A leaking water heater has the potential to cause a lot of water damage to your home. Even a small, slow leak can soak into the subfloor and cause it to decay.
Leaking water from a water heater can also destroy your carpeting, create mildew and mold, and permanently stain your walls. A large leak caused by a burst water heater or pipe can easily cause flooding that requires thousands of dollars in plumbing repairs and water damage restoration.
Here’s how you can prevent any of this from happening to you.
What You Need to Start
There are only six items that you’ll need to prevent a leaking water heater:
- Water bucket
- Water sealant
- Water heater drip pan
- Painted plywood (only if necessary)
5 Tips to Prevent a Leaking Water Heater Disaster
Fortunately, most water heater problems you can avoid with proper maintenance. Just follow these steps once or twice a year and your water heater should last longer, work more efficiently, and keep you from a major water disaster.
1. Check Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve
For a leaking water heater, take time to test the temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve) once a year to make sure it’s working properly. Use caution: the water in the tank is hot and can cause scalding burns.
When you pull up or push down on the valve handle, hot water should come out of the overflow pipe. If it does not, it may need replacing. You can do this yourself but a better option is to call a professional plumber.
2. Drain Water
Periodically, about every 12-16 months, drain a bucket of water from the drain faucet at the bottom of the water tank in order to remove sediment. The sediment can corrode the unit and reduce its heating efficiency. This will help prevent your water heater from leaking.
You can drain your tank by attaching a garden hose to your drain valve, which you can find at the bottom of your water heater’s tank. Open your hot water tap closest to your water heater but a floor above (if possible). Then just open the drain valve (use a bucket).
Again, take care not to get a burn from the hot water.
3. Check Water Lines
Check all of the water lines, fittings, and valves connected to your water heater. Look for signs of leaking water. Using a flashlight, check under the tank for small leaks that could be caused by rust or corrosion.
4. Protect Flooring
Sometimes, you won’t catch the leaking water heater in time. One way to make sure it doesn’t cause excessive damage — before you can fix it — is by protecting the flooring under your water heater.
Head down to your local hardware store and find a can of water sealant. Then paint the flooring underneath your water heater with the sealant.
Most conventional tank-style water heaters are on a concrete slab in your garage or basement. So painting your floor with a water sealant will be cheap, easy, and fast.
5. Replace Particle Board
Sometimes, water heaters are placed on particle board, a type of engineered wood product that doesn’t offer much protection from a leaking water heater. If the water heater is sitting on a particle board that is not painted, it will collapse if it gets wet.
Since the particle board will get damaged when soaked, replace it with a specially designed drain pan (also called a drip pan) under the water heater. They come in all sizes and are circular or square-shaped.
You can find a decent water heater drain pan for $15 – $30 at your local hardware or building supply store. Just make sure the pan you buy has a drain out of the bottom.
Consider a New Water Heater
Eventually, your ongoing DIY maintenance will end as all conventional water heaters have a shelf life of anywhere from 8-20 years. But you can stretch its life to the higher end with routine inspections and prevention as noted above.
Here’s a more detailed article on when to know if it’s time for a new water heater.
When the time is right, we recommend that you replace your water heater for two main reasons: first, to avoid potential water heater leaks that can costs thousands in damage. Second, save on energy costs.
Choose one with the best Energy Star rating you can afford for greater efficiency. You can find current Energy Star statistics here.
If you can afford a larger budget, consider upgrading to a tankless hot water heater to save even more on energy in the long run.
In conclusion, a leaking water heater is a serious problem because of its potential to cause so much damage to your home or basement. Water damage restoration is expensive — and often not covered by insurance if they believe the problem was caused by Inadequate maintenance — so regular water heater maintenance is a great way to prevent this from happening to you.
It will also keep your water heater running longer and more efficiently.
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