How to Fix a Leaning Water Heater
LESLIE: Glenn in Illinois is dealing with a leaky water heater. It’s leaking into the furnace? What’s going on?
GLENN: Well, no. It’s actually – it’s leaning. It’s [inaudible at 0:04:16.4].
TOM: (overlapping voices) Oh, leaning. OK.
GLENN: It’s stressing me out. The water heater is leaning and the furnace is next to it.
GLENN: And there is like – together, they’re the leaning Tower of Pisas, towards each other. (Tom laughs)
LESLIE: Oh, good Lord.
GLENN: Apparently, whoever did the furnace or the water heater, they cut the floor joists …
TOM: Oh, no.
GLENN: … in the crawlspace, so ….
TOM: Oh, man. What a mess. So you’ve got a water heater problem; you’ve got a structural problem.
LESLIE: And a furnace problem.
TOM: And so the reason it’s leaning is because the floor joist is cut underneath it?
GLENN: And I’ve gotten under there and put in a couple of – what do they call those things that screw up underneath and kind of support it?
TOM: Oh, like some jacks?
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) It’s like a jack.
GLENN: Yeah, a jack. Exactly.
TOM: Hmm. Alright.
GLENN: I put a couple of those under there but it seems to be making it worse.
TOM: Yeah. Well, listen, if you have a cut floor joist, you have to sister it; you have to put a new one next to it. And sometimes that’s a little bit tricky but that’s the only way to properly reinforce it. In terms of the sag …
GLENN: Do you have to jack it above the …?
TOM: You don’t have to necessarily jack it; you have to put it side-by-side. What I was going to tell you is that once a floor sags, it’s really hard to get it back in place. Sometimes, you can pick it up a little bit and then you attach this new floor joist across the cut one and then that ends up carrying the load, so to speak. And you would glue it and screw it or nail it together or even bolt it. It’s called a sister joist. Think of it as a splint over the broken one and that’s …
GLENN: Oh, do you have to take the weight off of it in order to do that?
TOM: No. No, no. You leave everything that’s there; you just sort of work this one up next to it. Sometimes, you might have pipes or wires in the way that have to be adjusted or temporarily removed to get it in there but in a perfect situation, you’re going to want to go from the foundation wall all the way to the girder – if it’s that kind of a floor joist – so that you cover it with as long a piece as possible.
So, I would also caution you that (chuckles) if you try to straighten out the water heater, it may go from a leaning water heater to a leaky water heater (Leslie chuckles) because you’ll be putting stress on the pipes. So, you might just want to kind of leave everything where it is but reinforce that joist so it doesn’t cause any further damage.
GLENN: Hmm. OK. Excellent. OK.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.