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Rusted water heater in basement

Rusted Water Heater

A rusted water heater can happen for a variety of reasons. It’s crucial that you find the source and fix it

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Rusted water heater from the bottom view

A rusted water heater can happen for a variety of reasons. In fact, typically you’ll end up with rusting below a water heater rather than directly on the water heater. However, no matter where the rust is, it’s crucial that you find the source and fix it. Here’s why a basement waterproofing expert can help.

Rusted Water Heater Fixes in Virginia, Maryland and DC

JES is always helping to identify and repair basement issues related to dampness, cracks and leaking. Your rusty water heater could be related to these problems.

Rusty Water Heater FAQs

Learn more about why your water heater has rust and how basement humidity affects you.

There are many reasons you might have a water heater with rust on or around it, and it’s good to consider all of them. These are the most common reasons you might have rust on or around your water heater. 

Faults in the Water Heater  

Of course, the first thing you’ll probably think of is that there might be faults in your home’s water heater. If you’re dealing with something that appears to have faulty pieces on it, you’re obviously going to wonder whether there’s something wrong with it directly. In this case, it’s a good idea to consider whether the water heater has a problem.

It’s true that especially if there’s rust happening on the water heater itself, it could be a problem with the water heater, and it’s good to either rule it out or confirm it. However, it’s not usually the most common problem associated with a rusty water heater. Usually, you’re going to have another problem that’s causing this rust. 

External Leaks and Water Flow  

It’s always possible you’re having issues because of water that’s coming into your home from the outside. There are a variety of ways this can happen; water likes to expand to fill any space that’s available. The most common external leaking problems typically come from either flooding above-ground or hydrostatic pressure below ground.

Regardless of the type of external leak you have, the water can move to the area around and on your water heater. That can then rust because of the interaction between the water and the metal of the water heater. Water coming in from the outside is an important problem you should strive to address at the source. 

Internal Leaks and Water Flow  

If water isn’t coming in from the outside, where could it be coming from? The answer is simple: the inside. There are many places water can come from the inside. You might have had a pipe burst in your basement, you may have had a flood in the upper level, or you may have just spilled water in your basement. Either way, these are all internal issues.

As with external leaks, internal leaks can be either abrupt or ongoing. Although a quick flood is something that typically happens only for a short period of time, after which you can clean it up and go back to normal, there are also longstanding leaks that can happen for a very long period of time that tend to cause ongoing damp basements.  

High Basement Humidity 

Of all these problems, there is one that can occur by itself or due to any of the above-mentioned problems: high basement humidity. Though some people think of high basement humidity as being something that’s part and parcel of having a basement, the truth is that a healthy basement needs to rely on low humidity to keep its health.

Any type of water entrance, whether it’s from the inside or from the outside, can lead to high basement humidity if allowed. This humidity can cause serious damage to many surfaces on your home, from your water heater to your drywall and even your concrete floors. Even if you don’t feel like your basement is especially humid, you might need a basement dehumidifier to put your basement back to a healthy humidity level.

With high basement humidity being the most common problem that causes a rusty water heater, it’s probably good to look into the signs and symptoms of that as well. You may see any of these if you have basement humidity problems. 

Wet Carpet  

One good indication that your basement is probably humid is whether you have wet carpet. Of course, wet carpet can come from all sorts of sources, both external and internal. You may even end up with wet carpet from condensation coming from other sources of moisture. However, one thing that wet carpet showcases is the fact that there is water somewhere in the basement.

This wet carpet is something you need to get rid of as soon as possible, whether it’s the main source of your basement moisture concerns or not. However, only a basement waterproofing expert will be able to give you more information about your home’s wet carpet, construct a unique plan regarding how to fix it, and institute that plan for you.  

Chalky Walls 

The strange “chalky” residue you may sometimes see on walls has a name: it’s called efflorescence, and it’s actually salt. When water moves through stone or another structure with salt inside, that water may move the salt to the surface. When it does, it manifests as the chalky or fuzzy residue you may see on your basement walls.

This isn’t harmful on its own. Although some people can mistake it for mold, it’s just hardened salt, and you can scrape it off with a stiff brush with no problem. The issue is not the efflorescence itself, but rather what the efflorescence indicates. When you see it, it means water is moving through your walls, and that’s never a good sign. 

Mold and Mildew  

Anytime you have a lot of moisture in an area of distinctly nice temperature, as you do with a high-humidity basement, you’re going to end up with a pretty significant amount of mold and mildew in that area. Mold and mildew grow best in areas above around 60% humidity, although it may be able to grow on water-soaked drywall and stone as well.

If you see mold and mildew in your home, regardless of the specific reason for it, you should definitely contact an expert for help. When you notice mold and mildew in your basement, it’s good to contact a basement waterproofing expert, because these are the types of people who are most likely to have the knowledge necessary for fixing it. 

Cracked, Leaky Floors  

You probably don’t think about water entering your home from the floor because it’s not usually something you think of as having a lot of external pressure. However, because your basement is positioned underground, it’s very likely that your floor experiences the same hydrostatic pressure as the walls, which makes them prone to cracking and leaking.

This is even true if the cracks in your floor aren’t from the hydrostatic pressure itself. Whether you just dropped something very heavy or you ended up with cracks in the floor from the hydrostatic pressure surrounding the floor, any cracks in the floor are a great place for moisture to enter from the outside, which is a significant problem for many homeowners, even if they don’t realize it.

Many people consider whether they might be able to fix their rusted water heater on their own time with a DIY fix. The problem is, there are a wide variety of issues you could actually cause with a DIY fix.  

Breaking Things Even More 

The most prominent problem, and the reason most DIYers don’t end up fixing large projects like this on their own, is because that option comes with a significant potential price. If you make even one small misstep, especially when dealing with something as complex as a water heater or a basement as a whole, you run the risk of breaking your water heater even more than it had been previously.

Obviously, this isn’t ideal. If you break the water heater even more, you turn a relatively small and fairly simple problem into something that may cost thousands of dollars and take many days to fix. If you would instead just turn the project over to an educated basement waterproofing expert who knows what they’re doing, you can avoid these concerns with your rusty water heater. 

Fixing Only Part of the Problem  

A less common but still possible problem is the option that you might fix the problem, but only partially. The problem here isn’t in the fact that you did a partial fix; in fact, that’s the good thing about it. The bad thing about it is that in fixing only part of the problem, you’ll probably assume you fixed the entire thing, then not pay attention to worsening problems in the future.

Any time you’re fixing something, especially a vital home structure, it’s extremely important that you fix the whole thing down to the bottom. If you only partially fix the problem, it’s probable that you’ll end up with a significant issue down the line because the root of the problem will continue to fester and grow, and you’re probably not going to be handling it. 

Requiring Multiple “Fixes”  

This is a very common issue that arises with DIY problems. You have a problem, and to “fix” it yourself is about half as expensive as to turn to a professional. You decide on the DIY solution, and before you know it, the “simple” DIY solution has turned into something that’s taken twice as much money and substantially more time than just calling the professional in the first place.

The truth is that when you do a project yourself, you’re substantially more likely to end up with a project that takes more than one “final fix.” If you contact a basement waterproofing professional, you’ll instead be able to rely on the fact that they’ll only need one pass to construct an accurate and complete solution. Which one would you rather choose? 

Spending More Money, Time, and Energy  

The common denominator among all of these DIY issues is that they end up spending more money, time, and energy on the project when taken as a whole. Sure, that may be spread out over a large period of time, but it’s still a pretty significant effort you could have avoided if you had chosen a professional.

This is especially important because DIY solutions are often thought of as a cheaper and easier method of fixing the problem. In fact, most of the time, you’re going to end up with a fix that’s even more expensive and less effective. Would you rather just choose a professional from the get-go, or would you rather spend a lot of money, time, and fruitless effort trying to fix a problem you essentially caused in the first place?

Find a Rusty Water Heater Solution That Actually Works

Most commonly, rusty water heaters happen because of basement humidity. There are many basement humidity solutions that some people suggest without really knowing anything about these solutions. If you follow the advice of other DIYers, you may end up with a pretty serious problem. Although DIY can be a very useful tool in some situations, basement humidity is a problem you should probably turn over to the experts instead.

Basement humidity and rusty water heaters are both problems with many intricacies, and if you don’t take into account all those intricacies, you may end up with a “fix” that doesn’t fix anything. You should only be spending your money on something that actually helps, not actively hurts. Instead of trying to fix things on your own or, even worse, avoiding the problem altogether, you can schedule a free inspection from a JES basement waterproofing expert to uncover the actual problem behind your rusty water heater.


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