deliveries. We stopped our paper for 10 days a couple of months ago, and it was delivered 6 out of the 10 days. The next trip we just cancelled it (it wasn't our first problem with vacation deliveries.)
Wow! I haven't been to our az condo in a few months, and was happily looking forward to my next trip until I read this. I didn't know that Phoenix has rats - I'm just used to the rattlesnakes
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Old 09-15-2013, 08:53 PM   #82
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Originally Posted by nanannjen View Post
We found out (after much research) that when there's a toilet on the first story, the drain pipe doesn't slope much - and when it's dry, it's a highway to your house! Ever since then, we use a combination of saran wrap and mineral oil. We pour just enough mineral oil to cover the surface of the water. I don't know if that's any better or worse than vegetable oil. It does work to maintain the water level, though.
These measures will help a lot, but as previously mentioned, there's still some water loss going on due to evaporation through the vent stack of the plumbing. Eventually the toilet (and other) traps may go dry, even with a perfect seal on the "upstream" side.
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Old 09-17-2013, 11:09 AM   #83
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Another thing to do before leaving the house for vacation: Turn off the water supply to the washing machine (and leave a note to yourself on the machine that you've done that.)
This is a great tip, but how to do it? I have no clue where I'd need to find the right knob to turn it off. Any pointers?
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Old 09-17-2013, 11:26 AM   #84
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This is a great tip, but how to do it? I have no clue where I'd need to find the right knob to turn it off. Any pointers?

It should be where the hot and cold water hoses to your washer hook up at the supply lines. For me, they are under the adjacent laundry tub. At my sister's condo, they are behind the washing machine where the water supply copper pipes are. Be sure to turn off both the Hot and Cold knobs.

Additionally while we're on the subject of washing machine water supply hoses, a plumber told me that the #1 homeowners insurance claim in my state (MI) is water/flood damage caused by burst/leaking washing machine hoses. It is recommended that you NOT use the cheap rubber hoses at all. Use the stainless steel wrapped hoses..and even they should be replaced periodically (I've been told every 5-10 years).

Here's a short blog post on it Is There a Ticking Time Bomb in Your House? - Austin Plumbing Company

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Old 09-17-2013, 11:43 AM   #85
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Wow, the rats in the toilet give me the willies! One more reason why I live on the top floor....

I second the advice about turning off the water taps before going away. If they are behind the washing machine where you can't get at them, it is probably worth bringing them out where they are visible. I now turn off all the internal taps. Luckily they are all easy to find and it's a simple procedure.

In my condo building we have had a couple of floods, either due to a hose popping off, or a toilet backing up. It causes havoc, particularly for the people who live downstairs. If the homeowner is not home it requires getting an emergency order to enter the suite and stop the leak. Cleanup must be immediate to forestall the risk of mould. Think drywall removal, wet carpets, shop vacs, etc! The homeowner is responsible for the damage to the common property and to other owners' property as well as their own.

Another problem after a long absence is a "sewer gas" smell. This is due to proliferation of bugs like pseudomonas with gases wafting up through a dry trap. I run all showers at least once a week and if I run into this problem after being away, I mix up some baking soda and vinegar and pour it down the drain. Repeat as needed. Bleach works too, but it must be diluted.
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Old 09-17-2013, 12:06 PM   #86
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Wow! I haven't been to our az condo in a few months, and was happily looking forward to my next trip until I read this. I didn't know that Phoenix has rats - I'm just used to the rattlesnakes
We had no idea that there were rats around - we were just used to using our blacklight flashlight to check for scorpions. Haven't seen any snakes near our place - knock on wood!
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Old 09-17-2013, 12:28 PM   #87
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It should be where the hot and cold water hoses to your washer hook up at the supply lines. For me, they are under the adjacent laundry tub. At my sister's condo, they are behind the washing machine where the water supply copper pipes are. Be sure to turn off both the Hot and Cold knobs.

Additionally while we're on the subject of washing machine water supply hoses, a plumber told me that the #1 homeowners insurance claim in my state (MI) is water/flood damage caused by burst/leaking washing machine hoses. It is recommended that you NOT use the cheap rubber hoses at all. Use the stainless steel wrapped hoses..and even they should be replaced periodically (I've been told every 5-10 years).

Here's a short blog post on it Is There a Ticking Time Bomb in Your House? - Austin Plumbing Company omni
OK, thank you. I'll need to check when I get home after work. I think I've see red and blue knobs in the wall just behind the washing machine.
The second paraghraph is quite scary. Should I call a plumber to replace the houses or is it straight forward to do yourself? I'll have to ask my neighbor who's quite handy. We've not done anything to the washer and it's 10 y.o. now. We did have lint cleaned out from the dryer a couple years ago.
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Old 09-17-2013, 12:31 PM   #88
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OK, thank you. I'll need to check when I get home after work. I think I've see red and blue knobs in the wall just behind the washing machine.
The second paraghraph is quite scary. Should I call a plumber to replace the houses or is it straight forward to do yourself? I'll have to ask my neighbor who's quite handy. We've not done anything to the washer and it's 10 y.o. now. We did have lint cleaned out from the dryer a couple years ago.
It should be a DIY - basically you're unscrewing one hose and replacing with a new one (after turning off the water, obviously!). Easiest thing would be to take the existing one to the store with you to make sure you get the right one!
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Old 09-17-2013, 12:35 PM   #89
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Actually if you do not have an automatic irrigation system I suggest turning off the water in the house completely. Toilets have been know to fail, as indeed have pipes. If the water is turned off the damage will be minimized, and not really occur until one returns and turns the water on. If one has an automatic irrigation system and is gone a lot, one might consider having it plumbed such that all inside pipes are behind a shut off.
(In Houston for example pipes are typically in the attic, and every few years it gets cold enough for improperly insulated pipes to freeze and break. One time enough pipes broke in the city to take water pressure to zero for a while. (It got down to 8 degrees).
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Old 09-17-2013, 01:25 PM   #90
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Actually if you do not have an automatic irrigation system I suggest turning off the water in the house completely. Toilets have been know to fail, as indeed have pipes. If the water is turned off the damage will be minimized, and not really occur until one returns and turns the water on. If one has an automatic irrigation system and is gone a lot, one might consider having it plumbed such that all inside pipes are behind a shut off.
(In Houston for example pipes are typically in the attic, and every few years it gets cold enough for improperly insulated pipes to freeze and break. One time enough pipes broke in the city to take water pressure to zero for a while. (It got down to 8 degrees).

Before deciding to turn off ALL the water off in the house for a prolonged absence, make sure your home doesn't have things (like a water-powered back-up sump pump or a water supply line to the humidifier on your furnace, etc.) that you may want/need to have supplied with water continuously in your absence.

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Old 09-17-2013, 05:40 PM   #91
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To answer the OP's question, I have a condo with full security, guards etc but I would not feel comfortable being away for month than one month at a time.
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Old 09-25-2013, 12:17 PM   #92
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We've had an uptick in burglaries in our neighborhood, and the police came to give us tips to make your home look occupied.

He strongly suggested outside, motion-detecting lighting, fake cameras, having a couple of lamps in the house on alternating timers, doing the same with a radio turned up loud, and finally a fake TV light. I'd never hear of it either, but we got one (on Amazon) and I use it whenever we're away after dark.

From the outside, it really does look like you've got a TV on:

FakeTV - The Burglar Deterrent

Enjoy your travels!
thx so much for this. ordered 1 as soon as I saw it
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Old 09-25-2013, 12:49 PM   #93
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as for mail & paper, I take my mailbox & newspaper box off the house before leaving. even with mail being fwded, I find that fill-in carriers don't know house is vacant and leave the junk mail that isn't automagically taken out of the mail stream before getting to your local carrier. even had a couple subs force my porch storm door open (it was only locked at the handle) and toss it on the porch floor. this year got a hook&eye lock to stop that silliness
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:41 PM   #94
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Original question:

We've been gone months at a time. Got a PO box, and a friend checks it once week while we are gone, in return for a real cool souvenir lol. The mailbox is sealed shut, because sometimes junk bypasses the PO box and the mail person tires to deliver it waters turned off, everything unplugged, hot water tank set to 'vacation' setting. Lights on a timer. Local PD has a vacation home list which they check periodically, and has emergency contact information. There's insurance for the stuff. Rather have someone break in when we are NOT at home. Neighbors check around the house occasionally. Not going to let worry about 'things' prevent us from the travel we enjoy.
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Old 10-01-2013, 10:21 PM   #95
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To answer the OP's question, I have a condo with full security, guards etc but I would not feel comfortable being away for month than one month at a time.
There are solutions for most of the concerns. We decided not to be a slave to the house and have made arrangements, via technology with human backup. 1-2 months away is normal for us, no problems.
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Old 12-13-2013, 12:22 PM   #96
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Has anyone tried using the floodstop devices to prevent water damage?
The major drawback I see with these is you have to install one on each source you want to protect ie water heater, washing machine, dishwasher, etc..

I am always concerned about a break in a water supply line and flooding the house.

I am considering turning off the water supply to the whole house when we go on vacation, but then we would damage a lot of the landscaping that is watered from the automatic sprinklers

I am also thinking about floodstop because even if we are out for just the day, a lot of damage can occur if a water supply line breaks to say the washing machine.
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Old 12-13-2013, 02:40 PM   #97
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With a newer house we have a manifold and can turn hot or cold water on or off for each fixture. So when I leave I'll probably leave the half bath off the great room on for DS when he stops in to feed the cat and check on the place but I'll leave the rest of the house off.

You could probably have a plummer set it up so you can leave the sprinkler system on and turn off everything else when you are away.

We actually have a valve that cuts the water to the washer but we hardly ever use it - and have never had a problem either.
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Old 12-13-2013, 04:04 PM   #98
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With a newer house we have a manifold and can turn hot or cold water on or off for each fixture. So when I leave I'll probably leave the half bath off the great room on for DS when he stops in to feed the cat and check on the place but I'll leave the rest of the house off.

You could probably have a plummer set it up so you can leave the sprinkler system on and turn off everything else when you are away.

We actually have a valve that cuts the water to the washer but we hardly ever use it - and have never had a problem either.
I would second the notion of having a plumber plumb a line from the incoming line directly to the irrigation system, and then put a valve for the inside water fixtures. This way you can be sure that things will not happen while you are gone, such as toilet fill valves breaking (I have had this happen 3 times in 30+ Years). At a minimum you get a humongous water bill, and at worst a major repair bill. Of course I turn the water to the washer off when not in use (learned this from my parents who made the transition from wringer to automatic. Did not do this for a while at my prior house, and when I had to change washers I had to get a plumber to change the valves out, as they were stuck).
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Old 12-13-2013, 04:07 PM   #99
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I have never left my primary residence for more than 2 weeks.

Thinking of after RE, DW and I will start travelling. Let's say we will be gone for 2 months. I am not sure what to do with the house.


I can think of these actions:

Shut off water
Turn water heater to pilot
Stop mail
Call home security we are gone for (... days)
Ask a friend to come to check once in a while.
(No pets)
(kids should be at college dorms)


I am always wondering what happens if you come home and found it demolished (have you seen that news?) or burglarized or burned down?
I think its more awareness.

I would not advertise you left (meaning don't post to facebook where you are, for example). I would not tell many people you are out of town. I would tell one neighbor, and might even leave an interior hallway light on (to give illusion someone is there at night).

Buy a stuffed animal dog and put them in the window.
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Old 12-13-2013, 05:27 PM   #100
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For those which empty the toilets, what if you do all 3 or 4 bathrooms in your residence (remove water, add oil etc, then nature calls that minute before you need to leave?
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