Frozen bath water supply piping (C) Daniel FriedmanWinterizing Guide: How to Find & Fix the Spots where Pipes are Likely to Freeze
High-risk freeze points for water piping, drain piping, heating system piping

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How to freezeproof a building: where pipes freeze.

This article discusses the details of winterizing a building to prevent freezing pipes, focusing on how to find and fix cold spots that lead to frozen pipes in a building. Our page top photo illustrates a common point at which water supply piping is at extra risk of freezing - in a hard-to-access, poorly-insulated corner of a building.

The articles at this website will answer most questions about freeze protection for piping and other building plumbing and heating system components: how to winterize a building to avoid frozen pipes, and how to thaw frozen water supply & dr ain piping, wells, & water tanks.

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Guide to Finding and Correcting Freeze-Up Risk Points in buildings

Locations where pipes freeze (C) Daniel FriedmanYou can do a lot to correct a freezing pipe problem in a building that is exposed to cold weather. Even in an occupied building pipes can freeze in some conditions. Here are some examples of places to look for freezing trouble and what to do about them:

What are the most common places where water pipes, drain pipes, or heating pipes freeze?

Our photo at left, a close-up of the page top photo, shows one way that pipes burst from freezing: ice forming at a specific location in the copper pipe expanded causing a round bulge that ultimately splits.

Common locations where heating tapes are used on plumbing to prevent freezing pipes include these high risk freeze spots for water supply piping, water drain piping, and in some circumstances even the hot water heating piping, baseboards, or radiators in a building:

Some older or less costly models of heating tapes present a fire risk, particularly if the heating tape is crossed over itself. Be sure to read the product specifications, safety warnings, and installation guide before installing a heating tape on building piping of any kind.

Check the routing of both hot and cold water supply pipes to identify spots where freezeproofing is needed

Frozen pipe burst pattern closeup (C) Daniel Friedman

Water pipes (both supply & drain) & hot water heating pipes or steam heat condensate pipes or building drains routed through un-heated areas or passing by areas exposed to cold drafts.

Check piping that runs along or near the building sills or building perimeter in basements, crawl spaces, attics.

Check water supply piping and horizontal drain lines and fixture traps in cold areas where building heat does not easily enter, such as the pipe chase at left.

Often you can simply cut an opening to let warm air enter such spots - a technique that we illustrate later in this article.

Our photo (above left) provides a closeup showing one of several patterns in which a copper water pipe will swell and burst due to freezing. Details about the different patterns in which pipes freeze and burst are

Re-routed water supply pipes were a necessary freezeproofing step in this home (C) Daniel Friedman Heating baseboard freeze damage repaired (C) Daniel Friedman

Plumbing fixtures in un-heated areas such as a bathroom or kitchen sink in a room that does not have its own heat source; in kitchens and bathrooms we may leave open vanity cabinet doors to permit warmer building air to reach pipes in those areas.

Freeze-protect outdoor faucets to avoid a building flood

Burst pipe & building flooding due to an outdoor faucet left on in winter (C) Daniel Friedman

Plumbing faucets outdoors: traditional simple hose bibs or outdoor faucets can easily freeze where they pass through the building wall if the faucet is not shut off and drained; longer-stem frost-proof outdoor faucets are available and are used in new construction in most jurisdictions. Sketch at left showing the two types of outdoor water faucets is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.

These newer faucets make sure that the actual valve that turns off water flow is well inside the (supposedly heated) space.

Our photo (left) shows what we found on arriving at an unoccupied New York home shortly after freezing conditions had abated. Water was spewing out of the building wall just above the foundation. The owner/occupant had forgotten to turn off water to the outside hose hook-up, leaving that line full of water. The water line just inside the foundation froze and burst.

If your outdoor faucet is the older type that is not frost-proof, you should be able to turn off water to that faucet and open a small screw fitting on the faucet body side to assist in draining that device when draining the building piping.

Even in a building where heat and water are being left on for the winter we make sure to find and use (or install if needed) the valve to turn off water to each outdoor faucet. Then we open the faucet to let it drain, leaving it open (and making sure it's not dripping from an indoor shutoff valve that is not working well).

Never leave a garden hose attached to your outdoor faucet in winter as water in the hose may add to the risk that the faucet will be freeze damaged.

See details about outdoor faucets, hose bibbs, sillcocks at FAUCETS, OUTDOOR HOSE BIBBS.


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