Earthquake Bracing of Residential Water Heaters

Most counties throughout our state now require that all residential water heaters be strapped or braced.  During an earthquake, water heaters can topple over and move, causing:

·      Broken gas lines, gas leaks and electrical wiring damage

·      Fires that may result in significant and costly property damage

·      Broken water lines and flooding

As we know, repairing fire and flooding damage can cost several thousand dollars, and in some extreme cases, the entire cost of a home.  Replacing your water heater after an earthquake can cost more than $500.

The good news is there are relatively inexpensive solutions available.  You can purchase and install a strap kit or bracing kit from your local hardware store.  You can also have a licensed plumber strap your water heater according to code.

Metal tubing, or heavy metal strapping, and lag screws and washers, should be used to secure the water heater to the wall studs.  The water heater is required to have at least two straps:  one within the upper one-third and one within the lower one-third of the water heater’s vertical dimensions.  Be sure to check the straps once a year, as they may come loose due to various vibrations.  Also, gas and water lines should have flexible pipes.  These are safer than rigid pipes during an earthquake. 

Helpful Resources

Your local home improvement store:  Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.

Go to www.fema.gov, and under the Earthquake section, search for “Brace Hot Water Heaters” for specific bracing instructions.

Review the publication Guidelines for Earthquake Bracing of Residential Water Heaters made available through the Department of General Services, Division of the State Architect, revised August 11, 2004.  This is available on line at http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/dsa/pubs/waterheaterbracing_08-11-04.pdf.  (Please note the underscore:  waterheaterbracing_08-11-04.pdf)

To view a short video of simulated earthquakes, which includes the toppling of an unstrapped water heater, visit: http://seismo.berkeley.edu/~rallen/seishaz/buildings/CUREEtest/

 

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