What to do. Pipes keep freezing.

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Kevin James Henry, Mar 14, 2014.

  1. Kevin James Henry

    Kevin James Henry New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    MA
    Up on the ceiling there is a shut off valve. It goes down to where that hole is in the wall to a spigot on the outside. At the lower end of the hole in the wall, there is Pex, tied in between the copper from the top and bottom via a Pex T which goes out to the garage. Where it comes out of the wall in the garage, I have foil over the pex, then heat tape and then insulated tubing over that.

    The issue is the hole in the wall. Where the pipe burst, there is actually ice in the wall. that's how cold it is. The room is usually 65 deg in the winter or down to 55 sometimes. I have 240V baseboard in 2 locations in the 350 sq/ft room, but the baseboard doesn't do anything as far as heating. I have a little ceramic element heater 120v that plugs into the wall that does a better job at heating the room than the two 6' 240V baseboard heaters. So I don't use the BB heating at all. It's useless.

    I have caulked everywhere outside the house, I have put insulation behind the pipes in the wall there where the hole is. I've put insulation below the pipes. However it's still freezing in there. Right now I have a bigger piece of a insulated foam over the hole as it's an eyesore after my friend, licensed plumber replaced the valve yesterday. He said, leave the valve off and the spigot outside and in the garage open as to allow for expansion.

    I'm at a loss what to do here. Should I put a grate over the hole so at least there is some heat from the room getting up there. It's so cold inside the hole, it's brutal. I don't get it. The issue is, to the left of that hole is the corner of the back of the house. The wind NEVER STOPS. EVER.

    I was thinking this.

    1. Put a grated vent over the hole.

    2. Install a wall heater somewhere in the vicinity of the area.

    [​IMG]
  2. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,281
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    You are overlooking a massive air leak somewhere. Could be coming down from the attic or in through the soffits. All of the exterior walls, including the wall between the garage and house need to be air sealed and insulated.
  3. Kevin James Henry

    Kevin James Henry New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    MA
    Yeah it sucks. My dad is a carpenter / contractor for over 40 years, he can't figure it out. My plumber friend has 25 years of experience. He can't figure it out. This is a basement by the way.

    Here's the exterior. All the gaps have been sealed.

    [​IMG]
  4. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,416
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Yes, this needs to be addressed. As long as you have that icey wind coming through, it's going to continue to freeze.
    Stop the air infiltration, and if you insulate, make sure that the insulation is between the outside wall and the pipe. You need to trap the homes warm air against the pipe.
    No insulation between the home and the pipe.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  5. Kevin James Henry

    Kevin James Henry New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    MA
    Yeah, thanks but I already know this. But there doesn't seem to be a solution as far as figuring out where the cold is coming in. It's a house, 8 years old, vinyl siding, the basement was finished and insulated. I'm wondering if it's worth calling an insulation contractor?

    And, if the problem is not found, what can I do to get some heat in the area? I know about the heated pipe tape, but I can't access all of the pipes in the wall either.
  6. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,809
    Location:
    IL
    When you refer to the problem with the hole in the wall, what hole are you talking about?

    If you are referring to the hole where the hose faucet come through the siding, of course it is cold at the faucet. That conducts into the connected pipe and its water. Your easier solution is to annually turn off that valve via the hole in the ceiling (which you will cover with a removable panel), and open the faucet outside so that it can drain. Put a bucket under the faucet to see if the expected amount of water drained out. If not, you may need to replace your valve in the ceiling with one that can admit air.

    If you are referring to that hole in the red wall, and the remaining worry is about other pipes freezing or wasting heat/AC in the future, say so. You could probably get somebody to inject foam into your hole and make that wall the best-insulated wall in the house. That will still not permit you to not drain your non-frostfree hose bib annually however.

    Closed cell foam is best and is its own vapor barrier. Open cell foam is much cheaper, but it need a vapor barrier, which should be in place, but maybe it is not. An insulation place that specializes in open cell foam will suggest open sell foam. Ditto for fiberglass and closed cell foam. Open cell foam can be retrofit into many walls by putting in some holes, injecting the foam with the skill and care to not blow the wall out, and patching the holes. If you are looking to do more than just that area, I would look at getting more walls injected with open cell foam from a place that specializes in insulating existing walls.
  7. Kevin James Henry

    Kevin James Henry New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    MA
    Sorry I did not explain better. To the left of the hole in the wall, red, on the outside, is the faucet. Behind the red wall is the garage. The garage is cold, but not sub freezing. To the left of the outside faucet is a corner, which is roughly where the hole in the red wall is. Wind is always blowing in that corner. It's the coldest exterior part of the house.

    The issue is, the inside wall. Where the hole is. There's freezing air in there. However the house is sealed on the outside. Everything has been caulked. Where the bottom of the plywood attaches to the house. I can't figure out where the cold air is coming in. I jammed a s-load of fiberglass insulation down below the pipes, below the bottom of the hole in the wall. But there is still cold air, freezing air coming from somewhere. It's bizarre.

    However I may be freaking out about nothing. In the ceiling is the shut off, new one put in. But the reason it failed is because I had the valve on the outside of the house closed, the former valve closed and the valve in the garage closed too. I'm just wondering if there is anything else I can do regarding how cold it gets where that hole is in the red wall. If I can't solve the problem of the freezing air in there. Should I put a vent over the hole? Here's how it is now, hole covered.

    But now I know. Winter comes, shutoff valve closed, exterior faucet valve open.

    [​IMG]
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,321
    Location:
    New England
    You obviously don't have all of the air leaks plugged or this wouldn't be happening. Maybe a blower door pressurization test might show where things are leaking, and you can plug them. Also, maybe a thermal IR camera image of the walls might help to isolate where the problem is. Even an IR thermometer gun might help isolate where the worst of it is.

    Fiberglass is an okay insulation, but only if you have the air infiltration resolved. Closed cell foam and dense packed cellulose are much better at impeding air infiltration.
  9. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,281
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Concentrate on finding the air leak, even if it means new drywall. I would be looking real hard at the joint where the sill plate meets the top of the basement wall.
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