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  1. #1

    Default Check ALL Yer Faucets & Toilets, People!

    Wow...we just dodged a bullet.

    After spending the evening helping my Livonia Friend unfreeze a pipe going to his guest bathroom, and watching all of the watermain breaks turn driving into a warzone adventure (that one at Charlevoix & Alter nearly took me out yesterday)...I've tried to be more diligent checking every tap in my honey's 90+ year old home in GPP.

    Didn't really consider the guest bath on the 1st floor, since it was remodeled recently...and the fine fellow insulated the wall behind the toilet. He is a great detail guy, and the following is NOT his fault.

    I had to use it when I came home from my morning venturing, and kinda freaked when it wouldn't fill after flushing. I'd just taken back the "Pipe-'n'-Hot" pipe heater to the rental joint an hour or so earlier. Damnit! Until yesterday, I had no idea such a device existed, which is part of the point of my story.

    Looked at the way the water feed to the tank ran, remembered that the guy graciously closed the ceiling to the basement bathroom beneath with drywall...and knew I had my work cut out for me. Talk about your thermodynamic experiment!

    First, I brought into that lower room our portable heater, shaped like an old-school radiator...but electric (thanks to Cafe, actually, for those who've been here long enough, bought it from her when she left town for Germany, if she ever came back here, hope she'd change her avatar to Busty, heh!). Pulled down the can light to allow the heat to rise into that space...and check for water, as any leak would go there first.

    Then, I ran to get my heat-gun...which is merely a hotrod hand-held hair dryer...and aimed it at the small portion of the pipe coming out of the wall. Learned the chrome pretty pieces on this new valve were f'in' PLASTIC, so I had to be careful. Luckily, the wall is tiled with some form of sandstone, so I applied some heat to that, too.

    Kept breathing deeply, to calm myself...AND smell for any smoldering or burning. An HOUR later, I finally got some flow.

    So, we dodged a bullet. For now. As did said Livonia Friend after our efforts last night. My CompuWare friend in Franklin was not so lucky with the house he and his honey bought last year.

    Remember, all bets are OFF this year with this extreme cold...the frost line and assumed safety of any R-valued insulated walls VARY with this long-term low-temperature weather. Even with houses built nearly a hundred years ago...perhaps especially so...you must be diligent. There is no arguing the Laws of Thermodynamics.

    Good news, though. If you find a pipe blocked...and can see it downstairs in the basement or crawlspace rafters...there is a device that can help, if you first turn off the water feed to that area (to reduce pressure, so forming ice has room to expand before bursting the pipe)...then RUSH to the nearest construction rental joint to get their version of the "Pipe-'n'-Hot" pipe heater. This must be another plumber's secret, because I never knew such a thing existed.

    It clamps to the pipe, hopefully from either side of the freeze, but at least as close to it as possible, since copper will conduct heat. It applies only 5 volts...but up to 350 amps of current...and literally makes the pipe 'sing' at 60Hz! Takes about fifteen minutes, on average, to melt a blockage...so in that time you need to reopen that valve, so you'll know when it is freed. You'll know.

    THEN, ya gotta check quickly for leaks, since the pipe might be cracked...if so, just shut the valve again, and call your favorite plumber.

    I wish to endorse the amazing gentlemen at Lewis Equipment Company on 9 Mile just west of Gratiot. They have a cool shop there, obviously well-run. Didn't notice until I just looked at their business card that they also have a Detroit location...also on Gratiot, up at 13501. I have no idea about that one.

    Cheers, folks, hope this helps someone.
    Last edited by Gannon; January-08-14 at 05:09 PM.

  2. #2

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gannon View Post
    ...then RUSH to the nearest construction rental joint to get their version of the "Pipe-'n'-Hot" pipe heater. This must be another plumber's secret, because I never knew such a thing existed....
    Neither did I. Thanks for the anecdote. After 25 years in Phoenix I had forgotten all my Michigan survival skills. Stories like this are a big help. Thanks to your post, I just now checked the basement and discovered yet another shutoff valve. That's handy to know.

    Another tip I heard recently is to leave kitchen and bath cupboards open so the house's heat can better get to the pipes. I assume this is only helpful for pipes in exterior walls.

    It seems every Winter I make some boneheaded mistake like forget to choke the snowblower or even switch it on while cranking. This year I thought the car door was frozen shut. Fortunately I didn't beat on it too hard before realizing it was just locked. DOH!

    The worst mistake was when I didn't have time to clear a foot of snow off my '99 Mustang GT so I turned its heater up full blast and left it to melt itself. What I didn't know was that it drains into the door hinge area and refreezes into a giant stalagmite preventing the door from opening. Well, it was an emergency and I had to get that door open! It broke my heart but I had to pry it open while watching the sheet metal bend. Not much damage but it's noticeable and the door doesn't quite close right. Ouch!

    Lift windshield wipers before an ice storm.

    A washcloth soaked (and wrung) with hot water can loosen a frozen gas cap. Don't use flames!

  3. #3

    Default

    Part of my Livonia Friend's problem was his habit of throwing his better cleaning rags in a heap at the back of the cabinet beneath this sink. He hadn't cleaned it out before I got there...which kinda pissed me off...but when I got to the bottom layer and felt how f'in' COLD they were...I realized part of his problem.

    Our issue is similar...during the renovation, my honey and her builder decided to take out the tiny radiator serving that space...since there is a larger unit just outside the door. As he was insulating that wall, they figured it wasn't necessary. In three years, it hasn't been an issue.

    This year, with the extreme cold...and her new-found desire to close the door over, but not all the way...to eliminate the bowl from her daily line-o'-sight...it all contributed to this near-disaster. I tend to close the door with the downstairs one, too, which doesn't have any local radiator except the feed running across the back wall. So, together we created the Perfect Storm.

    It is not unlike the series of events which caused that Concorde tragedy in France, didn't you post that story years ago?

    One relatively innocuous thing added to another, added to another, and suddenly somebody suffers...I smell MURPHY at work. I hate that mofo.
    Last edited by Gannon; January-08-14 at 03:13 PM.

  4. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gannon View Post
    ...It is not unlike the series of events which caused that Concorde tragedy in France, didn't you post that story years ago?...
    Not I. But I think I found it here: Untold Story of the Concorde Disaster.

    Yikes! What a story!

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimaz View Post
    Not I. But I think I found it here: Untold Story of the Concorde Disaster.

    Yikes! What a story!
    His synopsis avoids the uncomfortable fact described in the uncondensed story...

    Go back to that photograph. An amazing picture: but where was it taken? The answer is: inside an Air France Boeing 747 which had just landed from Japan, and was waiting to cross Concorde's runway on its way back to the terminal. Its passengers included Jacques Chirac and his wife, the President and first lady of France, returning from the G7 summit.


    Concorde looks to be nearby because it had been close to hitting the 747, an event which would have turned both aircraft into a giant fireball. Veering wildly to the left, like a recalcitrant supermarket trolley with a jammed wheel, Concorde's undercarriage had locked askew.
    I get shivers every time I read that whole story...

  6. #6

    Default

    I just added a few links to that first post, then wandered around their site to see if they listed a price for the "Pipe-'n'-Hot" rental...didn't find it, but DID see they've listed their Gratiot building for sale for $75k. Oh well...I guess they don't have a city location...for those who refuse to go past the borders. <sigh>

    Got a cool-ass box truck for $8,800, too. Ford E-350 monster...

  7. #7

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    Ah the joy of it all! A kitchen sink pipe on an outside wall at my house burst in three places. Had to be replaced with plastic code piping. No more copper... added insulation. Discovered today that my wind shield has a crack along the base all the way across. Great. I wonder if that was from the severe frost to defrost mode I put the car thru going out on of those ultra cold days. Or maybe just a rock from a nice truck... this will be a winter to remember. And it ain't over yet.

  8. #8

    Default

    Gannon
    Post a pic of that monster:-)

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigb23 View Post
    Gannon
    Post a pic of that monster:-)
    Here it is...


    http://www.lewistool.com/Merchant2/m...=USEDEQUIPMENT

  10. #10

    Default

    I had to sweat in 5 different bursts at my womans house and replace the tub faucet plastic innards. Ive done this for a few different years until until we replaced the cheap home depot heat tape with Granger industrial four years ago. It didnt hold up against this vortex though. What a pain in the ass but at least I put in all the plumbing so I knew were it was all at. The crawlspace is a bitch in that house.

  11. #11

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Django View Post
    I had to sweat in 5 different bursts at my womans house and replace the tub faucet plastic innards. Ive done this for a few different years until until we replaced the cheap home depot heat tape with Granger industrial four years ago. It didnt hold up against this vortex though. What a pain in the ass but at least I put in all the plumbing so I knew were it was all at. The crawlspace is a bitch in that house.
    They make wrap-around electric pipe heaters, for permanent installation, according to some I've talked with...but I haven't seen 'em yet. Put them on a switch, make it a timer...and it can keep you from ever having to worry about it again.

    Might even lead to less water waste, if they get hot enough to preheat the hot water line separately...especially for distant runs which pass under the house. It you're staying with copper and not PEX.

    I'd like to get proficient with PEX for in-floor radiant heat and fire suppression...and it is a natural for regular water supply...especially in a town where scrapping is an industry.

    Cheers!

  12. #12

    Default

    According to weather.com, the lowest daily mean temperature of the year is tomorrow. This is just from averaging each day of all years on record, so it's not an actual forecast.

    But, on average, we'll be over the coldest and can expect it to start slowly getting warmer after tomorrow.

    Celebrate!

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