How to Deal with a Leaking Water Heater

leaking_water_heaterA leaking hot water heater is not always just an inconvenience. Sometimes it can be the cause of major damage in your home. So, how should you prepare for and deal with it when it happens?

Is it Condensation or a Leak?

The amount of damage that a leaking hot water heater can cause could be incredibly expensive, so it’s important to realize that even if you think your hot water heater is in an appropriate place, like the garage, you should still take precautions and keep an eye out for this issue.

If you should notice a small puddle of water at the base of your unit, check first to see if it may just be normal condensation. The water inside a water heater is generally heated between 125 degrees and 170 degrees at its highest setting. So, condensation often occurs when the inlet water is notably cold, like during the winter months. (On a related note, be aware that any water at these heated temperatures can cause severe injuries and burns, so do avoid coming in direct contact with it.)

Soak up the puddle of water and wipe down the outside of the unit with paper towels (from the top, down) and then watch for any visible leaks. If none immediately appear, periodically check back to see if the puddle reappears over the next few days. If not, there is most likely little to be concerned about at this time.

However, if the pool of water returns, or you can visibly see water starting to leak from a specific point on the unit, the problem could be due to something as minor as a slightly open drain valve, to a faulty plumbing connections, to something as severe as as a corroded tank.

It’s A Leak… Now What?

First things, first — Turn off the power source. Water and electricity are not a good combination, and bad things can happen when they mix. Flip the circuit breaker that powers your hot water heater, or if your breakers are not labeled, shut off the main breaker – better safe, than sorry. Water heaters powered by natural gas can be dangerous, as well, so be sure the gas supply valve is turned clockwise until it stops – it will be perpendicular to the gas line.

After turning off the power, you will need to turn off the water source. This is done by turning the knob/wheel next to the cold water inlet valve clockwise until it stops, or by turning the straight ball valve handle 90 degrees until it is perpendicular to the water pipe.

Most Common Sources of Leaks

There are a few areas you should be looking at to identify the leak. Especially true of older water heaters, the problem may be due to debris inside the pressure relief valve or the water heater drain valve. To most people, it will appear as if water is leaking out the bottom of the tank. To address these issues, put a bowl or bucket under the overflow tube or the drain valve open the valve and flush out anything that may be plugging up the pipe.

If there is a leak at a valve connection, such as around the pressure relief valve, cold water inlet or hot water outlet pipes, you may need to tighten or wrap Teflon tape around the connection point into the tank. This is a very common area that will make it appear as if there’s a leak from the top of the tank.

Another issue is the existence of too much pressure being built up inside the tank. If this abundance of pressure is not correctly released, it could literally cause the tank to explode. If you are concerned that this may be the case, shut everything off and call a licensed plumber for assistance.

Is Toilet Replacement Necessary?

toilet-replacementThe toilet plays a vital role in any home and just like any other home appliance, something can fail and toilet replacement may be necessary. A faulty toilet is not something that you can wait to repair or replace another day because things can get out of hand. For instance, a toilet that is experiencing regular clogs and overflows can prove to be a nightmare having to plunge and mop frequently. When dealing with a faulty toilet or any other appliance, it’s important to carry out a proper diagnosis to know if it needs just a repair or total replacement. Here are a few tips to help you when you are contemplating about replacing your toilet.

Identify the cause of the problem

A toilet consists of two parts: the tank with its flush mechanism and the bowl.  So, whenever there is a problem, it has to do with the physical damage on the two parts or something that disrupts the working of the mechanism. A crack or condensation in the tank together with a worn bolt washer will cause water to leak on the floor. Smelly wastewater around the base of the bowl can be caused by cracks in the bowl apart from blocked pipes. Incomplete flushes can be caused by the accumulation of mineral deposits in the inlet holes causing partial or complete blockage of water passages. This is common in old toilets. The components of the tank like the fill valve and the float can wear out over time and if not adjusted or repaired, they cause unusual hissing and trickling sounds inside the tank.

Do not rush to replace

Knowing the cause of the problem will help you in choosing between repair and replacement. Some of the problems can be quickly fixed either by yourself or by a professional. For instance, a running toilet is usually caused by a flush valve which is open and is easy and cheap to repair. A leaking toilet tank could be as a result of a loose feed line or tank bolts which are something that can be repaired as well. Other faults that can be repaired include a clogged toilet or a toilet tank that is too slow to fill by removing obstructions or replacing the fill line respectively. In some cases, all you need to fix your toilet is Youtube and a few tools from your garage.

Replace when it is inevitable

Repairs simply can’t solve many of the problems that your toilet is experiencing. Sometimes, the repairs can be too much and recurring that the only solution is to do away with the toilet. The cracks in the tank and the bowl even if they may look small can eventually cause flooding all over the house so get rid of the toilet the soonest time possible. Some blockages can be caused by unreachable lodged objects that are deep down the drain and will force you to replace the toilet, and when your water bills are soaring, your toilet could be the old type and using too much water to flush, you need to upgrade it!

Fix it Yourself or Call a Plumber?

call-plumberSome small plumbing jobs can be successfully fixed by a person who knows little to nothing about the subject. There are countless books, blogs, and YouTube videos that will be all that’s needed with issues such as: changing a washer, switching out a toilet seat, or unclogging a toilet. For serious problems that may involve bigger issues, you should call a licensed plumber. Some examples of issues that may require a professional solution include: incorrect water pressure, clogs that do not respond to your efforts, or a serious water heater leak. Ignoring larger or more complex plumbing problems can lead to costly repairs down the road. You should not procrastinate when you need a plumber.

You might be the kind of person who likes to take on a challenge or solve a problem all by yourself. You may be a couple who thinks that living in their first fixer-upper is a fun way to get to know one another better. Regardless of your specific situation, if you’re looking for plumbing advice, the library has some great books to give you an idea if you can fix your unique plumbing situation. If you are more of an online person, websites such as will help you out if you have no hot water in the house or not enough of it or the plumbing section of the DIY Network may help with all sorts of plumbing projects. Reddit even has a DIY section.

On the other hand, if you get help from these resources and you have no idea what they are talking about, then do yourself a favor and call a licensed plumber. There are jokes and some stereotypes about people who think they can take care of their own plumbing needs, and then they end up costing themselves more money because they actually made the problem worse.

Be aware that some people who offer their plumbing repair services, or call themselves plumbers are not actually licensed. Using a person who is not licensed or bonded can result in a bigger and more expensive problem that you will need to call a professional in to fix.

To find a good plumber, check out the reviews about their work listed online. Check the plumber’s license and bonding. You can also call the Better Business Bureau or go to their website to see how they are rated and if there are any ongoing complaints about them. Some websites like “Angie’s List” can help you find a person who is licensed and bonded. Select someone who has been in business for a while (you certainly do not want someone running out on you.) Neighbors, friends, and other repair professionals may be able to point you in the direction of a good plumber.

Tips on How to Choose a Plumber

plumberAs a homeowner, you never know when a plumbing emergency might occur. From a pipe bursting in the middle of the night, to leaky faucets which seem like a minor inconvenience becoming a major issue, you want to make sure you have the right local plumbing company in place to perform services in the home when required. So, how do you go about hiring a company and what should you look for when choosing a plumber for services? These are some things to consider.

  1. Make sure any company you choose to hire for repair work is fully certified, licensed, and that the company is bonded. This not only guarantees they meet all local and state requirements to perform plumbing services, but also that they are going to guarantee the quality of their work. It also means they are fully experienced, have expertise in residential plumbing services, and are going to provide any and all services you might require as a homeowner.
  2. Once you find companies which meet the above credentials consider the type of work you need performed in the home. If it is an emergency, can they come to your home at 2 AM on a Saturday or during holiday hours? If you need to replace some pipes or leaky handles, can the plumbers replace these items quickly and properly? Do they perform general plumbing work? Depending on the service needs you have as a local customer the plumbing company you hire will vary in each case. So, search for companies which specialize in the above services or any other plumbing service you need performed in the home.
  3. Make sure the company is well known in the local community. Look for plumbers who have been servicing the local area for several years and have a solid reputation. Look through online reviews on sites such as Angie’s List, Yelp, or HomeAdvisor to help you determine which companies are most qualified for local service needs you have as a customer. Consider their level of expertise, credentials, and certification in specialty plumbing services. Each of these things, along with word of mouth referrals and the company’s reputation, will help you choose the top local plumbing companies for services you need performed in the home.

As a homeowner you never want to let a minor plumbing issue become a major emergency where you almost in a way have to get out the life jacket. Or, in the event an emergency ensues, you want to know you have the right local service team you can call at any time to perform plumbing services in your home. Rather than hire a local company based on the cheapest prices offered for services alone, consider these factors as well. Doing so will allow you to find the best local plumbers, the most qualified companies, and of course the ones which are going to guarantee the quality of the services which you hire them to perform.

Cleaning up a Flooded Basement

water-heater-leakA flooded basement is not a thing many homeowners think about until it actually happens. Leaks and outright floods can and do happen, and have many causes such as: living in a flood zone, a leaky foundation, and the dreaded leaking water heater or washing machine. If you find yourself in one of these predicaments, the first thing to do is calmly asses the situation. During this phase, electrical safety is your primary concern. So, follow these step to ensure that you go from being flooded back to resting easy as quickly as possible.

Electricity must be taken out of the equation

During the assessment, make sure that the electricity to the basement and preferably the whole house is turned off. You can do this at the breaker panel. If there is water preventing you from getting to the breaker panel, it’s time to call your power company to get the power turned off safely.

Find out where the leak is coming from

  • When the power is turned off, you can then determine the extent and cause of your leak or flood. If the foundation has a leak, you can purchase sealers and cements at your local home improvement store to seal up those areas. If you are dealing with catastrophic flooding, such as a severely leakinwater heater, washing machine, or weather related flood, you will need to stage a recovery plan which includes:
  • Turning off the water supply to those appliances, in the case of a water heater or washing machine failure.
  • You should have a portable generator outside the house, in a well ventilated area that will power a portable water pump that will pull a majority of the water out of the basement.. If you are in the middle of an active weather flood, you will be fighting an uphill battle trying to clear out the water until the flooding subsides.
  • When most of the water is gone, use a wet vacuum to suck the rest of the puddles off the floor. The best shop vac will make short work of any remaining puddles.
  • At this point, you will need to bring a dehumidifier and fan into the basement to finish off the drying out process. The goal at this stage is to prevent mold growth. Since most basements don’t have a lot of ventilation, you may need to either rent or buy a good air mover or industrial fan.

Get the appliance back into working order

When the basement is well on its way to drying out, you can begin the process of  seeing whether you can fix the appliance that failed, or if you need to install a replacement. After the appliance is repaired or installed, you can then turn the water back on and the electricity. In the event of a weather related flood, do not turn the electricity back on if power outlets and wiring have become wet. In this case, consult a qualified electrician for further advise, as there is probably water in the wiring, that can lead to a fire.

Get back to normal

By following these steps, you will get your life back on track quickly, and get back to the joys of home ownership.