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How to lift heavy water heater into attic

Caution: attic stairway is rated 200 lbs/ NOT rated for the weight of a heavy water heater plus man's weight
Steps below are for carefully lifting water heater by any homeowner, along with 2 helpers
Several strong men can do the job without needing 2x4s described below.
Caution that attic stairway is NOT rated for the weight of a heavy water heater plus man's weight
Most ladder and attic stairs are rated for 200 lbs.

Remember: Once the water heater fills the attic opening, then additional people cannot climb into attic.
Lift water heater into attic Step 1 How to lift heavy water heater into attic

Use some or all ideas

Steps below illustrate maximum control over weight of water heater and all steps may not be needed.

Measure attic opening and water heater before starting.
Double check that attic stairway is attached firmly.
Use braces under each stair rung since ladder is not rated to hold people and water heater at same time.
Check load rating for any ladder that is used.
Remember, attic opening is about same width of water heater. So once water heater is in the opening, another person will not be able to climb into attic

Materials: several 2x4s, screws, nails, step ladder
Best with 3 people:, can be done with 2 strong people.

Water heater shown is Geo-spring hybrid made by Rheem for GE. Water heater weighs approx 200 lbs. Dimensions are about 63 x 24 x 21
Instructions apply to both gas and electric water heaters

Handle to help lift water heater
If attic height is limited, then make handle short as possible
Make handle using galvanized pipe
Attach handle to pipes on top of water heater.
Tighten pipes with hand > no need to tighten with wrench as long as threads are secure

Handle will add height to water heater and may not be practical until step 3 below, and may need to be removed in last step if attic is not high enough.

I do NOT know if water heater warranty is voided by lifting water heater by the pipe nipples, but assume water heater is welded steel and this will work perfectly.
Plywood floor  Cover attic floor with plywood Attic floor must be covered with 3/4 plywood:
1) Support wight of water heater, plus water
Water weighs 8.34 lbs per gallon
40 gallons = 333.6 lbs + add water heater
60 gallons = 500.4 lbs + add water heater

2) Plywood is also needed to support weight of 2 or 3 people that will lift water heater.
Do not balance on the joists when lifting heavy weight.
Safety first.
Lift water heater into attic Step 2:
Move water heater upward along 2x4 rails.
Use wood blocks screwed down to keep water heater from sliding back down.

> Try setting 2x4 on higher rung.
Difficulty is that water heater will slide down, and also person will find it difficult to stand on 2x4 to climb in attic if problem is encountered.

> Or water heater can be lifted 1 rung at a time.
Difficulty with 1 rung: Keeping water heater under control as it is lifted higher.
Using 2x4s as shown helps solve problem of keeping water heater controlled.

Remember: when going rung-by-rung, it is easier to lift the water heater, but not as easy to lower the water heater back down if problem is encountered.
Lift water heater into attic Step 3:

Support each attic stair with 2x4

Lift water heater to next rung.

Remember:
Once water heater fills attic opening, another person cannot climb up into attic.
Best to have 2 people in attic for steps 3 thru 9
Step 3a

Men in attic may be strong enough to lift water heater from this point.
Illustration shows low roof at top of attic stair.
Lifting heater requires enough space for heater plus 2 people.

You may want to lay plywood between water heater and stairs to avoid scratching water heater, and to make smooth sliding surface

If water heater cannot be lifted from this position, then add 2 or 3 wood blocks under water heater and move to step 4.
Lift water heater into attic Step 4:

Put 2-3 wood blocks under water heater.

Then raise 2x4s to lift water heater higher.

Put step ladder under 2x4s to stablize water heater
Remember water heater will not sit well on narrow steps of attic stairway

Diameter of typical water heater is 24" for example.
Attic stair might offer only 3 or 4 inches for holding entire weight of water heater.
Widen step with plywood to control water heater.

This is not necessary if people in attic are strong enough to lift the weight quickly without needing to rest between lifts.

Do not widen top stair or same narrow-step problem occurs on step below

Wide stair
Another technique: rope through hole in attic rafter, then tie rope onto water heater handle.

DO NOT depend on rope to carry full weight of water heater!!!
Rope through rafter will not work to lift the weight. But this is why the rope can help control the weight.


Note: It is easy to lift the water heater, but not easy to lower it back down.
Rope through rafter
Rope through hole in rafter
Do not depend on rope to hold full weight of water heater
Lift water heater into attic Step 5 and beyond:

Raise 2x4 as high as desired to help move water heater higher, then lift water heater to next stair rung.

Stablize water heater using 2x4s against side of tank. This step may be unnecessary with two people in attic, but water heater will definitely tip heavy to one side while sitting on stairway rung.

Lift water heater to top rung
And then lift water heater into attic
Lift water heater into attic Step 6

Once water heater reaches top stair, it may be easy to lift into attic.
Or the handle may be too high and there is no good way to grab the water heater.
The qestion to ask is how much room is available for two people plus a water heater at top of attic stairway.

Tip water heater so two 2x4s can be put under water heater as illustrated.
These 2x4 will rest on top stair and will hold full weight of water heater.
Measure and assemble these 2x4s BEFORE starting.
Two people in attic can hold water heater while one person from below climbs stairs and inserts 2x4s

Attach blocks to 2x4s as illustrated.
Blocks will hold both 2x4s together.

The 2x4s can hold full weight of water heater
install water heater in attic Step 7

Use a lift 2x4 to move bottom of water heater up onto block #2.
#2 block makes moving heavy weight easier
Move center of water heater past the block

#1 block keeps lever 2x4 from falling down
Step 8

After water heater is past the block, push down on the lever 2x4 to lift water heater in attic.

For safety and extra control, double loop a rope around lower part of water heater to pull

Or tip water heater on its side and pull up.
It might be better to keep water heater upright, so it doesn't need to be sat upright once inside the attic.


Step 9

You're there, time for beer.

If you have heat pump water heater, let it sit in upright position for 12 to 24 hours to allow refrigerant and lubricating oils to to properly distribute themselves.
GE heat pump water heater needs 14" headroom to clean air filter, and 7" clearance at back and front of heater to remove hood. Leave more room for working on heater. For example anode rod is located on left side of tank.
Read about anode rods
Review GE heat pump water heater with installation tips
How to replace TP valve
How to install gas water heater

Heat pump water heaters require condensate drain.
Other water heaters do not.

Always leave access to drain valve at bottom of water heater.  How to replace drain valve
Take a break

Drink American Beer
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Beer books at Amazon


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Ventilate attic
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Additional links

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