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When Steve B. returned home from a seven-day vacation — this is what he found:

  • Approximately 2″ of water in his basement.
  • A saturated master bedroom carpet.
  • 2 full sheets of sheetrock lying on his bed.
  • A recent wallpapering job peeled down . . . and . . .

He found the source of the damage listed above — a toilet in his upstairs bath had apparently exploded.

Okay, it didn’t explode — the exploding toilet, its tank had developed a rather large crack that ran from its base all the way up to the flush handle.

The Worst Nightmare – It Could Happen

Steve lives in Ellicott City in a 2500+ sf contemporary that he had built in the ’80s. This particular toilet sits in a second floor bath immediately above his master bedroom. Living alone, it is not used frequently.

At this point, we do not know why and how this happened. And I really do not want to speculate on it too much. My immediate feeling — it is possible that a small crack had gone unnoticed from the time the toilet tank bolts were cranked down.

Editor’s Note: See Part 2 of this article for a picture of the offending toilet, here – The Curious Case of the Exploding Toilet, Update.

6 Liters aka 1.6 gallons per flush stamped on inside of toilet tank

Was this the original toilet? I am not sure.

The reality is that regardless of how or why it happened — it happened. And if you ever wondered what kind of water a toilet inlet, unrestricted by a fill valve, can put out in a week — this is your answer. Enough water to cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Did the crack begin to stretch before he left for vacation? I am not sure. My guess is – the condition appeared shortly after he pulled out of his driveway on his way to fun, sun, and relaxation.

How to Prepare your Home for a Vacation?

This has got me thinking — how could this have been prevented? I mean, if you are like me — five o’clock Friday the week before vacation, I am packed and ready to slide down the dinosaur’s back (a la Fred Flintstone).

Arrangements made for all ours animals — with our cats, someone is always paid to come in, feed them, clean the litter, and to check for anything weird around the house.

With that little tidbit worked out — mail on hold, windows and doors locked, security system engaged, and a few strategic lights turned on — We are out the door without a second thought to the oven or the ironing board.

A Vacation Checklist

I did a quick search of Google this morning, and found a few decent articles on – “How to prepare your home for a vacation.” Surprisingly, it returned only a few results.

Outside of the basics (mail, security, yard, plants, pets, and plugs), these are the first two things that pop into my head.

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1.) Most traditional hot water heaters have a vacation setting on their thermostat — why not use it.

2.) I usually set my heating/cooling thermostat by season (override programmables) to a position that won’t melt my pets in the summer and/or freeze my pipes in the winter.

And this is the advice I would typically go with. But Steve’s situation has caused me to rethink my short list: What is stopping you from shutting off the house main when going away for anything more than a day or two? An irrigation system might have me revising this advice, but I think — nothing. Only takes a twist of a valve.

Further — where gas/propane/etc. applies — why not shut the gas main off (only in the summer months of course)? Sure you will find yourself possibly re-lighting pilots, but — most newer appliances have automatic pilots. And this process probably wouldn’t take more than a half an hour at start up. Besides this inconvenience — can you think of any reason not to?

Clean up

Yes, I was on vacation with Steve last week. He is my mom’s long time boyfriend. And this is how I come across this story. Amazing really and I know I (with my limited knowledge) have never heard anything like it.

When my wife and I got the call after we arrived home, all I could say was — “Wow! Take pictures, call the insurance company, and start drying her out.” The problem here — Steve was not sure whether or not his policy would cover this kind of water damage. Double Wow!

Anyway, I will try to get my hands on pictures and keep you abreast of the restoration process.

>> More Moxie (Related Thoughts and Links):

We have all heard or seen condensating toilets. Could this have been a factor advancing a small crack? Possibly — but I will stop there. What do you think? Please add a comment below.

For more from us on Toilets and/or the stranger things that can happen during homeownership, see our category – It Could Happen.