Hot Topics: What to do in Winter with a Water Main Above the Garage?

old water pipes in ceiling

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While for most of us the idea of having our water mains installed over our garage seems like an unlikely occurrence, for some homeowners it is an unfortunate reality. Even with the best insulation, it can be nerve-wracking to envision a pipe bursting and leaving all the belongings in our garage destroyed.

Luckily, this is a problem with an attainable solution—in fact, this problem has a few different solutions. See what suggestions are coming forward in the forum before you decide what to do about your situation.

Original Post: Water Main Coming in through Garage, in Cold MN

I just bought this home, and the water main comes in from the well just inside the garage and then goes up and over both car stalls—the last thing you want is a pipe to freeze, burst, and destroy two cars.

The pipe has heat tape applied and is insulated; the garage also has a heater, so it's covered. When I talked to the previous homeowners, they said they always left the heater on at 45 degrees and recommended I do the same. Is that overkill? Do I really need the heater, or is the heat tape and insulation enough? I hate to run the thing all winter, but I suppose I'd hate to have ruined cars more. Advice? Thoughts?


P.S. This is a custom-built home, but any clues as to what insane reason they would have had to not run the main underground to the inside of the house?

Highlights from the Thread

Wirepuller38 Member

Follow the previous owner's recommendations for this winter. When the weather is suitable this summer, have the pipe re-routed to eliminate your problem.

Pulpo Member

There is no reason not to follow the previous owner's recommendation. If you really want to "cheap out," park the cars outside or install a high water alarm. That's an alarm that stays on the floor. If water hits it, you'll know it.

Pilot Dane Group Moderator

I don't see how a burst pipe will ruin your cars. If the pipe bursts, they may get wet, but I don't know of any cars that will be ruined by getting wet. So, at the worst you'd have to repair or replace the pipe, and it sounds like yours are exposed and easy to access.

I'd use the garage and park the cars inside. I would keep the insulation and heat tape on the pipe, but I'm on the fence about whether to run the heat. It certainly would be nice to get into a 45 degree Fahrenheit car instead of 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heat would melt off the accumulated snow and ice. If the pipe bursts, I would replace all the pipes in the garage with PEX, as it can withstand freezing without harm.

Zorfdt Forum Topic Moderator

I understand everyone's comments, but I agree with Pilot Dane. A frozen/burst pipe might make a mess, but the garage should be sloped to get the water out and the cars should be fine—assuming you don't have a convertible in MN.

A properly heat-taped and insulated pipe should be good enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Coupled with an attached garage, it will usually stay warmer than the outside, so you should be fine.

I'd also hesitate about keeping the garage at 45 degrees Fahrenheit; it's likely not well insulated, and you'll be spending a lot of money on the heating.

To read more helpful suggestions, check out the forum post.