It is surprisingly common to discover your basement has flooded or experienced serious water damage. In many cases, the source of the problem is a broken water heater. When water heaters break, it is usually due to a leak or a rusted bottom, both of which will cause excess water to fill your basement. A replacement water heater may cost up to $1000, so the best course of action is to take care of your current water heater.
Most water heaters were built to last 10-15 years and will eventually deteriorate. Water heaters are used frequently and sustain the extremes of cold and hot temperatures. The unit inevitably experiences wear and tear over time, but once it begins rusting, it is best to quickly replace it.
How It Breaks
Both electric and gas water heaters usually last 10-15 years, but only if you pay attention to them and maintain the unit. Water heaters sometimes leak near supply lines and will damage the surrounding drywall and floor if not corrected right away. This also leads to corrosion and failure in the water heater unit. High water pressure, sediment buildup, improper sizing, and internal rust are other common causes of water heater failure. It is important to keep an eye on your unit to avoid a big, expensive mess.
The best way to save money in repairs is to check on your water heater periodically and make sure it lasts a long time. The maintenance doesn’t need to be excessive; in fact, about once a year is fine. Annually tighten loose fittings and check for pooling water or moisture around the unit. If you see mold growth near the water heater, that is a sign your unit is leaking and creating excess moisture.
Check for rust and leaks on the tank because this is where the failure will likely happen. Rust is a precursor to water heater failure, but small leaks can be fixed early on. However, any repairs on your water heater are only delaying the inevitable. Once you begin finding leaks, rust, or other flaws, start shopping for a new one.
If you want to be thorough, clean and remove sediment from the bottom of your tank every few months. In order to do so, you must drain a portion of the tank. If you notice a leak during this process, be sure to repair the bottom drain valve before it worsens. Check for leaks in both the inlet and outlet pipes. If you discover a leak in the pipes, it is advised that you call a water damage restoration professional. If your plumbing is inside the walls, use infrared thermography to inspect the pipes.
When installing your water heater, locate it next to a floor drain to minimize the damage if water damage does occur. If you are unable to do so, design a drainage system to channel any flooding or excess water to the drain. Inspect the drain valve for rust and corrosion regularly, as those commonly promote leaks.
What to Do
If you discover your water heater is broken and creating water damage, there are several steps you can take to reduce the damage.
First, turn off the water heater. This is especially true if the unit is making unusual noises or seems like it is going to burst. If you have a gas water heater, twist the dial to OFF and if you have an electric water heater, switch the circuit breaker to OFF.
Once the unit is off, turn off the water supply. Locate the water valve and turn it clockwise until it stops. If you are unable to get the valve to move, shut off your house’s main water supply.
Next, drain your water heater. To do so, attach a hose to the drain valve on the bottom of the tank. Put the other end of the hose to a place where dirty water can go without causing additional damage. Use a screwdriver if needed to open the drain valve and begin draining.
Then, open the pressure relief valve. Flip the handle so a vacuum doesn’t form while the water heater drains and be careful of the hot water.
Finally, use cold water to rinse the water heater once it’s finished draining. Rinse away any remaining sediment from your water heater. To refill the unit, close the drain and relief valves and turn the water supply back on.
It is a good idea to drain and refill your water heater once a year to keep it properly maintained so the unit can efficiently and properly do its job.
If you have a broken water heater, contact a restoration professional to assess the water damage right away. If you discover mold growth near the water heater or suspect your unit is about to blow, call ServiceMaster Kwik Restore at (815) 261-9195 for emergency water damage restoration services.