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What to Do When Your Water Heater Leaks

Person attaching hose to water heater to do maintenance.

You’re taking your morning shower and run out of hot water before you even get a chance to wash your hair. Or you pull into the garage and see a huge puddle of water near your water heater. We use our water heaters every day, but we usually don’t think about them until something goes wrong. When a water heater is leaking, the frequent refilling of the tank can cause serious harm to your floors, sub-floors, and walls unless you know how to minimize the damage. Knowing how to prevent water heater leaks or what to do when a leak occurs can save you money, a few headaches, and give you peace of mind that your home and belongings are protected.

Why Did This Happen?

Homeowners understand that appliances don’t last forever. However, many don’t realize that even a good quality water heater will only last about 10 years before needing to be replaced. The constant filling and refilling of the tank leads to corrosion, which can lead to the tank bursting at its seams. Although using a water softener and scheduling regular maintenance can help extend the life of your unit, it will still need to be replaced once it gets over 12 years old. If you’re not sure the age of your water heater, look at the manufacturer’s serial number. The first two digits in the code represent the last two digits of the year your water heater was produced. For example, if you see “04” then your water heater was manufactured in 2004.

Act Quickly

Once you discover your water heater is leaking, the faster you act, the less damage will be done. If your water heater is safely accessible, take the following steps.

  • Turn off the water.
    The best way to avoid any additional water damage is to close off the water supply line to the tank. First, find the pipe leading from the main water line into the top of the hot water heater tank. The water shut off valve will either be a knob or level. Once you locate the valve near where the water supply line meets the tank, twist it clockwise to stop water from entering the tank. If the water shut off is a level, pull it so it is perpendicular to the water line.

  • Turn off the power.
    On most standard water heaters, there’s an electric or gas heating element designed to be submerged under the water. If the water is turned off and the tank is dry, this element can become a fire hazard. To prevent this, find the breaker for the water heater and turn it off.

Related Topic: How to Clean Your Floor After Your Basement Floods

Call an Emergency Plumber

After you’ve made sure no more water is leaking, call a plumber with 24/7 emergency services. A plumbing professional will examine your water heater and determine what caused the leak and the best way to deal with it. If your water heater is fairly new or the damage isn’t severe, a plumber will have the tools and skills to repair it. If repair isn’t an option, they’ll help you determine the best replacement option. They might even suggest you switch to a tankless water heater.

Call Water Damage Specialists

Water heaters can have up to 40 to 120 gallons of water in them—more than enough water to cause some serious water damage. Water heaters located in a closet or attic usually have the potential for the greatest amount of damage, but even those located in garages or basements can be a problem when they start to leak. Not only can the water saturate your carpets and soak into your drywall, it can get behind your walls or in crawl spaces and lead to the growth of mildew and mold.

At Rainbow International, we can help you devise a plan to clean and restore any and all water damage to your home or belongings from a leaky water heater. We handle mold removal, odor removal, and any reconstruction and restoration due to saturated drywall. Our service professionals are certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), which is the hallmark of professional knowledge in the cleaning and restoration industry. We use state-of-the-art equipment and employ Rapid Structural Drying techniques to dry your structure as quickly and completely as possible. To find out more, call 855-724-6269 or make an appointment online to find out more.