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Water Heater Leaks: Identifying & Stopping Leaks from the Top

Help! Water heater leaking from top! Now, this is a phrase we hear often enough. Water heaters are usually built to last, but some aspects of the equipment, the surroundings, or maintenance can cause them to malfunction.

Can you imagine going about your day without a water heater in your home? No, we didn’t think so. Water heaters are essential in our day-to-day lives, and we immediately feel the lack thereof. 

The tank that holds hot water for us can start to malfunction without any apparent reason (at least to the untrained eye). Like any other appliance, water heaters can encounter issues, and one of the most common problems is leaks. 

In this article, we’ll discuss leaks originating from the top of the water heater, explore the potential causes, and provide guidance on identifying and stopping such leaks. Homeowners can understand how to approach a leaking water heater from top by learning about these issues.

Identifying the Leak: A Step-By-Step How-To

When it comes to hot water heater leaking from top, homeowners should really focus on looking for signs of moisture and water accumulation in and around the unit. 

Here are a few indicators that can help you identify a leaking water heater:

  • Visible water around the base: Check the area around the bottom of the water heater for any puddles or standing water. This could be a clear sign of a leak.
  • Dampness or water stains: Look for damp spots, water stains, or discoloration on the walls, floor, or nearby pipes. These could indicate water seepage from the water heater.
  • Corrosion or rust: Inspect the water heater for signs of corrosion or rust on the tank or pipes. Corrosion weakens the structure and can lead to leaks over time.
  • Dripping or leaking connections: Examine the connections and valves near the top of the water heater. If you notice any dripping or steady leaks, it could indicate a problem.
  • Lessened hot water supply: A sudden decrease in the hot or lukewarm water supply when you typically expect it to be hot may suggest a leak within the water heater.
  • Unusual sounds: Listen for hissing or bubbling sounds coming from the water heater. These noises could be caused by water escaping from the tank.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to take prompt action to prevent further damage. Contacting a professional plumber to inspect and repair the leaking water heater is advisable.

Common Reasons for Hot Water Leaking from Top

There are several reasons why is your hot water heater leaking from the top, like corrosion, valve issues, and so on. Addressing these common causes through proper maintenance, regular inspections, and timely repairs can help prevent leaks and extend the water heater’s lifespan. 

  • Aging and deterioration: Over time, the materials used in water heaters can degrade, leading to weakened components, such as valves, fittings, and tanks. This deterioration can result in leaks.
  • Corrosion: Corrosion is a significant factor in water heater leaks. The presence of minerals and sediments in the water can cause corrosion in the tank and pipes, leading to small holes or cracks.
  • High water pressure: Excessively high water pressure can strain the water heater, causing stress on the connections, fittings, and valves. This pressure can lead to leaks at various points in the system.
  • Loose or damaged connections: If the connections between the pipes, valves, and the water heater become loose or damaged, they can leak. The constant pressure and movement can cause these connections to weaken over time.
  • Temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve) issues: The TPR valve releases excess pressure and temperature from the water heater. If this valve malfunctions or becomes faulty, it can cause leaks or drips.
  • Sediment buildup: Sediments, such as minerals and debris, can accumulate at the bottom of the water heater tank over time. This buildup can create a barrier between the water and the heating element, leading to overheating and potential leaks.
  • Improper installation or maintenance: Incorrect installation practices or inadequate care can contribute to leaks. Poorly sealed connections, improper insulation, or failed maintenance can all lead to water heater leaks over time.

How to Fix Water Heater Leaking from Top: Solutions for Every Problem

Fixing a water heater leaking from the top depends on the problem causing the leak. Here are some common issues and solutions to the most frequent reasons for leaky water hearts. 

Loose or Damaged Connections

  • Tighten any loose connections using a wrench or pliers.
  • If a connection is damaged, replace the faulty part with a new one.

Faulty Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve (TPR valve)

  • Turn off the power supply to the water heater;
  • Close the cold water supply valve;
  • Drain some water from the tank to relieve pressure;
  • Replace the TPR valve with a new one (remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions).

Sediment Buildup

  • Turn off the power supply to the water heater;
  • Close the cold water supply valve;
  • Drain the water heater to remove sediment;
  • Flush the tank by opening the drain valve and letting water flow through until it runs clear;
  • Close the drain valve, refill the tank, and restore power.

Corroded or Damaged Tank

  • If the tank is corroded or damaged, you should call in the professionals.
  • Contact a licensed plumber to assess the situation and determine the appropriate course of action.

Looking for the ultimate solution to your leaky water heater? Look no further than Cummings Plumbing! Our expert plumbers have the knowledge and experience to diagnose and fix any water heater issue. 

Our leak detection and repair services will keep leaks from dampening your day – contact us for a free in-house estimate today!

Preventing Hot Water Heater Leaking from the Top

Preventing hot water heater leaks from the top requires proactive measures. Regular maintenance is crucial to identify and address potential issues.

Here are some steps of precaution you can take to make sure mishaps stay out of your way.

  • Monitor water pressure and temperature; 
  • Inspect and tighten connections from time to time; 
  • Remember to flush the tank every year (to remove sediment buildup); 
  • Test the temperature and pressure relief valve; 
  • Consider installing an expansion tank to reduce possible fluctuations in pressure.

Besides the preventive measures we mentioned above, one of the common causes of water heater leaks from the top is a loose or damaged cold water inlet valve. To make sure that doesn’t happen, you should check the valve regularly and tighten it if it’s loose. 

On the other hand, if the valve is corroded or cracked, don’t think twice before replacing it. Another possible cause of water heater leaks from the top is a faulty temperature and pressure relief valve. A valve of that type is designed to release excess pressure and prevent the water heater from exploding. To prevent such an unfortunate scenario, test the valve every six months and replace it if it is leaking or not working properly. 

In addition, it won’t hurt to make sure that the discharge pipe is not blocked or kinked.

Concluding Remarks on Water Heater Leaks

Whether you can tell there’s something wrong with your water heater or aren’t aware of any issues but still feel something is off, paying close attention to certain aspects of your water heater can help.

If your water heater leaks from top, the sides, or the bottom, it calls for immediate attention.

Commonly, homeowners are worried about water heater leaks coming from the top of the appliance, and rightfully so. A bad water heater poses a great danger to the surroundings and the people using the water.

Luckily, if you know what to look for, you can pinpoint and solve any issues. 


How long will a water heater last after it starts leaking?

In the case of water leaking from top of water heater, it does not necessarily mean that the unit is at the end of its life. The location and cause of the leak will determine if it can be repaired or not. If the leak is minor and can be fixed, the water heater may last for a few more years.

Can I take a shower if my water heater is leaking?

If the leak is minor and does not affect the water pressure or temperature, you can probably take a shower before fixing it. However, if the leak is large or coming from the tank itself, you should turn off the water and power supply to the water heater and call a plumber as soon as possible.

How do I know if my pressure relief valve is bad?

If you hear a hissing or whistling sound from the valve, that’s a clear sign of a bad pressure relief valve. Also, look for visible leaks or drips from the valve.  In addition, if you notice the system underperforms in any way or isn’t as efficient as before, that is a call for inspection. Lastly, if the system temperature or pressure inexplicably rises, that’s a tell-tale sign of a faulty pressure relief valve. 

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