Is Your Water Heater Leaking From the Bottom?

A water heater leaking from the bottom is not always an indication of tank failure. Before you resign yourself to replacing the entire water heater, take a few minutes to determine where the leak is actually coming from, and you may be able to fix the leak yourself with little or no cost.

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Before you being working on the water heater, turn off the power and gas to the heater to avoid possible shock or burns.

See also:  Water heater leaking from the TOP

Leaking from the Bottom of the Tank: Finding the Source

The first places to check if it appears that you have a leak from the bottom of your water heater are the drain valve and temperature & pressure relief valve (T&P valve).

The leak may actually be at the top of the water heater and simply running down through the body of the heater before escaping at a lower level. Look for any visible signs of a leak on the top of the water heater and all pipes leading to or away from the heater. You can also remove the access panels (on electric models) and check for moisture in the insulation.

Common Causes of Water Heater Leaking from the Bottom

Leaking Drain Valve

leaking-drain-valveAll water heaters have a drain near the bottom of the unit so that the tank can be emptied before removal, or during routine cleaning of the tank itself. A leaking drain valve can be identified by moisture or water dripping, either out of the drain opening or around the valve itself.

Check to make sure that the bottom valve is fully closed by turning the valve control clockwise. If this does not solve the problem, the valve may need to be replaced.

To replace the valve, you will need to connect an ordinary water hose between the drain outlet and an outside location. Next, turn off the water inlet for the tank, usually located at the top of the water heater on the cold water line. Open the drain valve and allow the tank to empty.

Replacement valves for hot water heaters are available at most hardware stores, and can be replaced with only a wrench. Turn the existing valve counter-clockwise to remove it.

Wrap the threads of the replacement drain valve with plumber’s (Teflon) tape or joint compound, and then screw the new valve into the opening until it is hand tight. Using a wrench, tighten the drain valve 1/2 turn, or until the drain is tightly in place.

Leaking Pressure Relief Valve

leaking-overflow-pipeThe pressure relief valve (T&P valve) is an important safety measure for your water heater to relieve excess pressure if the water heater gets too hot. On most water heaters, the pressure relief valve is on top of the unit, but most systems include a tube attached to the valve in order to channel the water to the floor.

When the T&P valve is leaking, it may appear the issue is at the bottom of the tank since the overflow tube discards the expelled water underneath it. Since the T&P valve is designed to allow water to be released from the tank, the first thing to do is check the thermostat setting to make sure that it is not turned up too high.

If the temperature is fine, you will likely need to replace the pressure relief valve.

Leaking Tank

water-heater-leaking-from-bottomWater heaters that are not cleaned out periodically can build up sediment in the tank. Salt and other chemicals in the sediment may lead to premature rusting or corrosion inside of a water heater and eventually cause pinhole leaks to form.

Once a pinhole leak is opened up, the pressure of the water inside the tank forcing its way through the opening will cause the leak to get larger over time.

The best solution for this problem is to replace the tank with a new unit. A leaking tank is an obvious sign of a water heater needing to be replaced.

Normally, replacing a water heater should be done by a professional but if you’re a DIYer, you can do it yourself. On most models, you will need to remove the plumbing connected to the water heater, and disconnect the power inside the access panel. For gas water heaters, be sure to turn off the gas line leading to the water heater, and disconnect the line where it enters the tank.

Replace the water heater with a new unit and reconnect the pipes and power. “How long do water heaters last?” is question usually related to the water heater tank itself. When the tank is damaged, it’s time for a new unit.

Condensation

Some water heaters may experience condensation on the water tank. This more common on older water heaters, but it can happen to newer tanks if the insulation has been damaged or the thermostat is set too high for safe operation. Allow the tank to sit idle for several hours with the power or gas turned off.

If the leak stops, it is an indication that you are experiencing condensation. Turn down the thermostat and restore power to the unit.

If the problem persists, you may need to replace the tank with a better insulated model. See our list of recommended water heaters to see just how well insulated current models have become.

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Condensation may also occur temporarily after a new water heater is installed and the cold water that fills up the tank hasn’t had a chance to heat up yet. The temperature difference between the inside of the tank and the outside air oftentimes causes condensation.

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44 thoughts on “Is Your Water Heater Leaking From the Bottom?

  1. It’s good to know the the condensation on a water heater should go away after the first initial fill up during winter time. It’s already starting to get cold where we live and I was down in the basement where our water heater is and I noticed a little pool around the bottom. I was pretty nervous about it. Like I said, I’m glad to hear it’ll go away. I’ll continue to check up on it just in case. We rely on that water heater a lot during the colder months. Thanks for your help!

  2. A couple days ago, I accidentally bumped the pressure relief valve with a shovel and water started seeping out. I ended up opening and closing it a couple times and fortunately it stopped leaking. The water heater is about 10 years old so I’m not sure if that’s a sign or something.

    • Michael,
      This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of that happening. Glad you got the water stopped. That said, keep an eye on things. Depending on the model and condition, 10 years is close to end of life for some water heaters (although some may easily last another 10).

  3. I have a 2 year old water heater and just noticed a leak on what appears to be the bottom. I’ve looked at the pipes and valves and they appear to be dry.

  4. After troubleshooting where the leak is coming from, I have determined that the water leak is coming from where the electronic gas control valve is located — not in any other areas specified in this post. Is that from a faulty thread or teflon that needs replacing? Any ideas anyone?

    • If that really is the case, the first thing I would do is check if your warranty is still in effect. The connection to the tank from the gas control unit might be as simple as needing some teflon tape as you say but it could also be a stripped or cracked connection which could be a lot more serious ($$$). Not sure if the gas valve unit on your water heater has already been replaced before but if so, it’s probably a bad install.

      Here’s a good video if you want to diagnose this issue some more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2ctqDO-kMo

  5. I have a finished downstairs wall carpet noticed carpet soaked the water heater sits in black liner water leaking from bottom of the tank the tank 10 yes old any suggestions I just noticed it but still have hot water I called American home shield waiting on them. My question is after 10 is time replace six months ago thermostat.

    • Unless you can easily determine exactly where the leak is coming from, I actually would recommend a replacement in your case (due to it located in a finished basement vs a concrete garage). Since you already have wet carpet, you’re going to need to see how bad the water damage (if any) is. Even thought a 10 year old water heater may not be at the end of its life, it’s on the tail end of it. Good luck with AHS. Hopefully they will cover a replacement.

  6. Having your water heater leak seems like it would be a huge problem. It seems like a good idea to know how to make a few quick repairs stop the leaks until you can get a plumber to come fix it. So, I like that you talked about how to stop leaks in different areas of your hot water heater.

  7. My hot water tank keeps on going out. It appears as if the water gets to a certain level in the tank when I refill it, then I have water running down the inside and it puts out the pilot light. Did that 3 times this morning. I try to refill it slowly to allow for the metal to expand and close any gaps while it is heating. I don’t know how old the tank is. Can It be fixed or do I need to replace it?

  8. If my husband couldn’t fix the leak in my hot water heater, he cut the main water supply to the house off. Should he cut the breaker off also until tomorrow until he can buy more parts to fix it?

    • Yes, you’ll want to switch off the breaker for the electric water heater until the leak is fixed or the water heater is replaced. If there’s no water in the tank due to the leak, the element(s) can easily burn out if they are still heating.

  9. This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to replace a malfunctioning water heater that’s over ten years old. Mine has been having problems come up fairly regularly, and it’s not working again. I’ve had it for almost thirteen years now, so I’ll definitely look into having the entire thing replaced instead. Thanks for the great post!

  10. Not sure how old my water heater is but this morning I went to garage and found a small puddle under it. I traced the drip to the underside where the water had eaten through the bottom pan. I then opened the little door to see drips falling from the pious that runs down the middle of the tank. What to do?

  11. Thank you for mentioning that a small water leak can lead to huge issues! My grandma was unaware that the water tank in her basement was leaking. By the time everyone found out the walls and floor were in really bad shape and were water damaged. It took thousands of dollars to make all the repairs. If you notice any small thing, don’t be afraid to call a plumber. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

  12. My drain valve just released about a gallon of water it was hot and now is like warm. I shut everything off. Help don’t know what to do now

    • Fortunately, this is one of the least serious spots for a leak. If you’ve confirmed that the valve is fully closed position and still leaking, it most likely needs to be replaced. As a temporary fix, you can screw on a brass end cap that is intended for garden hoses until you are ready to flush out the water heater and replace the valve (instructions in the Leaking Drain Valve section above).

  13. This is about as thorough an article I’ve seen on water heater repair and diagnosis. I think one of the biggest things pieces underestimate with water heater repair is the potential for serious disaster, like if you “find a way” to let all the dozens of water stored in the heater spill out into your garage! Assuming you’re dealing with a traditional water heater.. But yes, much of it is fairly simple if you’ve got your head on straight.

  14. I just noticed a leak at the bottom of my water heater. it appears that rust and maybe oil is on the puddle on the floor. What should i do?

  15. My water heater recently stopped heating water. Twice within this past week I have reset it and it will work again. Last night I tried to reset it again but it didn’t sound like it turned back on and of course got no hot water. I tried again this morning but it didn’t sound the like the reset button even clicked or that the water heater turned back on. It also appears to be leaking on the bottom.

  16. our water was cold and i checked the water heater and notice the pilot light was off i turned it on and looks like it shut off again and notice the plate on the bottom has a small amount of water so the pilot light turned off i think because the area is damp so do you think my water heater will have to be replace or can it be repaired being it is only a small leak thank you from las vegas

    • Some may disagree with me but I’d look at replacing a 15-year water heater even though a leaking drain valve is usually an easy fix.

  17. I have a water heater in a 9-year-old home that just recently starting leaking water. It’s not a ton, but it comes out of the the PVC pipe connected to the bottom of it. This never happened before this year, but I have to empty a small kids sized pail every 24-36 hours? It’s so slow that I don’t see water dripping into the bucket while looking at if for a while. Any ideas? Thanks!

  18. My older tank does the same thing. A hose is already connected to it and I see a drip about once a second. My first attempted solution is to open the valve a bit and close it tight again. Maybe the valve wasn’t closed tight enough or debris kept it from totally sealing.

  19. I noticed water leaking from the bottom of the tank and The water seems to be constantly running. What does this mean?

  20. I just replaced the bottom element in my water heater but when i put everything back together and locked the pressure release valve back down I noticed it hissing. Then I noticed the drain valve was wet on the underside of the valve. It leaks very little but if left any amount of time could become a puddle of water. However the hissing sound in the pressure valve is also a concern. What should I do and can anyone help me figure out why the hissing and why the small drips

  21. A company installed a Rheem’s electric water heater two weeks ago. The water was not hot (lukewarm). I opened the bottom panel to reveal the bottom heating unit. There was orange corrosion below the heating element and the foam insulation pads were soaked. As I air died the pads, the water then became hot (120%). I’m guessing there is an automatic shutoff when moisture is detected or it is shorting out. The company came out and said they did not detect a leak. I have a picture of the orange powder below the element. If it is not a leak, what is it?

  22. I found a sudden trail of water coming from my water heater. Seems to be seeping out between the side wall and bottom plate of the heater. Pulled the side panel off and insulation was dry but the felt pad around the sight glass was wet and dripping. The cold water intake line at the top was corroded, wet, and had droplets of water around the fitting. It was not a steady flow though and pilot light was also out. Any ideas?

  23. My hot water tank is dripping cold water somewhat rapidly from the drainage valve. It seems to have been a slowly developing problem because I found mold starting to grow there. This is the first day I’ve ever seen a puddle develop though so I never knew it was happening. We’ve capped it for the moment and plan to flush it in a couple days but will this solve the problem?

  24. I usually unplug my 5 year old water heater when we go on vacation for a week or more. Unplugged 5 year old water heater one week ago and upon our return, puddle of water surrounding unit. Nothing on outside of unit appears to be leaking. What do you think?

  25. My water heater is leaking and I am so so worried that something awful is happening! It was good to read to shut off the water when this happens; I never would’ve thought of that. Now that I know that I am safe because the water is off, I am going to take your advice to call a plumber right away.

    • Easton Memmott
      Food for thought, prevention and peace of mind… if you haven’t installed your new water heater yet, make sure you have a drip pan and a flood prevention device, possibly Floodstop auto shut-off valve (Requires electricity) or a WAGS valve (No electricity required mechanical) both are good products and possibly get a discount on your home owners for having a prevention device installed….there are other product, these two are fairly price have history.

  26. Just wondering why you did’nt respond or answer some of the questions as I have a leak
    and am wanting to learn as much as possible as I have to do my own repairs.

    • Sorry Nathan. This site is something I manage on the side as time allows and I unfortunately am not able to reply to every comment. Feel free to leave a new comment here and I’ll do my best to reply.

  27. I just warrantied my water heater through Menards. The new water heater is constantly leaking water from the bottom. I raised the flue pipe to more of an angle to make sure that it was not condensation. There is water still in the drain pan. I am kinda out of ideas here aside from the new tank being faulty. I rather not replace is as it is three days old. There in no visible damage on the tank. Any thought why there is so much condensation? Or could it be a leak. The leaking water is room temperature.

    Thank you

    • If you’re positive it’s not a loose connection at the top (inlet/outlet) that’s simply running down the water heater into the pan, it’s possible the unit is faulty from the factory. Also possible is that the unit was damaged at some point during transportation (from distributor to store or store to home).

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