Water Heaters, Remodels

Water Heaters, Remodels

Dear Maintenance Men,

Water Heater Longevity: Having replaced about five water heaters in the last five years, it is my subjective impression that water heaters manufactured in recent years do not last as long as those purchased prior to that time. For example, I have replaced several failed water heaters that were about 15 years old. This contrasts with some water heaters (same size) manufactured in the 80s which are still in service. Consequently, I have been seeking ways to prolong the life of water heaters. I have been told that replacing the sacrificial anode rod will help accomplish this. Is it worth the time and cost to replace an anode rod? Is there a way to determine the condition of an anode rod short of removing it? What tools would be needed to accomplish this?


Dear Gerard:

You are not alone! Unfortunately, many of our clients, including us, have had the same experience as you. It has been very frustrating to replace a water heater with a six-year warranty the day after it expires! Most information available is purely anecdotal as the manufactures do not wish to share the actual reasons why. It appears that manufactures have moved to the model of dis posable water heaters much the same as all other large appliances for residential use. However, the following is what we know by dissecting a few duds:

  1. The tanks ap pear to be thinner and made of lesser quality metals, possibly a weaker blend. (This is true for residential, big box store purchased water heaters of any brand.)
  2. The anode rods (sacrificial rod) is also thinner. (Replace often using a 14” to 20” crescent wrench or pipe wrench.) I prefer a socket wrench and extension but it can be a pricey tool for a job you will do once every two years (dependent upon how bad your water is in your city). Replacement of the rods is absolutely worth the time and effort as they are relatively inexpensive and not hard to replace. If your water heater is more than three years old, it’s probably time to replace them. Unless you remove them, you cannot tell what condition they are in. If you remove them, be prepared to install new ones.
  3. Water Quality. Consider a water softening system or filter between your water heater and the city supply. A water softening system will also prolong the life of your dishwashers, faucets and shower heads.
  4. Sediment. Clean out or drain your water heater once a year. Severe build up can cause premature failure due to tank expansion, prolonged burner operation, encapsulation of the anode rod, and damage to your fixtures.
  5. Residential vs. Commercial Quality Water Heaters. Do not purchase any brand of water heater at a big box store. They are all manufactured for residential use no matter what the packaging says. For the past ten years or so we have been purchasing our 40- to 100-gallon water heaters from a commercial source. Research where in your area the commercial plumbers buy their water heaters. A commercial plumbing house deals with warranty issues directly with the manufactures and vet their suppliers rigorously. (They do not want to deal with a rash of returns.)
  6. Temperature Settings. If at all possible, keep the temperature as low as you can without causing issues with your tenants. Install a protective cover to eliminate the chances of your residents raising or decreasing the temperature at will.
  7. Check you vent sizing as many people have replaced their old water heater and have not resized the vent stack accordingly.

Dear Maintenance Men:

Our apartments are early 1960s era. During remodels, we replace the doors and due to the small bathrooms, we have been changing the “swing-in” doors to “swing-out” doors to allow more room and for installing an elongated toilet. Any unforeseen problem with doing this?


Dear Marc,

Interesting. Currently, there is no IRC Rule (not codified) regarding in-swing or out-swing doors on interior residential dwellings. However, it may be a good idea to consider the following:

Most individuals are accustomed to opening doors inward and the years of that action has made it second nature which can cause some frustration, accidents, disrupt flow and unintentional damage. Depending on where the door is located in respect to the general layout, an out-swinging door can be opened in the direct path of another occupant, blocking the door from the outside and trapping someone inside the bathroom during an emergency or earthquake. Since we usually walk up to a door and knock, there is now a risk the door will be opened inadvertently causing you to knock with your nose.

A slightly more costly alternative would be to install a pocket door, or frame for a 24” to 28” inswing door. Lastly, installing a bi-fold door may be an alternative, although not a very secure door.


WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!! If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men” column, please send in your questions to: DearMaintenanceMen@gmail.com

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., at 714-956-8371. Frank Alvarez is a licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer and educational instructor for the Apartment Association. Frank can also be reached at Frankie@BuffaloMaintenance.com. For more info please go to: www.BuffaloMaintenance.com. Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker and has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.