Can A Water Heater Be Tilted? What You Need To Know

A water heater is an essential part of the home and very few families are willing to live without heated water. One question that often arises is if a water heater needs to be installed level or if it can be tilted.

Generally speaking, a water heater should be installed as level as possible. It can be tilted if you are moving it, but it is still best to keep it as upright and level as possible to protect the fragile inner parts.

You should also consider why a water heater is no longer level if it is already installed. Perhaps you did install it level or it was level when you bought the house but now it seems to be leaning to one side and it just continues to lean more and more.

This can be a significant problem because it can cause damage to the water heater itself and potentially, could cause flooding issues if it leans too far. At the same time, however, a slight tilt to the water heater is not the worst thing in the world.

The best thing you can do if you have a water heater that is tilting slightly is to keep your eye on it. If you find that it continues to lean further, you may need to shim it or build up the base to keep it from experiencing any damage.

What Happens If a Water Heater Is Not Level?

Do you have a water heater that is not level or are you planning on moving it and wonder if it will damage it if it tilts too far? It can be a problem, but maybe not as big of a problem as you think.

When a water heater leans, it can put stress on the plumbing that attaches to the tank. This is especially a problem if you are dealing with hard connections. Flexible connections will allow a slightly greater tilt without experiencing any problems.

Most homeowners will simply monitor the water heater and make sure that it doesn’t tilt any further. It’s also a good idea to check the base.

Was the water heater base built for a smaller unit and now you have a larger water heater in place? Has water leaked and caused the wood to rot? These are problems that need to be addressed as quickly as possible.

Another issue that needs to be considered is the possibility that leaking water has caused mold and mildew. The leaning tank may only be a symptom of a greater underlying issue.

If you are moving the tank and only need to tilt it temporarily, it should not be a problem. Just make sure that you keep it upright as much as possible.

How Do You Level A Hot Water Heater?

Are you installing a new water heater or do you need to re-level an existing water heater? It’s easy to do.

To level a water heater, place a carpenter’s level on the side of the tank and verify it is plum on two sides. You can then lift the tank gently and place shims under the low side to bring it back to a level position again. Continue to make small adjustments until the tank is level.

Some homeowners try to adjust the level of the tank by putting a carpenters level on the top of the tank. This can show you if it is level or not, but you are dealing with a shorter area and will not get as accurate of a reading. It’s always better to check the level on the side of the tank.

Some consideration should also be given to the type of shim you are using. Any type of shim can be used, but if you use a waterproof or composite shim, it may have fewer problems if the tank should leak.

If the water heater has tilted over time, it is best to determine why it is leaning before you try to level it again. You may need to do some repairs to the base and then you can shim it back to level again.

Can Electric Hot Water Tanks Be Installed Horizontally?

If you are dealing with an unusual space and are considering installing your electric water heater on its side, can you do it without damaging the water heater?

An electric water heater should always be mounted in an orientation that is consistent with its design. If you need to install a water heater in a horizontal direction, make sure that you purchase a water heater that is designed to be installed that way. Installing a vertically oriented water heater in a horizontal position will affect its reliability and lifespan.

The inner workings of an electric water heater dictate that the cold water enters from the top of the tank and is funneled through the dip tube to the bottom of the tank where it is heated. If you were to install such a water heater on its side then you would be defeating that primary purpose.

There is more than a consideration of reliability or longevity when installing a vertical oriented water heater on its side. You are also compromising the safety of the water heater, as well as the safety of your home.

The bottom line is, there are water heaters that are designed to be installed horizontally. Make sure that you are using the right type of water heater for the installation.

Do Water Heaters Have To Be Transported Upright?

If you have a new water heater and need to move it into position or if you are moving an existing water heater, you may feel it is convenient to transport it lying down. Is that okay to do?

Generally speaking, you can safely transport a water heater on its side but you need to be very careful. The glass lining, as well as some of the other inner workings of the water heater could be damaged and you are potentially exposing the water heater to greater forces because it is on its side. As long as you use plenty of padding and are careful, you can typically transport the water heater on its side safely.

Some people will give the blanket statement that you should never put a water heater on its side. They claim that it is going to damage the water heater irreparably by destroying the glass lining or bending a rod or dip tube.

Actually, this is something that is typically passed along by those who would like you to pay for the delivery of the water heater. Although it is best to transport a water heater vertically, if you have to lay it on it side temporarily, just be careful when doing so.


I love doing things around the house. I'm taking my years of experience as a homeowner and a full-time handyman and putting them here for your benefit. When I'm not writing, you can find me on the beach watching the waves come in. Call me Tom or Tommy, it's all the same to me.

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