Help your cherished home-away-from-home survive the off-season. Our Claims experts created this checklist you can use during your final visit this fall:
Prevent water woes (the No. 1 risk to vacation homes)
Shut off your main water valve and drain water lines. (However, if you have an automated fire-sprinkler system, leave it on.) Check manufacturer recommendations to see if you also should turn off your water heater.
If you do leave the water on, shut it off to individual fixtures (toilets, sinks, ice makers, washing machines, outdoor faucets).
Drain toilet tanks and add RV antifreeze to the bowls. Also, pour a bit down sinks (so it stays in the P-traps).
Disconnect garden hoses from outside faucets and cover them with plastic foam hoods.
Beef up skimpy insulation in the crawlspace, attic, and along outside walls.
Check the home's sump pump to see that it's working.
Clean gutters to prevent ice damming. During rapid snow melt, plugged gutters can cause water to seep back into the roof (causing leaks) or overflow near the foundation, causing leaks and settling.
Unplug, unplug, unplug
Virtually all electronics are vulnerable to power surges. Unplug things like TVs, computers, appliances, toasters, and coffee makers.
Keep it (barely) warm
Set your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees to keep pipes from freezing. Open cabinet doors to help warm pipes under sinks.
If you heat with oil or propane, make sure the tank is full.
Protect against wind damage
Trim dead limbs from trees near the house.
Store patio furniture indoors so it won't become a window-shattering missile in high winds.
Lock skylights and vents to keep out wind-driven rain.
Make it look lived in
Set timers on outdoor and indoor lights.
Hire someone to maintain the property by periodically mowing or raking the lawn and plowing snow from the driveway.
Let a trusted neighbor and the local police know your house will be empty.