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Water Water Everywhere and Not a Drop To Drink!


hausdok
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Today was interesting.

Last night about 8:00 pm I was at a friend's house having a late holiday dinner when one of the other guests, a realtor, asked if I could do an inspection this morning. It seems that nearly 10 days ago his client's offer was accepted on a home but the client didn't want to do an inspection because they'd talked the owner down over $30,000 and felt that they were pushing the envelope. Well, that was last week; 'cuz yesterday, 24 hours before they're due to go to closing, the client called the realtor and said that she wanted to get the place inspected but wanted him to pay for it. He'd agreed.

I didn't have anything scheduled, so I told him I'd be over there this morning at 9:00 am. I showed up right on time and walked into a house with no less than about 8 big blue drying fans running and two massive portable dehumidifiers running to beat the band. The windows were all fogged up and there were puddles of water on every windowsill.

The carpets were damp. About 60% of the main floor is hardwood and it was so badly cupped that it looked like the surface of an antique washboard. In the garage I found a pile of black plastic bags. I looked inside and found them full of foam rubber carpet padding. I went back inside and peaked under the carpet - uh, oh, no pad. Hmmm.

Obviously, a pipe had burst but where? I walked out the back yard and around the house. Yep, there they were at opposite corners of the house; hose reels still hooked up to frost-free sill cocks. It's been snowing and unusually cold here lately; you can guess the rest.

Inside, I got moisture readings in both the interior and exterior walls from 30% to 99.9% as high as 2ft. from the floor in some places. Outside, I found water draining out of the siding. There was so much humidity in the house that vapor had been unable to diffuse through the siding naturally and had been condensing in the exterior walls and freezing. Now that the temperature had gone up over freezing outside, it was melting and draining out of the exterior walls. The bottom of the walls was bowed outward in a few places where the OSB sheathing has swollen and is trying to expand.

Up in the attic, the top 1-inch of the 12-inch thick blown-in insulation is saturated with water droplets. Vapor is diffusing up through the ceilings, passing through the insulation, and then, as it nears the other side of the insulation and cools it's condensing and hanging out in the insulation with the attic ventilation barely holding it's own. If the temps drop tonight, it's going to freeze and make things worse. It should be interesting to see what those ceilings look like in another day or two.

Underneath the home in the crawlspace, there's water everywhere about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and the flexible polyethylene heating ducts are full of water, have broken most of their nylon straps and are straining to pull away from the register boots. A few are dripping. I figure that there's at least two 55 gallon drums worth of water hanging under those floors ready to burst forth at any moment. I didn't try to squeeze over or under any of those to inspect the crawl, lest I cause one to pull loose and turn that place into a lake.

Funny thing, try as he might, the buyer's agent couldn't raise the listing agent on the phone all morning. However, after I talked to a neighbor and asked how long the house had been like that, the neighbor revealed that he'd talked to the owner, who's moved out and is living elsewhere, by phone this morning and the neighbor had told him that a pipe had burst in the home a few days ago. Hmmmm. Shortly after the neighbor went inside his home, the listing agent called up and explained that they were going to have the interior dried out within a day or two and everything would be fine. Yeah, riiiiiiiiiiiight.

It's my guess Mr. Seller thought that he could get the interior dried out before anyone came by and discovered the mess and he was planning to go to the closing without saying a word.

The home is 8 years old. The timer on the whole house air changer wasn't even set up to vent the home so it's gone the last 8 years without being ventilated. The underside of the roof looks like the fur of an ocelot all black spots that have definitely been there since long before this episode; now this.

The owner thinks he's getting away with throwing out the carpet padding and drying the place out. It looks to me like roughly 900 sf of oak has to be torn up and thrown away 'cuz after it shrinks the floor will be all cupped and there will be compression set gaps everywhere. Besides, it will take weeks for that saturated OSB deck to dry out in this weather. If they don't take up the carpeting and hardwood they'll have enough fungi under there in two weeks to feed half of the bugs in the state.

Given the amount and height of moisture in the inside walls and the water dripping out of the exterior siding at least a foot above floor level, I'm betting the inside of the walls and the insulation are soaking wet and no amount of fans is going to dry them out in this weather. It's just a rot farm waiting to get started.

Lemme see;

1. Pump out the ducts and plenum, replace all of the ducts, remove the saturated insulation from the underfloor plenum, re-insulate it, and then install new ducts and hangers.

2. Tear up the floor and remove all of the carpeting and insulation, put heaters in the crawlspace and in the house to dry out the floor; sand the OSB flat then nuke it with a fungicide/sealer.

3. Do invasives on all interior wall surfaces to determine which wall cavities are wet; open all of the wet ones, dry them, nuke em with fungicide and then seal them, re-insulate and restore the drywall.

4. Re-insulate the floors and put down new carpeting and hardwood floors.

5. Nuke and seal the underside of the roof.

6. Remove the exterior siding where it's bowed outward and fix whatever is going on with the exterior sheathing behind that siding (I'm guessing it's soaking wet, has expanded and is trying to pop off the face of the studs.).

7. Restore the siding.

8. Repaint/refinish everything.

I think we're looking at a good week to ten days of 10-hour days and still won't be able to paint until the spring. It's going to cost a whole lot.

Betcha the homeowner's contractor says it'll only cost $1500 to $2000 to do and the hardwood floors are perfectly alright.

Just another day.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Sounds like you earnt your paycheck, Mike. I know all will bust but, out of curiosity, CPVC or copper?

I have a couple of houses booked myself for this weekend. Both are staged so I assume they have been vacant for a while. I see enough hoses left on vacated homes' hose-bibs that I'm wondering what the odds are that I'll find one in similar condition. I hope not, for my clients sakes, but I may have to borrow your list if I do!

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I didn't mention PEX because, at 8 years old, I thought it was a little "early" for it. But, now that you do, you have me wondering about how the various fittings, especially the crimp rings, handle freezing. As in whether they can loosen or not?

Anyone with experience of PEX plumbing freeze failure and, if so, where it is most likely to happen?

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Originally posted by hausdok

Obviously, a pipe had burst but where? I walked out the back yard and around the house. Yep, there they were at opposite corners of the house; hose reels still hooked up to frost-free sill cocks. It's been snowing and unusually cold here lately; you can guess the rest.

Why would a hose still attached to a frost free sill cock cause a pipe to burst? The valve body tube would split, but assuming that it was shut off at the exterior, it would split downstream of the washer and wouldn't leak until it was opened.

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

Originally posted by hausdok

Obviously, a pipe had burst but where? I walked out the back yard and around the house. Yep, there they were at opposite corners of the house; hose reels still hooked up to frost-free sill cocks. It's been snowing and unusually cold here lately; you can guess the rest.

Why would a hose still attached to a frost free sill cock cause a pipe to burst? The valve body tube would split, but assuming that it was shut off at the exterior, it would split downstream of the washer and wouldn't leak until it was opened.

Sometimes folks leave the valves open and use the spray attachments as on/off controls.

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Originally posted by Chad Fabry

PEX history and freeze thaw info

Richard, I'm not sure what you meant by "8 years" but I used PEX in 1985 in an outdoor boiler application. It wasn't new then.

Thanks for the link, Chad. Mike's house was 8 years old and had forced air heating. I realize PEX has been in use for longer (radiant heat, etc), but I've never seen it used for general distribution plumbing around here any earlier than when copper prices shot through the roof. That was, what, 4 or 5 years ago?

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I didn't mention PEX because, at 8 years old, I thought it was a little "early" for it. But, now that you do, you have me wondering about how the various fittings, especially the crimp rings, handle freezing. As in whether they can loosen or not?

I have a buddy who owns a fire and water restoration company who says he gets plenty of work due to PEX freeze issues. The fittings fail when the pipes freeze according to him.

I should have him start saving the pipes/ fittings at the burst areas for inspection. I have a feeling that quite a few of the failures are due to installation errors.

I have another buddy in town who is a plumber. He had 2 fittings fail in new homes that were not even lived in yet, but were finished (all within a year). I believe his insurance company was able to get the manufacturer to pay for all of the damage due to faulty fittings.

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Originally posted by Bain

Sometimes folks leave the valves open and use the spray attachments as on/off controls.

Yes, I see that occasionally. In that case, I would think that the first thing to freeze and break would be the nozzle, which would be fully exposed, rather than the sillcock tube within the building envelope.

That still leaves my question unanswered: "Why would a hose still attached to a frost free sill cock cause a pipe to burst?"

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

Originally posted by Bain

Sometimes folks leave the valves open and use the spray attachments as on/off controls.

Yes, I see that occasionally. In that case, I would think that the first thing to freeze and break would be the nozzle, which would be fully exposed, rather than the sillcock tube within the building envelope.

That still leaves my question unanswered: "Why would a hose still attached to a frost free sill cock cause a pipe to burst?"

True, the nozzle will probably be the first thing to freeze, but it won't leak until it thaws. So the freezing continues back up the hose, sill-cock tube, and pipe until temperatures warm. Then when it thaws, all of the little splits that the expanded ice made, begin to leak and spray until the water pressure is depleted. The splits closest to the water pressure source will be the first to leak the most. The nozzle is at the far end of all the frozen ice and won't leak to its full potential until all the ice in the hose has been melted. This can take a while as the ice will push down stream as it melts plugging off or slowing the leak each time the ice shifts down stream. By the time the hose is fully clear, plenty of water has escaped the first split in the system.

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

Originally posted by Bain

Sometimes folks leave the valves open and use the spray attachments as on/off controls.

Yes, I see that occasionally. In that case, I would think that the first thing to freeze and break would be the nozzle, which would be fully exposed, rather than the sillcock tube within the building envelope.

That still leaves my question unanswered: "Why would a hose still attached to a frost free sill cock cause a pipe to burst?"

The freezing begins in the hose and creeps inward through the sillcock, the extension tube and, eventually into the distribution pipe that supplies the extension tube. How far it freezes depends on how cold it is inside & out. The sillcock extension tube is usually the thing to split, but it might split further in, at the distribution pipe.

Our recent snap of cold weather came on sort of suddenly and I realized, to my horror, that I had left a hose attached to one of our sillcocks. It was 12 degrees out when I went to check it. I took off the hose and the valve body was filled with solid ice. After leaving my wife's hairdryer blowing on it for about a half hour, the ice melted and the valve worked fine. As far as I can see, nothing burst or split this time.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

Originally posted by Bain

Sometimes folks leave the valves open and use the spray attachments as on/off controls.

Yes, I see that occasionally. In that case, I would think that the first thing to freeze and break would be the nozzle, which would be fully exposed, rather than the sillcock tube within the building envelope.

That still leaves my question unanswered: "Why would a hose still attached to a frost free sill cock cause a pipe to burst?"

The freezing begins in the hose and creeps inward through the sillcock, the extension tube and, eventually into the distribution pipe that supplies the extension tube. How far it freezes depends on how cold it is inside & out. The sillcock extension tube is usually the thing to split, but it might split further in, at the distribution pipe.

So you're saying that ice in a sillcock tube can allow freezing temperature to migrate further in than it would if the assembly was dry? That it would travel far enough inside to freeze a supply pipe that otherwise wouldn't freeze? That, I didn't consider.

I'm still puzzled as to how this would damage the floors though. Mike said the house had a crawlspace. Around here, the only time a sillcock is installed above the floor level is when the house is on a slab. With a basement or a crawlspace, it would pass through the band joist. Any escaping water would be flowing below the floor level. Even if it was spraying upward against the bottom of the floor, I can't imagine that there would be widespread damage to the flooring, let alone get in the walls.

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe . . . So you're saying that ice in a sillcock tube can allow freezing temperature to migrate further in than it would if the assembly was dry? That it would travel far enough inside to freeze a supply pipe that otherwise wouldn't freeze? That, I didn't consider.

Yes. Precisely. The water in the pipe conducts the heat away to the outdoors faster than the empty pipe alone would.

I'm still puzzled as to how this would damage the floors though. Mike said the house had a crawlspace. Around here, the only time a sillcock is installed above the floor level is when the house is on a slab. With a basement or a crawlspace, it would pass through the band joist. Any escaping water would be flowing below the floor level. Even if it was spraying upward against the bottom of the floor, I can't imagine that there would be widespread damage to the flooring, let alone get in the walls.

In general, that's true. It's called a sillcock because it's located at or near the sill. However, many of our homes out here are framed with a post & pier framing system that doesn't use joists. The subfloor rests directly on the sill, so the plumbers install them up above the level of the floor.

-Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

However, many of our homes out here are framed with a post & pier framing system that doesn't use joists. The subfloor rests directly on the sill, so the plumbers install them up above the level of the floor.

-Jim Katen, Oregon

I've never seen that kind of framng system, Jim. If I remember correctly, there are no load-bearing walls on the main levels. What supports the second level floor systems?

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Hi,

Actually, I guess I should have mentioned that the pipe burst behind the cabinet under the kitchen sink. The sillcock was immediately on the other side of the wall from the kitchen cabinet and is fed by the same pipe that feeds the kitchen sink. The kitchen sink is in the corner with the sillcock teed off just below the floor. The hose full of water froze, the water in the sillcock froze and then the water in the pipe froze all the way back up into the unheated area behind the cabinet in the corner. If the hose hadn't been hooked up it would have been fine; unfortunately, it was. The pipe burst above floor level beneath the sink just under the angle stop and apparently water was running in there for at least a day before it was discovered. The water simply sprayed everything under the sink, drained under the flooring and out of the cabinet and spread out over 100% of the first floor and drained into the crawlspace around the register boots as well as into the ducts and filled them up.

The realtor told me since I wrote this that the client is still thinking about going ahead with the deal and that the owner intends to request that the bank allow him to do a short sale if the deal falls through. I bet it would make a pretty good 203K deal for someone who's very handy. I'm going to have to keep my eye on it. If it goes on the market as a short sale I might be interested myself.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by Bain

Originally posted by Jim Katen

However, many of our homes out here are framed with a post & pier framing system that doesn't use joists. The subfloor rests directly on the sill, so the plumbers install them up above the level of the floor.

-Jim Katen, Oregon

I've never seen that kind of framng system, Jim. If I remember correctly, there are no load-bearing walls on the main levels. What supports the second level floor systems?

Gosh no. There are load bearing walls all over the place. Wherever you want a load bearing wall, you just plunk down a girder with posts & some beefy footings.

In the following picture, you can see where the bearing walls will go. The girders that break the pattern (in the middle third of the picture) will be under bearing walls -- probably alongside a stairway.

Click to View

20081228223155_CarDeckFraming1.jpg

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In this picture, you can see where they've planned for a point load -- the footing under the black plastic is considerably beefier than all of the others. Also, in this one, you can see where the plumber has roughed-in for sillcocks right at the level of the sill. That's kind of unusual. This one will end up inside the garage.

Click to View

20081228223223_CarDeckFraming2.jpg

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- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Yes. Precisely. The water in the pipe conducts the heat away to the outdoors faster than the empty pipe alone would

Oops, I should have stated it that way. I know that warm moves to cold - honest. I try to explain it to my wife several times every winter when she sits by the bay window and complains about nonexistent 'drafts'.

In general, that's true. It's called a sillcock because it's located at or near the sill. However, many of our homes out here are framed with a post & pier framing system that doesn't use joists. The subfloor rests directly on the sill, so the plumbers install them up above the level of the floor.

Ah, now I understand how it happened, especially after Mike explained that the connection was under the sink cabinet. I can see the temperature under there with the doors closed being easily 20 degrees lower than the surrounding room temperature. Chalk it up to regional differences.

Speaking of regional differences ...... have to admit that I'd be pretty flummoxed if I encountered anything like the framing in your pictures. Around here, they stopped framing like that (or similarly at least) well over 120 years ago.

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

Speaking of regional differences ...... have to admit that I'd be pretty flummoxed if I encountered anything like the framing in your pictures. Around here, they stopped framing like that (or similarly at least) well over 120 years ago.

Well, when you think about it, plank and beam framing makes perfect sense in earthquake country because you don't have any rim boards or joists to rotate and the ends of the beams are end-trapped inside of the walls so that they can't rotate off their piers. It makes for a very solid floor that stays in one place when the ground around the house is squirreling every which way.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Yep, there they were at opposite corners of the house; hose reels still hooked up to frost-free sill cocks.

Hi Joe, I wasn't talking about sillcocks in general, I was talking about frost proof sillcocks specifically.

Leaving a hose on a frost proof sillcock means the water can't drain from the blue region in the illustration below.

If the sillcock is off when it freezs, there aren't any leaks until the next time someone uses the hose. When they turn the water on, the ruptured blue portion will leak during use.

If the sillcock is open when it freezes, it'll leak as soon as there is a thaw.

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2008122972427_2005-9-12_Frost_Proof_Sillcock_w550.jpg

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Originally posted by Chad Fabry

Hi Joe, I wasn't talking about sillcocks in general, I was talking about frost proof sillcocks specifically.

Leaving a hose on a frost proof sillcock means the water can't drain from the blue region in the illustration below.

If the sillcock is off when it freezes, there aren't any leaks until the next time someone uses the hose. When they turn the water on, the ruptured blue portion will leak during use.

If the sillcock is open when it freezes, it'll leak as soon as there is a thaw.

Hi Chad,

Thank's for the explanation, but I do understand that, as shown in post #7:

Why would a hose still attached to a frost free sill cock cause a pipe to burst? The valve body tube would split, but assuming that it was shut off at the exterior, it would split downstream of the washer and wouldn't leak until it was opened.

The two things I didn't understand was how a a frozen cock would cause a supply pipe to freeze and why this would flood at or above the floor level. I didn't think of the ice in the tube hastening the heat transfer from the supply pipe, and I was picturing the cock and its supply pipe installed between floor joists.

I have what will probably be my last inspection of the year today. It's a vacant estate sale. When I set the radon monitor on Friday, I took a walk around the exterior and noticed two hoses still attached to frost free cocks. Maybe today I'll get some new split sillcock pictures to add to my picture library.

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Originally posted by Bain

Originally posted by Jim Katen

However, many of our homes out here are framed with a post & pier framing system that doesn't use joists. The subfloor rests directly on the sill, so the plumbers install them up above the level of the floor.

-Jim Katen, Oregon

I've never seen that kind of framng system, Jim. If I remember correctly, there are no load-bearing walls on the main levels. What supports the second level floor systems?

Gosh no. There are load bearing walls all over the place. Wherever you want a load bearing wall, you just plunk down a girder with posts & some beefy footings.

In the following picture, you can see where the bearing walls will go. The girders that break the pattern (in the middle third of the picture) will be under bearing walls -- probably alongside a stairway.

Click to View

20081228223155_CarDeckFraming1.jpg

81.7 KB

In this picture, you can see where they've planned for a point load -- the footing under the black plastic is considerably beefier than all of the others. Also, in this one, you can see where the plumber has roughed-in for sillcocks right at the level of the sill. That's kind of unusual. This one will end up inside the garage.

Click to View

20081228223223_CarDeckFraming2.jpg

72.8 KB

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Thanks for the photos. I've never seen that kind of framing system. If I ever do, you can anticipate being harassed by a few phone calls.

I assume the spans between the girders are 4'. What prevents the sub-floor from sagging beneath a heavy armoire or pool table?

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Originally posted by Bain

Thanks for the photos. I've never seen that kind of framing system. If I ever do, you can anticipate being harassed by a few phone calls.

I assume the spans between the girders are 4'. What prevents the sub-floor from sagging beneath a heavy armoire or pool table?

The subflooring is really stiff. It's usually 2x6 t&g hemlock car decking (the stuff used on the floors of railroad cars). Occasionally, some framers use 2x10s or 2x12s. It doesn't budge under armoires or pianos. You can often tell when a floor is framed this way just by walking on it because it feels stiffer than a joist-framed floor.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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