Q: Our water heater suddenly started leaking from between the top and the tank itself. It's not coming out of any of the pipes, but from...

Share story

Q: Our water heater suddenly started leaking from between the top and the tank itself. It’s not coming out of any of the pipes, but from under the “lid.” It’s like it doesn’t know it’s full, and it keeps filling.

To stop the leak for now, we turned off the power, turned off the water coming into the tank and relieved the pressure by letting some water out of the drain at the bottom. What component of the water heater knows when it’s full and stops it from filling? Is that the thermostat? Is this something we can fix ourselves?

A: Your tank is pressurized by the incoming water. When it is full, the incoming water is held back by pressure in the tank. Every drop you take out of the tank at a fixture is immediately replaced by incoming pressure. Since the tank lining was leaking, water continued to come in. When you closed the valve on the incoming water, you eliminated the pressure and prevented more water from coming in. And when the bottom drain was opened, you lowered the water level to a point beneath the rupture. You did all the right things.

Bottom line: You need a new water heater. Replacing it is fairly simple if you feel comfortable with electrical and plumbing connections. Everything you need is available at a full-service hardware or home-supply store.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

Q: What is a “Port Package”? I feel too dumb to ask, but I hear the term thrown around quite a bit in the real-estate market.

A: The Port of Seattle has retrofitted buildings near Sea-Tac Airport over a period of many years with sound-damping devices. As a side benefit, these packages also help save energy for the building owners.

The acoustic engineers who designed some of the components did a remarkable job. Triple-pane windows (much better than double pane for noise reduction), high amounts of wall and ceiling insulation, and even baffles in attic vents make for a very noticeable change to lessen the aural impact of all that gravity-defying aluminum.

Q: Regarding the Sept. 2 column about basement odors: You might also want to mention a prime source of odor: floor drains.

The water in the traps of older floor drains will evaporate over time, and with the washing machine or freezer usually parked on top of the drain cover, the mysterious smell goes undetected. Pouring a quart of water laced with a dash of Clorox into the drain every few months will keep the trap filled and the offending smell out.

A: I have covered this issue before, but it slipped my mind for this application. Thanks for the heads up!

Q: Are you nuts? Mold’s main living source is moisture, not dirt.

A: Mold needs water, a food source and the correct temperature to grow. All three are necessary. Dirt, drywall and, yes, nuts can become food sources. Mold won’t grow in clean water.

Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. Send home maintenance questions to dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.