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How To Prevent Crawl Space Pipes From Freezing This Winter

By Chuck Henrichsen on December 30, 2014

What is the number one concern people have when the temperatures drop and they realize that things in their crawl space are getting a more than just a little chilly? Their pipes, of course.

When the thermometer starts plummeting, it pays to check the conditions of your crawl space. Because a crawl space is partially exposed to the environment through air vents, even a brief cold snap can freeze the water in your pipes beneath the home.

Some Common (and Incorrect) Suggestions To Prevent Water Pipes From Freezing

There are often many who have suggestions for quick fixes and ideas on how to prevent pipes from freezing. The difficulty is, many of these ‘quick fixes’ may work temporarily, but they can cause greater problems in the long run. Also, in the Pacific Northwest, we have an entirely different type of temperate climate from other areas in the Midwest and southern west coast. This means that what might work in Wisconsin, won’t necessarily work in Washington.

So, how do homeowners know what to do? They ask the professionals.

Here are some of the wrong information we’ve seen people listen to before, and gotten themselves into trouble…

Don’t close your air vents

While this seems to be a logical step to prevent the outdoors from getting indoors, in this humid temperate environment that is the Seattle area this is a recipe for moisture buildup, which can cause wood rot and mold, thus damaging the structural integrity of your home.

Never allow your faucet to trickle constantly

While this may work for a mild cold snap, but for a serious freeze this will actually only cause a much bigger problem. The trickling water will build up in the areas of pipe exposed to the extreme cold, and this frozen water can cause the pipes to crack or split, or simply block your plumbing until it is able to thaw.

Not only that, but a constant stream of water is wasteful and can get expensive.

Avoid insulating the vents and pipes with foam wrapping

Wrapping pipes and vents with insulation can be a good solution — but it can also be extremely hazardous for homes in our area. The constantly fluctuating temperatures of an exposed crawl space, and the primarily moderate and humid climate means that it is easy for pipes to gather condensation on them. Trapping this moisture in with insulation can lead to mold growth or other problems or may encourage floor-joist and structural decay.

There are ways to wrap and insulate your pipes correctly, of course, but we recommend this as a piece of the solution that should be performed by professionals who are familiar with all aspects of the home insulation process to prevent mold and decay.

Don’t rely on a light bulb to fix the problem

The warmth of a lit light bulb can keep a problem area of pipe clear. Common areas of freezing are the tight spots, such as an elbow or a reducer. Unfortunately, this is not always a sure way to avoid a frozen pipe. You may have more problem areas than you know, and you may not be able to place the light close enough to the pipe to properly prevent freezing.

Our Solution to Prevent Frozen Pipes

In our opinion, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure. When it comes to crawl space care, our crawl space experts strongly recommend insulating the entire space, as well as installing (if not present already) a moisture barrier.

Why is this important?

Pipe and Vent Protection

When the crawl space is insulated, it stays at a steady temperature closer to that of your home. This enormously diminishes any chance of freezing pipes, and also helps to prevent condensation build up from spikes and drops in the temperature. This moisture prevention helps keep your home safe from decay and mold.

Our crawl space insulators don’t simply pay attention to the walls and floor joists above — they are also trained on how to properly insulate and protect pipes and vents to help encourage maximum heat retention and safety.

Cost Savings

An insulated crawl space helps prevent air transfer in your home. If you’ve noticed your lower level floors are cold to the touch, you can be sure that chilly drafts are making their way throughout your home, driving up energy bills.

Home Comfort

Keeping your home at a reasonable warmth is far easier when you have a properly insulated crawl space. The floors will stay warmer, you will notice less temperature changes from room to room, and you will find it easier (as well as cheaper) to keep it at a steady temperature throughout your home.

What to Expect With Our Insulation Services

When our team of crawl space professionals arrive at your home, their first task is to inspect and thoroughly clean your crawl space. They remove any old or damaged insulation, throw out any debris, and clean any areas that show signs of mold or pests. They will also inspect your beams and joists to make sure that there is not any lingering moisture damage or wood deterioration.

Next, the moisture barrier or vapor barrier is installed over the floor of your crawl space. This barrier prevents moisture buildup from the ground, trapping it beneath the plastic where it can be reabsorbed back into the earth or cement. Large amounts of water (such as mild flooding in the spring season) are funneled away to your drain.

Finally, they will install the insulation. Depending upon your situation and budget, a type of insulation will be selected. We recommend closed cell spray foam insulation, foam board, or fiberglass insulation for the crawl space. This will be placed on the walls along the floor joists. Your pipes and vents will also be wrapped if necessary.

And voila! No more need to worry about frozen pipes over the winter. Instead, your pipes will be safe, your home warmer, your wallet a little thicker from all the savings on energy, and Peace of Mind for Your Attic and Crawl™.

Chuck Henrichsen
President and CEO of Clean Crawls, Treasurer of E3 World Wide, proud husband and father.

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