Can A Water Heater Touch The Wall? [Answered]

If you have to install a water heater in a small location, you might be concerned if the back is touching the wall. Is this acceptable?

An electric water heater can sit directly against the wall but it is not the ideal way for it to be located. It is better if the water heater has at least a little clearance so that it can get some airflow between the water heater and the wall. As long as it doesn’t conflict with local building codes or manufacturer’s recommendations, there is not a problem having it directly against the wall.

Water Heaters Can Fit Tightly Against A Wall

Ideally, you would want to have enough space so that you could have a little room the entire way around the water heater. This would allow for a little ventilation as well as for the possibility of putting on an insulating sleeve.

If you are out of options and the water heater must be against the wall, you should always check with the local building codes and make sure that you are not doing something that is out of compliance.

In addition, it’s a good idea to check with the manufacturer and follow those instructions carefully. Some do not have any type of restriction on the clearance for the back of the water heater but others may have a restriction for specific purposes.

If at all possible, either choose a larger location where the water heater will be located or perhaps go with a water heater that is smaller in size. Remember, you don’t have to compromise on the amount of water that is being heated just because you’re going with a unit that has a smaller dimension.

Something else that you may want to consider doing is changing the type of water heater you have in your home. This is not always going to be ideal but to be certain, a tankless water heater takes up less room and will often get the job done.

How Much Clearance Does A Water Heater Need?

When considering how much clearance you need for an electric water heater, there is more to discuss than what meets the eye.

Generally speaking, you will need at least some clearance for three sides of the water heater, as well as the top and the bottom. This is often dictated by the size of the room as well as local building codes. Having enough clearance allows for proper ventilation and also for the storage of other items without coming in direct contact with the water heater.

It is important to understand that we are discussing electric water heaters in this article. Discussing gas water heaters is an entirely different subject that needs to be covered in even greater detail.

That isn’t to say, however, that electric water heaters don’t have some specific needs as far as clearance is concerned. We already discussed the fact that you don’t always have to have any clearance in the back of the water heater, but what about the sides and the top or the bottom?

For the most part, it is better to have an electric water heater up and off of the ground. This is the case in all locations and there may be specific building codes that would dictate if you need to have the water heater on a stand.

Even if you are permitted to have the water heater directly on the floor, it would still be necessary to have a pan underneath it in the event that it would leak. Having it up on a stand, however, has numerous benefits.

Typically, you would need about 6 inches of clearance on both sides of the water heater as well as the front. This allows for ventilation as well as for gaining access to the heater for any repairs that are necessary.

The top of the water heater would also need a specific amount of clearance. This really differs, depending upon the plumbing that is run into the heater. In addition, certain jurisdictions may have requirements that are not necessary in other areas.

Can A Water Heater Be On The Floor?

One of the conveniences of having an electric water heater is the fact that it can be installed in a tighter area than a gas water heater. Is it possible for it to sit on the floor?

There is no problem with an electric water heater sitting directly on the ground. As long as there are no specific building codes that specify otherwise, you can sit a water heater on concrete or another stable platform. You should not, however, install a water heater on dirt or in the dust, as that can have negative consequences.

One important factor to keep in mind when you are installing an electric water heater is that it must be installed on a level area. This can be difficult unless you have a pre-existing platform where the water heater will be placed.

In addition, even if you do have a platform that is dedicated to the water heater, you would also want to have a tray available to catch any water that is leaking. This may even be a requirement in some areas, so make sure you check with your local building codes.

You may also want to look for a drain nearby so that you can easily drain the water heater on a periodic basis. This helps to keep the sediment down and will allow your water heater to last for many more years.

One other factor to consider is using a tankless water heater rather than a standard tank water heater. Since you can mount a tankless water heater on the wall, it provides you with options that are not otherwise available.

What Is The Smallest Water Heater Size?

When most people think about electric hot water heaters, they generally picture a huge tank that will take care of a large family. In some cases, you need to stop thinking large and start thinking small.

The smallest water heaters are typically 2.5 gallons in size, although there may be some that are even smaller. These water heaters are made for a very specific purpose and are referred to as point-of-use water heaters. They also may come in bulk, so you can have several on hand for any specific location.

Although the extremely small water heaters are ideal for mounting under a sink, there may be times when you need to go slightly larger than one of these ultra-tiny appliances.

Some of the smallest water heaters that supply some water for more than a single location include those that are 6-10 gallons. These water heaters are ideal for smaller homes, trailers, and for individual use.

These small water heaters are not only ideal because they don’t heat much water at any given time, but they also fit into a much smaller area.

The only way for you to go smaller than one of these electric water heaters is to go with a wall-mounted tankless water heater. Those tankless water heaters can supply enough water for an entire family but do so in a very small space.

Both large and small water heaters can touch the wall as long as building codes do not specify otherwise. Typically, you will need some ventilation on three sides of the water heater as well as the top and potentially the bottom. The back of the water heater does not generally have a necessary clearance.


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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