The maintenance check up this week, provided by Keepe, asks whether  the water heater in your rental housing are properly and legally secured in the event of an earthquake.

Everyone has heard of the “big one,” the ultimate earthquake whose impending strike will decimate cities and regress civilizations.

There is a local version of this legend in almost every state from  Missouri and Tennessee, to Oklahoma and out to Washington, Oregon, and California. Some reside on major fault lines, such as the New Madrid fault in Missouri, Tennessee and surrounding states and the more well-known San Andreas fault in California.

While the extreme versions of earthquake-driven disaster as depicted in Hollywood movies might be pure fiction, it is important for rental housing professionals and landlords to address this risk no matter how remote. Even though the construction industry has made tremendous progress in making homes earthquake-resistant, one major weakness remains, especially for homes constructed before 1995 – water heaters are either not strapped properly or at all.

Why are water heaters not properly secured?

 Before the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California, water heaters were generally secured with one strap of plumbers’ tape.

This turned out to be insufficient to hold the tanks upright during the earthquake.

So, experts modified the recommendation to secure both the top and bottom rather than just the middle, and to use heavy-gauge metal strapping.

Seismic Straps Recommended In Some States

Seismic straps are a requirement for water heaters in areas that may be subject to earthquakes and where local building codes may require them.

In a number of states, it is recommended that water heaters be strapped so that they do not shift about during a quake.

Naturally, legal requirements and building codes vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from state to state. It is important to remember that you should always read the manufacturer’s installation recommendation if you’re setting up your own water heater.

 So, do you need seismic straps on your water heater? It depends.

For example, they are required by law in California and Washington, which makes sense since the states are earthquake-prone.

The Uniform Plumbing Code requires that water heaters be strapped on both the lower one-third and the top one-third of the tank.

However, numerous building jurisdictions may require more. Possibly a third or even fourth strap for heaters up to 100 gallons in volume.

A quick call to your local building department should help. They can provide you with enough information on the number of water heater straps required in your area of residence.


Bottom line, a water heater system is crucial in today’s day and age. You should always make sure any and all installations and repairs are done by experienced and licensed professionals.

Strapping and bracing a water heater will typically cost between $100 and $150. Of course it can depend on the area of residence, type and number of straps.

Typically money is the first thing everyone thinks about when discussing the true cost of a failed water heater. There’s more to it than that. There is the time spent deciding what to do. The stress of the problem itself is also an important factor. Why? Because, ultimately, you won’t just be fixing a burning problem. You’ll be buying peace of mind and a sound sleep, as well.

About Keepe:

Keepe is an on-demand maintenance solution for property managers and independent landlords. Keepe makes hundreds of independent contractors and handymen available for maintenance projects at rental properties. The Keepe service is available in the Greater Seattle area, Phoenix area and San Francisco Bay area. Coming soon to an area near you. Learn more about Keepe at

Is The Water Heater At Your Rental Property Ready For The “Big One?”

A strapped water heater. Photo courtesy of