Image of Rapid Rooter Plumbing Plumber with customer after water heater install.

Life in California is wonderful, even if the ground gets a little topsy-turvy sometimes. It’s an accepted part of the lifestyle here to properly prepare your home for earthquakes and rumbles. You receive a wonderful payoff when these events are less harmful to your household as a result of your efforts.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to earthquake-proof your home is to have your plumber properly brace your water heater. Here’s what you should know.

Plumbers Help You Have Fresh Water Post-Quake

After an earthquake, services like water and electricity may be shut down for a short time. It may be difficult to locate an emergency supply of fresh water for yourself and your family. When your plumber does all that’s necessary to ensure your water heater is still standing after an earthquake, you’ll have 30 to 50 gallons of potable water inside the tank to use for cooking, bathing, and other needs.

Before using this water, turn off all electric and gas supplies to the appliance. Protect the water by shutting off the supply valve, just in case your main water supply has been compromised by the earthquake.

At the bottom of the water heater, you’ll find a drain pipe that’s threaded to fit a garden hose or washer supply hose. Open one hot water tap at a sink or tub in order to vent the system, and you’ll be able to get water from the drain pipe.

Plumbers Help You Avoid Toppled-Water-Heater Trouble

If your water heater falls over, you don’t get to use that water. Worse, gas lines running to the appliance may be severed, causing gas to leak at the break. This gas may ignite, causing a fire that does significant damage to your home. For this reason, make sure your gas supply lines are the flexible type, and a ball valve is installed to shut off gas, when you check your tank’s bracing. Flexible gas lines are less likely to sever.

Water lines are also susceptible to breaking when a water heater is jostled violently. The resulting waterfall may flood adjacent rooms and put carpeting and floor joists at risk. Toppled water heaters located in the attic dislodge ceiling tiles and may soak electrical wiring.

The good news is, proper bracing cuts the risk of home damage significantly. California requires all new water heaters to be braced, so chances are, yours is ready for the shakes. If your water heater hasn’t been replaced for a while, take the time to check for bracing. If there isn’t any, or you’re not sure if it’s adequate, call in a water-heater installer to go over your system.

Plumbers Make Sure the Appliance Is Secured to Studs

Water heaters must be securely attached to the studs in the wall closest to them. There are a variety of methods to achieve secure bracing for your water heater. State-architect certified bracing kits are readily available, and licensed plumbers know how to attach them in common home situations.

One of the ways water heaters are secured is with bands or straps across the top third and bottom third of the appliances. Straps must be wrapped around the water heater a safe distance from the water-heater controls. In this method, the straps hug the front of the water heater, then bend to attach to lateral wood blocking that’s screwed into the wall studs. Some plumbers use other materials to secure water heaters to the walls, including EMT conduit-bracing.

It’s okay to have an insulation blanket on a braced water heater, but it should be removed while securing the water heater and then placed over the braced appliance afterward. There should be a permanent light installed near the water heater to make the appliance visible.

Plumbers Brace the Bottom of the Barrel, Too

Your barrel-style hot water heater, if located in the garage, should be raised up on a platform. That’s because your gas pilot lights, heating elements, and other controls must be located at least 18 inches off of the garage floor. This protects the sensitive controls from being damaged by water. It also keeps the pilot light from being snuffed out by water, since the pilot-light gas supply may keep releasing gas on some models.

In some homes, the water heater is located above the living areas. If your water heater is located in your attic, it needs to be braced, too. There should also be a pan under the bottom of the water heater that drains fully in case of attic flooding after an earthquake or other water-heater failure.

Rapid Rooter Plumbing is a full-service plumbing company that’s always there to help you get your water heater and all of your plumbing–whether residential or commercial–ready to rumble.