Water heater leaks and necessary permits

Sunday Signal

Water heater leak

I live in Canyon Country and read your article religiously. I wish I had listened to some of your advice, because we came home from vacation to find that our entire living room, family room, dining room and small bedroom downstairs had completely flooded. The water made its way out the back door, which was unfortunate because out the front perhaps a neighbor may have seen it. We don’t know how long the water sat, but we had remediation people here and we have the biggest mess on our hands.

Ultimately, it was our water heater that went bad and my husband being handy, changed this himself. He is of the mindset that because we are the owners doing the work, we are exempt from getting permits for this change. Are we bound by law to get permits even though we are the property owners?

— Gina P.


Absolutely you are required to permit such a thing. I’ve said it 100 times and I’ll keep saying it: The city is there for safety. The reason permits are required is because they go hand-in-hand with inspections, ensuring that work is done properly and safely ensuring the safety and well-being of all concerned.

A water heater deals with gas – meaning it’s a potentially explosive situation in an earthquake if the installation isn’t done properly – so a water heater needs to be properly strapped. In the event of an earthquake, you don’t want to budge, which could cause gas lines to become disconnected. Ventilation is also an important safety factor. 

The inspector is there to verify that all concerns are tended to, not only for your sake, but for those around you also. A water heater explosion can cause catastrophic damage for quite a distance. So yes, Gina, call the city and get them out to inspect this work, for everyone’s sake.

Hope the advice helps and remember: the city is there for safety.

Good luck.


Robert Lamoureux has 38 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected]. 

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