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East End News

What to do about frozen pipes?

From Church Hill Neighborhood on Facebook:

Has anyone in an older house in Church Hill ever had pipes freeze on a cold day? Water throughout my house seems to be working fine, but the kitchen sink–nothing… Any advice?

From my experience:

Prevention is the best approach: when it’s gonna be cold enough, drip your hot and cold faucets to keep the water moving. For me, it’s when the temperature drops into the teens or is going to be below freezing for an entire day or more.

Got one stopped up sink? Try putting a space heater in the space below, or in the crawl space if you can get to it. This would clear up my frozen kitchen sink in an hour or 2. Do this at your own risk, of course.

Any other suggestions?

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Michael Onsel
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crd
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crd

I would not recommend putting a space heater under the sink, too much risk. Last time I had that problem with a kitchen sink, a contractor said to just open the door under the sink and wait awhile, and it worked. I guess you could also open the door and put a space heater OUTSIDE it. Always be gentle, the last thing you want is a suddenly broken pipe.

Paul Granger
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The worst for us is the washing machine’s pipe freezing, because we can’t let that one drip.

Our kitchen sink is the most consistent one. It’s the closest to the crawl space entry.

bill
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bill

light bulb

crd
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crd

@3 Light bulb is a good idea. Not a strong watt one, something small. Someone just told me on the phone that you should also leave the faucet slightly open when the pipe is frozen so that there is room for the thawed pipe to send water instead of bursting, not sure about that but it makes sense.

Scott
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Scott

In the big picture: Condition the crawlspace.

It’s better for overall energy efficiency.

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/54859.pdf

Lee
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Lee

We deal with this every year at our fourplex. First, make sure crawlspace is properly sealed. If the house has crawlspace vents, there are a couple of ways to do this. Just remember to unseal when spring rolls around, as those vents prevent mold and mildew in your crawlspace! If you have square vents, you’ll need wire, some plywood, and fiberglass insulation. Cut the plywood to be a few inches larger than the vent and drill two small holes in the center. Cut the insulation about the same size as the plywood. Have the wire looped around the vent grill… Read more »

Lee
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Lee

P.S. Please excuse my atrocious spelling. Typing this in my smartphone was a dumb idea

Paul
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Paul

Leaving the faucet dripping is a fine short term measure for certain faucets. Only partially helps for items that only have one control for both water lines (some kitchen sinks, some showers). And you can’t really drip a washing machine or fridge water line. We’ve done our best to close crawl space vents for the winter. We had a plumber come and attempt to wrap the pipes in the crawl space. But even crawling on his belly could not fit all the way back to the kitchen where the majority of the pipes are. Nor has any other plumber, pest… Read more »

MP
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MP

Paul, I’m from the north too, and never heard of anyone’s pipes freezing. And no one ever let faucets run overnight. Here – pipes freeze all the time and we have to do all these weird things to prevent it. Must be different standards of insulation for the pipes? Is it getting colder in Virginia or something? I will say these old houses are COOL in the summer, though – the tall ceilings are great.

Lee
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Lee

Paul – I think the thing to keep in mind is that houses here were probably built with hot summers in mind. Not sure that particularly cold winters were or are the norm. Regardless, they make heating cables which can be wrapped around or taped to pipes (they also make some that go INSIDE the pipe, apparently, but that seems a little drastic). Maybe you should look into those? I’m thinking of doing this going forward, as it sounds like they are cost effective and work pretty well.

Bob
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Bob

We had the same problem in a +100 yo house in Richmond. How about digging out the crawl space enough to give access to wrapping the pipes and use a lamp for heat. If wrapping fails (ours did), then consider rerouting the pipes (our final solution).