burst pipe


Old 01-05-14, 04:00 PM
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Question burst pipe

Thanks to the recent cold snap (down to 0), a problematic pipe which occasionally froze eventually burst. I'd tried various things to make things better over the years, but it was not good enough.

The pipe is in an outside wall, in a corner without heaters nearby. It's not entirely clear to me why it gets so cold in this particular wall, although it seems worse that other areas. The only thing I can think of is that there is a vent pipe in there, and that pipe has got to be bringing cold from the outside. Are these pipes ever insulated?

At this point, I'm going to need to open up the (tiled) wall, so I'll finally be able to see what's going on in there, but I'm curious as to what can be done given how cold that area gets.

Any thoughts / advice?
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Old 01-05-14, 04:12 PM
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The only thing I ever learned was to insulate the outside, but leave the other exposed to the warmer inside. Even if you need to put a hole or vent of some sort.

Might it be easier to work from the outside?
Old 01-06-14, 05:12 AM
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If the interior is tiled it may be easy to access the pipe from the outside if your house is sided.

If a room or part of a room is a dead end it can be cold as there is nothing to distribute heat to the dead end part of the room. Also things in the room can block air flow. One of my tenants, a hoarder, constantly freezes pipes as stuff is piled against the walls, insulating them from the heat of the room.
Old 01-06-14, 05:21 AM
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Plumbing in outside walls is not even allowed here, and I'm a lot further south then you.
Anyway to reroute it?
I'd at least consider using Pex not copper and using blue foam insulation.
Old 01-06-14, 05:28 AM
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Corners are always cold, part because the insulation was poor or missing and part because of the exterior exposure to the cold. But air leakage is what really brings in the cold.

Where is this pipe coming from and going to? Is there a basement or attic or drop ceiling? Hole drilled for the pipes are often paths for that cold air, especially is there is a cold crawl space below. Even the rim around a basement will be extremely cold if not sealed to the foundation.

Old 01-09-14, 05:53 PM
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Thanks all for the thoughts and suggestions.

To answer some of the questions and give an update:
  • Hard to access from outside as well, siding is stucco..
  • There is a nearby small roof that above a door from the floor below. I opened the underside of that roof a few years ago and stuffed it with fiberglass insulation, and added a pipe heater tape as well as pipe insulation wherever I could.
  • Plumber who came in blamed air leakage from the small roof. I now know that fiberglass won't stop air leakages. However, I'm not convinced that is the whole story here. Some of the pipes in that area didn't freeze, but that may be due to the extra insulation and/or the heater tape.
  • Going across from the roof, you'll find the clothes dryer vent.. That comes halfway through the house (in between floors), and I imagine that brings in a lot of cold in the winter. May well make things worse, and/or contribute to air leakage. The hallway floor in that area is always surprisingly cold.
  • I'm still fairly convinced that the vent pipe also makes things worse. I've another bathroom in a different location with a similar setup, and the shower head will occasionally freeze as well. It's not nearly as bad as where things burst, but there is also a vent pipe there, but nothing to make me believe there is air leakage.

I had the plumber cut & cap the pipes, as I don't need the water to work there for now. Gives me more time to figure out what to do.
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