Adventures in Home Ownership: Burst Pipes

I've mentioned before that the pipes in our house have tended to freeze. Over the last two years, they've frozen two or three times a season, and we've crossed our fingers and hoped no pipes burst. It has never taken too long to thaw the pipes, though, and we had stopped stressing over them freezing. Until now.

A couple weeks ago was the first really windy, cold day of the year. Some, not all, of the pipes in the house froze, and we didn't  think much of it. We left the faucets dripping, the heat tape on, and went to bed. At about 4:30am, Casey starts crying. It's not uncommon that he cries in the middle of the night outside our door to be let out- there are probably more nights I get up with him than don't- but this cry was different. Rather than a "If you happen to be awake, please, let me out, if you have time" hesitant sort of cry, this one was insistent, more of a "Seriously, get out here, now, I think you should see this!" sort. Needless to say, I got up quicker than I usually do, threw on my robe, and went to let Casey out. Except, I heard rushing water. At first, I figured Josh had left a faucet open to thaw and he left it on full blast. I went to look for the faucet, and discovered that the water wasn't rushing out of the sink faucet, like I expected, it was rushing out of a hole in the wall! Um.

I threw Casey out the door, and blearily went to the fuse box to switch off the water pump (we're on a well, and that's the easiest way to turn off our water). I yelled to Josh from across the house. Conveniently, the linen closet was located in the same bathroom as the burst pipe, so I just started throwing every towel we owned on the floor to contain and absorb the water. Also conveniently, once towels were totally saturated & dripping wet, I could throw them on the floor of the shower without worrying that it would damage anything.

Josh got up and saw what was happening, and quickly went to the fuse box to switch off the water. "I already did!" I said, as the water continued to pour from the wall. He apparently was more awake than I was, and managed to actually switch off the water. I had switched off the other label that ended in 'ATER'... the HEATER. Oops.

I spent the next half-hour getting the floor as dry as I could. Thanks to our superhero dog, we got to the burst pipe quickly enough that the floor under the linoleum wasn't damaged, and the water didn't overflow out of the bathroom onto our (much harder to replace) wood floor. Josh got on the phone with our home insurance, in case the damage was worse than we thought. He stayed home waiting for a plumber, who put an even bigger hole in the wall, but fixed the broken pipe.

With the bigger hole in the wall, we could see a little bit more of the pipes- and discover why our pipes are freezing. Here's what Josh found out: The outside of our house is vinyl siding. Behind that, there might be wood siding? I don't know. Behind that? A solid brick wall. Behind that? Pipes. No insulation at all. Just pipes. So, on cold windy days, the air comes through the wall and freezes our pipes. While we had the hole in the wall (with cold air pouring through it), Josh went & bought a roll of insulation, and stuffed it as far into the wall as he could, between the wall and the pipes. We'll see how that works.

Casey? I think he might be related to Lassie. Casey saves the day!

The hole the water was pouring out of:

The pile of towels and anything remotely absorbent I managed to throw on the floor to sop up the water:

After the plumber and insulation:

Right now, this is how our bathroom looks. For about $10, Josh just picked up wood to fix the hole, and hopefully put in an access panel, so, next time (hoping there isn't a next time!) we can open the panel rather than bashing in the wall. And, no, there's no crawlspace under this area of the house.

Adventures never cease!


David Swindle said...

Great post Joanna! Glad you guys didn't suffer too much damage and Casey was helpful. Now if only Maura could prove her worth in a similar fashion...

April said...

I really love this post Joanna! I'm glad you were able to act fast and effective in this situation and way to go Casey!

Stacy said...

Holy cow! That is crazy! Thank goodness your pup was on top of things! Our chihuahua did something like that once - a candle we had burning caught fire (well the cloth ribbon around the rim did) and there were flames shooting up from the candle - our little Lola was barking up a storm in the livingroom letting us know the issue! I think we were in the bathroom or the office or somewhere not watching the candle of course. Gotta love our pups!

No insulation?! That is awful - I sense a long restoration project might be in the works for your home here eventually! Brr!

Karen Sue said...

When we re-did our kitchen in my last house, the sink was moved to be under the window. But under the window, the pipe came right by one of the few basement windows. Foam Pipe insulation and some insulation off a roll fixed the problem, but not until we'd thawed it several times under the sink with a hair dryer before figuring out the problem was lower.

Matt said...

I'm going to e-mail you guys a business card for FoamXperts. I recommend using a retro-fit foam insulation in all of the exterior sidewalls of your house. It is easier to install and cheaper than blowing them with cellulose. It has the advantages of a better R value and it never settles like fiberglass or cellulose so your entire wall is always insulated. Best of all, uncle Sam lets you write some of it off on your taxes since it is an energy conservation upgrade.

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