It’s a sad fact: all water heaters fail eventually. Sometimes, you can catch the warning signs early enough to replace it without a catastrophic mess in your home or business. But what if you’re not so lucky? Would you know what to do if your water heater bursts?
While this is a stressful and highly inconvenient situation for anyone, it’s key that you act as quickly as possible. Here’s what you need to know to contain the damage and avoid further issues.
Why Do Water Heaters Burst?
There are a variety of different reasons a water heater may burst. Most commonly, failures are a result of one of the following:
- Sediment Buildup. Minerals from the water supplied to the tank settle at the bottom, shielding the water from the heat of the burner. This causes the water heater to continuously burn longer and longer, leading to decay.
- Corrosion. While your water heater does have a “sacrificial anode” rod that prevents rust from forming on the inner walls of the tank, that rod will eventually deteriorate. This leaves the tank susceptible to corrosion from rust.
- Excessive internal pressure. Water heaters have a pressure-relief valve (called the T&P valve) to keep internal pressure in check. However, if the valve is faulty, pressure can build up–which can even lead to an explosion.
- Broken or incorrectly calibrated thermometer. Higher heat means higher pressure. If the water heater’s thermometer isn’t working, the water heater will keep heating the water even if it’s getting too hot. This leads, again, to too much pressure within the tank.
There are a few things that could indicate that your water heater is malfunctioning, such as:
- Popping and knocking sounds from within the tank
- Rust-colored water
- Pressure-release valve constantly opening or is leaking
- Burn marks on the outside of the tank
- Overly loud blower motor
What to Do If The Water Heater Has Already Burst
When faced with a burst water heater, your first instinct might be to panic, but you need to move quickly to prevent any more damage.
1. Turn Off the Water Supply to the Tank
The first step you need to take is to stop the flow of incoming cold water to the tank. Usually, water will stop flowing into the heater once it’s full, but since the heater keeps emptying, it will keep pumping in more water.
Locate the water supply valve, which should be on top of the tank. Turn clockwise (remember: “righty-tighty”) until the water shuts off.
2. Turn Off the Power (Electric or Gas)
When the water temperature is high enough in a functional water heater, the power will shut off automatically. However, when water is spilling out continuously, the temperature monitoring system won’t work. If the water level gets so low that the heating plate isn’t covered, it can cause a fire.
You’ll need to manually turn off that power source. If your water heater is electric, locate the breaker box and flip off the power switch. If it’s gas-powered, turn off the gas line leading to the heater and stay away from the affected area until any natural gas is aired out.
3. Contact a Restoration Company
Once you’ve stopped the initial problem of water flowing out of the tank, it’s time to drain the water out of the area and assess the damage. This is going to be a difficult task to do on your own with the average wet vacuum. Instead, it’s highly advised you call a restoration professional with the necessary expertise and tools to get the job done.
Whether it’s AFC or another restoration company, Call for professional help as soon as possible. Because many insurance companies require you to prevent any further damage to the affected property, you may be denied coverage if you don’t deal with the issue right away. Not only that, bacteria and fungus can grow in the water after it becomes stagnant.
4. Call Your Insurance to Make a Claim
The last step is to get in contact with your insurance provider. They probably won’t cover the cost to replace the water heater, but they will help you repair the damage per your policy and deductible (assuming you’ve taken the steps above to prevent further destruction to the home or business).
Luckily, some restoration companies will help you in making a claim. For example, at AFC, we maintain direct contact with your insurance adjuster to assess the scope of the damage, facilitate payment, and determine a clear timeline of what you should expect.
Are you facing water damage from a burst water heater or elsewhere on your property? Making a claim while trying to coordinate repairs can be confusing and overwhelming, but we’re determined to make the process as expedient and easy for you as possible.