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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

When Hot Water Heaters Fail

1/17/2018 (Permalink)

Water Damage When Hot Water Heaters Fail Inspect your hot water heater regularly to prevent disasters.

Most residential hot water heaters have tanks that hold between 40 and 50 gallons. All this water can be disastrous when a tank fails. Even worse, if you do not notice the problem right away, a hot water tank failure may lead to secondary damage from mold growth.

Tank Failure

When a hot water tank fails, gallons of water can create a flood in your home. Basement floods might not be noticed right away and can ruin finished areas. Floods on upper floors will spread out and down, affecting several rooms.


The culprit in tank failures is often corrosion. Sediment can build up in the tank, leading to corrosion and  tank leaks.

Pressure Relief Valve

Sometimes the tank is intact, but the pressure relief valve fails and leaks a steady stream of steam into the air. A few years ago, we were called in to a basement that was covered with an inch of fuzzy microbial growth on every surface because the valve failed while the homeowners were on vacation. They lost all of the fabric and soft material Christmas decorations they had accumulated through the years.

Here are some things you can do to lessen your risk of disaster due to hot water heater failure.

Weekly Spot Checks

Once a week, you should check your hot water tank for obvious signs of distress like sputtering sounds, moisture on the floor, or corrosion. Especially as your tank ages, these checks can alert you to replace your water heater before it fails. 

Semi-Annual Maintenance

Twice a year, you should perform a more in-depth examination of your hot water heater. This should include draining the tank and removing any sediment. Check the pressure-relief valve by lifting the handle and releasing it. If the valve is functioning properly, a small amount of water should be released in the overflow pipe. 

Consider a New Water Heater

A replacement water heater may offer more energy efficiency than your old one, and a tankless system may bring more peace of mind. Rather than waiting for disaster to strike, you might want to be proactive about replacing your old hot water heater.

Like most household appliances, hot water heaters do not last forever. However, when they go, they can make a mess of your home and the precious memories you store within it. If your tank should fail, be sure to call SERVPRO of Lexington-Bedford to mitigate the damage and protect against mold growth.

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