8 Common Causes of a Water Heater Leak and How to Prevent Them


It’s a chilly winter morning, and you’re eagerly anticipating a warm, comforting shower to kick-start your day.

As you turn on the faucet, instead of a soothing stream of hot water, you’re greeted by a surprise: a small puddle forming near your water heater. Panic sets in as you realize there’s a leak, threatening to dampen your plans and possibly your entire day!

We can help you prevent this worst-case scenario. Let’s go through the common causes of a water heater leak, and how to prevent them.

1. High Water Pressure

High water pressure can cause the pressure relief valve on the water heater to fail or malfunction. When the PRV doesn’t operate correctly, it can lead to water leaks or even a burst tank. 

You don’t want to end up calling in emergency repair help for your leaking water heater, so it’s important to avoid burst tank problems.

Install a pressure relief valve on the main water line entering your home to regulate the water pressure. This valve will help maintain safe and consistent water pressure throughout your plumbing system, protecting your water heater and other fixtures.

2. Corrosion

Corrosion is a common cause of water heater leaks and can lead to major damage if not addressed promptly.

The sacrificial anode rod located in your water heater tank is meant to attract corrosive elements, protecting the tank from corrosion. Over time, the anode rod can become depleted or corroded itself, leading to tank corrosion and leaks.

3. Sediment Buildup

Sediment and mineral deposits can accumulate at the bottom of the water heater tank, leading to water heater problems.

Conducting regular water heater maintenance checks and inspections helps detect sediment buildup and other issues early, preventing any water leaks and extending the lifespan of your water heater.

Schedule annual or bi-annual maintenance visits with a qualified plumber. They can inspect the water heater tank, anode rod, heating element, and other components for signs of sediment buildup, corrosion, or leaks.

Flushing the tank during maintenance visits can help remove accumulated sediment and maintain optimal performance.

4. Old Age

Old age is indeed a common cause of water heater leaks, as various components can deteriorate over time. 

The fittings and connections on a water heater can degrade over time, leading to leaks. Regularly inspect the fittings and connections for signs of wear, corrosion, or leaks. Tighten loose fittings as needed, and replace any damaged parts promptly.

If your water heater is nearing the end of its expected lifespan (usually around eight to 12 years), consider replacing it proactively to avoid potential leaks and other issues associated with old age.

5. Drain Valve Problems

Drain valve problems can contribute to water heater leaks if they are not properly maintained or if there are underlying issues with the valve itself.

A loose or damaged drain valve can result in leaks from the water heater tank. Inspect the drain valve periodically for signs of wear, corrosion, or leaks. Tighten any loose connections and replace your drain valve if it is damaged or leaking. 

Incorrect installation of the drain valve or using incompatible fittings can lead to leaks. Ensure that the drain valve is installed correctly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Use appropriate fittings and sealing materials to prevent leaks. If you’re unsure about the installation, consult a licensed plumber for assistance.

6. Improper Installation

Bad water heater installation can lead to various issues, including leaks.
If the connections between the water heater and pipes are not tightened correctly or sealed properly, it can lead to leaks.

Make sure all connections are securely tightened using the appropriate tools, such as pipe wrenches or adjustable wrenches. Use thread sealant or plumber’s tape on threaded connections to create a tight seal and prevent leaks. Regularly inspect connections for signs of moisture or leaks and address any issues promptly.

A drain pan is recommended for water heaters to catch leaks and prevent water damage in case of a leak. If the water heater drain pan is not properly installed or is not connected to a suitable drainage system, leaks can occur.

Improper ventilation of gas water heaters can lead to safety hazards and potential leaks. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and local building codes for venting gas water heaters.

Use the correct type and size of vent pipes, and ensure they are installed with the proper slope and clearance. Regularly inspect and maintain the venting system to prevent blockages and leaks. For electric water heaters, improper wiring or connections can lead to electrical issues and potential leaks.

Don’t try and fix large issues like this by yourself. Instead, hire professional help with water heater repairs. 

7. Cracked and Damaged Storage Tank

A cracked or damaged storage tank can lead to water damage in your home, not just leaks.

Condensation can form on the exterior of the water heater tank, especially in humid environments, leading to water accumulation and potential leaks. Insulate the water heater tank with a suitable insulation jacket or blanket to reduce condensation.

Ensure proper ventilation in the area where the water heater is located to minimize humidity levels.

8. Chemical Damage

Harsh chemicals such as drain cleaners, chemical solvents, or acidic substances can corrode metal components of the water heater, including pipes, fittings, and the tank itself.

Avoid using corrosive chemicals near the water heater or pouring them down drains connected to the water heater. Use non-corrosive alternatives for cleaning or maintenance tasks that involve water heater components.

If you must use chemicals, ensure they are compatible with the materials used in your water heater and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Accidental spills or leaks of chemicals near the water heater can result in exposure to corrosive substances, leading to damage and leaks.

Store chemicals securely in designated areas away from the water heater and plumbing connections. Use appropriate containers and handling procedures to prevent spills or leaks. In case of a chemical spill near the water heater, clean it up promptly and thoroughly to minimize potential damage.

There are a lot of things that could cause a water heater leak. Hopefully, now that you know the signs, you’ll be able to protect your home.

Prevent a Water Heater Leak Today

Are you looking for water heater help around Bismarck, ND? Advanced Mechanical, Inc. has been providing top-quality services since 1980. Contact us today.

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