Emergency Action Plan: Dealing With a Leaking Water Heater

A leaking water heater can quickly turn into a household emergency, causing damage and potential safety hazards. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step plan to help you respond promptly and effectively if you find yourself facing a leaking water heater. Time is of the essence, so let’s dive into the essential actions you need to take to mitigate the situation and protect your home.

What to Do if Your Water Heater is Leaking?

Identifying a Leaking Water Heater

The first step in addressing a leaking water heater is recognizing the signs. 

Keep an eye out for visual cues, such as puddles around the unit, and pay attention to any unusual sounds or fluctuations in water temperature. 

Identifying the issue early allows for a quicker response, minimizing potential damage.

Immediate Response

As soon as you notice a leak, take immediate action to prevent further damage. Begin by shutting off the power supply for electric water heaters or turning off the gas supply for gas-powered units. 

Simultaneously, shut off the water supply to the heater. If your water heater is gas-powered, be sure to follow gas leak safety precautions to ensure your immediate safety.

Assessing Leak Severity

Understanding the severity of the leak is crucial for determining the appropriate course of action. Classify the leak as minor, moderate, or severe. For minor drips, you may be able to implement simple containment measures. Moderate leaks may require more immediate attention, while severe flooding demands urgent action. Identify potential hazards associated with the leak to ensure your safety throughout the process.

Evacuation and Emergency Contacts

Safety should always be the top priority. If the leak is severe or poses immediate risks, initiate an evacuation following established safety procedures. 

Simultaneously, contact emergency services and your utility companies to report the situation. Timely communication ensures that professionals can respond swiftly to address the issue.

Mitigation for Minor Leaks

For minor leaks, take proactive measures to mitigate the situation. Use towels and buckets to contain the water and apply temporary fixes, such as Teflon tape for threaded connections or patching small holes or cracks. 

Continuously monitor the situation, and be prepared to escalate your response if needed.

Professional Assistance

Contact Dan Wood Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical – a full-service plumbing company serving residential and commercial properties throughout Metro Detroit and Southeast Michigan. Our highly trained staff can solve nearly any plumbing issue.

And we will send a licensed plumber promptly for a professional assessment and resolution. 

While you may have taken immediate steps to address the leak, a professional can provide a thorough inspection, identifying any underlying issues that need attention. Don’t delay in seeking expert help to prevent further damage.

Cleanup and Restoration

Once the leak is under control, focus on cleanup and restoration. Dry the affected areas, paying attention to potential mold prevention. Assess any damage to surrounding structures and take the necessary steps to restore your home to its pre-leak condition.

Preventive Measures

To avoid future water heater leaks, embrace preventive measures. 

Conduct regular maintenance checks, install leak detectors, and consider upgrading to a modern water heater with enhanced safety features. Educate household members on emergency procedures to ensure everyone is prepared in the event of a leak.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I still use my water heater if it is leaking?

No, it is not safe to use a leaking water heater. A leak can indicate serious internal damage or corrosion, leading to potential hazards such as flooding or electrical issues.

What should I do if my water heater is leaking from the bottom?

  1. Turn off the power supply (electric: switch off the breaker; gas: turn off the gas valve).
  2. Shut off the water supply to the heater.
  3. Drain the tank by attaching a hose to the drain valve and directing it to a drain or outside.
  4. Call a professional plumber for inspection and repair.

Is a leaking water heater an emergency?

Yes, a leaking water heater can be considered an emergency due to the risk of water damage, electrical hazards, and potential for the heater to fail completely. Prompt action is necessary to prevent further issues.


Responding effectively to a leaking water heater requires quick and decisive action. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can minimize damage, protect your home, and ensure the safety of your household. 

Remember, early identification and a proactive approach to maintenance are key to preventing water heater leaks in the first place. Stay vigilant, stay prepared, and safeguard your home against this common household emergency.

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