pipes frozen underground

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  #1  
Old 01-09-18, 02:17 PM
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pipes frozen underground

We've had an unusually long cold spell. It was below freezing for 8 days. Either my water supply line or somewhere at the road froze up saturday night. It's been above freezing since noon yesterday. Some of my PVC is only covered by 4" I suspect it's one of those areas that is froze up. Any idea of how long it will take to thaw out? Today was in the low 50s.
 
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Old 01-09-18, 03:00 PM
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In my experience, once the ground is cold it probably takes at least twice as long to thaw as it did to freeze. And I assume your overnight lows are still below freezing, so you're looking at 50/50 or something like that in any 24 hour period. Do you have snow cover? If so, and if your forecast is for warmer days, it might be worthwhile to scrape the snow off the line if you know where it is, but am thinking you might have too long a run for that to be practical. I've never had it done myself as our water line is down about 5', and never been there to see it done, but I know that they use a steam cleaner sometimes around here to thaw frozen lines.
 
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Old 01-09-18, 04:59 PM
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It surprises me that you would only have 4" covered. The frost must be lower than that.
I agree with AKA. The ground takes awhile to give up it's heat and freeze but once it does it rock hard and takes as long to thaw.
 
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Old 01-09-18, 05:17 PM
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Where I am in NC water lines must be at least 12". But that doesn't mean all are that deep the whole way. There are a lot of things that aren't done properly to code.

I had a couple supply lines freeze on my rental properties. The meters aren't far underground and they are only protected by a cast iron cap/hatch and without snow cover the cold gets to them surprisingly well. A turkey fryer or very large pot of water heater on a outdoor propane burner can heat a usable amount of water for thawing. It doesn't have to be boiling. 120-140f is enough to thaw out a meter and piping inside.

If you think the line in the ground is frozen do you have a good idea where the problem lies? If you are expecting temps below freezing at night anything you can do to insulate the area will help. Straw, old blankets, sheets of cardboard, carpet over the area at night can prevent the freezing from getting worse. Then remove the insulation before you go to work in the morning so the heat of the day and especially the sun can hit the area.
 
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Old 01-09-18, 05:29 PM
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I would suspect the pipe at the road is deeper than everywhere else so those shallow spots are more likely. If you know where they are covering at least those places at night would be good. The ground below is trying to warm the surface and losing that heat to the air. Covered and or insulated will help. Hay or straw bales are often used up here.

Bud
 
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Old 01-10-18, 03:13 AM
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Our frost line is at 12" and while most of my supply line is close to or deeper than that depth, there are several areas where it comes up the hill that blue slate made it next to impossible to bury the line. I've worked at building up the dirt/slate at those areas. Except for the blizzard of 93 it's worked well. What I did then was to cut the line in a few places and force the ice out but I've been fighting a cold for the last 4-5 days so that isn't really an option.

My son has a place at the bottom of the hill across the road and his water froze up 2 days before mine. We are convinced that freeze isn't under his house or meter but somewhere between the road and the meter. I don't know if he ever got water as he drives a truck and went back out.

It hasn't been below freezing since monday morning. The current temp is 40 degrees with 55 being the expected high for the day. It's not expected to get below freezing again until this weekend.
 
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Old 01-10-18, 03:47 AM
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Pedro asked about snow and at those temps I assume you have none. If you know exactly where those trouble spots are I would stretch out a length of heat tape (they have a safe style, self regulating) and cover it with some rigid insulation at night. Also covered with a tarp. Daytime warm weather will make progress and the insulation plus heat will continue through the night. My guess is, one night and you should be free.

Bud
 
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Old 01-10-18, 04:40 AM
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Insulation and heat tape and similar approaches all sound like a lot of effort, especially when one is not feeling well. I would just toss some wood on all the low spots, sprinkle with a little diesel or kerosene, wait for it to soak in, and then light all the piles.
 
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Old 01-10-18, 04:51 AM
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When we don't have a sufficient insulating snow cover, we arrange bales of hay above the known trouble spots to provide some insulation.

What's really bad is when we have a lot of snow in December followed by a "January Thaw" which melts all of the snow, and then we immediately go into -30F or -40 F to put our water lines inside a solid subterranean block of ice. There's little that can be done to protect against that.
 
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Old 01-10-18, 04:56 AM
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Anything that requires electricity isn't really an option, the closest pipe that could be frozen is at least a couple hundred feet from an outlet - longer if you route around the goat's area. Most of these areas are on a 45 degree or steeper angle. Hopefully today's temps will thaw it out! A hot shower would be nice!
 
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Old 01-10-18, 06:10 AM
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It doesn't help you now, but whenever you have bad cold snaps you'll need to get in the habit of leaving some water running to keep the water in the line moving so it doesn't freeze. If you are on a septic system you may consider some way to run water without putting it into your septic. No sense in having the load on the system if you don't need to.
 
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Old 01-10-18, 01:33 PM
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I leave a tap running whenever it gets into the single digits but the water pressure dropped. Saturday afternoon there was just a drizzle but shortly after dark we had decent water pressure for a short while - then nothing. It isn't uncommon for us to loose water pressure when they work on the lines elsewhere.

I did make it down to the meter a little while ago - it wasn't moving. I would have thought it being in the 60s most of the day I'd at least get a trickle up to. I know it doesn't help that the water line is on the north side of the hill.
 
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Old 01-11-18, 05:22 AM
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Hey Mark, I honestly do empathize with you. We've all been there, and no, turned out that none of it was as bad as it might have seemed at the time. In fact, being in the rearview mirror, it's not bad at all because when youngsters today have their issues like this d
we have the whereforall to tell them to relax, do what they can to resolve the situation, let time do the rest, and they'll be fine. But we reach an age where we look back at all the years of hard work and effort we put into things, and it's time for things to go our way. We don't want a lot, but hot water from the tap should be automatic. But take heart, because I'm thinking today is the day! It's already above 50 up here in MI, so you should be thawing pretty good in TN, and if we see that you're not online for a bit we'll know that you're standing under your hot shower!
 
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Old 01-11-18, 06:18 AM
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Mark, a thick layer of mulch over the areas where the pipe is shallow might help. It may be time to start thinking about re-routing the pipe to deeper soil. Hope it is thawed by now.
 
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Old 01-11-18, 06:59 AM
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Most of the areas that the pipe is shallow are too steep to do any hard digging although every fall I try to crawl along those areas and build them up with debris/slate. For some reason I didn't do it this year

Pedro, I hope you are right. It blows my mind that the pipe is still frozen. It only got down to 50 degrees last night and it's already 60. I woke up at 2:30am thinking I heard water running .... must have been a dream.
 
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Old 01-12-18, 04:15 AM
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It looks like the pipes have finally thawed. Yesterday afternoon a couple of leaks bubbled out of the ground 30' or so from the meter so I fixed that but when I turned the water back on the meter stopped with nothing at the house. An hour later the meter started spinning again and I found another break, cut the pipe and about 2' of ice slid out. After that was fixed another leak became apparent just below where the line crosses my road but by then it was almost dark so I quit .... back after it this morning. Hope this rain doesn't make my cold worse!
 
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Old 01-12-18, 05:57 AM
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Glad you're making some headway Mark. Wondered how many ruptures you might have, but knew there wasn't much you could do about that until you had some flow. You said pipe, but I assume black plastic? No fun either way, but at least it's a bit easier to contend with. We're back in winter up here. Slid my lunch bag, thermos, and coffee cup in the truck at about 7:00 this morning, it was drizzling a little bit and the windshield was wet. Walked down to the shop for maybe 10-15 minutes, walked back to the truck in sleet, and the windshield was already iced over. Then it turned to snow and is coming down at a real decent rate. Supposed to drop back to around 10 tonight and lower tomorrow night, so glad I'm not dealing with what you are, but still keeping my fingers crossed for you.
 
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Old 01-12-18, 09:30 AM
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We have water

I went to Lowes this morning and bought 30' of pipe and a bag of fittings ...... and all I needed was 2' of that pipe and 2 fittings I already had. Best I can tell that was the last break. I had kind of forgot but on the other side of the road my water line runs up the rock at about an 80 degree angle. Since that pipe can't be buried I built a ladder which I pinned to the rock with rebar and then filled in between the 'rungs' with dirt/slate with brush somewhat piled over it. That section didn't bust nor a 40' or so section above it that isn't buried over 4" Maybe when the water pressure went away the pipes drained back down to below my driveway - that is where the damage was.

Wonder how long it will take the water heater to get hot ..... but I can handle the wait now that I have water!
 
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Old 01-12-18, 11:26 AM
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How long is your water line run?

Part of me was thinking PEX for the line would be very resistant to damage from freezing. Putting the PEX inside a larger diameter black poly water pipe would protect it from punctures. Unfortunately the outer sleeve could make finding leaks pretty difficult.
 
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Old 01-12-18, 12:33 PM
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I don't know for sure but would guess between 400' and 500'

Not sure I mentioned earlier but it's all 3/4" PVC. When I bought the place 90% of the water line was above ground I thought I had an agreement with the seller that he'd cut/drain the line when he moved out.[he didn't] When I moved in 10 months later I had all kinds of ruptures to fix and bury the line. I then spent the next 5 yrs or so repairing failed joints because it was too cold when I made those repairs. With the exception of a break deep in the ground [easier to bypass than find] 3yrs ago it's been pretty much trouble free for the last 20 yrs or so.
 
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Old 01-12-18, 01:00 PM
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You did mention pvc, but I did not envision it making the entire run up to your house so assumed that it was confined to specific sections like at one end and/or the other. Now all you have to do is hope they maintain pressure to you.
 
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Old 01-12-18, 01:21 PM
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Now all you have to do is hope they maintain pressure to you.
Fat chance of that happening. I've lived here for 26 yrs and could probably count on one hand the number of months that I didn't lose all water pressure for a half hour or longer. If I have 25 psi at the house, I'm happy. Lived here several yrs before I found out that folks on city water have a pressure reducer valve .... but I don't.
 
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Old 01-13-18, 03:21 AM
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and the saga continues

Woke up at 2:30 this morning hearing the water heater make funny noises, got up and checked - no water Drove down to the meter and it wasn't spinning but being gun shy I shut it off anyway. We did have a bad storm last night, lot of rain and wind. When daylight comes I'll turn the water back on and see what happens.

On the bright side, I think I'm on the tail end of this aggravating cold. Despite getting soaked working in the rain yesterday my fever didn't return. Still have a good bit of congestion but having had an on/off fever all week it almost feels like a cure!


Must have just been a drop in water pressure. Turned the meter back on and everything is working normally
 

Last edited by marksr; 01-13-18 at 05:21 AM.
  #24  
Old 01-17-18, 09:33 AM
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Woke up at 2:30 this morning hearing the water heater make funny noises, got up and checked - no water

I've kinda been stewing over this for days. Can anyone explain why a water heater would make noise just because the supply is cut off? Especially in the middle of the night when the occupants wouldn't have been opening fixtures allowing air into the pipes?
 
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Old 01-17-18, 01:22 PM
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My house is on top of a hill. Our water supply often looses pressure and sometimes the water will flow back down the hill. Going by what pipes froze, there was only water going up 1/3rd of the way to the top. I have a back flow preventer on the supply line below my water heater but apparently a little water was trying to go past it. The water heater didn't make a lot of noise, just enough to make we wonder and get up and check it out. The water heater quit making noise once I shut off the breaker.
 
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