Help! My Water Heater Is Leaking – What Should I Do?

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: January 11, 2024

If your water tank is leaking, you need to act fast to avoid mold, expensive damage, and electrical hazards.

We’re here to help.

We have more than 85 combined years of experience taking care of plumbing and pipe leaks all across Chicago, IL, and the suburbs.

Here’s everything you need to know about fixing a leaking water heater.

How To Fix A Leaking Water Heater

how to fix leaking water heater

Step 1. Identify where the leak is coming from

Before you can fix the leak, you need to know where it’s coming from and what’s causing it.

Problem: The Water Heater Leaks From The Top


  • A water heater that leaks from the top may have loose or faulty plumbing connections, particularly at the inlet or outlet pipes. These connections can deteriorate over time, causing water to leak. 
  • Alternatively, the pressure relief valve, designed to release water if the pressure or temperature inside the tank gets too high, may be faulty or improperly set, causing an overflow at the top of the unit. 
  • Lastly, if the tank itself is corroded or damaged, water can seep out from any weak spots, including the top. It’s crucial to address such leaks promptly to prevent further damage or potential safety risks.

Solution: Take a look at the cold water inlet pipe and hot water outlet pipe. If you’re not sure which one is leaking, wipe the surface dry. When the leak reappears around one of the pipes, tighten its connection with a pipe wrench. 

Alternatively, the leak might be coming from the pipe valve. In this case, tighten the nut that connects the handle to the pipe. If neither fix stops the leak, you may need to replace the valve.

Problem: The water heater leaks around the T&P valve


  • The temperature & pressure (T&P) valve on a water heater can leak for several reasons. The most common causes are excessive water pressure or high temperature within the tank. The valve is designed to release water when these parameters exceed safety levels, hence the leakage. 
  • Alternatively, the valve could be faulty or corroded, leading to a leak even under normal conditions. 
  • Sediment build-up at the bottom of the tank can also trigger irregular pressure patterns that cause the T&P valve to leak. Regular inspection and maintenance can help prevent such issues.

Solution: If water continues to leak around the T&P valve, drain the tank to just below the top of the T&P pipe. Using channel locks, unscrew the valve. Clean out any corrosion or rust in the connection. Wrap valve threads with the plumber’s tape before securing it back on the T&P pipe.

A water heater leaking from the pressure relief valve can be the result of excessive water pressure. Measure your home’s water pressure with a pressure gauge. Ideally, it should read between 40 and 50 psi.

Problem: The water heater leaks from the bottom


  • Water heaters can leak from the bottom due to several reasons. One common cause is a faulty drain valve. If it’s not fully closed or if it’s damaged, water may seep out. 
  • Another possibility is the presence of excessive pressure inside the tank. This can occur if the temperature is set too high or the pressure relief valve is not functioning properly. 
  • Lastly, the issue could stem from a more serious problem like a corroded tank. Over time, the internal walls of the tank can corrode due to the continuous interaction with water and its minerals, eventually leading to leaks.

Solution: Try tightening the valve with a wrench, but don’t apply too much pressure. Check the washer inside the valve for signs of wear. 

If it’s dirty or cracked, replace it with a new washer. Remember that water draining from the bottom valve can be extremely hot and can cause serious injury. 

If you have any concerns about working on this part of the water heater, call an experienced plumber.

Step 2. Take safety precautions

Keep yourself safe as you work on the water heater by doing these things:

  • Turn off the power: For an electric water heater, switch off the circuit breaker. For gas heaters, turn the thermostat setting to ‘pilot’.
  • Shut off the water supply: Locate the cold-water supply pipe on top of the heater and close the valve.
  • Open a hot water faucet: This allows air into the system.
  • Consider calling the pros: While certain minor water heater leaks can be a do-it-yourself project, more significant issues necessitate professional intervention. Serious problems with your water heater could lead to catastrophic failure, flooding, or other risks, so we recommend hiring a plumber and restoration company for more assistance. 

Step 3. Drain the water heater

To drain the water heater, connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the unit.

Position the other end of the hose to drain into a suitable location, such as a bucket, a floor drain, or outside. Open the drain valve and allow the water to flow out. 

Be careful – the water will be hot.

After the water has drained, open the water supply valve to flush out any remaining sediment in the tank. Once the water runs clear, close the drain valve, refill the tank, and restore power or gas. 

Step 4. Make important calls 

Most homeowners can fix a leaky water heater with tools found around the house. However, some problems need professional solutions. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If the leak is due to interior tank damage or requires replacing major components, it’s best to call a licensed plumber.
  • A leaky heater often causes secondary water damage that results in long-term structural problems. 
  • If you’re dealing with wet floors or damp drywall, contact a company that specializes in water damage restoration like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba if you’re in the Chicago area. We handle cleanup, sanitation, and restoration. Our certified technicians also repair leaking pipes and take care of mold removal.
  • Don’t forget to contact your insurance company and file a claim if you’re experienced water damage. 

How To Prevent Water Heater Leaks

leaking water heater in chicago, il home
  • Conduct regular unit inspections: Check your water heater periodically for rust, corrosion, or any signs of leakage. During this inspection, tighten loose parts and take note of any small leaks that may have formed. 
  • Install a water softener: If you live in an area with hard water, installing a water softener can prevent mineral buildup, which can cause leaks over time.
  • Drain valve inspections: Check your water heater’s drain valve to make sure it’s not loose, damaged, or clogged. 
  • Annual flushing: Flush your water heater at least once a year to remove sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank.
  • Replace your anode rod: Hire a professional to inspect and change your unit’s anode rod, which attracts minerals in the water and helps reduce corrosion and buildup in your tank. 
  • Check your T&P valve: Locate the valve, usually found on the side or top of the tank. Lift the lever gently to open it slightly – you should hear a slight rush of air or see some water and vapor discharge. If it releases water smoothly, it’s working as it should. If not, it needs to be replaced. Always be careful when testing, as the water can be extremely hot.
  • Make sure your flue pipe is venting: If you have a gas water heater, hire a water heater expert to make sure the flue pipe is venting gasses out of the house. 
  • Professional maintenance: Have a professional plumber inspect your water heater annually. They can spot potential issues before they cause leaks.

Dealing With A Leaking Water Heater In Chicago, IL, Or The Suburbs? We Can Help!

water heater leak repair

You may not have the time to fix a water heater leak. It’s not always easy to figure out exactly where the appliance is leaking. We’re here to help.

Our services include leaky pipe repair for homeowners in Chicago, IL, and the suburbs. We also take care of water-damaged floors, drywall and ceilings. Our industry-certified technicians know how to solve leaking water heater problems.

Call us today here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba: 773-647-1985


Does a leaking water heater need to be replaced?

Most water heaters hold up to everyday use for 10 or 12 years. Tankless models can last as long as 20 years or more. Still, both heater types develop problems that can’t be solved with DIY repairs.

These are common signs that it may be time to replace your home’s water heater:

  • Badly corroded components such as valves or fittings
  • Leaking that originates from inside the tank
  • The need for general repairs more than twice a year
  • An unexpected spike in your electric or gas bill
  • Rust or sediment flowing from hot water taps
  • Showers and baths routinely running out of hot water

Make a note of your water heater’s serial number. You can often determine its age by entering the information on the heater manufacturer’s website. If you have to replace the old water heater or simply decide to upgrade, shop around, and compare energy efficiency ratings.

Is a leaking water heater dangerous?

Exploding water heaters are rare, but a leaky water heater should be fixed as soon as possible. In addition to running up the water bill, a heater leak can cause damage and even pose a threat to your health. These are a few examples of the problems that can result from putting off repairs.

  • A small drip turns into a big leak that floods the room.
  • Over time, water heater leaks cause drywall damage.
  • Water dripping from the unit seeps into sub-floors and crawl spaces.
  • A water heater leaking from the relief valve compromises its safe operation.
  • Water leaking down the unit’s exterior shorts out electrical components.
  • Mold growth in the damp atmosphere aggravates allergies and respiratory problems.
  • Wet floors around a leaky water heater pose slipping and electrocution hazards.

Can I still use a water heater if it’s leaking?

While a leaking water heater may still produce hot water, it is not advisable to continue using it. A leak could be indicative of a more serious underlying problem, which could lead to significant water loss, property damage, or even a catastrophic failure of the heater. It’s recommended to turn off the water and power supply to the water heater and seek professional help immediately.

How much does it cost to replace a leaking water heater?

The cost of replacing a leaking water heater can vary significantly depending on factors such as the type and size of the heater, labor rates, and geographical location. For a more precise estimate, we recommended getting a few quotes from local professionals.