Hot Water Heater Leaking? Here's What to Do

Updated on April 5, 2016
Cre8tor profile image

Dan has been in the HVAC industry for 22 years with experience ranging from installation and service to sales and distribution.

Inspecting Your Water Tank for Leaks

If you've noticed water on the floor under your water tank, start preparing to have it replaced. I know this may not be what you're hoping to hear but I don't suppose you've searched on this topic to hear lies. The fact of the matter is, if your tank itself is leaking, repairing it is not an option. A hot water tank is a sealed unit that even if repairing a leak to the tank itself was an option, it would likely cost you more than a replacement tank that would at least have a new warranty.

Just because there is water on the floor doesn't mean your tank is shot so before we call for the estimates, let's make sure of where the leak is coming from. There are many sources of leaks when it comes to your hot water system and you surely want to know if it's something more simple than replacing the unit.

Here are a few things you'll want to check before condemning the unit to the scrapyard.

  1. Check all the plumbing connections coming to and from the unit.
  2. Check to see that your T&P valve isn't the culprit.
  3. Is there sweat all over the outer shell that could be dripping to the floor?
  4. Is your unit new? This could be normal.

A New Water Heater May Drip Water for a Couple Days Even

In my years of working on water tanks I've learned to always warn the homeowner that if they notice water or dampness on the floor in the first day or two of installation, it is more than likely normal. When a water heater sits in storage waiting to find it's new home, it collects humidity in the insulated lining. Once the tank is installed, filled and heated up, this humidity is often released. Of course gravity pulls it all to the floor and leads the new owner to believe they've been sold a bad tank. Now if there is still water or dampness after a couple of days, you may be right and the tank may very well be bad. As inconvenient as it is, it does happen and may very well be no fault of the installer.

I Love Push Fittings.

There are many brands of push fittings. I've worked with SharkBite and Souix Chief myself and not had problems with either.
There are many brands of push fittings. I've worked with SharkBite and Souix Chief myself and not had problems with either.

Repairing Plumbing Connections

If you locate the source of your leak and it seems to be a connection rather than the tank, you may be able to fix this yourself. Some of your connections may be threaded fittings that perhaps need a new seal. A simple new application of Teflon tape may be all that is needed.

Of course there are those pesky soldered fittings that leak and many people aren't capable of re-soldering these parts. Well rest easy my friend. For those of us who hate soldering or are not capable of doing so, I introduce to you the push fitting. These fittings may just be the best thing since the Bite Sized Mini-Wheat. These fittings simply push on and in my experience, they are worth every penny more than the solder fittings. Did I mention they can be removed too? How about spun once they are installed? Yes, these are one of my favorite inventions in the realm of home improvement in a long, long time. Sure, there are some who don't like them but I've never had a problem with mine and believe that those who have either didn't install them properly or are losing money to the homeowner who is no longer running away from reworking their own plumbing.

Either way, if you found the leak to be a connection, you are lucky and should be able to repair it without any major expense.

T&P Valve
T&P Valve

Water Coming From the T&P Valve

Though it is possible to see your water tank sweat, it's not nearly as common as a malfunctioning T&P valve. This valve is to release pressure from the inside of the tank should it reach a dangerous level due to overheating.

Checking and replacing this valve is not all that difficult. Finding the correct valve and draining off the tank is more time consuming than actually replacing the valve.

To Do or Not To Do...Yourself

Are you confident enough to perform many household repairs yourself?

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Water Heater Warranties

Most water heaters these days carry with them a 6 year warranty. You may be able to purchase an extended warranty from your installation company and if it's reasonable, I would consider it a sound purchase.

Replacing a Hot Water Tank

So you feel that it's the tank itself that is leaking now that you've done your inspection. For starters, consider directing the path of the leaking water toward a drain as to contain the mess it's likely making. Also, turn down the temperature on the tank. In some cases where there is a smaller leak, the temperature being too high can increase the amount of water you're losing through the leak in a given time.

In all reality, replacing a water tank is rather simple and many homeowners do choose to do this improvement themselves. Though I won't be explaining how to do this here, it is something you may want to consider if you are mechanically inclined. The concern here is the gas or electricity that is involved in heating your tank. Do not try to replace your own water tank if you are not familiar working with these energy sources as either one can spell disaster if not done properly and safely.

For those who won't be trying to tackle this on your own, the cost of having it done is bearable in most cases but not nearly as cheap as it once was. Since going the way of sealed combustion as opposed to the old open chamber burner assemblies, the $150, 40 gallon water tank no longer exists. These days, if you find a standard size water heater for $350, you're doing pretty good. As for installation costs, they're not usually to extensive. The plumbing industry has kept their cost to do a water tank replacement fairly reasonable to keep too many homeowners from doing their own tanks. If you are being charged any more than $700 - $900 for a standard water heater replacement, I'd say you need to keep shopping around.

How to Extend the Life of Your Hot Water Heater

Considering the following items can help you to extend the life of your water tank as well as keep it operating at it's maximum efficiency.

The anode rod is a sacrificial lamb so to speak. This aluminum or magnesium rod is inserted into the tank to attract corrosive types of chemicals that are in the water. These chemicals and minerals are attracted to the rod where they can feast on it as much as they like instead of the walls of your water tank. If this rod has been eaten in your tank, the next smorgasbord will be your tank itself.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Dan Robbins


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      • profile image

        andro 2 years ago

        This is just such a great resource of information you defiantly know what you are doing :) thank you for passing on this great info.Love all your other Hubs

      • Cre8tor profile image

        Dan Robbins 3 years ago from Ohio

        Hi Jenifer. Well the wood structure should still be fine so long as it's good and dry before sealing it back up. Hopefully you now have a drain pan under the water heater that will catch and drain away any future leaks if need be. Aside from that, you should just be looking at drywall repair. If you want to go the extra mile, I suppose you could use "green board" as opposed to standard drywall but the main thing is to be sure that the area is thoroughly dry before closing up. Mold is the worst thing that can happen now if sealed up while still damp. It's difficult without an image to see if I'm overlooking something. Feel free to contact me via email and thank you for reading.

      • profile image

        Jenifer 3 years ago

        Our hot water heater is in the attic and the floor it sits on is the ceiling in my husbands closet. My concern is the floor it sits on is exposed in my husbands closet. We had a really bad leak but all is fixed in the hot water area. We need to replace that floor which is the ceiling. How do we do this safely and correctly? Please advise.

      • profile image

        Tyrone 4 years ago

        My job is to save money. Anyway around buying a new water heater is great. I've learned that draining and checking the anode rod will solve my problems for the future. Plus my drain valve is leaking , which I will be replacing after I get it out so I can see what has to go back into the water heater. If I didn't read this article about water heaters I would have not known about taking the drain valve out first. Then I have to look at it and take it to home improvement center to replace it. Thanks you guys

      • BEEZKNEEZ profile image

        BEEZKNEEZ 4 years ago

        I bought some of those push fittings and I think they are the best. Thanks again for the great advise. Voted up!

      • YoJDawg profile image

        YoJDawg 5 years ago from Arroyo Grande

        Yeah, i picked one up today. It started dripping a little bit more and I really don't want to deal with the drama of it bursting. Should be a fun saturday.... if only I knew what i was doing lol

      • Cre8tor profile image

        Dan Robbins 5 years ago from Ohio

        Unfortunately, if it's leaking, it's time. There's no way to determine exactly when it will go completely and I would say, yes, it will probably leak more as a "sign" that it's getting worse but I wouldn't rely on that. The cost if it does go can be much more if there is water damage. I would just say do it as soon as you can.

      • YoJDawg profile image

        YoJDawg 5 years ago from Arroyo Grande

        My water heated started leaking the past few days very slightly, the drain tube has maybe a 3 inch wet spot, it doesn't leak enough to grow anymore than that. I can't tell where it is leaking from so I assume it is the body somewhere on the bottom since I can't see there. Is there any good way to tell how urgent it is to replace it? I want to get it done but of course Christmas is a couple weeks away and spending 500-700 dollars isn't really in the budget right now. Just not sure if I should chance it and wait a little bit or not. Is there not a good way to tell how bad it is if you can't see it?

      • furniturez profile image

        furniturez 5 years ago from Washington

        Ahh a homeowners worst nightmare (next to the sump pump going). Definitely a boatload of information, thanks so much!

      • EyesStraightAhead profile image

        Shell Vera 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Very timely...I think. :) I just had to replace my water heater this morning because last night it sprung a leak at both the top and bottom and flooded my utility room. I googled "How to fix a leaking water heater" and found the information I needed but it took some digging and reading. Your hub was right to the point and would have saved me a headache or two last night if I had found this. Next time I will remember to come on HubPages when I have a question BEFORE searching Google! Great information. Very easy to follow. Great information.

      • wayseeker profile image

        wayseeker 5 years ago from Colorado

        Yes more useful household tips from the master. You have much to be proud of in all of this work. What I'm particularly impressed by is how you can take technical things and make them simple--great writing skill there.

        Voted up, useful, and pinned.



      • colombostock profile image

        colombostock 5 years ago from Colombo Sri Lanka

        Quality and useful information. Voted up!

      • Living Well Now profile image

        Living Well Now 5 years ago from Near Indianapolis

        Very informative hub. I've learned some useful information.

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        This is a good one to use in future and I pinned it.

      • MicheleFrazier profile image

        MicheleFrazier 5 years ago from Texas

        Thank you. I am in need of a new water heater and this information is very useful to me.

      • jpcmc profile image

        JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

        DIY is always cheaper when you know what the problem is and what to do about it. I save a lot by fixing things at home.

      • Cre8tor profile image

        Dan Robbins 5 years ago from Ohio

        @cyoung - Wow! I'm curious as to who your suppliers are where ever you are. I work for a supplier and we stock power vents by the truckload. Sorry you had issues but thank you very much for stopping in.

        @everyone - I know how cheesy it may sound but I am so grateful for all of your support. My aim is to help homeowners understand their home equipment and perhaps avoid any unnecessary costs during these tough times. I am so glad I'm able to help where I can. No "S" on my chest but wanting to do what I can to pay forward kindnesses that have been given me.

      • cyoung35 profile image

        Chad Young 5 years ago from Corona, CA

        I just replaced my water heater and it was a job in a half as the old one was a power venting system. not many people carry that type of water heater and to top it all off it was a Sunday afternoon. I had to replace it with a normal system and had to re-vent the system as the power venting system used PVC pipe. Oh well, since I have a dual heater system I'm just waiting for the other to go out now. Great info...voted up and useful.

      • ExceptionalVic profile image

        ExceptionalVic 5 years ago from Nigeria

        Quite informative. Thanks

      • livingpah2004 profile image

        Milli 5 years ago from USA


        Congrats on HOTD!

      • urmilashukla23 profile image

        Urmila 5 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

        Great Hub. Thanks for sharing it. Voted up!

        Congratulations on Hub of the day award.

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from Northern California, USA

        You are always so thorough and that is what I enjoy about your hubs. I always learn something new and valuable. Like, I never knew that the life of my water heater would increase if I drained it once a year. I have never drained my water heater. But, now that I know why it is a good idea to do so, I'm going to start draining my water heater once a year. I should say, I'm going to ask my husband to drain it and replace the anode rod. Thank you for your excellent advice.

        Oh, by the way, congratulations on receiving Hub of the Day!

      • melpor profile image

        Melvin Porter 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA

        Thanks for sharing the info. You forgot one source of leak, the drain valve may not be completely close sometimes. Sometimes a slow drip will occur here.

      • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

        Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

        Congrats on the HOTD! So deserved!!!! Sharing, so others can learn from it!

      • ComfortB profile image

        Comfort Babatola 5 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

        Very interesting read. You have such a vast knowledge on this topic.

        We recently changed our water heating unit. Not because of the leaks, just cause it's been over 10yrs old and we needed a bigger one.

        Thanks for sharing, and congrats on winning the HOTD award.

      • handymanbill profile image

        Bill 5 years ago from western pennsylvania

        I've done a few of these great hub. Very informative didn't miss a thing

      • Daughter Of Maat profile image

        Melissa Flagg COA OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

        Congrats on HOTD!! What is this like three or four now?? Told ya you were awesome! lol :D

      • profile image

        kelleyward 5 years ago

        Thanks for sharing this helpful information Cre8tor! Congrats on HOTD! Take care, Kelley

      • ktrapp profile image

        Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

        cre8tor - Congratulations on Hub of the Day. I've recommended your hubs to a few homeowners because they all are so helpful given your HVAC expertise and this hub is a perfect example. We recently had a leaky water heater replaced and I wish I had all this information to read at the time. Very, very useful!

      • myownlife profile image

        myownlife 5 years ago from london

        Great guidance Thanks

      • Cre8tor profile image

        Dan Robbins 5 years ago from Ohio

        @TF - Thank you kindly! and I wish I was half as educated as you. Perhaps we are the Yings to Yangs?!

      • TFScientist profile image

        Rhys Baker 5 years ago from Peterborough, UK

        I wish I was half as practical as you. Another great guide! Voted up and very useful!

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

        Wow, another incredibly useful guide! Your Hubs are the best, Cre8tor. I don't know how folks become knowledgeable about things like water heaters and air conditioners, but I'm so thankful that you create these Hubs. I don't know where else I'd end up knowing what to do should my water heater start leaking! In the end, I'll probably still end up asking for help, but it's great to have a more fundamental and basic understanding of what to look for, what to do, and how to do it.

      • profile image

        summerberrie 5 years ago

        Great information. Like Daughter of Maat says informative with useful pictures!

      • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

        Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

        Oh, I need this one! Along with my aging AC, the hot water tank is easily 18 years old. Both are originals. I get overwhelmed when I go to the store and see the choices (I'd love tips on how to pick the right unit!). Thanks for this information; I'd better start checking the sales in today's paper.

      • Nettlemere profile image

        Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

        Full of useful information as ever!

      • Cre8tor profile image

        Dan Robbins 5 years ago from Ohio

        Again, I thank you. I am looking to move on to some other appliances and tips for homeowners so I hope they to will prove to be useful.

      • Daughter Of Maat profile image

        Melissa Flagg COA OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

        I absolutely love your hubs. They are so informative, and the pictures make it so easy to understand what you're talking about. This was another one of those things I needed to know, so again THANK YOU!!!

        Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting, and of course shared!