If there's one thing to know about me as a homeowner, it's that I'm paranoid of water. My fear of water, or at least of water running rampant in our home, stems from what's been drilled into my head over the years. Water is the enemy of structure, and when left unchecked, leaks or floods can destroy your home or your home's contents, potentially throwing your entire life into complete and utter chaos. Sensationalist enough for you? Perhaps, but just ask someone who's lived through it!

Just last week I told you all about how I fixed a leak on our roof. Months ago I told you all about the installation of a leak detection and water shut off system called the Water Cop. And during our time since we purchased our very old house we've dealt with various broken and clogged pipes, pinhole leaks in plumbing, water pouring from ceiling light fixtures, and even the occasional makeshift swimming pool in the basement, all of which we've taken care of on our own.

Flooded basement thanks to a neighbor's broken pipe. :-(

My goal, beyond simply fixing the leaks that arise in our home, is to either minimize the damage from potential leaks or to prevent their appearance altogether. Sometimes this feels like a losing battle, but I do feel like I'm making progress.

One of the single most common culprits for disastrous home flooding actually originates in an area of your home you use to clean your clothes, right behind your washing machine. Whether we're talking about a burst supply hose or a malfunction somewhere within the washing machine itself, a leak at the washing machine can run unchecked for hours or days, allowing thousands of gallons of water to flood and ruin your home and making it look like you were just hit by the Wet Bandits.

More sensationalism, eh? Does this paint a horrible enough picture for you? I've actually seen this occur first hand when my parent's second floor washing machine malfunctioned and their overflow drain clogged, allowing water to run into their walls and ceiling below. Tens of thousands of dollars of damage were done to their home, and the resulting inconvenience and effort necessary to clean up, repair, and ensure mold does not grow inside their walls was massive. Talk about a horrible but completely preventable scenario.

My paranoia has led me to be rather diligent when it comes to plumbing. I use only metal braided supply lines for the washing machine (and other fixtures) to help prevent the possibility of a hose from rupturing while under constant pressure. And I also make sure I replace those metal braided hoses every five years.

Did you know that braided metal hoses can still burst and are only good for five years? I know some bloggers who've had this very scenario occur. Got something you need to think about replacing? But before you run off to buy a new set of hoses, keep reading today's post.

I was recently ordering some new braided plumbing supply lines for our washing machine using Amazon and saw something in the recommended products section that caught my eye. It's called the "TimeOut" and aims to help prevent the potentially disastrous effects that can arise from an uncontrolled washing machine related leak.

The idea of the TimeOut is simple. It allows you to open the valve to your washing machine for a timed duration (up to 2-1/2 hours), and then shuts itself off after the time has expired. The only thing you need to do differently is to take an extra second to push the timer lever to the left before you start a load of laundry. As the person in our household responsible for all of our clothes washing, I can tell you for certain that this is not a difficult additional step.

The cool thing about this little product is that it's a retrofit item. Now I'm not saying it will automajically replace your washing machine's shut off valves, but if you have one of the standard Watts or similar brand shut off valves installed behind your washing machine, you might be able to install this great little item with just a few tools, in just a few steps, and using just a few minutes.

Back when we purchased our home in 2003, one of my very first projects involved moving some plumbing in our basement, installing water hammer suppressors, new quarter turn shut off valves, and a Watts washing machine shut off valve. In doing this project over 10 years ago I just so happened to be installing the very shut off valve necessary to make the install of the "TimeOut" a piece of plumbing cake...that sounds gross.

The actually install of this device required only a flat head screwdriver and a wrench. The contents of the box contains everything else needed for this project. The primary timer unit and valve itself and a small baggy of screws and rubber washers needed for assembly.

Removing the plastic cover from the valve unit reveals the interior of the timing mechanism that operates the whole shebang. As you can see from the following photo, it's all spring loaded and full of gears, which means this unit requires no batteries or electrical supply to function.

To install this on our shutoff valve I had to fist turn off the supply lines downstream from the valve, then unhook the two supply lines running to the washer. Once everything basic was off and disassembled I grabbed my screwdriver and removed the two primary screws holding the valve together.

It took a little bit of convincing with the screwdriver, but I finally got the screws out. It also took quite a bit of wiggling of the valve, but I was also able to remove the valve assembly from the two stems.

The reassembly of the new valve required me to slide two rubber rings onto the valve stems, then to slide the new timer valve right onto the old valve stems. Super easy!

I then slid two more rubber o-ring washers on some of the supplied screws and threaded them into the valve. When I tightened the screws I made extra, extra, extra sure to really tighten them down and to compress the o-rings. This is the most important part of this whole process. Without fully tightening the screws and compressing the washers you're leaving yourself open for leaks.

At this point I went ahead and tested out the valve's water tightness by turning the shut-off valves back on. As is customary, I repeated my plumbing juju mantra, "No drips, no runs, no errors."

Ta-da! The water was on and there was no evidence of any leaks.

Once I was satisfied water was not going to begin spraying all over the place, I had to reinstall the washing machine supply lines. I made doubly sure to reinstall the hot to the hot and the cold to the cold to be sure we didn't end up with an "incredibly shrinking clothes" laundry disaster. It's also worth noting that I had to push the little lever to the left a bit to allow for the easier install of the right supply line. This meant that I would be opening the valve, so I went ahead and shut that supply back off so I didn't end up with water everywhere.

Once all was reinstalled I pushed the little lever to the left to test out the function. I saw the hoses move a little bit, which told me the valve had opened, and I could see the gear starting to move. 

I was happy with my install, so I went ahead and snapped the plastic cover back on the front of the device and pushed the little plastic cover onto the lever. The whole thing took me only about 15 minutes to install (far less than it actually is taking to write about it), and it's given me some serious peace of mind regarding our no washing machine supply lines which are now no longer constantly under pressure and at risk of bursting into a gushing fountain of description at any moment. Okay, I'll tone down the sensationalism.

Now, when we do a wash, we just need to push the supply level to the left, which sets the timer for a max of 2-1/2 hours. Then, after the wash has completed and the timer expires, the TimeOut valve automatically closes, removing the water pressure from the supply hoses and the mechanics of the washing machine. Not a bad little device for under $75.

As with most home projects, products, and solutions, there are 100 different ways to go about solving this problem with washing machine flooding, and this just happens to be the solution I decided to go with. There are fully automatic solutions that involve electricity, and fully manual solutions (like the one we used to have), but I'd say our solution is a middle ground option that satisfies both a reasonable cost and a reasonable level of nuisance to ensure flood prevention.

Did you enjoy reading this post? Want to learn more about our first-hand experiences with other tools, devices or items used throughout our renovation? If so, check out our complete list of product reviews in our Toolbox Tuesday section

Note: We weren't compensated for this review. We simply want to share good products when we see them, and hope that learning from our mistakes can help save you time, money and frustration.

Comments 5


7/16/2013 at 5:54 PM
I don't live in the USA so not even sure if this sort of thing exists where I live ;) nevertheless, I have to ask about multiple wash loads. Can you reset the valve mid cycle so you get longer than 2 1/2 hours if you want to do several loads of washing?
By the way, just wondering, but does your eye twitch if Wendy fills a bath and walks away while the taps are on LOL?
Multiple loads are not an issue, you can just push the lever back to the left even if it's only 1/2 way down. Likewise, you can push the running lever all of the way to the right to close the valve immediately.

Though the model we have is for standard US sizes, I'm sure there are comparable models for your part of the world.

And as far as a nervous twitch of some sort...let's just say that there may be a reason we've not had a working bathtub in our home for three years. I sleep much easier at night that way. ;-)
7/17/2013 at 4:03 PM
Having an old house myself I'm definitely sensitive to water leaks, having experienced a few myself. I think the fact this device is purely mechanical makes it that much more attractive, less shit to break. I'm going to buy this thing today definitely a good find. If your laundry was on your first or second floor would you have an integrated drain as a backup? We plan on moving our laundry room to the 1st floor and I though this might be a good secondary measure.
If we were to install our laundry on pretty much any floor that has a finished space (even in the basement) I'd almost certainly put in an overflow dry drain. If I were doing it on the 1st or 2nd floor I'd actually make the drain a dry drain that simply exits to the outside of the house. That way you don't need to worry about traps, clogs, etc. You'll also be notified of a leak faster as you'll see the water coming out of the side of your house, giving a little indication that there's an issue. My parents had an integrated drain that went to their plumbing waste line, so when they had an issue and that was clogged due to 20 years of no use and no tests, they were pretty much out of luck and had a nightmare scenario.
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