Dishwasher is Leaking Water – What To Know & What To Do

A Homeowner’s Guide for Dishwasher Water Leaks

Do you suspect a dishwasher water leak? 

Because the appliance is most commonly mounted in a space under the kitchen counter, a water leak may not be visible when it starts. 

In fact, a slow water leak from a dishwasher can go undetected for quite some time, causing damage in the home that also may go undetected until it becomes catastrophic!

Slow dishwasher water leaks are:

  • more common than you think,
  • often not easy to detect at the start, and
  • can cause extensive and expensive damage to your home – damage that may not be covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy!

Dishwashers can leak slowly from components hidden under the appliance that cannot be seen without uninstalling the unit. Water from these leaks can seep into the floor and surrounding cabinetry, and these wetted areas can lead to dangerous mold growth. 

Once the leak is discovered, substantial removal and remediation of damaged areas is necessary and expensive. 

Our expertise comes from decades of knowledge and experience repairing homes damaged by slow, seeping water leaks from the dishwasher. Read on to learn what homeowners should look for and how to prevent catastrophic damage from a leaking dishwasher.

Where To Look For Dishwasher Leaks

A dishwasher can leak from an easy-to-spot place, like around the door. Why? The door gasket can either get fouled or fail due to age. 

Door Gasket Fouling

Gasket fouling can occur when dirt or food debris collects on the gasket itself, preventing a water-tight seal between the appliance door and the wash tub.

Dishwasher Door Gasket

This can be an easy fix by gently cleaning both the door gasket and wash tub surface with a mild cleanser. 

However, over time, a gasket can harden enough to crack, allowing water to seep by.

Replacing a dishwasher door gasket is a relatively simple task and could be considered part of regular maintenance for the dishwasher.

Leaks From Other Aging Parts

However, nearly all locations for a water leak to occur are under the dishwasher, behind a cover plate, and out of sight.

Water leaks can originate at any of these connections:

  • Water intake line,
  • Intake valve and screen, or
  • Drain hose.

Note in the image below, all of these connections are located under the appliance. 

Dishwasher parts

Over time, just as the door gasket can harden and begin leaking, so too can the drain hose or water supply line.

Brittle rubber hoses and tubing can split, slowly leaking water that may be absorbed by surrounding material such as wood cabinets or flooring.

Accessing these components and checking them for leaks is not a task most homeowners undertake; out of sight, out of mind, until they notice a problem.

Any Leak Is A Problem – Maybe A Big Problem

Did you know that a slow leak of one drop every 5 seconds yields over 1.7 gallons per day, or over 50 gallons per month?!

If 1.7 gallons of water was poured on the kitchen floor all at once, it would definitely be noticeable.

But consider if that 1 drip every 5 seconds was absorbed by drywall, wooden cabinetry, or subflooring adjacent to your dishwasher.

These materials have moisture contents around 10%, meaning they are supposed to stay very dry to function well.

Contact with water increases that moisture content to levels that warp surfaces and allow for mold and mildew growth.

Even one day of a slow water leak can cause expensive and dangerous water damage.

What Kind Of Damage Can Occur?

Imagine hundreds of gallons of water leaking into an enclosed area not designed for moisture.

What would that look like? The flooring professionals behind Appliance UnderPan provide answers.

The picture below shows the consequence of a slow water leak from a dishwasher on the wooden subfloor of this kitchen.

Note the dark brown staining on the floor from seeping water damage.

Subfloor water leak damage

Another picture shows how far the water damage extended away from the dishwasher.

The dark stains indicate water seeped into subflooring several feet away from the source of the leak.

Note the area under remediation from the leak is multiple times larger than one would expect for a dishwasher leak.

Extended Subfloor Water Damage

Water Damage Leads to Mold and Mildew

According to FEMA, mold and mildew can develop in wet areas in as little as 24-48 hours.

Mold and mildew spores, which are like seeds, are naturally occuring everywhere, inside and outside the home. They can grow on a variety of surfaces that stay damp. 

On organic surfaces such as wood, mold and mildew break down the material and spread further to consume more organic material.

Surfaces contaminated with mold require at minimum thorough disinfection if they are non-porous, and many porous items require complete removal or disposal to eliminate the hazard.

Porous items can include drywall, carpet, ceiling tiles, insulation, cloth curtains, and rugs.

Water Damage Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Damage can extend to people and animals living in the home. Inhalation of mold spores can have mild to serious health impacts.

Health risks from mold are especially significant for infants, children, pregnant women, immune-compromised patients, existing respiratory patients, and the elderly.

Water Damage Is Covered By Insurance? Probably not…

While every homeowner’s insurance policy is different, most policies cover water damage from a sudden and catastrophic leak, such as a broken water line in a wall.

Slow water leaks often are not covered, leaving a homeowner footing the bill for repairs.

Those repairs easily can grow to thousands of dollars, or even tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the situation.

Factors that can increase repair costs include:

  • Is damage confined to flooring only, or does it extend to walls and cabinets?
  • Is damage confined to the kitchen, or does it extend into other adjacent rooms of the dwelling?
  • Is mold or mildew involved, requiring disinfection, removal, and remediation?
  • Is the damage isolated to a single floor, or does it extend and affect the ceiling on a lower floor?

Another factor to consider is that before repairs can begin, areas that can be dried out need 2-3 days to completely dry, then need monitoring for potential mold growth and retreatment.

Factoring in the loss of use of a kitchen area (or larger), repairs may take several days and result in a temporary housing change for the homeowner until restoration is complete.

Water damage in the home can displace a family for a week, possibly more – again, insurance likely won’t cover that expense either.

It’s easy to see how water damage from a slow leak can cause extensive and expensive damage to a home.

What To Do To Avoid A Dishwasher Leak

The average homeowner can take a few steps to avoid a slow leak from their dishwasher:

  • Occasionally wipe down the door gasket with a cloth and mild cleanser. This will remove dirt and food debris that can cause a door leak, as well as allow for inspection of the gasket for hardening.  If the gasket is no longer supple, arrange for gasket replacement.
  • Refer to the dishwasher owner’s manual for directions on regular maintenance of a specific model. Some manufacturers have Youtube videos to demonstrate the maintenance procedure.
  • Remove the lower cover plate and check for leaks, brittle tubes, etc.
  • Purchase and install a containment device like the Appliance UnderPan to contain any future leaks. Occasionally check the front of the pan for any accumulated leaks.

Installing an Appliance UnderPan under the dishwasher will allow the water from these slow leaks to be safely contained and noticed, preventing damage and alerting a homeowner that there is a problem.

The pan’s design directs water to the front of the dishwasher at the cover plate so that any leaks will be noticed by the homeowner as a puddle on the kitchen floor.

Even if the homeowner does not notice the puddle immediately, leaked water is not allowed to soak into wood or other porous materials under the dishwasher, but remains on the waterproofed top layer of flooring.

The Appliance UnderPan is designed to fit most dishwasher models, and can be reinstalled if an old appliance is replaced with a new one.

Click here for more information to purchase.

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