Yep, I definitely found the frozen pipe. I’m sure of it because I had water spraying in my face. Fortunately it wasn’t a lot of water and a plumber is supposed to come in a few hours.
I posted a note on Twitter as I was heading to town and a friend sent me a note that he had to thaw pipes a few weeks ago in Utah and used a heat gun. He sent me a picture, and it was the same type of gun I got years ago to strip off old paint. So after picking up some pipe cable and insulation from Home Depot, I went downstairs and started using the heat gun on low.
The water comes in from the well about waist high, maybe a little lower, on the west wall. I walked over there, plugged in my heat gun and started to thaw things while on the phone with my business partner. I was worried the frost line had lowered because of the extreme temperatures, and we might have a frozen pipe in the ground.
This pipe heated up pretty well, warming fairly quickly and then not cooling too much when I removed the gun. It was then I wondered if we might have the pipe frozen in the basement. It’s a walk-out, but this end is below grade. We don’t have it heated, but it doesn’t feel too cold in there most of the time. So I got the stepladder and moved on.
The pipe runs up this well to the frame ceiling, about 8ft or so up. There is just framing, no drywall, but the pipe runs along the top of this wall for about 15 feet before turning into the middle of the basement and running to the center where the pressure tank, furnace, etc. are. It’s exposed pipe, but as I said, I don’t think the basement is freezing.
Apparently I’m wrong.
While I was working along the pipe, starting from where it bends into the middle back, I noticed there was a draft. Since this part of the wall is behind the garage, it’s essentially an exposed outside wall. And apparently not well insulated. I could barely warm the pipe, unlike the pipe above that comes in from outside. So there’s a draft blowing on a 10-12 foot section of pipe.
I did a few sections, working my way back towards the north. I set up near where the top of the pipe comes in above, ready to do the last 3-4 feet and see. As the image below shows, this is where it was frozen, and also where the copper had broken.
As you can see above, I was working above these boxes of books (maybe ruined) while I was also on the phone. I was running the gun back and forth when I heard water release. The small bit of elation I felt from getting the water moving was tempered by a small spray of water in the face. Immediately I knew the pipe had broken and cursed a few times on the phone as I got down and started running across the basement. Andy asked me what was wrong and I told him the pipe was broken and I’d found the frozen part. He chuckled as I went outside and shut off the well breaker, having gone through similar home repair issues in Florida.
It wasn’t a ton of water, and didn’t make a huge mess on the floor. Some had start running out of this corner of the basement, and I yelled for Delaney to grab towels and Tia to call a plumber while I moved some of the boxes out of the way. Delaney brought my almost all our towels, and I got things cleaned up while Tia tracked down a plumber that could come out tonight.
I feel semi-handy in that I saved some plumber time and figured out what was wrong. I’m also glad that the pipe wasn’t frozen in the ground. Tia told me that while I was doing this, she’d been to the barn and found the water working there and had filled up the horses’ tanks.
So we’re still without water, but not likely for too much longer. We also have the chance now to get a valve installed that will let us separate the house from the barn, allowing us to keep water out there if we have issues in the house. I’d like a valve somewhere outside, but I’ll probably have to dig up the well pipes again to get one out there. Not sure that’s something I want to do. Maybe if we have plumbing work done outside it is worth it.
Now we need the pipe replaced, the new one insulated, and also some insulation in that part of the basement to try and keep the house warmer.