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The Critical Eye!

Michael Leavitt’s professional inspection related blog.

FROZEN PIPES - The Deep Freeze Is On!!!

FROZEN PIPES - The Deep Freeze Is On!!!

It was 3 degrees outside when my son Aaron came into my home office this morning and said, “Hey Dad, when I turn the shower water on, nothing happens.” There are few things that bring more fear to my soul than the thought of frozen pipes.

“How could I have been so stupid?” I told myself again. Why is it that I did not give any thought to protecting myself this year from pipe freeze ups? It was a few years back when our laundry room froze up and as I got the water to flow again I realized there was a ruptured pipe and we had major flooding until I could dig out the water meter shut off cover and get the water shut off at the meter. Few things are worse than winter time flooding. Everything is freezing cold and the conditions are absolutely the worst when it comes to making the needed repairs. That is when I learned about Shark Bite fittings that require no soldering. I hope that inventor made a million bucks, because his product was truly a life saver for me that night.

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So what should you do right now?...

  • 1) Check outside to ensure that your garden hoses are removed from the hose bibs.
  • 2) Count how many hose bibs you have.
  • 3) head to the hardware store and invest $1.99 per hose bib for an insulated cover.
  • 4) Go to the farthest away indoor faucet and turn it on to create as slow of a drip as possible.
  • 5) Identify any indoor plumbing fixtures that have piping running on exterior walls (Kitchen sink)
  • 6) Leave cabinet doors open to allow room air to circulate around the exterior wall piping.
  • 7) Make sure that your basement temperatures are warm enough to prevent freezing. Since the thermostat is usually on the main floor, then basements without good air circulation may get way too cold.
  • 8) make sure that the cover to your interior water main shut off is left open to allow warmer air to prevent freezing.
  • 9) If you have a crawlspace, then you may need to insulate exposed pipes and/or add electric heat strip tape wraps to prevent freeze-ups.
  • 10) Hopefully you remembered to shut off, and disconnect your swamp cooler water supply piping.

THAWING OUT THE FROZEN PIPES

So what did I have to do this time to thaw out my pipes? I figured my freeze was near the front porch hose bib because it taps directly off the water main shortly after it enters the main home foundation. My garden hose was disconnected... Kudos to me, I did something right! I opened up the main floor bathtub water valve so that I would know when I got the freeze un-thawed. I decided it best to take the kids to school and I stopped at Ace Hardware to buy an insulated hose bib cover. Wouldn’t you know it, they only had one in stock. I needed two, and so I will still have to stop by the big orange box later today to get the second one. I then returned home with a fresh disposition to get the water flowing again.

I grabbed a blow dryer and headed back out into the slowly warming 5 degree weather and immediately started to heat up my front hose bib with hot air. I did my best to blow air through the gap in the brick, all the time knowing that this anti-freeze hose bib is about 14” long and the actual valve sits at least 10” back into the wall cavity. Why they call them anti-freeze hose bibs is beyond my understanding since they all seem to fail about once every ten years. I guess calling them “Once every ten year ruptured hose bibs” would not be a very good marketing approach. So after warming up the hose bib I installed the cover you see in the image above. But unfortunately for me there was still no water flow...

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Next I figured I would have to clean out all of the under stair storage and try to warm the pipes there, but as I entered my front door I remembered the access cover that I installed right in the entryway when I had to solder in a new hose bib. Duh!... I got an extension cord and after removing the cover door I took the blow dryer and directed it toward the “T” for the hose bib. Within 10 seconds you heard a whoosh sound at the “T” and then I could hear air and water starting to spurt at the bathtub where I left the valve open. And with great relief I was able to confirm that no pipes had ruptured. Did I mention how relieved I was?... Yes, it was with great relief that I grabbed my camera, took a few photos, and decided to write this warning to help prevent you having to endure the stress that I just experienced.

So if you are reading this, and your outside thermometer reads below 32 degrees right now, then please follow my advice above. And in case you are wondering, the decorative cover for the hose bib wall cavity in my main entry will be left unscrewed and open so that I can make it through the rest of this winter without having to hear, “Hey Dad, when I turn the shower water on...”

Make it a great day! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah - www.TheHomeInspector.com - Michael Leavitt & Co Inspections, Inc.

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