Is It OK To Enclose A Water Heater? (Explained)

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Enclosing your water heater is not only acceptable but it’s also recommended. The natural look of your water heater may not match that of your home, but hiding it behind a closet, cabinet, or curtain can be the only change you need to have the perfect-looking home.

Domestic boiler room in modern flat.

Is It OK to Enclose a Water Heater?

Before going on to learn about the best ways to hide your water heater, it’s important to learn if you should even hide it behind an enclosure in the first place.

Technically, there is nothing wrong with enclosing your water heater, as long as you follow all the applicable codes.

Not only is it legal to hide your water heater, but it’s also recommended, as most people hide their water heaters behind room dividers, curtains, or closets.

And there is also the question of what kind of water heaters can be enclosed since there are electric water heaters and some that use fuel like gas. Fortunately, you can hide all types of water heaters, and the only limiting factor is your creativity.

However, it’s important to keep the water heater easily accessible when enclosing it. For example, the equipment should be easily removable without dealing much damage to the enclosure.

Also, the enclosure should leave enough space to make the water heater controls accessible in the case of an emergency.

To make all of these possible, most states in the US now require a 1-inch space on both sides of the water heater, as well as the back. On the front, however, you must leave 4-inches of space for easy access to the controls.

While these are the requirements, you don’t have to confine yourself to them. Having more space generally makes it easier to access the water heater, either for repairs or during an emergency.

How Can I Hide My Hot Water Heater?

Water heaters are frankly ugly and they never fit into the general aesthetics of a home.

While it’s ok to hide your water heater in an enclosure, deciding on how to enclose your water heater is another problem entirely.

Fortunately, there are several ways to hide a water heater. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to choose your preferred method. Instead, the availability of several options makes it even more difficult to decide on a specific solution.

When choosing a method to hide your water heater, some factors may help you narrow down your options, simplifying the task of having to choose from an overwhelming number of options.

An important, and arguably the most important factor is the cost. There are perfect ways to hide your water heater for a couple of dollars, while some sophisticated water storage methods require you to shell out several hundred dollars.

Another factor is the aesthetics, which depends mainly on the accessibility of the water heater.

If you have it in a room that people access frequently, you may want a better-looking enclosure for your water heater. On the flip side, housing it in a storage or basement means you can get away with a simple curtain.

If you still can’t decide how to hide your water heater, I have some suggestions. Here are some ways to hide your water heater perfectly without compromising on the general aesthetics of your home.

Cabinets

Cabinets make one of the best enclosures for water heaters as they come in all forms, shapes, and sizes to match the general colors and aesthetics of your home.

While most cabinets are metallic, there are also cheaper wooden cabinets that are less durable but also cheaper.

In general, cabinets aren’t a cheap way to hide your water heater. If anything, they’re somewhat expensive­—maybe the most expensive way to hide your water heater.

However, enclosing your water heater in a cabinet is worth every penny. They fit better into the overall design of your home or basement and they last for a ridiculously long time. You can buy a cabinet to enclose your water heater and not have to worry about it, ever again.

Curtains

While a curtain may not be the best way to hide your water heater, it’s passable and it works to a certain extent. Curtains are a ridiculously cheap option, so don’t expect any insane longevity of aesthetic excellence here.

A curtain doesn’t have many advantages especially when you compare them to other methods of hiding water heaters. The most important advantage may be that they’re easily swappable if you get bored of the current design.

If you’re looking for a cheap way to enclose your water heater (that isn’t situated in the kitchen), you can use a curtain. If you’re willing to replace it in a couple of weeks or months, you should be fine with a curtain.

Room dividers

A room divider is another feasible option when you’re trying to enclose your water heater. While it’s not as expensive as a cabinet, it’s also not cheap either, so you won’t be getting it for the amount for which you snagged a curtain.

As expected, there’s a catch. Of all the options here, room dividers have arguably the most complicated setup process. If you aren’t hiring anyone to help you set them up, you’ll be needing some hours to complete the setup yourself.

There are many divider designs, and you can choose the one that best complements your home’s design. You should also ensure that the divider encloses the water heater completely, but you should also leave it some breathing space to prevent a fire hazard.

Closets

Next to cabinets, closets may be the most common way to enclose a water heater. Since most water heaters live in basements, you can always build a utility closet around the machine to make it appear more appealing and in sync with other elements in the room.

Building a closet around a water heater is also an expensive undertaking, but it’s well worth it due to its durability. The next section will go into extensive detail on building closets around water heaters.

Vector isometric technician on water heater or boiler installation

Can I Build a Closet Around My Water Heater?

The previous section has already hinted that closets are one of the most common ways by which people hide their water heaters in the United States.

If so many people build closets around their water heaters, it must be legal, at least.

Building a closet around your water heater isn’t only deemed ok, it’s recommended, and you may want to consider it for yours too.

The process of building a closet around your water heater starts from the planning phase. You want the closet to be spacious enough for a plumber or electrician to get around whenever you need a repair.

After getting the perfect measurements that give your heater enough room for accessibility and mobility, you can start framing the walls and the wall frames containing the doors.

When you’re done framing the walls, you may need to find some time to put the walls up. These can take a lot of time and effort, and you may be better off hiring a professional to help you with the task.

If you use a gas-powered water heater, you may also want to make small holes to act as air vents. Lack of air vents can cause heat buildup in the heater which may lead to a fire hazard without proper ventilation.