Building cabinets & installing the water heater pan drain

Spent the first half of the day working on cabinets and counters and the second half installing a water heater pan drain in the tiny house.

One of the challenges of open shelf farmhouse style countertops is that once you cut out the hole for the sink there isn’t much counter left to support the weight. To add extra strength we glue and screw our backsplashes directly to the backs of the butcher block counters. It’s not really needed on the long solid counter but does provide a convenient lip to screw that counter directly into the wall on that side.

Our water heater is a 28 gallon tank water heater that will serve as a reservoir for our hybrid wood-fired/solar-thermal hot water system. This simple system is a copy of a larger system that I lived with off the grid for 10 years. It operates on simple convection which means the tank has to be as high as possible, but like all water heaters it still needs a drain pan and somewhere for that pan to drain to in case of a leak.

We had a custom pan fabricated by a sheet metal shop to perfectly fit the space. For the drain I ran 1/2 inch pex water pipe straight down and out of the bottom of the trailer terminating in a sharkbite spring-check valve so water can drain out but cold air can’t come in.

The top is finished with a 1/2 plastic male fitting adapter that fits through a 1 1/8 inch hole in the top of the stud, but is stopped at the flange of the fitting because the hole in the pan is drilled at 13/16. The whole thing is bedded in silicone and then tightened with a (blanking on the name of this type of nut) before carefully cutting the fitting off flush with the top of the nut. Theoretically this would still allow some water to accumulate in the pan but it’s the lowest profile solution I could think of.

I also added some blocking to the interior wall that I can later drill into to add shelving. I find the easiest way to remember exactly where important wall details are (structural, plumbing, electrical) is to write measurements on the studs with a sharpie and take a picture with my phone. I have dozens of these in my phone and they are hugely helpful later on.

– Brian

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