water pipes in an unheated garage

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by gdog, Dec 14, 2008.

  1. gdog

    gdog write diagnostic firmware for embedded industrial

    Pac NW
    Hi All,

    Hoping for some expert advice on how to keep pipes from freezing in a an unheated (and un-insulated) attached garage.

    The washing machine and laundry sink are out there in the garage roughly 10-15 ft from the nearest heated (and insulated) house wall. Again, the garage walls (that are not being shared with the house) are open; no interior sheet rock and no insulation. I live in the Pac NW so this is only an issue 2-8 weeks out of the year.

    It's not a problem right now since I have a heater wire taped to the pipes in the problem area. When it gets cold enough to freeze, a thermostat in the wire allows current to flow in the wire which heats the pipe enough to keep it from freezing.

    My question is this; eventually I want to insulate and drywall the garage walls (but not necessarily heat the garage). I would not think it's kosher to close up the walls with that heater wire taped to pipes, is it? The pipes go through the 2X4 garage wall studs (i.e. inside the wall); they're not mounted on top of the studs. What's the professional way to keep pipes in un-heated garage from freezing?

    Thanks for any input, and as always, thanks to Terry for a great website!
  2. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

    You just need standard foam insulation. Determine the diameter of the pipes, and buy the correct size foam insulation, and you will be all set.

    PS: On very cold nights, you may want to have a space heater handy, just to be on the safe side. Or, you can allow the water to run into the laundry tub at a slow drip.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 14, 2008
  3. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Bothell, Washington
    I've done a lot of freeze repairs in the Seattle area.
    My previous experience with frozen pipes is that you "need" to keep the insulation on the cold side, and no insulation on the warm side.

    I prefer to not have any insulation on the pipe, but use fiberglass batt insulation in the wall, keeping the pipes toward the warmest side.

    I've tried foam insulation on the pipes, but they seem to freeze quicker that way.

    You may want to consider running that pipe in PEX.

    Last edited: Dec 22, 2008
  4. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    PEX tends to be very forgiving if it freezes and not split like other pipes. The PEX tubing has some stretch built into it unless AL-PEX is used.
  5. WV Hillbilly

    WV Hillbilly New Member

    The pump in the bottom of your washing machine could also freeze & burst . I've seen this happen when they are installed in unheated spaces .
  6. gardner

    gardner DIY Senior Member

    As well as the trap under the laundry sink and under the laundry stand-pipe, and the taps for the washer and sink. All these things are vulnerable.

    You can slosh some plumbing antifreeze into the traps. Probably you could throw some antifreeze in the washer too. The rest of the plumbing really aught to be drained if there is a risk of hard frost.
  7. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

    The easiest thing is to get a cheap portable heater and set it to the lowest setting ~50 degrees. If you store your paints, etc, in the garage, you don't want them to freeze either.
  8. gdog

    gdog write diagnostic firmware for embedded industrial

    Pac NW
    Thanks all for the good advice.

    I was trying to avoid the use of a space heater but that's probably the simplest and safest.

    I was hoping there was some standard way of keeping pipes from freezing in un-heated garage but sounds like there's not. Are there any hard-wired (i.e. permanent) solutions out there for heating pipes in the wall? I am assuming my plug-in pipe heater wire cannot be closed up in the wall, correct?

    Thanks again!
  9. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    Correct, unless you have good fire insurance. If water is not kept warm, it will freeze, and insulation slows the process, it does not prevent it. Unless you provide a heated area, ANY water in the washer will freeze, including the hoses and pump.
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