Earthquake Bracing For Water Heaters

Hot water heaters with earthquake straps are less likely to tip over and cause water damage and fire. Water heater bracing should follow seismic bracing requirements to ensure safety.

Before Beginning Work

In many areas of the country where earthquakes are common, local building codes may require water heater installations be laterally braced with earthquake straps to resist seismic forces. Most hardware stores sell water heater straps and retrofit kits for different-sized hot water tanks. In addition, several generic water heater strap restraint systems are available. Before you decide on a retrofit method, check with your local building department and make sure it is approved for use in your area, or what is required by your local building code.

Secure Water Heaters up to 50 Gallons

Secure water heaters (up to 50 gallons) to stud walls using the simple method detailed in the illustrations below. More detailed guidance is available in Earthquake Risks around the U.S. – How to Protect Your Property. Or, you can investigate the option illustrated in FEMA 232 Home Builders’ Guide to Seismic Resistance Design and Construction.

  • Fasten 2 (two) 2 x 4 wood blocking strips to the nearby wall:
    • Locate one at a height within the upper one-third of the water heater and the other within the lower one-third of the water heater.
    • The lower 2 x 4 should be at least 4 inches above the water heater control.
  • If you are working with a wood or metal stud wall, attach the blocking directly to the studs. Use a stud locator to find the studs.
  • Fasten heavy-duty shelving brackets to the wood blocking.
    • These brackets should fit snugly against the water heater.
  • Install strapping:
    • Wrap plumber’s strapping (metal strapping with holes) around the heater and secure it to the brackets.

Use Flexible Connectors

  • Use flexible, not rigid, water and gas connectors to supply the water heater. This will reduce the risk of the connectors becoming dislodged in an earthquake, causing water damage and possibly sparking a fire by allowing natural gas to flow unregulated.
  • Check with local building code officials to see if you must hire a licensed plumber to modify the connections.

Gas Shut-Off Valve

  • Make certain all adult and teenage family household members or employees know where to locate the water heater safety valve (gas shut-off valve) and how to shut it off.