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  • Frozen Copper Pipe

    We had a temp of 0 (F) last night and the 1/2 inch hot water supply to the second floor bath seems to have frozen. The pipe runs up an exterior wall, adjacent bay has the 3/4 inch cold which did not freeze.

    What are my chances that the 1/2 inch pipe didn't split? I really don't want to open the wall. Should I open the wall anyway to properly insulate the pipe?

  • #2
    Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

    you'll know when the pipe thaws and the water flows

    when i purposely free pipe to isolate lines for repairs, the pipe section will freeze, but it doesn't split.

    if it's a very small area that froze, chances are there was still room for expansion to take place. better chance that you will have a leak

    when you do open that wall, not only insulate the pipe, but can you install a heat tape that will keep the pipe warm?

    another trick when it's real cold is to keep some water running in the problem area.

    rick.
    phoebe it is

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    • #3
      Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

      Thanks Rick. After more investigating it is a 3/4 in pipe side by side with the cold in a wall shared with the attached garage. Good thing - it will be better to open the garage wall rather than the kitchen (3yrs old) wall.
      Bad thing if the leak happens to be in the kitchen ceiling.

      Are the heat tapes thermostatically controlled? I can run the power from the laundry room underneath or from the garage if needed.

      Its been this cold before but never had any problems.

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      • #4
        Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

        their might be some heat tapes that run off a thermostat, but a lot of them just get plugged in when it gets cold out. Your best bet and most permanent solution would be to actually move those waterlines to an interior wall. Failing that, when you cut open the wall see if their are spaces around where the pipes penetrate the floor and seal those to stop the drafts.
        No, it's not rocket science, it's plumbing and unlike rocket science it requires a license.

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        • #5
          Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

          Found the problem. Pipes run for about 2 feet in a ceiling bay (over heated space) and the end was never closed off/insulated leaving the bay open to an unheated space over garage. Ran a hair dryer for 20 min but am heating the entire 20+ feet of the bay. Insulated the end of the bay, hoping the house heat will do the trick eventually. One more trip into the crawl space over the garage later to check for leaks. Nasty up there.

          Plus side of all this is that I now know the location (and have marked) all the water shut-offs in the house.

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          • #6
            Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

            Most heat tapes have a built in temp sensor that has to be in contact wth the pipe. I think it's actually a high temp cut out. Otherwise it will just stay on all the time. Years ago I saw a piece of 2" ABS drain from under a trailer with a spiral groove melted in it by a heat tape. It's important to install them properly but its better to avoid them since they fail without warning and then you find out when your pipes freeze again.

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            • #7
              Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

              The cheap heat tapes have a thermostat. The more expensive ones, like Frostex, ARE a thermostat. The temperature regulates the resistance between the wires. The cheap ones are often good for one season. In theory, the good ones are permanent.

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              • #8
                Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

                thanks Herk, I didn't know that, I have never actually used the stuff. I usually just rip it out and rethink the positioning of pipes when I happen across it. Then, it also doesn't get THAT cold here. single digits at midday is the coldest i've dealt with in my short time in this area, I spent my formative plumbing years working on and Island in North Carolina.
                No, it's not rocket science, it's plumbing and unlike rocket science it requires a license.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

                  Insulated the ends of the bays with fiberglass, pushed fiberglass in with a broom as I no longer fit in small spaces. Pipes thawed Sun at around noon and so far no leaks.

                  Anyone know of a product I could spray in through the ceiling below? Good to know if this happens again. I would think that an expanding foam may pop the ceiling off the joists.

                  Thanks for the heat tape info. If I have to remove the ceiling I'll try that.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

                    One thing to keep in mind is to insulate from the COLD but do not insulate from the HEAT. It does no good to wrap a pipe that has no heat source. The insulation should always be between the pipe and the cold. It's like insulating a water line in an unheated room - it may take a little longer to freeze, but with no heat source, it will freeze.

                    Newer heat tape like Frostex has a braided grounding jacket on it. You buy the necessary footage and an end kit - a dead-end cap for one end and a plug end for the other. It's a bit pricey - ~ $2.69 per foot.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

                      I may have to read the instuctions again, actually the warning label but I don't think you are suposed to install heat tape in a house. Sorry I'm to lazy to go down to my garbage and dig out the last set of heat tape instructions I had, so I could be wrong.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

                        We used the second bath while waiting for the pipes to thaw, a bath used mostly by our teenage sons. The spigot for the tub can be pulled away from the tile about a 1/2 inch. Can I attach this with silicone/caulk to the tile or is it better to attach the pipe to a support inside the wall? I can access the pipes through a closet wall.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Frozen Copper Pipe

                          Originally posted by tchads View Post
                          better to attach the pipe to a support inside the wall? I can access the pipes through a closet wall.
                          This!
                          No, it's not rocket science, it's plumbing and unlike rocket science it requires a license.

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