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Mary
Frozen Pipes - The Previous Owners Interesting "Fix"

Some background:

  • House built in 1949
  • Purchased September of this year.
  • Addition with Powder Room built around 1989 (Pittsburgh, PA where we get some cold winters)
  • No basement under the addition and no access.
  • No duct work in the powder room or hallway, so it is cooler than the rest of the house. However, since the pipe is under the floor and there is limited insulation from what we can tell under the addition, it is VERY cold under there.

When I lifted the carpet last month to see what subfloor we would be working with to either tile or put down something OTHER than carpet, I discovered that the previous owner had cut into the flooring around the toilet in a strange oblong shape. Once I removed the puzzle piece of wood, there were a bunch of wires/extension cord with adapter/ heat tape wrapped around the supply line to the toilet. I found out from the neighbor that the pipe had frozen once and possibly burst (though I haven't confirmed the bursting part). Heat tape is certainly not a permanent solution. We will also need to reinforce the floor there so that the toilet is actually properly supported. Additionally, I believe we will want access to these pipes. 

A few days ago, the supply line froze (since the heat tape nightmare of cords was not plugged into anything). So...I plugged it in using what I deemed to be a slightly safer extension cord and the pipes thawed. It is not normal having a giant extension cord coming out of your floor and being plugged into a wall outlet by the sink (at least it's GFCI...I guess)

Here are some thoughts:

1. Rerouting the pipes-I'm not sure where though. The toilet is on the back wall (back of the house). To the left is the side of the house, to the right is a wall/closet and then the family room (which is part of the addition). 

2. Keep the heat tape but have an electrician install an outlet somewhere else so that it doesn't need an extension cord? I still don't like the idea of not being able to monitor this since it's UNDER the floor with no basement underneath.

3. This is just a thought and I don't know if it would work--have a wall heating unit added to the room (perhaps recessed if possible). Use it in the winter. Add a vent in the floor prior to tiling so that the heat gets to the pipe. I don't know if this would be enough.

 

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HandyAndyInMtAiry
Re: Frozen Pipes - The Previous Owners Interesting "Fix"

Mary,

That looks awful. And dangerous. Not only from an electrical standpoint, but a sitting on the toilet standpoint. That is not nearly enough structure to support it filled with water. And the use of partical board in a wet location. That junk disolves when it gets wet. So you are certain to be in the crawl space soon.

Is there a foundation vent some where that is feeding air into this area? If so, it has to be closed during the winter. If not, there is supposed to be one, maybe two depending on the size of the area. Unfilled concrete blocks have little to no resistance value. Concrete filled blocks or solid concrete walls would have been fine, but I am sure that someone was trying to save a dime. Now it is going to cost way more to fix this issue.

No, you cannot force heated air under the floor, it will cause it to rain in the crawlspace. Heat mixing with cold air, and there is no fresh air intake under there. I see bat insulation, that sould be more than enough as long as there is a vapor barrier on the dirt side. There is always a way in to a place like this. Most likely from under the house. A good contractor would have left a small door or opening.

I would never use heat tape, and even more so when it is that close to paper. Remove that junky thing immediatley before it causes a fire. Normal pipe insulation, not the junk you get at the box stores, but from a plumbing supply house will be great.

Do you have cold floors under the other room that was recenly added? If not, you have a hole some where that is allowing cold air to come in under that bathroom. You will just have to look around the foundation. Crawl under the house until you see that new wall. Break a hole in it to look thru. Once you do that, you will see the issue(s). You may want to use some 4 inch thick insulation board to put up around the walls inside the new area. Also, use a water proof paint mixture on the outside of the new foundation. That will help with the air that is coming thru the concrete blocks. I also bet they did not insulate around the rim joists. That will let cold air come in. You will know a lot more once you crawl under there and look into the new area.

Andrew

Handy Andy In Mt Airy NC

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