When the digits on the thermometer start falling, it is time to get out the sweaters and extra blankets, stoke up the fire, and settle in for a season of winter weather. Winterizing a home – especially the pipes – is important, too. This is a particularly crucial topic for those who are having custom homes built as well as their custom builders, since some builders fail to consider the prevention of frozen pipes in their building plans.
The Problem of Frozen Pipes
There is a bigger problem than not having running water when water pipes freeze in sub-zero temperatures – damage to the pipes themselves. Water expands when it freezes; if the pipes are not strong enough to withstand that expansion or are brittle and do not flex, they will eventually crack and break.
Water lines and valves in homes, including custom homes, are made of copper, PVC, or PEX. Each one of these materials can crack and be permanently damaged either from freezing or from the pressure that builds up when water freezes in the lines. As a result, pipes once thawed will burst and be unable to deliver water where it is needed because pressure is lost due to the water flowing through the cracks. Even worse, if leaks are not discovered right away, substantial damage to the home, including a custom home, may occur.
Consider Pipe Placement
By strategically planning where water pipes are installed, custom home builders can avoid the problem of frozen and burst pipes by paying close attention to where water lines enter the custom home and where they are laid throughout the house. The goal is to install pipelines in sealed areas within floors and interior walls, far away from exterior walls so that the custom home itself acts as insulation.
When a custom builder installs pipes in this manner, no insulation is necessary since warmer air in the home will keep pipes from freezing. Air access directly around pipes is critical and yet must also be well sealed from the outside to prevent drafts. Not only do air leaks around pipes reduce home heating efficiency in general, they also allow cool air movement, which may cause freezing.
Pipes installed on exterior walls by a custom home builder require some insulation. This barrier should be placed between the exterior wall and the pipe, while the side of the pipe that faces the interior remains exposed to warmer, indoors air. In extreme cases where it is difficult to properly seal or insulate pipes to prevent frozen water lines, it may be necessary to use heat tape.
Outdoor and Exterior Pipes
For outdoor spigots installed through exterior walls, frost-free valves should be used by the custom builder. In order for the spigots to work, it is essential for homeowners to remove any connected hoses to allow for water drainage, so valves do not crack by water trapped inside. In addition, easy access valve shutoffs inside the custom home should be built into water lines going through exterior walls for outdoor use, since the ability to shut those valves off and leave spigots open, is the best way to prevent frozen and burst pipes.
To build the best custom home, a custom home builder must pay attention to the little details. When it comes to plumbing and concerns about frozen and damaged pipes, custom builders must think how to solve the problem before it becomes one. By installing water lines in the right places, properly sealing and insulating pipes, and using shutoff and frost-free valves, homeowners can avoid the unnecessary bother and expense of frozen and broken pipes in their new custom home!