Pipes in basement that freeze in winter

Old 04-14-05, 07:18 PM
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Question Pipes in basement that freeze in winter

I have 2 areas of plumbing in my finished basement that freeze in extremely cold weather. This winter one of them actually burst - which is why I really want to do something about this.

The plumbing in one area is in a fully enclosed alcove that is triagular in shape. The 2 inner walls face into my basement and are drywalled with insulation behind the drywall (one wall is also tiled as it is in a bathroom). The 3rd wall is an uninsulated exterior double brick wall. The pipes run through the basement ceiling into the alcove and then shoot up along the exterior wall to feed a 1st floor powder room.

I know an ideal solution would be to move the pipes in and away from the wall. But there are 2 problems with this - getting access to the pipes (would require knocking out one of my interior walls) and the place where they exit into the 1st floor (pushing them back from the wall would have the pipes come up in the access path to the powder room and would not be able to feed the pedital sink against the wall).

One thing that would be relatively easy to do would be to tap into my existing forced air duct work in the basement and create an extention that feeds into this alcove. The alcove would still be fully enclosed but would now have heat blown into it. NOTE: I still think the vent into the alcove would be a few feet from the pipes against the wall.

My questions/worries with this approach are: 1) will the heating cause condensation and humidity - and ultimately become a mold trap (I keep the furnace humidifier on high in the winter)? Also, will this little amount of heat in an area that is not insulated from the "cold wall" actually do anything?

If you are wondering why this alcove exists it is an old, old house that used to have a side entrance that was sealed up after a house was build right beside it. And some previous owner added in the 1st floor power room and needed to get pipes up to it.

The second problem area is close to where the water main comes into the house. The pluming once again runs up and along an outer wall that is not insulated. Then my basement's interior walls and ceiling futher insulate the pumbing from the heat in the basement. In this case I thing we can move the pipes about 4 inches off the wall. Do you think this is good enough? I can maybe fit some insulation in a small strip just between the pipes and the wall (but will this help?). I could also create some grated openings in the walls near the ceiling in between each joist to allow the warnmer basement air to reach the pipes - but I would perfer not to as this would also allow all the cold into the room and would look a bit ugly (but my first priority is to prevent another rupture).

Do you have any ideas or comments on these 2 problem areas and/or what I am thinking I could do to fix them?

Also, does it make sense to insulate the pipes themselves? I am leary that this would just further insulate them from heat sources. When does it make sense to insulate pipes (other than to insulate your interior hot water pipes off the tank to help them hold the heat)?

Thanks so much!!!
Old 04-17-05, 08:44 AM
notuboo's Avatar
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Use heat tape then insulate the pipes you can get at.

You could try just placing vents in the wall area where the pipes are currently covered by the wall. A vent placed low and a vent placed towards the ceiling would allow a certain amount of free air movement. The area doesn't need to be heated to 70 degrees, just 33.

Hope this helps and good luck.
Old 04-17-05, 09:06 AM
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Might look into the chromalox.com they have many heat wires for this thermwire wrap, safe-T-wrap. Dont know just how the water pipes are in the basement there . But think this way. like with a hot water heater the cold water pipe get hot water in it cause the hot water goes up and the cold comes down. Now if you put heater tape on the pipes in the basement. The warm water that they make should go up in the wall and the cold water come back down all the time the water is not on
The second problem area is close to where the water main comes into the house. The pluming once again runs up and along an outer wall that is not insulated.
Id also put a heater wrap on this also.
also check out Raychem they have heating cable good for plastic and metal pipe. Dont need a thermostaton it .


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