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Hot Water Heater Flooding? Here’s What To Do Right Now

Your water heater is one of the hardest-working appliances in your home, but did you know it’s also one of the most likely to cause water damage? 

If you’ve noticed pooling water, dripping valves, or other signs of flooding from your water heater, it’s essential to act quickly to contain the flooding and minimize damage.

As a leading restoration company serving the Chicago area, we help people recover from hot water heater flooding all the time, so we know what it takes to reclaim your space.

In this post, we’ll share our top tips for addressing hot water heater flooding and limiting damage as much as possible.

Signs of a Water Heater Flood

signs of a water heater flood

Wondering if your water heater is currently flooding or could cause a flood in the future? 

Look for these telltale signs:

  • Slow leaks. Leaks can occur in many places on a water heater, including the inlet and outlet valves on the top of the water heater and the drain valve at the bottom. Left unattended, leaks can worsen and become an all-out flood that damages your home, flooring, and drywall.
  • Rust streaks. If you have a leak that’s not visible in your water heater, you may only notice water collecting under the tank or telltale rust streaks down the side of the tank itself. 
  • Water heater age. Today, most water heaters last about 8-12 years. If your water heater is older than this, it’s more likely to fail and cause a flood in your home. 
  • Fluctuating water temperatures. If you’ve started to notice spikes or drops in your home’s water temperature, it could be a sign that your water heater is close to failing and could cause a flood. 
  • Strange noises. Turn off all external sources of noise and listen to your water heater. You’re looking for two primary kinds of noises: clunking, clanging, or rattling, and the sound of water rushing or dripping. If you notice water sounds, follow the noise to try and find visual confirmation of the leak. If you can’t see dripping water, there may be an internal break in the tank. Clanging and clunking, on the other hand, indicate sediment buildup that could cause an explosion and flood. 
  • Gushing from the pressure relief valve. On most modern water heaters, the temperature and pressure relief valves are located on the side of the heater near the top of the unit. If the tank overheats, the pressure relief valve could leak or start gushing, causing a severe flood. In worst-case scenarios, pressure relief valve malfunctions could cause the tank to burst
  • Water pooling around the heater. One of the most obvious signs of a water heater flood is water pooling around the heater. While this could be the result of a small leak, it could also indicate a larger gush of water that’s a precursor to more problematic flooding. 

Why Did My Water Heater Flood?

why did my water heater flood

Although water heaters make our lives easier and more comfortable, there is no such thing as a perfectly-designed appliance. 

In fact, water heater leaks are common enough that most modern building codes require them to be installed with a drain pan underneath.

With that in mind, here are a few of the most common reasons water heaters flood:

1. Corrosion

Water heaters are subject to constant exposure to water and sediment, which often builds up at the bottom of the water heater. 

Over time, this sediment can lead to rust or corrosion. Left unattended, this can cause leaking or flooding. 

2. Condensation

When the weather is cold, or the water heater sits in an unconditioned space, condensation occurs when cold and warm water begins to mix in the tank. 

Once the water heater reaches peak temperature, the condensation should dissipate. If that doesn’t happen, it can lead to corrosion and rust. 

3. Valve Issues

Sometimes, the drain valve leading from your water heater is too loose, which may allow small amounts of water to drip out of the heater. 

4. High Water Temperature

If the temperature of your water tank is too high, water may leak out from the temperature-pressure relief valve, causing water pooling or buildup. 

How to Fix a Flooded Water Heater: 5 Important Steps

how to fix a flooded water heater

1. Turn off your gas or electricity

To ensure safety and prevent electrocution hazards, turn off your home’s gas or electricity (depending on whether your water heater is gas or electric). 

If you have an electric water heater, head to the circuit breaker to turn the unit off. For a gas-powered water heater, twist the dial on top of the unit’s thermostat to the ‘off’ position.

2. Stop the flow of water

Before you can fix the water heater or repair the damage the flood caused, you need to stop the water by shutting down the flow through the heater itself. 

To do this, turn the handle on the water valve clockwise until it is fully closed. 

If you can’t locate the valve or the water still seems to be running even after the valve is closed, turn off the water main for the entire home. 

3. Clean up standing water

Now that the power and water are off, it’s time to address standing water. 

If the flooding was minimal, you might be able to suck up most of the water with a wet/dry vacuum or sop it up with a few mops and towels. 

If the flooding is extensive, you must hire a professional water damage restoration company to help you reclaim your space, avoid mold and mildew formation, and prevent future damage. 

4. Relieve the pressure in the tank

Next, you need to relieve pressure in your tank. Do this by opening a hot-water faucet in your home to relieve pressure. 

If the tank is actively leaking, attach a hose to the drain valve to drain the tank completely. 

To do this as effectively as possible, ensure the cold water supply is turned off and that the hot water faucet in the home remains open to bring air into the unit. 

5. Contact a plumber

Now that the water heater is stabilized, you’ll need to focus on long-term repair. 

The only way to do this is to hire a professional plumber to repair or replace the water heater, which will help prevent future flooding and damage. 

How to Prevent Water Heater Flooding

Prevent costly, time-consuming water heater flooding with these tips:

  • Replace your water heater if it’s more than ten years old.
  • Pay attention to warning signs, including off-color water, water with a strange scent, or a water heater that clanks, knocks, or makes other strange sounds during use.
  • Hire a professional plumber to drain and flush your tank and test its relief valve at least once a year.
  • Schedule professional inspections and maintenance for your water heater at least once a year. 
  • Install a water heater catch pan beneath the tank itself. This pan can catch water from small leaks or direct it to a drain, preventing more extensive flooding. 
  • Check the drain pan drainage lines, remove any blockages, and ensure the pan drains into an appropriate area rather than onto the floor near the heater itself. 
  • Install moisture alarms that will alert you to water accumulation before it turns into a full-blown flood. 
  • Consider installing a tankless water heater, which heats water as needed, rather than storing large volumes of pre-heated water. 

Has Flooding Damaged Your Chicago Home? Our Team Can Help You Reclaim Your Space!

A flooding water heater is every homeowner’s worst nightmare. 

Fortunately, you can contain water damage from a flooded water heater by knowing what to do and acting quickly at the first signs of water damage. 

If the water damage was extensive, DIY cleanup won’t work. 

Fortunately, that’s where our team comes in.

Here to help you resolve emergency flood damage, we’ll dry, sanitize, and dehumidify your space so that you can enjoy a clean, peaceful home once more.

Ready to learn more? Contact our team at (312) 707-8597 to learn how we can help you. 


Does a flood ruin a water heater?

If your water heater was exposed to flooding, it should be replaced. If the affected heater was a gas unit, flood waters could cause the valves and controls to corrode. If it was an eclectic unit, water exposure will ruin the thermostat and controls, rendering the unit unsafe to use.

How do I protect my water heater from flooding?

The best way to protect your water heater from flooding is to install water heater shut-off valves, which protect your home from flooding via a burst of water from the water heater itself.

Alternatively, install an anti-flood ring around your heater. These units are 4-5” high PVC rings that sit around the base of your water heater and are secured to the floor. In the event of mild flooding, they contain water and prevent it from spreading and affecting other parts of your home.

How do I know if my water heater is damaged?

Identify a damaged water heater by looking for warning signs like strange noises, decreased or unreliable water temperature, discolored or rusty water, water heater leaks, or a hot water shortage.