Pipes Bursting all over the Place :( HALPP

13 Replies

So I have several older apartments and with the weather getting really cold, I've been getting some pipes bursting. None of the basements are well insulated and have no central heating.

What do you guys to do keep these places from bursting beyond just placing a couple space heaters here and there?

Are they old, galvanized steel pipes?

yes and no I have some copper as well. Insulating was an option but there's so much pipe to insulate. plus my tenants use the laundry in the basement so I figured it was just easier to heat the air.

There are those foam insulation sleeves you can put on the pipes. If you have the furnace in the basement it throws off some heat and you need to seal openings to the outside. Rock wool insulation I have put this in problematic single pane basement windows I am not ready to replace. Foam board insulation around permiters walls can be done.

@David Zheng

I know this is not helpful to you now but...  This is exactly why we replace everything with PEX. Its so stinking freeze proof its not funny.  

My personal bathroom sink pipes froze up 5 or 6 times last winter due to having no insulation right behind the vanity (something i need to fix)  Never once did the pipes leak.   The stuff is awesome. 

Just something to consider as you keep buying/rehabbing properties. 

Might lso want to consider insulating the walls of the basement??

@David Zheng they have pipe wrap heaters that are used commonly under trailers to keep pipes from freezing. They only turn on when the temperature drops to freezing levels and plug into a standard outlet. I used them in an older building and it worked great. I put some insulation over the wrap. Just search Amazon or Home Depot for pipe heating cable.

I had a pipe freeze in a basement because a tenant left the back door open in sub-freezing weather. It was just tenant negligence. The space was heated, but cold air goes to the ground, which is where the water pipe was.

Another thing to keep in mind is that PEX pipe is less likely to burst when it freezes, since it is plastic. If you are replacing older pipe ever, PEX is a good way to go.

One of my older places is exposed to the wind and prone to freezing under crawlspace.  It is all pex now, but I use the Easy Heat Freeze-Free cable over it.  That stuff is outstanding, can be cut to length(comes in rolls), wrapped over itself, is self-regulating (doesn't heat up unless it's cold) and generally fire-safe based on the way it works.  Highly recommend it - best solution I could find for the job.

never heard about the pipe heating cables. I'll definitely have to remember about PEX too.

Thanks guys!

So is this heat lines in boiler that are freezing..

If so we would use a product called POLY GLYCO we got it from our heating supply contractor,, 5 gallon jugs, we consulted with them as to how much to add to our boiler system, this is a anti freeze type liquid that works wonders in old farm houses, and like ours a real badly designed, under insulated motel style building 24 units,, our pipe would freeze and split open like crazy.. 

The product has a life of about 5 years in the heating system and you need a valve thing to add it to the in valve on the boiler..  

You will be relieved once you add this.

As far as fresh water, or hot water plumbing other than leaving faucets on low drip in really cold weather it's a gamble.. 

Pipe hearing cables are technically called heat tracing cables

@David Zheng

It's still october.. And your in Missouri.. Idk what Missouri weather was like last week... Unless you own in Alaska this should be far from the most stress they have been under..

What does the burst look like? If it is a small pin hole, It could be electrolysis. This is where you don't have proper grounding somewhere in your building or unlike metals touching.. We had it in a building once. We traced it to an improperly installed water heater.

This is just another possibility..?? 

The heat cables work great along with the insulation. I would be conservative on your glyco this does help prevent lines from freeze up but, it reduces the efficency of your system. There is a balance. 

Pipe heaters work great if there's a small area where there's a big draft causing the majority of the problem.  I had a real drafty spot and put the pipe heater there and then the foam sleeve over the top and the problem was fixed.  I don't think it's feasible to wrap every pipe in the basement.  Just be very sure that all your power cords are ziptied into place so nobody unplugs them.


There has to be another issue here besides the weather. It hasn't been cold enough yet in MO to freeze pipes. Even though it's been down to 25 outside,  it's warmer than that in a basement,  even unheated. 

@Sylvia B. @Chris Klemm

This all happened early on this year in January, but I was reminded about it last week  when I woke up freezing haha....

I had a pipe in as basement burst above my breaker panels and another pipe in a bathroom at a house that flooded two floors. Still scarred from those.

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