While many builders take the time to install a hot water heater in a closet or hidden alcove of its own, others simply plunk them into place and leave the aesthetics to the person who buys the home. When you purchase a home with an exposed water heater, there are several options if you'd like to hide it, whether you want a quick, easy fix or something that requires time, effort and basic construction skills.
While most people want to hide a water heater for cosmetic reasons, safety issues should be your utmost concern. While you can safely place objects and materials near an electric hot water heater, the same doesn't hold true for gas water heaters. Avoid placing flammable materials too close to a gas water heater because of the heat and internal flame. Also, don't block off a gas water heater completely. Doing so can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide that can be deadly to those in the house.
There are a couple of options when you prefer to hide your hot water heater with materials that are hung from the ceiling. Attach a curtain rod to the ceiling on one or both sides of the water heater. Choose curtains or drapes made from nonflammable material, attach them to hooks and hang them from the rods. They'll hide the eyesore and open easily when you need to gain access. Alternatively, choose strings of hanging beads to block your water heater from view. Choose multicolored beads for a funky '70s look, crystal beads for a touch of bling or beads of wood and imitation ivory for a natural, earthy look.
Place one or more folding screens in front of your hot water heater. Choose a floral pattern for a pretty feminine look or an Asian theme to complement Japanese or Chinese decor. Measure the screens before purchasing them to ensure that they're tall enough to completely hide the water heater. Alternatively, build a simple rectangular frame out of wood and attach latticework to it. Paint the frame and latticework a complimentary color, weave silk flowers or strips of material through the openings in the lattice and situate the panels in front of the water heater.
It's possible to build an enclosure around a gas or electric water heater. Do it yourself if you have the necessary skills, or hire an experienced handyman to complete the project in a day or two. Ensure that enough space is left around the water heater for safety and so you can access the pilot light of a gas model. Attach louvered doors to the front to allow constant airflow. If you'd rather, create a "door" on the front of the structure by attaching a treated, nonflammable bamboo or rattan curtain or blind that you can close and open at will.