How do I replace a water heater and all the damage it's leaking did?

Mary Howard
by Mary Howard
We discovered our 15 yr old water heater is leaking and there is a lot of floor and wall damage, including mold on walls and in the carpet, soft floor under the carpet, and water migrating to other areas without a visible trail of wet carpet. I need to know how to choose a new water heater, how to fix/replace the flooring and walls, and everything else. Anything that can be put off will be just because we don't have a lot of money and the insurance wont cover anything. I have been spraying one big wall spot with liquid bleach to kill the mold, and have the window open with a fan pulling air out. Another fan is blowing over the wet carpet helping keep the water from spreading. The mold spot now looks brown instead of black, but I will keep spraying it because I don't know how deep the damage is.
  6 answers
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Sep 08, 2013
    Depending on how long this leak was active the damage may be "deeper" than what can be seen from above. Rotten subfloor and joists can be much weaker. Placing a new 400 pound water heater on a weak spot in the floor is not a great idea. Before the new heater goes in the space should be checked for structural integrity. As a practice water heaters should be installed on a water proof surface. Concrete slab, tile etc. If a water proof surface is not available then the unit should be placed on a "catch pan" that has a drain installed. Water heaters come in three basic "grades". Good Better and Best. The quality varies by materials, warranty etc. I have always felt you get what you pay for. A few years back I installed an "indirect" water heater for a client. (indirect heaters use a secondary heating this case a gas boiler that also feed the hydronic space heating). This water heater came with a lifetime warranty and was made from stainless steel. It also had a $2500 price tag.

  • Mary Howard Mary Howard on Sep 09, 2013
    Thanks, I know there is some floor damage because I can feel the floor supports as higher than between them. This is a manufactured house and that may make a difference on how it was put in. I'm thinking I will have to hire a plumber to replace the water heater, then will need help with doing the rest myself.

    • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Sep 09, 2013
      @Mary Howard Any floor or structural work should be completed while the tank is out. I did some work "behind" a water heater for a client over the weekend. What would have been a 5 minute job took an hour and a half due to the limited access. having a bit of elbow room for a repair will greatly aid the speed in getting the job completed.

  • Catherine Smith Catherine Smith on Sep 09, 2013
    We recently installed a tankless hot water heater when our old one died. It is a propane fired one and it is amazing. Not only has our propane use gone down by almost 50%, but I'm in love with the almost instant hot water, wish we had had it when our sons were teenagers. LOL I would also be shopping around for another home insurance company were I you. That's baloney, they won't cover this type of damage and repair. Our's did no problem, and sent in a clean up crew to take care of the carpet, etc. That does not sound right.

  • Sherrie Sherrie on Sep 09, 2013
    Any cleaning up you do wear a mask. The mold will make you sick, not the dark stuff the fine white particles. I learned this the hard way. You need to know your States Guidelines about water heaters. So unless you know them I would use a plumber or someone who knows the states guidelines. We had three houses blown up because someone didn't follow the guidelines, and my fathers house burned because his water heater wasn't up to code. It sat on the floor instead of being so many inches from the floor. So doing it right means everything. Hate the damage it caused you!

  • Bettie Smith Bettie Smith on Feb 06, 2015
    First call your insurance agent, then check with your city. Where I live a permit is required to replace a water heater. I had to pull up and discard carpet to check for damage.

  • Barbara Valenti Barbara Valenti on Jul 10, 2015
    Yes, check with your insurance again and just see what could be covered. You may have a high deductible so it wont be covered. Since we were caught off guard with our hot water leak and no money. I panicked, of course we did not have the damage you seem to have. So I called Lowes. We do have a credit card, thank goodness for that one. We only have 3 cards and that is one. They came out and did an estimate and told me the cost to replace everything. I OK'd it and they came and installed it within the next couple of days. It was miserable without hot water. It was hot outside but that water was still cold enough to take my breath away. All toll for my mess was about 1000.00. We are still paying for it! Insurance would not cover ours because it just normally wore out. Good luck especially with that mold issue. We lived through Katrina hurricane and it of people had to deal with that mold. Call your local Chamber of Commerce in your city. Maybe they can direct you to some help.