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Your Water Heater Has Flooded Your Basement; Now What?

water heater overflow clean-upAlthough not the most common source of home flooding, water heater overflows can be one of the most dangerous types of water infiltration. This is because heater units are often located in spaces that you rarely think about or rarely enter or inspect. Your water heater can overflow, be leaking, or be dripping, but you might not notice as long as the hot water keeps coming out of the taps. This is unfortunate since, with a lifespan of between 8 and15 years, any long-term homeowner is all but guaranteed to face some sort of water heater trouble. Here’s what you need to know about water heater overflows and clean-ups, and how to respond to leak or flood situations.

Causes of a Water Heater Overflow

Broadly speaking, there are two main reasons why a hot water heater overflows or leaks: rust or malfunction.

Rust and Corrosion

Water heaters have an assortment of metal parts ranging from valves to the overflow pan to the tank itself. Over time, especially if not maintained properly, these surfaces can corrode as sediment builds up. Eventually, this will create a small gap through which water can escape. While not the most dramatic consequence, this steady drip-drip-drip will begin to infiltrate surrounding surfaces. Depending on where the heater is located in your house, this can significantly compromise your property if left undetected.

Malfunction in Thermostat or T&P

Two of the key parts on your water heater are the thermostat and the temperature/pressure valve. The thermostat monitors the temperature of the water inside the tank and turns the heating element on and off in order to maintain a steady temperature. The T&P valve is a safety feature that releases water from the tank if heat or pressure gets too high. Due to age, lack of maintenance, or simple defect, either or both of these can stop working properly. Regardless of which, the risk remains the same: the water in the tank can continue to heat, build pressure and steam uncontrollably until it erupts in a sudden, violent explosion that will flood your property and potentially injure anyone nearby.

Hazards of a Water Heater Overflow or Burst

Explosive Damages

Water heaters are designed in such a way that, if they burst, they do so with the force directed upwards or downwards in order to minimize potential damage to the home. This does not mean the eruption itself is harmless, however. This video represents the more dramatic consequences that can happen, but should give an idea of the kinds of forces at play when a heater erupts.


The water heater will burst in response to uncontrolled temperature, steam, and pressure buildup. The water and steam released by a burst heater will be hot enough to scald on contact and can cause serious injury to anyone who rushes into the area unprotected.

Fire and/or Electrocution

There is wiring running throughout your home, and everyone knows that water and electricity do not mix. Water from a burst or leaking heater can short out wires, create sparks, and result in fires starting within the walls and floor of your home. If an overflow has created standing water, it may be in contact with electricity and capable of shocking anyone who gets too close. Never enter a flooded room unless the electricity has been turned off or you have the proper protective gear.

Mould Growth

Mould loves to grow in damp environments, ideally ones with cellulose or wood around to feed on. This makes wet patches formed from water infiltrating carpets, walls, and floors an ideal place to set up shop. If allowed to grow unchecked, mould spores can cause allergy-like respiratory and skin symptoms and, in the worst cases, neurotoxin-like effects.

Water Damage

Even without burns, electrocutions, fires, and mould, burst or dripping water heaters can overflow and lead to significant damage to your property. Structural elements, furniture, personal possessions, and more can be soaked and rendered unsalvageable without prompt and professional remediation techniques.

Contact Flood Services Canada for Professional Water Heater Overflow Clean-Up and Restoration

Whether you are dealing with a steady leak or a dramatic eruption, professional and expert remediation is the surefire way of getting the best results for your property and personal safety. When facing water damage, Flood Services Canada’s quick response teams of professional remediators will drain, dry, and save your property.

Contact us at (416) 302-2107 for more information about water heater leaks and bursts, or use our emergency hotline at (416)-999-3930 to get our rapid-response teams deployed to your location.

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Chad Vanvari

Chad Vanvari has over 20 years of experience as a cleaning & restoration professional. He started out in Montreal, establishing a commercial carpet cleaning company in the early 1990’s. By 2001, Chad had relocated to Toronto and now had extensive knowledge and experience in responding to fire/water related emergencies. He has been instrumental in the cleanup of several catastrophic floods. Currently, Chad is the president and owner of Flood Services Canada, a 24/7 emergency service restoration company.