Hold Down the Fort: Home Security Tips for August Vacations

August is traditionally a vacation month, and with college students heading back to campus earlier and earlier, family travel is often in the equation around this time. So if you will be leaving your home “alone” for a few days or a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to take some precautions.

Enlist the help of friends and neighbors

The sure way to avoid vacation-related worry is to arrange for a house sitter, particularly if you’re planning to be away for an extended period of time. If that’s not an option, have a trusted friend, neighbor or family member visit periodically to check the house, water the plants and bring in the mail. If it’s a good neighbor, ask if he or she will park a car in your driveway, if yours will be otherwise empty. And don’t forget to hire a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn and trim the hedges, as an unkempt lawn is a sure sign of an unoccupied home.

Remember, water can be the enemy

If a pipe leaks or bursts while you’re gone, the resulting damage could be devastating. Shutting off the main valve is the best protection, but if you can’t do that, at least consider shutting off the valves to the most common sources for water damage — dishwashers, ice makers and washing machines to name a few.

Check the weather report, too. If a storm is on the way, ensure your gutters are free of blockage and reinforce any areas that could allow water in. If your basement is prone to flooding, test that your sump pump is working as it should.

Be security smart

There are plenty of simple ways to keep your home safe and sound while away, including:

  • Notify the post office to stop mail delivery to your address for the duration of your trip.
  • Place electronic timers in various rooms and set them to activate/deactivate lights on a staggered schedule.
  • If you have a pool, padlock the surrounding gate or install a retractable cover.
  • Consider motion detector lights for the front and back of your property.
  • If you have an alarm system, make sure it’s turned on and that you’ve told the alarm company the dates you’ll be away.

Before you’re set leave, put together a checklist of all the security measures you plan to make. This list will help you stay on task in the hectic days and hours before you leave. After all, the last thing anyone wants is to go on vacation with the lingering thought, “Did I remember to lock the back door?” Plan ahead and you’ll find it’s easy to stay on the safe side without stressing.

Many homeowners develop their own residential security tips and tricks. What are some of yours? Tell me in the comments section; I’d love to hear!

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Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.