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Why Water Heater Leaks

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Water heaters are a part of life. But they can be a pain in the neck.

At first, they’re a comforting presence in your home: reliable and sturdy, always there to provide you with hot water when you need it. 

But then, after a while, they can be troublemakers.

According to Home Advisor, 3% of all homeowners have experienced a leaky water heater at some point in their lives, and nearly 20% of homeowners have had to deal with a water heater leak in the last 12 months.

If you’ve found a puddle of water in your basement, your hot water faucet is running slowly, or your water heater seems to be leaking… you may be wondering why and what causes a water heater to leak.

Figuring out this can be disconcerting for any homeowner, but it doesn’t have to be!

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what causes a water heater to leak, what steps you should take if your hot water heater leaking, effective preventive measures to safeguard your water heater’s health, and when it’s time to call in a professional water heater expert.

How to tell if your water is leaking slowly?

Detecting slow water leaks can be challenging since they are often not immediately noticeable. However, there are some signs and methods you can use to identify slow water leaks in your home. Here are a few indicators to watch out for:

Unexplained Increase in Water Bill

An unexplained increase in your water bill might mean that there’s an issue with one of your appliances or fixtures that are running more often than usual, or it could mean there is an internal leak somewhere in your plumbing system that needs to be addressed immediately by a professional water heater plumber in Metro Detroit.

Water Meter Check

If you see that your water meter is turning faster than usual or the numbers on it aren’t going down, this could be a sign of a leak somewhere in or around your water heater.

Water Meter Leak Indicator

Some modern water meters have leak indicators that can help detect leaks. If your meter has a small red triangle or a leak detection feature, check if it’s moving even when all water is turned off.

Discoloration or Stains

Look for any discoloration or water stains on walls, floors, or ceilings. Slow leaks can cause water to seep into building materials, leading to visible marks over time.

Dripping Faucets or Toilets

Even dripping water in a sink or toilet can waste considerable water over time. Repair any leaky fixtures promptly.

Musty Odors

A persistent musty or earthy smell in specific areas of your home can be a sign of water stagnation due to a hidden leak.

What Causes Water Heater Leaks?

The water heater is one of the most vital parts of your home. It provides you with hot water for showering, washing dishes, washing your clothes, and cleaning up spills. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why your water heater could be leaking.

Wondering, “What causes a hot water heater to leak?” 

In this section, we’ve assembled a list of the top 15 causes of water heater leaks so that you can decide whether it needs to be replaced.

So, grab your rain boots because we’re about to splash into the comical chaos that might be lurking behind your innocent-looking water heater!


Corrosion is a natural procedure that occurs when water reacts with the metal in your water heater. The reaction causes a thin layer of rust to form on the surface of the tank. Over time, this rust can expand and cause holes to form in your tank.

Drip, Drip, Oops!

A loose drain valve can cause a leak in your water heater if the valve is unscrewed too far or if there is not enough thread tape or other sealant on top of the threads where they meet up inside your tank. When this happens, water will leak out from under your tank onto your floor or basement flooring below it. When you hear that sound coming from under your sink (or maybe even hear it coming from outside), you know exactly what’s wrong: a loose drain valve!

Age Ain’t Just a Number

Like a fine wine, water heaters get better with age… said no one ever! As they grow older, corrosion and rust become their not-so-cute companions, leading to pesky leaks.

Pressure Problems

In some cases, pressure problems can cause water heater leaks. If your water heater is installed in an area where there is not enough pressure, it may begin leaking at its seams or through other parts of the unit. This type of leak may require professional water heater repair, as there are often parts inside the system that need to be replaced or repaired before you’re able to stop the leak permanently.

Sediment Showdown 

Sediment can build up in a water heater over time, and if it’s not cleaned out regularly, it can cause a leak. This is because sediment will block the flow of water through the tank, which means that when heat is applied to the tank, it can’t be properly vented. The resulting buildup of gas pressure can cause a hole to form in your tank.

Temperature and Pressure Relief Trouble 

When water gets too hot in your tank, it expands rapidly, causing pressure to build up inside. Your water heater has pressure relief valves to release this excess pressure safely. If these valves are faulty or damaged, they may fail to open when needed, causing an explosion inside your heater and leading to leaks around all of its seams.

Rusty Revelations

Rust is the number one cause of water heater leaks. It happens when the tank is full of rust and corrosion, and the heat from the water causes it to expand and contract until it eventually cracks. This can happen in as little as two years.

Tank Tumble

Another common problem with water heater leaks is called “tank tumbling,” which means that the tank is moving around inside its space because there’s insufficient support underneath it. This can cause damage to both the tank and the insulation around it, which will lead to leaks and other problems down the road. If you notice that your water heater keeps moving around—even when nothing else is happening in your house—it could indicate this issue!

DIY Gone Wrong

If you’re not familiar with your water heater, it’s easy to make a mistake when trying to fix it yourself. For example, if you don’t know what kind of water heater you have or how to turn off the gas supply, you could accidentally turn off the wrong valve, leading to our next cause.

Hot Mess

Hot messes are all around us these days—from spilled coffee on your shirt to a clogged drain after too much hair has been washed down it at once. But hot messes aren’t just limited to humans: they can also happen with plumbing fixtures like faucets and pipes! If your water heater is leaking because it’s been damaged somehow by corrosion or rust, then this may be the culprit behind your leaky woes.

Tube Troubles

If your water heater has been running for many years, it’s possible that the tubes inside it have become damaged. These are known as “tube troubles” and can cause leaks to develop in your tank or plumbing system.

Pipe Perils

When your water is leaking from the top of your water heater, it could be because of a faulty pipe connection or an improper installation job in the first place. If this is the case, you’ll need to remove all the pipes and ensure there aren’t any loose connections that can be tightened up with pliers or a wrench (if possible).

Thermostat Tantrums

Overheating or underheating can cause the thermostat on your water heater to go haywire, causing the temperature in your home to fluctuate wildly. If this happens regularly, your water heater could be showing signs of an impending breakdown—so keep an eye on those temperatures!

Condensation Drama

Water heaters are no strangers to stage fright, and sometimes, they sweat a bit, making it seem like a leak when it’s just good old condensation.

Freezing Temperatures

Another cause when you notice a water heater leak is the temperature. Even if your water heater has been working fine for years, cold temperatures can cause the tank to weaken and crack. A few degrees of freezing can cause cracks to appear in the tank, so make sure that your home is protected from extreme weather conditions. You will need to call a professional water heater plumber who can assess the damage and repair it as soon as possible. The longer you wait to fix this problem, the more likely it is that other parts of your plumbing system will also begin leaking due to freezing temperatures.

The Mystery Leak

Another common type of water heater leak is one that appears out of nowhere and seems impossible for anyone to find its source. This type of leak usually occurs when several small leaks are all over one area of piping or tubing inside your tank. This type of leak might not show up on any type of detection device until it has already caused significant damage inside your water heater’s tank!

From where is your water heater leaking?

Leaking water heaters can be an expensive problem, but they are also easy to fix if you know where to look.

A leaking water heater may sound like a problem that only affects older homes and homeowners who don’t take care of their systems. But in fact, even newer models can develop problems with leaks and need to be repaired or replaced.

Here are a few places where you might find leaks in your water heater:

Bottom of the Tank

This is the most common place for a water heater to leak. Most new water heaters will have a protective coating that prevents rusting, but older models may not. If your water heater leaking from bottom, then it might be caused by a faulty pressure relief valve.

Top of the Tank

Wondering, “Why would a water heater leak from the top?” Leaks at the top of the tank are usually caused by faulty seals on either side of where they connect together (so both sides). This commonly occurs if there has been an improper installation when it was first installed because sometimes these connections aren’t tightened down enough, which leaves room for leaks! You’ll know if this is happening because you’ll notice small puddles forming around where these connections meet up, which can lead to bigger problems down the road.

Leaks in the Tank

Leaks in the tank are usually caused by many things, including corrosion, a faulty valve or seal, a crack in the tank itself, or a failure of the heating element gasket. This gasket is designed to prevent leaks from occurring in the tank, but it can wear out and fail over time. If you notice any water dripping underneath your hot water heater, it’s likely that this gasket is defective and needs to be replaced.

Leaks Near Or Under The Ground

If you are noticing water leaking near or under your hot water heater, this may be due to a leaky pressure relief valve. This valve releases excess pressure from within the tank when it gets too high. If this valve fails, it could cause water to leak out onto your floor or into your basement.

What to do if the water heater leaks?

The last thing you want to deal with is a water heater that’s leaking. But hey, it happens—and if it does, you’re going to want to know what to do about it.

It’s not a common occurrence, but it does happen. And when it does, you want to know how to handle it quickly and efficiently so you can get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

If your water heater is leaking, here’s what you should do to address the situation promptly and safely:

Stay Calm and Dry.

The first thing you need to do when your water heater starts leaking is stay calm. Panic will only make the situation worse, so stay as calm as possible.

Turn Off the Water Supply.

Next, turn off the water supply to your home so that you don’t accidentally flood yourself or anyone else in your home while trying to fix the leak. Then wait for the water heater to cool down before continuing working on it so that you don’t burn yourself by touching a hot surface (or get burned by any steam coming out of it).

Turn Off the Power.

If you have an electric water heater, switch off the power at the circuit breaker dedicated to the water heater. For gas water heaters, turn off the gas supply using the gas shut-off valve.

Drain the Tank.

To avoid further damage and make it easier for repairs, you can drain the remaining water in the tank. Attach a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater and direct it to a safe drainage area or a nearby floor drain.

Identify the Source of the Leak.

Try to find the source of the leak. Check the drain valve, temperature and pressure relief (T&P) valve, and the connections to see if they are loose or damaged.

Call a Professional Plumber.

Water heater repairs can be complex, and it’s best to leave them to the experts. Contact a licensed water heater repair plumber to inspect the water heater, identify the cause of the leak, and make the necessary repairs.

Address Any Water Damage.

If water has caused damage to the surrounding area, take steps to dry it out and prevent mold growth. Use towels, fans, or a dehumidifier to aid in the drying process.

Consider Replacement.

Depending on the age and severity of the leak, your plumber might recommend repairing or replacing the water heater. Older units with significant damage may be better off being replaced with a new, efficient model.

Preventive Maintenance.

After the leak is fixed, consider scheduling regular maintenance for your water heater. Flushing the tank annually and checking for signs of wear and tear can extend its lifespan and reduce the risk of future leaks.

How to Prevent water heater leak?

A water heater leak is a disaster waiting to happen.

It can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which will spread through your home like wildfire. It can also cause damage to your home’s foundation or ceiling, as well as the floors below it. If left alone, it might even cause structural damage that could put your safety at risk.

Luckily, there are ways to prevent water heater leaks before and even after they’ve started happening! Here are some quick tips on how to prevent water heater leaks:

  • Schedule annual maintenance with a plumber.
  • Check for signs of wear and tear regularly.
  • Flush the tank to remove sediment buildup.
  • Monitor water pressure; keep it within recommended levels.
  • Insulate hot water pipes to reduce stress on the heater.
  • Replace the pressure relief valve every few years.
  • Keep the area around the water heater dry and clean.
  • Avoid DIY repairs; call a professional for issues.
  • Reduce the water heater temperature to 120°F (49°C).
  • Replace an aging water heater to prevent future leaks.

Let Motor City Plumbing and Drain Experts Solve Your Water Heater Issues!

Water heaters are a necessity in modern life. They make our lives easier but can also be a pain when they break down.

If you’re experiencing a problem with your water heater, don’t panic! Motor City Plumbing and Drain Experts are here to help. We’ve been around for years, and we’ve helped many homeowners in Metro Detroit solve their water heater issues.

We know that having to deal with these water heater problems can be stressful and confusing, but don’t worry—we’ll take care of it for you. 

Our water heater repair services include:

– Water heaters replacement

– Water heater installation

– Water heater maintenance

As a family-owned and operated company in Metro Detroit, we understand how frustrating water heater issues are—and how important it is that you get back to having a normal life as quickly as possible. That’s why we offer same-day, fast service for our customers in Metro Detroit: we know that when you call us, you’re calling because you need help right now. We’ll always do everything we can to make sure we can get there quickly and get things fixed so that you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

When you call Motor City Plumbing and Drain Experts, you can expect:

– A friendly customer service representative who will answer all of your questions

– A professional and experienced technician who will arrive on time and complete the work in a timely manner

– A free consultation

– Fast service

– 100% satisfaction guarantee

– To have your water heater issues solved!

Our team of plumbers are trained and licensed professionals who have been working in the industry for years—and they’ll treat your home like their own. 
So if your water heater isn’t working as it should be, don’t worry—we’ll take care of it! Call us at (586) 585-1862 to learn more about our Water Heater Installation and Services in Metro Detroit!

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