If Your Hot Water Heater Is Leaking from the Top, Follow These Tips

Written by Water Heaters

When your hot water heater is leaking from the top, it’s essential that you fix the issue as soon as it’s convenient. Why is it so urgent? When you have a leak at the top of your water heater, the water will drain down and then start to cause electrical problems and other unnecessary complications. In addition to this, a leaky water heater tank can also result in property damage. This can include ruining your carpet, damaging the lower part of your walls and causing mold to grow underneath your floorboards.

The first thing that you’ll want to do is turn off your water supply. Your next step is to locate the leak. This can get confusing, because there are quite a few things that could be causing this leak. Once you know where the leak is coming from, then you can begin performing all your necessary repair work.


Faulty water inlet valves

One of the most common reasons your hot water heater may be leaking at the top could be due to a faulty water inlet valve. Take a look at the top of your water heater. If you see a puddle of water, this is more than likely the problem.

First locate the nut that’s attached to the handle of the water heater and tight it up. In most cases, this will fix your problem. If you still see that your unit is still dripping after the nut has been properly tightened, then your valve is probably damaged and will need to be fully replaced.

Your pipe fittings are loose

Another reason your hot water heater may be leaking at the top could be because of a loose pipe fitting. Check to see if your water inlet and outlet fittings are dripping, or if they’re damaged in any sort of way. To fix this problem, you’ll want to equip yourself with a wrench and tighten up the loose pipe. If the fittings are damaged, they will need to be replaced. For most homeowners, changing the fitting is not too hard of a job.

The joints on the water heater are leaking

Examine your water heater tank to see if the unit happens to have a stripped threaded nipple or a loose connection. It’s important to note that a tank that uses copper tubing is much more difficult to repair than a water heater that uses threaded piping. Unless you have the experience to make the necessary repairs, you may need to call a professional. To make repairs easier in the future, you can also invest in water-rated PVC or threaded pipe and re-plumb the tank yourself.

Faulty pressure valves


Many water heater tanks have their temperature and pressure relieve valve positioned on the side of the tank. However, some models have these valves located on the very top of the machine. If your hot water heater is designed like this, then this could be a reason your water heater is leaking at the top.

Check out: What to Do When Your Water Heater Pressure Relief Valve Is Leaking

Start by inspecting the two valves to see if you see any dripping. You’ll also want to look for cracks and breaks in the threading of the valve. In most cases, if there is a problem with either your temperature or pressure valve, it’s best not to waste the time trying to fix it and simply replace it with a new valve. To change either of these valves, start by releasing some of the water from your tank. You only have to drain it to a level just below thee two valves.

Head to either the kitchen or the bathroom and turn on the hot water. Leave it running while you replace the valves. Now you’ll want to equip yourself with a pair of channel locks and begin unscrewing the faulty valve. However, before you do this, it’s essential that you check for rust and corrosion. Upon the chance that you do find rust or corrosion around or in the whole where the valve was removed from, you’ll want to invest in a brand new water heater.

Rusted or corroded hot water heater tank

If your water heater tank has a lot of rust or corrosion on it, this could be the reason you’re having trouble. Tanks that are simply outdated or have been poorly maintained tend to have a lot of problems and should be replaced soon.

Another indication that your water heater needs replacement is if notice the water starting to spray out of the top of the unit. When this happens, you’ll want to quickly shut down your water heater’s water source. This is usually done by turning the knob for the cold water clockwise. To locate this knob, look just above the above the water heater. When your water heater sprays, it generally means that the pipes have been rusted or corroded. Again, in this situation, you’ll want to replace the whole unit.

Other potential issues

If none of the problems mentioned above pertain to you, then the problem with your hot water heater leaking from the top seam could be a result of a couple other issues. If your water heater is gas powered, then you’ll want to see if there’s a chance that rainwater may have somehow ran into your unit’s flue pipe. This type of thing can happen during severe storms and heavy wind storms. If this is the case, you’ll notice a pool of water on the top portion of your unit.

Once a year, it’s important that you flush your water heater tank to rid it of the sediment that has been settling at the bottom. If your water heater is 2 to 3 years old, this would be a good time to check the anode rod. To do this, carefully remove the device and fully inspect it. You may see some pitting and corrosion. That is perfectly fine. However, if you see large chucks of metal missing from the surface, this is a pretty good indication that the rod will need to be replaced.

If your water heater doesn’t have the size to accommodate to your household’s hot water needs, you’ll more than likely see condensation on the outside of your water tank. Although a little condensation is perfectly normal, if you see more than usual, then it’s definitely a concern. Condensation is a result of the moisture not being able to disperse due to the lack of size within your tank. The solution to this is simple. Invest in a tank that can produce the amount of hot water that your household needs for their personal needs.


Kevin L. Sharp

Kevin L. Sharp

He began his career in plumbing at the age of 14 while still in high school. Kevin Sharp has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Illinois State University.
Kevin L. Sharp

Last modified: September 12, 2017

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