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As homeowners, we all have grand visions for our living spaces. Whether it’s a cozy reading nook, a sleek home office, or a walk-in closet that feels like a boutique, our imaginations run wild.

Often these are fantastic ideas! It’s important to dream big and shoot for the stars in order to see what’s possible.

But when we run the ideas by a carpenter, contractor, closet installer, electrician, plumber, etc, our dreams can become shattered as we learn that our genius design plans may not be “up to code”.

But sometimes homeowners still decide they are willing to take a chance and go ahead with their vision.

This recent project we worked on is a perfect example: a walk-in closet with three unconventional features. It’s a great opportunity for discussing the delicate balance between creativity and code compliance.

The Closet Conundrum

Here is an example of a closet that has 3 things in it that may not be the most practical. What do you see as the 3 “work arounds” in this closet?


  1. The water heater
  2. The plumbing lines
  3. The baseboard heater

Did this person make good use of this space? I have to say, yes. But disregarding the creativity, what are the problems with the 3 “work-arounds”?

Walk in closet with water heater in corner

1. Water heater integration

  • The Vision: The water heater occupies a corner of the closet, tucked away inconspicuously.
  • The Reality: While it maximizes space, it introduces risks. If a leak occurs, the melamine boards (commonly used in custom closets) will swell and weaken structurally.
  • The Verdict: A daring move, but one that demands vigilance. Regular inspections and swift action are essential in case of leaks.

2. Plumbing lines and cut-outs

  • The Vision: Plumbing lines against the wall with “cutouts” inside the vertical panel to allow for the lines to go through to the water heater.
  • The Reality: Technically, plumbing lines shouldn’t penetrate boards. The cut-outs compromise the integrity of the closet’s structure.
  • The Verdict: This is a calculated risk. The homeowner must weigh aesthetics against potential long-term issues.

3. Baseboard heater placement

  • The Vision: The baseboard heater hugs the wall, creating a seamless look.
  • The Reality: Unlike the plumbing lines, this isn’t a structural concern. However, it poses a safety hazard if items come too close to the heater.
  • The Verdict: A compromise. The homeowner must exercise caution when hanging items near the heater. That is far more concerning than the allowance made in the vertical panel.

All of that being said, the homeowner’s vision could not be squelched; they decided to move forward with their design.

Expert Feedback and Homeowner Choices

Design dreams often collide with practical realities. Sometimes the risks are made known and it seems like the chances are slim that something bad will happen. If it does, it will most likely not be devastating.

Homeowners have to weigh the odds. Is the risk manageable? Will it impact daily life?

If you plan to sell your home one day, consider the consequences. Building inspectors may raise concerns about unconventional features.

In the end, homeowners must strike a balance. Dream big, but be informed.

Sometimes, the allure of a unique closet or a daring design is worth the trade-offs. Just remember: safety first, and consult the experts. After all, a well-designed space should inspire joy, not regret.

If you have an unconventional design in mind for your next project, our team can help you talk through it. Contact My Custom Closet today to get started!