4 Ways to Hide Your Water Heater (& 3 Outdoor Options)

Looking for ideas to hide that ugly water heater? The life expectancy of a tank-style gas or electric water heater is between 8 to 12 years, depending on the manufacturer’s suggested service life. That’s a long time to look at an unsightly water heater.

So it would be best if you had a specific place to store it. Also, some hot water heaters aren’t really that pleasing to the eyes, hence ruining the aesthetics of your house.

There are 4 primary ways to hide a water heater in your home. This include:

  • hide it behind a curtain
  • install a decorative screen or room divider
  • install your water heater in a closet
  • build a cabinet enclosure

Your choice depends on how large or small the water heater is. They range from approximately 20 to 120 gallons, with most households having a 50-gallon water heater.

Below we look at how you can discreetly hide your water heater in your home.

How to Enclose a Water Heater?

When enclosing your water heater, you have to consider whether you want a complete enclosure or an option that offers partial or moderate coverage.

1. Curtains are a Budget-Friendly Option

A curtain remains the simplest and easiest way to put your water heater out of sight. The curtain acts as a divider, and it can slide to the side.

You’ll only need a long curtain, a curtain rod, and curtain hooks. You can do this for under $20 in most cases.

The curtain can be decorative or plain, depending on your decor. Some people even go for a simple piece of clean cloth.

For the curtain to work, it needs to run from top to bottom, but it cannot be flush against the heater. 

This is an excellent option if you want something decorative but not permanent. It is an option if you live in a rented apartment because you can remove it whenever you move. 

Curtains also tend to denote private areas, so others may be hesitant to look behind the curtain. 

2. Incorporate a Screen or Room Divider

These options work more like covers because they do not enclose the water heater entirely. A water heater cover falls into two categories. They are either curtains or screens.

A simple screen can work wonders in hiding the water heater from public view. You may prefer a simple screen because decorative screens can attract attention.

Unlike curtains that people associate with privacy, fancy screens attract attention, and people want to inspect them because they look like part of the furniture. 

To make a screen or room divider work, place it in a room with little human traffic like the laundry room or basement.

Room dividers and screens are easy to fix and affordable. And they are a more sturdy alternative to curtains.

3. Build a Closet

Customized closets to hold the water heater offer a complete unit enclosure. Make a personalized closet according to the dimensions of the unit.

Of course, you have to contend that the closet may look out of place if you place it in a high-traffic section of the house. The closet can look deliberate and artificial. 

Remember, the whole point of hiding the water heater is to be discreet and in line with the overall decor of your space.

You can overcome the obviousness of a closet by choosing a nook out of the way and using the same wallpaper to match the rest of the decor.

For example, you can place it in the laundry room, basement, or even the kitchen.

The advantage of using a closet is that it is durable, and you can lock it so that the heater does not pose a hazard to anyone in the house.

4. Build a Custom Cabinet

Cabinets are smaller and more discreet than closets. That makes them a bit more versatile in where you can place them without looking like an eyesore.

You can place a cabinet in the basement or the kitchen, and it can be recessed or free standing. You can purchase a wooden cabinet, although more people prefer to use an all-metal unit.

They are durable, and they offer better use of space. You can even create a water heater cabinet to put in a closet for enhanced security and protection.

Indoor cabinet enclosure
Outdoor cabinet enclosure

Other Options to Make Your Water Heater Less Noticeable

  • Place The Heater Outdoors in an Enclosure

You can place the water heater outdoors. However, this will cost you to put up the structure to house the water heater. You have to pay for the plumbing and piping system from the outdoor heater enclosure to the house. 

Use outdoor water heater enclosures as a decorative element on your patio, deck, or backyard. The good news is that having the outdoor structure frees up plenty of floor space in your house.

However, you must ensure that the water heater is protected.

Tank water heaters should be installed indoors. If you install it outdoors, you need a shelter to protect it from the elements.

Steel Outdoor Enclosure
  • Have The Heater Built Into The Walls

You can have the heater built into the wall to keep it out of view. The heater can be built into an exterior wall. 

This is a familiar concept in commercial buildings or hotels. When the water heater is in the wall, the plumbing, and wiring channel the water directly to the faucets, but you may hear a rumbling noise in the walls.

The main problem with this scenario is that any damage to the heater can compromise the wall without you knowing. But if you carve out adequate space for the heater in the wall, you do not have to worry about compromising the wall’s structural integrity.

Think of this as a reverse closet where the water heater is in an interior closet, but the door is located outside.

Also, most wall heaters are inserted to be easy to reach and repair in case of a problem.

  • Consider an Outdoor Tankless Water Heater

An outdoor tankless water heater uses gas burners to heat the water directly when the faucet turns on. 

Unlike the tank heater, which features the heating elements inside the tank. So the cold water enters the tank through a dip tube where it is heated and stored until you open the hot water tap.

With a tankless water heater, you get hot water on demand without having to wait for it to go into the tank for heating. A tankless water heater works well for a small space. There are a variety of electric and gas tankless water heaters.

What to Consider When Hiding Your Water Heater

1. Aesthetics

When concealing an unsightly water heater, it’s always important to consider aesthetics first. You should ensure the enclosure is not obvious, shoddy, or unkempt.

2. Safety

Make sure that the enclosure is safe. It should have no sharp edges or corners that could cause injury. Also, the enclosure should be weatherproofed if outdoors.

The materials that you use in constructing the enclosure should not touch the water heater and provide clearance to service it.

It would be best to have a clearance of 12 inches between the heater and the enclosure. The clearance needs to be on all sides around the heater. 

In most cases, you will find the water heater in the house’s basement. Unless the basement is in constant use, it will work as a hiding space because there is typically very little traffic to the area.

Outdoor steel enclosures are a favorite for gas water heaters because they are weather resistant and come with access at the top for the vent flue.

3. Plumbing

If you choose to build a custom enclosure, make sure that the pipes leading to the water heater are concealed but also accessible in the event you need to make plumbing repairs.

4. Cost

If you opt for a pre-fabricated enclosure, make sure that it is sturdy enough to withstand the elements. Outdoor enclosures tend to be more expensive than indoor ones, largely because the materials used to build the enclosure have to be weather-resistant.

The good news is that hiding an ugly water heater doesn’t have to cost you too much. If you opt for a curtain or screen, you will spend much less than if you decide to go with an enclosure.

For curtains, the fabric and rails to hang the curtain on are what you should consider the most. You can buy cheap panels to make a screen. Better still, make it yourself a DIY project, and it will cost you even less.

A closet or cabinet also doesn’t have to be high-end. But you have to get a contractor who is well versed in the codes of building and installing water heater closets to make one for you according to the correct specifications.

5. Accessibility

Accessibility is critical when hiding a water heater. You should be able to access it for water heater maintenance or to make repairs if you have no hot water.

6. Location

Location is another important factor to consider. For instance, if you live in a condo building, you may not be able to install the water heater inside. Most condos use low-boy style tanks because they don’t need large units. Low-boy style units also fit in under cabinets inside kitchens or laundry rooms.

Choose a location that is close to the kitchen and bathrooms so that hot water can reach these areas faster. The farther the hot water has to travel, the longer it’ll take for the tap to get hot.

7. Durability

The material you choose should give you a decent number of service years. That is why most homeowners like outdoor steel enclosures.

If building an outdoor wood enclosure, you should use treated wood or decay-resistant wood and paint the enclosure.

Conclusion

Hiding the water heater Is fine if you do it with the suitable material, in the right place, and with the help of an expert.

However, the process often becomes a curse because many people do not follow building code specifications or use cheap materials. Some people decide to make it a DIY project only to ruin the job and remain with an eyesore of a cabinet or closet in the most obvious places.

It is always best to get a professional to enclose your water heaters properly. But if it is a curtain or a screen, you can do that yourself.

Sources:

Some Useful Tips For Hiding Water Heater In Your Home

How to Enclose a Water Heater

Photo of author

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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