I bought a new hot water tank and had it installed by a plumber. It didn't fit in the existing drain pan, so he put it on top of the pan. Is this safe?

Hot water tank not in drain pan

Hot water tank balanced on pan

  • 3
    I literally laughed out loud when I saw the pics of how the tank was placed. Thank you. I never get used to how terrible a job a "professional" can do. Get this plumber's boss involved. Don't put up with this, even if it turns out to be "safe". Money is too valuable to give away for this type of work.
    – Edwin
    Aug 3, 2014 at 16:13
  • 1
    Typical cowboy job. The drain pan should have been replaced with the proper size. The "plumber" should lose his license if he has one. Aug 3, 2014 at 17:25
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    The plumber was the owner of his company, independent contractor assigned by Home Depot installation services. Complaining to them would be the next step I guess.
    – briddums
    Aug 3, 2014 at 19:05
  • If you paid by credit card, you can inquire with them about service warranties the card provides. Worse case scenario, you can dispute the installation charge with your credit card. But, yes, the first step would be home depot.
    – Edwin
    Aug 3, 2014 at 19:44

3 Answers 3


The purpose of a drain pan is to contain small leaks that can lead to damage and can give you warning that there is a problem. This doesn't mean that it is necessary, however for 10$ - 20$ at your local hardware store you could have picked one up - worth the small investment. (I'm surprised that a plumber who is called to install a hotwater tank doesn't have an extra pan in his tool kit)

The tank doesn't look level from the pictures. Try taking a level, place it on the top of the tank.

Here is a guide on how to level a hot water tank.

New water heaters or water heaters that are placed on an un-level surface, need to be leveled and shimmed for them to work properly.

Personally, I would go pickup a new drain pan, call the plumber back and have the pan installed. If the tank is not leveled, he can address this at the same time.

The question you asked is whether this installation is safe - the tank will probably sit there without incident for many years. The problem I'm having is that if it is not level, you will be possibly shortening the life of the tank, could be voiding a warranty and are not protected in the event of a slow leak.


From the standpoint of building safety, it is probably okay. Lots of water heaters are installed without a leak pan. Yours looks to have about 90% coverage.

For heater safety, I am concerned that sitting on the edge of the pan will eventually cause damage to the bottom of the tank. Without feeling the strength of the casing I don't know whether it is likely or not, but it is something to watch and assess.

As far as personal safety goes, I am also concerned that, unless the tank is strapped to the wall, it is less stable than it should be. An earthquake or vehicle impact is far more likely than normal for the tank to fall over.

Whatever else you do, I don't think anyone should charge for such makeshift installation. If someone did pay for this, they should be called back to correct it.

  • 2
    Another failure mode: the rim collapses under the concentrated load. The water heater drops, splits open, breaks input or output water lines, gas lines and/or 240V wiring...
    – DJohnM
    Aug 3, 2014 at 16:52
  • And in any area with earthquake code... DOA installation. Aug 3, 2014 at 17:26
  • @FiascoLabs: Dead On Arrival? Do-it Over Again? Dummy Occupant Acceptance?
    – wallyk
    Aug 3, 2014 at 17:37
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    Heh, any of the above pretty much sum it up... I like your interpretations. Aug 3, 2014 at 18:06

I think those that answered given you good input. For $20 you can get a 24 inch diameter pan. You don't need a pan but it will be a sign of a potential problem to fix. The pan will have a hole in it for routing a line from it to a drain. If a drain is not close by I would suggest putting a pvc fitting in it and plug it to keep the water in the pan. I would also recommend you shorten the pressure relief line and if you don't use an appropriate size pan under your tank, put a tall glass jar under it to collect any hot water if and when your tank pressure relief valve opens. From the photo it appears hot water will be blowing on your dry wall the way your installer has it currently. This is a poor installation and I would be concerned if the rest of the installation is as poor quality, like a gas leak?

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