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This question was asked before but the title question was not specifically answered: "Hot water tank leaking at bottom could it go from a trickle to a gush?"

I have a old hot-water heater (tank) that is starting to leak. I knew this was likely in that the anode is completely consumed and un-serviceble (i.e. I torque the head off this summer and can see it is completely oxidized). I've since put an electronic leak monitor device.

I want to replace the house hot-water system to tankless as well as overhaul the entire basement plumbing, but I need to wait a few months to pull the trigger, and I don't want to replace hot-water tank only to do it again a few months later.

The question is, typically, does a leak increase quickly or slowly over time? More specifically, will that leak turn into a gusher in a matter of hours or days or weeks or months? Is there anyway to prognosticate the likelihood of catastrophic failure? What should I look for?

I realize the safest solution is to simply replace the heater now ("pennywise, pound foolish" was used to describe what I want to do), but I want to know if I can monitor weekly and replace if/once leak is unsustainable.

UPDATE: I haven't found the actual leak, but lets assume it is corroded wall.

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    Is it leaking from a joint or has a wall corroded through? – Andrew Morton Sep 26 '17 at 15:39
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    You're living on borrowed time, my friend. If a burst water tank will not cause any damage (i.e. the tank is outside, in an empty basement, etc.), then you can try monitoring it. However, water can cause a TON of damage, so it could end up costing a lot more than a cheap temporary replacement tank. Nobody here can tell you how long it will last. Could be 20 minutes, could be 20 years. – Tester101 Sep 26 '17 at 15:40
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    @Tester101, I think the key would be to graph the drips per second (dps) over time until you could extrapolate the data to an unacceptable number of dps to find your "failure point". I think you'd start out at fractional dps (also known as seconds per drip), and try to find the point where you would reach 3-4 dps. Then you're going to have a steady stream, and probably want to end the experiment soon. – JPhi1618 Sep 26 '17 at 18:21
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    Make sure you consider the absolute worst case for a failure. It's not going to fail while you're checking on it, or even while you're home to hear it. It's going to fail, catastrophically, 2 minutes after you leave for work, then go out to dinner, then go see a movie. You'll come home to a water heater with the bottom joint split completely, so water has been pouring out at whatever rate the pipe can supply for the last 14 hours. It doesn't matter if everything in the basement is junk - you still have to deal with several hundred gallons to clean up and dry out. And probably mold. – Drew Sep 26 '17 at 18:59
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    Habitat for Humanity Store. Just sayin. – Harper Sep 26 '17 at 21:32

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