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Frozen Pipes Keep Bursting


We live in a very old house in Maine. The subzero weather we have been having lately has our pipes bursting constantly. (We use mostly a woodstove to save on money, so our cellar is cold). Is there anything we can do to stop the pipes from bursting? My husband has been repairing pipes for 3 days straight. Our cellar is dirt and the pipes are only copper water pipes, (not heat, as we have forced hot air). We also we were wondering if its OK to turn off the water at the base where it comes into the house or will it make matters worse? Thank you for any advice.

Susan - Maine



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By Johanna (Guest Post) 01/24/2005

Home Depot or Lowes sells heat tape specifically for this purpose. Also, good idea to leave cold water trickling at all times. Don't know about turning the water off but hope this helps.

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By gretchen 1 01/24/2005

On really cold days, I was told to let the faucets trickle on outside walls. My pipes are 100 years old haven't froze yet, maybe I've been just lucky. I also shut off any water I'm not using from the main valves (i.e outside water, unused toilets and sinks)

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By Johanna (Guest Post) 01/24/2005

Before shutting off any water be sure that faucet is left open!

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By susan 8 2 01/24/2005

thanks for all your you think by not using our furnace it is making things extra cold in the cellar and that may be why we are having this bursting pipe problem?

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By OLB (Guest Post) 01/24/2005

I keep the faucet furtherest from the well ( or watetr source) dripping, this causes the water to move and doesn't freeze. I also heat with wood stove, but don't have a basement, I also keep all outside faucets dripping slowly -= no broken pipes in over 360 years!

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By Jo Bodey 1 234 01/24/2005

In Britain, where the main water water pipes into the house are often routed via the unheated roof space burst pipes happened occasionally in winter, (many houses only had heating from open fires in individual rooms). The recommendation then was to 'lag' or insulate your pipes. This used to be by wrapping them in a hessian type material but now you can buy long split tubes of synthetic rubber type material you just open up and slip onto the pipe. As well as the other suggestions you may want to think about insulating the pipes that rupture the most frequently.

I don't quite understand the question about turning off the water. Do you mean turn it off and empty the pipes each night when you go to bed? I suppose that would work, but even if you didn't empty the pipes and they still burst it would save a lot of mess as the leakage would be minimised.

It may be helpful to ask what your neighbours do as they must have the same problems and solutions.



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By Betty-Ellen 1 1 01/24/2005

If you have a place to plug them in use heat tapes. This is used on mobile homes and it really works. You can purchase them at Loews or other hardware stores.

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By lisa (Guest Post) 01/25/2005

if you could set up a light bulb in the area that freezes it would be a big help.It is amazing how much heat one light bulb puts out. Also insulate the pipes with the tube insulation .
we had to put a l-bulb around our well in our basement before the house went up .. worked like a charm.

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By kathy (Guest Post) 01/25/2005

Yes, if you turn off your furnace, it can make the cellar too cold and cause the pipes to burst. I have heard you should not turn off your furnace, but leave it set at (I think it was) 58 degrees. Also, the suggestions about leaving a faucet dripping are true too. Think of the expense of fixing these pipes as opposed to leaving the furnace on or the faucet dripping. Good luck!

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By PHYLLIS 1 01/25/2005

I live in upstate NY and just had my pipes freeze this past weekend. Not only my water, but my sewer pipe too. I have found out that if you position a blow dryer on your water pipe it will thaw it out in a jiffy. Putting table salt down the toilet and waiting with a fan blowing on the sewer pipe in the cellar unthawed that too. Hope this is of help to someone. Finni

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By RoseMary (Guest Post) 01/25/2005

HI. We live in the mountains of Colorado in a mobile home and the wind here is awful. Before we moved in my husband put the heat tape all over our pipes. And since we have just skirting and not a foundation he put that bubble wrap silver lined stuff over the foam pipe covers throughout the lenght of the mobile home on every pipe that was not in the house. It froze once and that was because the tape had gotten unplugged by accident when we were putting some tires underneath the mobile home for storage. That was over 6 years ago and never a frozen pipe since. Great stuff and a very insiteful husband. RoseMary

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By Sheila (Guest Post) 01/25/2005

I live in Michigan and have a summer home up north and we put heat tape on our pipes to keep them from freezing. A light doesn't work well cuz sometimes the freezing weather blows out the bulb and then you have freezing pipes again. Make sure the heat tape has a thermostat on them and you don't ever have to remove them and they will come on by themselves when it gets cold. They also have a kill switch in case of a short they will automatically click off. I got mine at home depot but Lowes also has them. Good Luck

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By Hal (Guest Post) 01/27/2005

The heat tape is an excellent idea but turning the furnace back on would be a great start. The furnace is an integrated part of the house and when used properly it will deliver the right amount of heat to the basement to keep the pipes from freezing. You can reduce the flow of heat to the basement to keep it around 40F or so while keeping the upper portion comfortable. If you choose to use the fireplace also you want to be cautious about the location of it to the thermostat. If the fire gives off too much heat the thermostat will never kick on. You may also want to try leaving the furnace off but the furnace fan on all of the time. That will get a good air flow through the house and may warm the basement just enough... That only works if you have cold air returns to the furnace from the upstairs... Best of luck to you

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By pm omoth 2 52 02/16/2005

We live in the Arizona desert and during the sometimes freezing weather have had frozen pipes. That is until we covered them with old blankets or burlap.

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By audra salazar (Guest Post) 01/08/2007

There is a product called IceLoc, it is a passive material that is made with an FDA approved material. Its easy to install (feed into pipe) and forget about it. It won't prevent freezing, but your pipes won't burst.
Good luck!! Iceloc is starting to be used in the state buildings here in NM and has been used in several different locations back east.

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By RL (Guest Post) 01/09/2007

I live in the Boston Mass. area.I have a wood stove on the first floor and I put one in the basement so my pipes won't freeze.The first floor stove heats so well that my furnace won't come on then my cellar becomes cold.The stove in the basement now keeps my cellar nice and toasty.

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By Matthew and Audra (Guest Post) 04/21/2007

ICELOC Works awesome

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By Callie Barrett (Guest Post) 06/02/2007

We sell an insulated conduit , Insul-seal that is excellent to use. please see it at

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By Randy (Guest Post) 11/20/2008

I suggest NOT leaving your faucets dripping if you live in a mobile home or if you have an overly cold basement. I made this mistake and had ice build-up in the sewer line which froze completely over time. Lesson learned!

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