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Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 | 4 comments

Hot Water Heater Maintenance Fail

Hot Water Heater Maintenance Fail

corroded water heater

I consider myself a pretty good homeowner. We’ve actually replaced practically every major system/appliance in our house and have our furnace and air conditioning unit checked seasonally (or at least try to). But there was just one itty bitty thing we left out that almost ended in catastrophe… the water heater. Yes, that’s my old water heater in the picture above.

As I was doing laundry one day, I glanced over at the water heater and noticed some moisture on the floor. Hmm…that doesn’t look good. Those things aren’t supposed to drip. How long have we had this water heater? I also saw some evidence of corrosion dripping down the sides. My husband agreed something was amiss and we were in deep trouble.

The next day I called Kesterson Plumbing (they replaced our sump pump motor last year and I was pleased with their service) and they were able to schedule an appointment for the next morning. And not a minute too soon, I tell you. The tech took one look at the water heater and uttered, “Um ma’am, that needs to be replaced ASAP.” Basically the water heater, which we’ve never replaced in the nine years we’ve lived here, was about to explode. Not good.

The tech and his assistant quickly got to work. There was concern about how to get the old unit out the basement, but I uttered a sigh a relief when I heard them coming up the stairs, weaving the giant corroded piece of junk around pots and pans and through the narrow passageway between the stove and fridge from the basement to the back door.


I followed them outside to get a better look at the situation. Um, yeah, look at the bulge (below left) and the corrosion (below right) on the side of the heater. (In my defense, the seam was on the side facing the wall so I couldn’t see this in the house.)


Something else I didn’t notice — corrosion so bad you can see inside the heater, the rusty metal flaking like pastry. Total homeowner maintenance fail.

corroded water heater

I snapped a pic of the floor where the water heater used to stand. You can see how nasty the basement is and the moisture on the floor. This is why I don’t like to spend too much time down here. Scary.

corroded water heater

Installing the new water heater didn’t take long. During the install, the technician rerouted the water lines (apparently they were totally screwed up) and replaced an old gas valve handle. Here she is, all ready for a hot shower.

new water heater

When my friendly technician was leaving I asked him about the warranty and any required maintenance. His work is guaranteed for the next year and the water heater is under warranty by the manufacturer for the next 5 years. He said the lifespan of a water heater is about 5-10 years and there typically isn’t any maintenance required. You can attach a hose to the spigot on the bottom and drain the tank for about a minute or two every 6-8 months to remove mineral deposits, but that’s about it.

I think I scared a few of my friends with the photos. They were quick to inspect their water heaters to see if there’s any suspicious moisture or corrosion. We just narrowly averted a major crisis, I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if we had waited any longer.


  1. Wow. Off to check ours now.

  2. So glad you acted. I know of two houses that exploded because of the water heater. Death in one, massive burns and quadriplegic results for the other home owner

  3. This expanding and contracting causes stress on both your water heaterand your plumbing system which can cause damage and premature failure. Cleaning or flushing out your tank: For older tanks, flushing the tank out annually can help prevent sediment buildup and maintain higher efficiency of your tank for longer.

  4. Most homeowners seem to forget about their water heaters until there is an issue: usually no hot water or not enough. Considering they usually hide in the corner of the basement, it’s definitely understandable.

    I work for Dwyer Plumbing (the red trucks that have been serving Alexandria for ninety years), we tell our customers that a good water heater lasts 10-12 years; we offer six or ten year warranties on our Rheem Ruud models.

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