Sources state that the estimated lifespan of any given common household storage water heater is anywhere from five to fifteen years. Per these assumptions, one could reasonably expect to incur 2 to 6 water heater related issues or replacements within the 30 year lifespan of a typical mortgage. Obviously, this a real yet commonly underestimated potential source of significant water damage.
Aging water heaters will rust and leak. If the property owner catches it in time then the potential for damage is minimal but if the property owner not discover the damage in time, the resulting damage can be substantial. In Florida, due to the high water table, basements are a rarity so heaters are typically located on the same floor as the living area thus maximizing the need to regularly inspect the water heater for wear and rust and resulting damage should a leak or breakage occur. Similarly, apartment and condominium dwellers, depending on the size of the unit, may have the water heater located in an area that is central to the unit thus maximizing the radius of the potential damage.
There are various things you can do the reduce this potential water damage risk. Common wisdom includes regular inspection for any water leakage, regular inspection for rust, turning off the main water source if you are going to be away from your property for an extended period of time, and having a relief valve installed on the water heater – assuming you do not already have one – in order to regularly remove the bottom sediment which promotes deterioration and oxidation. Before you embark on the later, however, and you do so at your own risk, be careful NOT to splash yourself with the potentially scalding water that is coming from the water heater and, similarly, be sure to have a pail stable enough to handle the hot water and hot sediment without breaching. Better yet, have a professional check it out for you.
In a perfect world water heaters never leak and all damage is caught in time or is minimal; unfortunately, in the real world, when the water heater breaks, it is reasonably sudden and the damage is extensive. Since most people do not turn off the water lead in when the leave, as it is not a common consideration most people would do on a regular basis, once breached, the water heater not only dumps the contents of its storage tank but the water continues to flow due to the open water line contributing to extensive water damage. Should this occur, then you owe it to yourself to hire an independent and customer focused water damage restoration company. Only an independent water damage restoration company focuses its interest on customer service and customer satisfaction so that your restoration is its interest and such company will do whatever it takes to restore your asset to its preloss condition.