The Importance of Strapping your Water Heater

The goal of water heater strapping is to make sure that the water line and gas don’t become disconnected as a result of the water heater shaking back and forth.

In the event of an earthquake, a water heater has the potential to move in any direction. According to the California Plumbing Code, you need to strap your water heater against a wall with a quarter-inch bolt, into a stud, and strap it in the middle third with no spacing between the heater and the wall having it a positive connection.

If you are living in an earthquake-prone area, it’s essential to understand that strapping down and securing your water heater during a tremor is critical. Leaving your water heaters without straps wrapping completely around it and firmly screwed into the studs can cause your water heater to fall. No matter how much we want to avoid this kind of accident during a calamity, the best thing we could do is to prepare ourselves and our plumbing system for whatever may come.

The Double-Strap Method

In the past, different methods were used to anchor water heaters. Some ways could be very effective, but some could only offer a false sense of safety.

“L” brackets – Usually attached using wood screws at one side to the wall studs. Typically, wood screws are a little shorter, which cannot give enough strength for the weight, and the water heater skin is thinner than expected, which cannot keep the metal screws from tearing during an earthquake.

Plumber’s tape – comes with a reasonable price and can be bought anywhere. It usually comes with different sizes, so the strength of the material differs extensively. The commonly available p-tape is light gauge and 5/8-inch to 3/4-inch wide. It has a comparably low breaking strength compared to the weight of a shifting 500-pound water heater.

The allowable p-tape to be used requires a minimum of 24 GA and a width of 3/4 inch to 1 inch. Some authorities now restrict its use at all. The city of Los Angeles doesn’t permit the use of p-tape on installations over 40 gallons.

Pipe nipple brackets – is used to connect pipes on both ends. Pipe nipples are used to allow plumbing to be connected to a water heater or other plumbing. These products were commonly used in the past; but, were prohibited later on, since earthquakes could cause pipes to break.

Metal bands – For price, durability, and stability, metal bands have become the general material of choice.

Single strap – At one point, this method was considered satisfactory to make sure your water heater didn’t move. But it was later discovered that a single strap doesn’t do a good job at holding both the movement of the upper part of the water heater and of the base, which is the most important.

Double strap – The latest code requires all water heaters to be strapped in two areas. Some pre-manufactured kits have straps that wrap fully around the water heater, while others go from one side to the other – 180 degrees. The double body strap has become the standard system, whether wrap-around or 180 degrees, with the 180-degree type overwhelmingly preferred by the trade.

How to Secure Your Water Heater

secured water heater

The State of California requires that all water heaters must be strapped to resist motion during an earthquake. This may be accomplished by installing an over the counter “water heater restraint” kit approved by the Office of State Architect (O.S.A.). All water heaters must be strapped in at least two locations; the upper one-third of the unit and the lower one-third. The lower strap must be a minimum of 4″ above the water heater control unit. The required clearances from a wall to the heater, as stated on the unit nameplate, are critical. Lag screws not less than 1/4″ in diameter must be used to anchor the restraints to the wall, and each lag screw must have at least 1-1/2″ thread penetration into the wall stud. A large flat washer must be installed between each lag screw and strap for reinforcement.

Note: Perforated iron strap (plumber’s tape) will not be an acceptable material for strapping or bracing water heaters over 40 gallons.

  1. Mark the studs flanking the water heater even with the middle third of the top of the water heater and the base, so when the straps are attached, it will protect the tank completely without meddling with the gas or electrical connections or the pressure release valve. Drill two pilot holes at the marks in each stud for the strap mounting screws.
  2. Attach the four strap fasteners to the studs using the screws given along with the kit. Adjust the straps so they will be easy to wrap around the heater before tightening the fasteners securely to the wall.
  3. Cover the top of the water heater with one strap and hold it in position. Take the other strap up to meet it and align the two cinching brackets. With some kits, it is necessary to pull extra length through one of the brackets to take up the slack. Attach the bolt to join the cinching brackets and tighten it hard to hold the straps in position. Repeat this method for the bottom pair of straps.
  4. Examine first the straps to be sure that they are attached correctly so they won’t intervene with the pipes and connections. Turn the cinching bracket bolts with an adjustable wrench to tighten the straps. You can always try rocking the water heater back and forth to see if it holds perfectly, but if not, you can always adjust the straps as necessary.

To help prevent the potential damage that can be caused by your water heater falling over during an earthquake, it is important that you securely strap it to the wall. While you can do this yourself, we suggest the use of a plumbing company to guarantee that it is done the right way and with the right material. Get in touch with Caccia Plumbing today to secure your home.