Working with Metal: Building a Water Heater Cabinet.


I'm going to be taking on a new project with a new medium. Until now, nearly everything with which I've worked has been exclusively made of wood. That's about to change with this new project of making a cabinet to encase the water heater in the garage.

Since I do a lot of woodworking, my activities generate a lot of sawdust. With a water heater pilot flame not far from my work area, that's a significant hazard. Airborne fine-grained sawdust can readily accumulate in significant quantities in the air. Just one spark could spread from one floating grain of sawdust to another and create a combustive chain reaction. This type of dispersed-fuel combustion is the same phenomenon by which grain elevator explosions occur.

My garage is well-ventilated for the most part, but I prefer to be as safe as possible. To that end, I am encapsulating the water heater in a fireproof cabinet that will have positive outbound air flow and will be appropriately screened to prevent sawdust from making its way into the interior.

Water heater cabinet design

The interior frame will be constructed entirely of metal and its walls are made from 5/8" fire-rated gypsum drywall. The drywall will be bolted to the metal frame so that it will separate (rather than shatter) in the event of a flash fire. Additionally, there will be independent natural gas detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors mounted in or near the cabinet for further safety. For ventilation, the front door of the cabinet will be louvered, and there will be two 6"x14" vents on each wall of the cabinet to help hot air rise out of the cabinet, drawing fresh air in at the bottom.

This should be a challenging project and I look forward to completing it this weekend.

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