Frozen pipes

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Terry, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,303
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Have your pipes frozen?
    Here is a shower valve located on an inside wall.
    See how the ice forced the copper pipe out of the valve body.

    [​IMG]

    We had to reheat this and solder it back up.

    [​IMG]

    Here is one where the shower riser pulled out.

    [​IMG]

    This is what a burst looks like in copper pipe.

    [​IMG]

    And another burst copper pipe.
    It will be a while before this house will be dried out.
  2. bpetey

    bpetey Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    CA
    Is pex any better? All I could find before were different opinions both good and bad.
  3. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,303
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I think some PEX pipe should be more resistant to splitting then copper.
    The PEX I use, takes an expander tool.
  4. They are slowly busting around town. I've done a few so far but drain cleaning seems to be what I've been doing a lot of.
  5. gardner

    gardner DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    224
    Location:
    Ontario
    Copper is vulnerable to ice-jacking: in a freeze-thaw cycle, the freeze-up stretches the copper a bit. When it thaws, the water fills the now slightly larger pipe diameter. Next freeze it stretches just a bit more. Over time and freeze-thaw cycles, the pipe stretches too far and ruptures.

    Plastics are more resilient than copper. They can stretch around the ice when it forms, and when the thaw comes, will go back to their old dimensions. So you don't get the same ratchet effect.

    Whether PEX is "better" in an absolute sense is a whole different question.

    When a whole big run of pipe freezes in one go though, the pressure is huge. The 1/2 in pipe might bulge-out width-wise by a few thou, but it's the 10-foot run wanting to be an inch longer that pulls the fittings apart. The valve pushed off the end of the copper pipe like in one of Terry's picture is a pretty common failure mode around here (where it gets very cold) and I doubt even the flexibility of plastic pipe would have helped much.
  6. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    I'm in Alabama where frozen pipes are only a few days of concern in the winter. I've used some pex without worrying about the pipe rupturing. My readings indicate that the biggest risk with PEX is that rodents like to gnaw on it. My biggest fear is not the pipe rupturing but the fittings freezing and rupturing. So far I've not used Wirsbo or anything else needing an expander tool. The good thing is that IMO PEX is easier to work with than even PVC since very few fittings are required. The most difficult thing is that the crimping tool I have requires plenty of working room and can't be used in tight places.
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