Plumbing exposed to extreme outdoor temps

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by jasonlaronde, Aug 19, 2007.

  1. jasonlaronde

    jasonlaronde New Member

    Here's the skinny....

    The previous owners have given us a hell of a project to fix....

    We have a 2 1/2 storey 1455 sq.ft. home built in 1911 that is your typical tall, narrow and long charichter home with a stone foundation... Sometime in the 1930's a 90 sq.ft. porch/addition was built off the back (as most of the houses in our neighborhood did at the time) that is now a mud room on the main floor off the kitchen and a walk-in linen closet/powder room off the bathroom on the second floor...

    The previous owners decided to wall off with a pocket door a half-bath in the mud room... not a bad idea as all of the houses in our neighborhood only have one bath which puts our value up quite a bit over the rest.... but here is the kicker...

    In the process of plumbing the half-bath, they punched a 2ft x 2ft. hole into the space under the porch to run supply lines and sewer for the toilet and sink. They left the hole open to allow heat from the basement to spill into the outside "crawlspace" to keep the pipes from freezing and did a half assed attempt at insulating the walls of the "crawlspace" to keep "some" of the heat from escaping the house... needless to say it's still pretty cold in the winter...

    No big deal you say... just insulate "whole assed"... but here is the problem.... THEY HAD CATS!

    The cat's urinated all over the dirt floor of the "crawlspace" creating a god awful smell whenever it rains for more than a few days or if the temps rise above 25c for more than a few days... I have removed about two yards (18" deep from the hole) but the smell still persists...

    Not to mention the obvious comprimise to the foundation of that corner of the hosue... I'd like to just close in that hole... but the next winter the pipes will surly burst... any ideas on how I may be able to close in my hole and keep my bathroom?

    Winnipeg, Canada
  2. visqueen vapor barrier--++ KILZ

    Have you thought about just putting down a plastic
    vapor barrier like they do when they run a RADON
    system in a crawl space????

    If you can tuck it up high enough along the sides of the
    house where the side walls meet the upper floor
    and seal it off good,

    it would work to keep the heat from escapeing
    to the outside....and create a barrior to keep the cold from
    blowing into that area too...

    If you run a sheet of it over the whole crawl space it
    should cut that cat piss down substantially...

    or you could also spray the side walls with KILZ
    before you did the visqueen thing
    if you wanted to seal off the odors too....

    I would guess that digging out that
    cat --piss infested crawl space has been the
    highlight of your summer.....

  3. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    In Winnipeg? You're going to have to come up with a plan that keeps that space warm, or close down the bathroom every winter... I'm not clear on where the 2' hole is - in the foundation wall, or the bathroom floor?

    Got pictures?

    If the pipes are high enough off the ground, could you build an insulated box around them? Then insulate under the floor, and open up the sides of the crawl to vent out the pet pee smells...

    How much room do you have for working under there?
  4. jasonlaronde

    jasonlaronde New Member

    About three feet of headroom... The hole is in the foundation hense my concerns for structure and my desire to close the hole back in...

    Plumbin is along the bottom of the main floor so I could insulate the floor and around the plumbing and just close it all off but with the bathroom being used maybe twice a day I don't think the pipes will remain warm enough even insulated because if I close it all in, they will then be subjected directly to -40c on a regular basis for months on end... Without in floor heating, the tile would also get pretty cold...

    I don't see what my option are besides pouring a concrete floor in the crawlspace and actually making a little 3' room out of it... building around the hole with some steel I-Beam and bricking around the hole to fix the foundation and giving access to the hole.. I'm just not sure if insulating and cutting a hole in the duct to the bathroom to heat will be enough...

  5. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    Around here, because we're in a flood zone, most houses are open underneath - up on post foundations - and we insulate the underside of the floor. Pipe runs get boxed out & insulated. Of course, it isn't Winnipeg, it's Long Island, NY...

    If you make the walls of the box thick enough for a lot of insulation, and air-seal it properly, there shouldn't be any problems. Leave the box somehow open to the inside of the house, but completely closed off to the outside / crawlspace.

    For extra insurance, you can wrap the pipes in heat tape, turn it on on those particularly cold nights... you could also, like you said, put a heating vent inside it.

    Just make the box be inside the thermal envellope of the house.

    You should lay visqueen on the dirt floor, no matter what you do - even if you decide to pour a slab, there should be plastic under it. Dirt floors transmit an amazing amount of moisture.
  6. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

    Cincinnati OH
    Rather than cut a hole in the heat supply I would come off the main supply
    and run new 5" duct to the crawl space.To keep from robbihg the bath
    heat.You get alot colder than where I live.I cant help you with the cat smell.
  7. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Yakima WA
    You must keep in mind that insulation will not provide heat. It will only slow the transfer of heat. I would use the plastic and I would insulate the pipes, but you definitely need to keep the crawl space above freezing or turn the water off to that bath. I wonder if a home cleaning service might have some insight on the cat odor. There are chemicals that do a great job of eliminating odor. Fabrize is one that comes to mind. Had a tom cat get into my pickup on time and pissed on the carpeting. I sprayed Fabrize on the area and that ended the odor. Your problem is a much larger one, but it still may be the answer.
  8. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    Vinegar works wonders, too; but how much would you need to saturate the soil? My mind boggles...

    Gary, I agree he needs to heat where the pipes are, but that doesn't mean he has to heat the whole crawl: if he boxes the pipes, he only has to heat the inside of that box. In a climate like Winnipeg's, that seems a lot more economical...

    side-note: Winnipeg is where I discovered that spit really can freeze before it hits the ground. No lie. December 23rd, 1990, 4 a.m. Stepped off the greyhound to smoke a cigarette, spat on the sidewalk, and it bounced. Did it again just to make sure. Got back on the bus.
  9. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Yakima WA
    That would have be a good time to quit smoking! You're of course right about not needing to heating the whole crawl space. I guess one could box the pipes then get creative and devise a way to force warm air into the box. I don't like heat tapes, but they might work also.
  10. tjbaudio

    tjbaudio Sound and Light Suppervisor for a School District

    Fabrize is nothing more than cheap vodka. The alcohol encases the smell and takes the smell with it when it evaporates. In the case of cat urine it works for small amounts but not for some thing like this. What you need is an enzyme cleaner. For that amount you may want to contact a cleaning company and see what they can offer. We buy small bottles from the vet for clothing and such. It breaks down the urine directly.

    To prevent frozen pipes I i would do all of the following:
    1 insulate the pipes, including the drain, probably with a double layer of the foam tube shaped stuff. Also insulate and vapor proof the crawl space. Some foam sheets would be fine for this.
    2 install a set of drain valves and make sure the pipes slop towards the drains.
    3 install a recirculating pump that uses the cold as a return line.

    This combo would keep the pipes hot and minimize heat loss. It would also provide a backup in case of prolonged power outage.
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