How to Enclose a Water Heater

by Jack S. Waverly
This unit can be enclosed as a corner closet.

This unit can be enclosed as a corner closet.

Sometimes the water heater for your residence must be placed in a visible area. Enclosing the water heater both hides and protects it. The process uses a simple three wall construction when the wall behind the heater is used. A side wall is eliminated when the heater is in a corner. The walls are built to extend above the room ceiling. No ceiling is needed for the enclosure, thereby allowing the pipes to remain unobstructed.

Side Walls

  1. Locate the studs closet to the water heater with a stud finder. Locate the ceiling joists closest to the water heater the same way. Find a stud and ceiling joist adjacent to the water heater running parallel with each other.

  2. Mark the stud and joist locations with chalk. These provide visual identifiers for each side wall location. Measure the length of both side walls from the marked stud along the ceiling using a tape measure. Mark the end of the measurement on the ceiling. Repeat the step to mark the measurement on the floor.

  3. Use a carpenter’s chalk mark to snap a line on the ceiling and floor from the stud to the end of the measurements on the floor and ceiling. Make sure the two lines are even and aligned together.

  4. Measure a pair of 2-by-4-inch board the length of the chalk lines. Cut the lumber to the measurements. These become the bottom and top plates for each side wall.

  5. Position the bottom plate along the chalk line on the floor. Nail 16D nails through the board into the floor joists using two nails per joist. Repeat this step for the top plate along the ceiling joist. The joists will run parallel to each other.

  6. Measure the height of the wall between the inside edges of the top and bottom plates. Use measurements from the ends of the plates to determine the length of your end studs. Cut a stud board corresponding to each of the four measurements. These are the frames for the two walls.

  7. Set the studs vertically to butt the ends against the inside of the plates at the ends of the plates. Position a 16D nail to a 45-degree angle on the exterior edge of each plate. Drive the nail through the stud into the plate. This method is called toenailing. Repeat the step where the studs meet each plate.

  8. Position the end of the tape measure at the center of the stud on the 2-inch side. Measure along the plate 16 inches and mark the location. Move the end of the tape measure to this marking. Repeat the measurement and mark the next location. Repeat the process until you reach the wall. This tells you how many, and where your studs will go. Repeat the entire process for the second wall.

  9. Repeat the step used to align and attach studs to the bottom and top plate for each wall.

Front Wall

  1. Measure the distance between the two side walls along the ceiling and floor. Snap a chalk line on both surfaces. Cut your top and bottom plates to size.

  2. Install the top and bottom plates the same way you installed them for the side walls.

  3. Measure the height desired for the doorway on a pair of 2-by-4-inch boards. These are the jack studs to hold the door on the sides. Cut the boards to the measurements with a circular saw.

  4. Measure the width of the door. Add 4 inches to compensate for the width of the narrow edge of the jack studs. Subtract this measurement from the overall measurement of each plate. Divide the answer by two. Use that answer as the measurement from each side wall towards the center along the plates. Mark the positions as the locations for the king studs. King studs hold the door to the wall.

  5. Install the king studs as you did the studs from the side walls. Measure the distance between the side walls and the king studs. If the distance is greater than 16 inches, install a second stud on each side of the door for support.

  6. Measure the distance between the facing edges of the king studs. Mark and cut two 2-by-4-inch boards to this measurement. This is the door header. Fit these pieces between the king studs over the jack studs and the door. Nail the header to the jack studs.

  7. Measure the distance between the top of the header to the top plate. Mark and cut a 2-by-4-inch board to this measurement. This is the cripple stud. Position this stud midway between the king studs on the door header. Toenail this piece to the header and top plate.


  1. Line up the door frame in the opening made by the jack studs and door header. Attach the door frame using the provided hardware and instructions. Drill the screws provided through the frame into the studs and header.

  2. Open and close the door repeatedly to ensure it hangs correctly. Adjust the hinges to adjust the swing of the door by either making them tighter or looser.

  3. Cover each wall with your choice of panel, drywall or plywood.

Items you will need

  • 2-by-4-inch lumber
  • Pre-hung door
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Hammer
  • 16D Nails
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter's square
  • Chalk
  • Circular saw
  • Paneling
  • Drywall

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images