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HELP! My Water Heater in the Attic Is Leaking through My Ceiling!

Posted on: April 5, 2016

What to Do When Your Water Heater in the Attic LeaksWhenever water starts dripping from the ceiling in your Dallas home, you know there’s a problem with the water heater in your attic. In these situations, you can turn to the expert plumbers at Dial One Johnson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. We’re here to help.

If you live in the Dallas metro area, we are available 24/7 to help with plumbing emergencies! Call (972) 890-9818 for immediate assistance.

Possible Causes of Attic Water Heater Leaks

Commonly, attic water heater leaks are caused by problems like these:

  1. Split tanks
  2. Drain valve leaks
  3. Leaking hot or cold water lines
  4. Disruptions or breaks in the incoming or outbound water line connections

Here’s how to stop the flooding problem for any of these issues.

1. Turn Off the Water Supply to Your House

Do this in case the water leak is coming from the cold water line that is not connected to the water heater. The leak may not be coming from a hot water line or the water heater itself. There are typically two ways to do this—turn the water off at either the isolation valve or the meter. Not every house has an isolation valve, so if you don’t find one quickly, try the meter.

How to Turn Off an Isolation Valve

An isolation valve is an emergency shut-off valve for the incoming water supply to the house. This valve separates the water lines that run through the yard from the water lines that run under the house. This isolation shut-off valve is much easier and faster to turn off than the meter.

The isolation valve is typically located in the flower bed at the front of the home. It is usually housed in a black or green box and the handle on the valve will be yellow or red. The handle may be rusted if it has not been maintained. Turn the water off by carefully turning the handle in a clockwise rotation. The valve may be stuck if it has not been used in a while, and any sudden or hard movements might break it.

How to Turn Off a Water Meter

You may need to turn the water off at the meter if there is no isolation valve or if it is stuck in the open position. The meter is generally located at the front of the home or property by the street, maybe near the sidewalk or driveway. There are two types of meters: either a rectangular, black or green plastic lid or a large, round, black or brown metal or plastic lid.

Please note: Some cities will not allow citizens to turn the water off at the meter themselves. These cities fine homeowners for doing it; if the meter is damaged in any way, the homeowner will be financially responsible for making the repair or replacement.

This applies to many places in the Dallas metro area! Call your local water department before shutting the water off yourself. 

2. Turn Off the Incoming Water Supply in the Attic

Do this at the water stop at the top of the water heater. If the leak is from the tank itself or one of the water lines connected to the water heater, shut the water off at the water heater so that all the residual water in the water pipes coming from the isolation valve or the meter doesn’t continue to leak through the tank or the pipe.

The shut-off valve for the water heater is at the top on the right. The handle will look like either a circular wheel or a lever with a red or yellow plastic handle. To turn the water off, carefully turn the valve clockwise. If it is the lever style, make sure the handle is perpendicular with the water line to ensure it’s completely off.

3. Drain the Remaining Water from the Water Heater to Stop the Leaking

If the leak is from the tank itself or one of the water lines leading away from the water heater, even with the water turned off at the water heater, all the water that is remaining in the water heater tank itself is going to continue to leak from either the tank or the pipe.

Find the Closest Drain to the Water Heater

It will most likely be in a bathroom on a lower level (sink, tub, or shower). Check and make sure that this drain is free-flowing and clear of any stoppages before attempting to drain the contents of the water heater into it.

Get a Garden Hose that Is Long Enough to Cover the Distance Between the Water Heater & the Nearest Drain

Hook the garden hose up to the water heater drain. The water heater drain looks like a metal or plastic faucet and is located at the bottom of the water heater.

Before you hook the hose up to the water heater, make sure the other end is positioned so that the water will flow into the drain.

Screw the Garden Hose on to the End of the Drain on the Water Heater

On the metal valve and the plastic valve, use a screwdriver to turn counterclockwise so they can drain.

 

*WARNING*

IF YOU UNSCREW THE PLASTIC VALVE TOO MUCH, IT WILL BLOW AWAY FROM THE WATER HEATER, AND ALL CONTENTS OF THE WATER HEATER WILL DRAIN INTO THE ATTIC. USE EXTREME CAUTION!

 

Water from the water heater will now drain through the garden hose to the drain you have selected until the water heater is mostly empty (there will always be a little bit of residual water in the tank). Your water heater may vacuum seal, not allowing the water to drain. Read on for further instructions to deal with this issue.

Make Sure You Turn the Water Heater Off

This is so that it is not heating an empty tank.

Find a Double- or Triple-Handle Faucet in the House & Turn on the Hot Side Only

This will break the vacuum seal and allow the water heater to drain. Do not turn on the cold side or use a single-lever faucet. Turn the faucet back off once the water stops running.

If you believe the leak is on the cold-water line that is not connecting into the water heater AND you have been able to turn the water off at the meter or isolation valve, open one of the cold side faucets and allow the water to drain from the cold side. This will minimize the water reaching the damaged pipe. Only attempt to drain the cold side if the water has been shut off at the isolation valve or the meter.

At this point, the water should be slowing and should stop soon. If the leak is visible and you can catch the water or soak it up, that will help minimize the damage until it is completely stopped.

Clean Up the Water Before Any Damage Occurs

Using a mop or towel, clean up any of the water that you can from the floor of the attic and the walls as well as the floor and walls of the room where the water heater was leaking. If there is a large amount of water in the attic or the lower level, using a wet vac is very convenient.

You can use fans to help dry up the remaining moisture in the attic. It is also a good idea to have fans pointed at the ceiling on the lower level where the water was leaking. Sometimes, with large amounts of water to clean up, having a water restoration company assist you will cut down on the amount of water damage.

Call (972) 890-9818 for help! 

Because all types of problems can cause these leaks, it’s best to rely on an experienced plumber for professional diagnosis and the proper repairs. The experts at Dial One can fix the leak and recommend a reputable water restoration company.

How Do I Prevent Attic Hot Water Heater Leaking?

To prevent a leak on water heater incoming and outbound pipes and connections, you can check once or twice a year for any spots that develop corrosion or for any small leaks of water on the inbound and outbound pipes and connections. If the connections going into your water heater are corroded, this will eventually cause them to leak.

Sometimes, a leak on the pipe can be so small that it is hard to detect and can go on for a long time before developing into a huge problem. This tiny, slow leak will cause corrosion on the pipe that just continues to grow until a larger leak is present. Make sure all fittings are tight and sealed properly with no small leaks.

If your connections are corroded or leaking, call trusted local plumbers. In and around Dallas, that’s Dial One!

How to Prevent a Leak on the Tank

Water heaters come installed with an anode rod on the inside of them to prevent internal rusting of the tank. Once the anode rod is rusted through, the tank itself begins to corrode. Changing out the internal anode rod of your water heater every four years or so will continue to protect your internal tank from rust.

Tap water from the city comes with some sediment inside it. This sediment settles inside a water heater tank and can cause a lot of internal problems as it builds up. Flushing your water heater every six months will remove the majority of the sediment and extend the life of your water heater.

Your water from the city tap also carries minerals and either chlorine or chloramine to prevent bacteria from growing in the water before we are ready to use or consume it. The presence of all of these can break down the inner components of your plumbing system, and more specifically, your water heater.

Installing a whole-home water softener will remove the minerals and the right kind of whole home water filter can remove the chlorine or chloramines from your water, extending the life of your water heater.

How to Prevent a Leak on the Water Lines Leading Away from a Water Heater

Galvanic corrosion and electrolysis cause pinhole leaks in copper piping. Galvanic corrosion happens on a copper pipe when two dissimilar metals are in contact, causing the weaker metal to corrode. To prevent this, make sure there aren’t two different metals connected without a dielectric union anywhere on the visible plumbing and if any repairs are made on the underground plumbing, that the repairs are not made by joining different metals.

Electrolysis mostly happens to copper piping due to lightning. When lightning strikes a home or even the ground near a home, electricity will find that path of least resistance to travel and that path is most often your metal plumbing system.

There are some lightning damage prevention companies and products out there, but they do little to protect against the damage to the plumbing system. Having a flood stop installed on your water heater will give an alarm if the water is coming from the connections or the tank, automatically turn off the incoming water to the water heater, and let you know immediately when the problem starts so you can handle it quickly and minimize the damage.

Sometimes, even with the best maintenance, plumbing disasters happen. Homeowners in Dallas and the surrounding areas can take these steps to help minimize the damage when plumbing leaks occur.

Tips to Minimize Damage When Attic Water Heaters Leak

  • Make sure you have a ladder.
  • Know how to turn off the water supplying the water heater.
  • Know the distance to the nearest drain (tub, shower, or sink).
  • Get a garden hose that is long enough to reach that drain and store it in a convenient spot near your water heater.
  • Practice draining your water heater from the garden hose to the nearest drain once a year. Not only will this train you to respond to the problem quickly and calmly if it happens, but it will also flush your water heater of damaging water sediment. That can extend the life of your water heater.
  • Have a water heater pan installed to catch some of the water if it is coming from the connections or the tank.
  • Have a flood stop installed on your water heater to sound an alarm if the water is coming from the connections or the tank. A flood stop can also automatically turn off the incoming water to the water heater and let you know immediately when the problem starts so you can handle it quickly and minimize the damage.
  • Have a wet vac at your residence. This will allow you to quickly remove water from the site and minimize water damage to the ceiling.
  • Put fans in the attic to help dry out the space as quickly as possible.
  • Have the emergency number for your city’s water department. They can dispatch a team out, usually within minutes, to turn the water off at your home if you are not able to do it yourself.
  • Have the number for a reputable water restoration company on hand to help with any major water damage.

Call Dial One Johnson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning for Plumbing Service in the Dallas, TX Area

At Dial One Johnson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, we’re focused on providing exceptional service for all of Dallas homeowners’ plumbing needs, whether they involve water heater emergencies, minor repairs, maintenance, or anything else.

To reach an expert plumber in Dallas, contact us now!

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Starting with my initial call and interaction with the Office Manager Andy, the service was outstanding. The onsite team beginning with Matt, the leak detection person and ending with the plumbers (Jonathan and James), the service was excellent. I highly recommend this company for your plumbing needs.


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I’ve been recently widowed and a failed water heater was stress I didn’t need. James and this company took care of me and gave me peace of mind.


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The work performed by Don is beautiful. Don came to replace our old water heater. He’s very thorough and skillful. Our family greatly appreciate his work. Thank you very much Don.


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My serviceman was Don. He was Awesome! I was extremely pleased with the service. Before starting he thoroughly checked the job out to see what was entailed. He helped me pick out the items I would need and took time to answer my questions and concerns.It was evident that he wanted to do a good job and the customer was first which was me. I was educated on the procedures. He told me what he needed to do, how it was going to be, and how long it would take. And he gave me a good price. Don is experienced and highly efficient. He is well-organized and neat. His work is eye-catching and eye-pleasing. There were no water drippings or stains left on my white tile floor. When finished, he left his work area neat and clean. He hauled old items away. He did an AWESOME job! I recommend Dial One Johnson Plumbing which I will be using again and again. And I will be personally asking for Don. When the job, was finished he thanked me for allowing him to serve me.Good customer service means a lot.


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Exceptional customer service from Debra taking the initial call to James fixing the plumbing issue. My telephone call to Dial One was taken quickly and efficiently addressed; no long wait on line for a person to answer. My information on the problem was promptly taken and steps taken to help me. James arrived promptly and was working to fix the plumbing issue within minutes of arriving at our home. James definitely knew what he was doing, very knowledgeable and very personable. If Debra and James are the typical caliber of Dial One employees, Dial One is a solid service provide and be my “go to” company. My thanks to Debra and James, they made resolution to this problem a quick, easy fix for us.


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I called there office in a panic! There was water in the closet by my hall bath. I had already had three Plummer’s out and the all said the leak was fixed. The whole shower had been taken out and the cold water rerouted because of THE LEAK. Well there went a thousand dollars. But we still had the leak! We had to pay to have the tub and tile replaced another seventeen hundred dollars we still Have THE LEAK! They have to tear out some of the brand new tile and replace the faucet . And had to pay to have that repaired two hundred fifty dollars! Go into the bedroom in the closet this morning and THE LEAK is back!! All over the carpet now we are back to square one. I call your office and the lady that answered the phone was very kind and I was about to loose it. I felt like I had been betrayed by three different Plummer’s and did not know who to trust. She assured me that your technicians were the best and would find the problem. Then the man of the day showed up to my door same day mind you. And he did not know he was going to be the man of the day at least in my world. Curley walked me through each and every step of what he was doing and showed me how he eliminated each possibility to get to the root of THE LEAK! Finally a resolution was in sight! He found it with his trusty camera and plus all the water everywhere behind the wall. He showed it to me and I was so happy to see it could be fixed. I was thinking we must have a leak in the slap which would mean the tub and tile work would all have to be redone and I was so relieved Curley and his apprentice where very professional, kind, and just the best! They cleaned up everything like nothing had happened😁 My husband arrived right as they were getting ready to leave and I him if he could show him what they had done and he did. My husband was was very impressed with him as well and appreciated him taking the time to show him what the problem was. I can not say enough good things about Curley. I will recommend your company every one I know. Thank you for making my day by finding THE LEAK!


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