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freezing pipes / insulation question


plumber red's Avatar
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01-30-10, 08:11 AM   #1  
freezing pipes / insulation question

recently bought a house that had what i thought was a nicely reno'd updstairs bath.

today the temperature dipped to -13C and the water stopped running out of my sink.

i had felt coldness around the floor AND on the ceiling below around the patio door below so i went outside and removed some of the fascia and soffit to see what i could see.

here is what i found - the insulation is a joke. the patio door was never really insulated, and the pipes can easily be seen from the outside (*once i removed some wood and insulation)

this is the view from the back, the bathroom is the dormer above

the view gets closer and closer

HELP!!! i don't know what to do. I used a heater and got the water flowing again to the sink -- how do i prevent it from freezing again?

if i spray foam the pipes will this stop the freezing?

thanks










 
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BigRedSoxFan's Avatar
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01-30-10, 09:07 AM   #2  
I had a little experience with a similar problem on winter when the pipes froze and it was too cold to determine what I had to do make a permanent fix.

I opened the bathroom faucets enough to have a slow drip. By having the water moving through the pipe, it prevented freezing. I did this whenever the temperature was forecast to drop below 0C.

It might waste some water for a couple of months, but you'll be able to check everything out in the spring and make the correct fix.

 
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01-30-10, 09:08 AM   #3  
Hi Plumber red and welcome to the forum,
The process for protecting pipes from freezing is to insulate between the pipes and the cold and to NOT insulate between the pipes and the warm side. If there is no heat source, then you wrap the pipes, but that may not protect them, as ultimately the cold will get through.

Air sealing to prevent cold air from blowing onto the pipes is of high importance. And it is not just the wind. Warm air constantly escapes the upper regions of a home and must be replaced by cold air filtering in. Those soffits and fiberglass insulation are a bad combination for slowing/stopping air flow. Fiberglass does not prevent air flow.

From what I can see, things were certainly done wrong. Remember, I'm not there, so pick and choose what you think will work. That entire soffit area should be air sealed. The insulation above the pipes removed. It looks like the space up inside that soffit is all common, which means sealing and insulating directly where the pipes are will do little or no good. This appears to be a classic thermal bypass, see link below, and will save you a lot of energy, not to mention headaches when you get it fixed.

The link is a bit slow to open, but very good information on air sealing.

http://www.efficiencyvermont.com/ste...ide_062507.pdf

You may have to do a temporary fix to wait for better weather. Good luck.

Bud

 
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01-30-10, 12:54 PM   #4  
here is what i did



removed insulation above copper pipes, and removed all the rammed in pink and old stuff (clearly recycled) found out the dormer is open to itself, but not to the rest of the house.



using an isomeric sealant, put a thick vapour barrier on essentially sealing off the holes leading to the floor of the bathroom across the entire span of the dormer



installed R32 batt insulation in the holes left over



-----here is where i am currently at-----------



plan to put plywood over insulation (bottom of soffit)



plan to reinstall soffit



thoughts>?

 
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01-30-10, 01:25 PM   #5  
Sounds good, as long as there is no other leakage to that cavity. But even if there is, the sealing you have done should prevent most air movement. For air to move through a straw, it needs a hole at each end. Block one and nothing happens at the other.

The test will be tonight, but it has to be better.

Bud

 
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01-30-10, 02:41 PM   #6  
should io have wrapped the pipes in insulating foam first?

 
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01-30-10, 02:51 PM   #7  
If they are in a cavity that is open to a heated ceiling, that cavity should be warm and the pipes not covered. If it is a cold cavity, very cold, then they get wrapped and you hope they can conduct enough heat from where they are warm to hold off the cold.

Bud

 
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01-30-10, 03:50 PM   #8  
I don't know how compatible this idea is with what you have already done, and it may be a little too much work right now, but I would try getting some ridged foam up there for the high r-value per inch.

It's a bit hard to tell what is happening up there as far as framing, but I will try to explain my idea as best I can. That gap created by the floor joists sticking out and the rim joist where you can see the pipes, I would cover that first with the ridged foam. Looks like there is a gap above the rim joist and the roof deck. I would run a piece from the roof deck down to the bottom of the foam that was put in first. Then fill the rest in with your batt of choice.

Where the dormer ends, I would try to seal off that mini roof from the attic area to stop air flow between the two.

 
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01-31-10, 10:59 AM   #9  
here is what i figure they did

initially there were 3 windows on the back wall, most houses have them still

they put in the french patio doors. in doing so, they removed the the old windows to install a long I beam -- effectively removing the old upper wall (above the old windows)

this wall section is what would have isolated the floor joists in the bathroom from the outside. they then could have / should have put a new piece of wood over the floor joists and then insulated everything

however since they are COMPLETE DOUCHEBAGS they did not.

they installed the french patio door and buttoned everything up, throwing some old insulation up there. when they reno'd the upstairs bath years later the pipes probably looked fine, but on an exterior wall. little did they know the air coming thru from above the patio door would freeze the pipes.

so i figure come spring i will remove what i just did, put some wood i there between the floor joists and then sprayfom the entire area.

basically the ceiling in my living room and the floor in the bathroom (same area) was getting crazy cold and dfarty thanks to a ****tily (is that a word?) installed french patio door.

hmmmmmmmm may be calling a lawyer.

 
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