Frozen pipe suggestions

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by cwc, Feb 10, 2014.

  1. cwc

    cwc .

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    Came home Sunday to no water. It looks like the service is frozen somewhere in the ~105 feet between the meter which is in the house and the shut-off valve at the curb. It's all underground about 5 feet or so.

    The only local plumber that deals with such things estimated $400-1000 to thaw it with an electric welder. He wants to connect in the house and at a fire hydrant down the block. I'm not sure that's a good idea because I think most of the heat will be generated in the city's iron pipe instead of in my copper.

    I don't think among all my friends put together we could come up with enough welding cable to do this job.:rofl

    I read here https://www.ridgidforum.com/forum/t22013-2/#post202756 about inserting a smaller tube into the line and pumping in water to thaw the ice. Anybody have experience home brewing something like this? The main question is what kind of tubing to use.

    My other option is to just wait a month or so for it to thaw. That's doable since I'm the only person here most of the time, but it wouldn't be much fun.:cry
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  2. morerpmfred

    morerpmfred Been here awhile

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    Fire hydrant in some newer areas are on different lines. Old area they would be the same.
    Dad had the same problem with frozen in the ground line. Welder hooked up to the shut of valve by the street and the copper pipe in the basement. Mainline on the street should not be frozen. Half on hour later using the welder and water was on. This was in northern alberta.
    Cure was to let the toilet dribble so water was always moving.
    #2
  3. dtysdalx2

    dtysdalx2 PITA but useful

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    Doesn't sound like fun. Do you have a time frame before it splits and you find where the frozen section really is? Has it froze up before? Where are you? Heat tape on everything exposed in the house?
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  4. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    don't be using a welder unless you've done it before, know which welder and what settings to use. they make specific AC low voltage pipe thawers for this job. just loaned mine out to thaw out a tenant's mom.

    got another one stashed somewhere .. have no idea how I ended up with two pipe thawer machines :D
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  5. Badjuju

    Badjuju Biker Billy

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    Damn! Where the hell do you live that the freeze-thaw depth is at 5 ft? I want to stay away from there if at all possible. :eek1 As for thawing, I've helped a friend thaw his cistern line by disconnecting the pipe and threading a small tube into the pipe to where the blockage is and then pumping a stream of hot water into the tube until the line opens. Definitely was a much shorter run, tho. I have no idea if you could thread the small-bore tube into the water pipe far enough to find the blockage.

    EDIT/ADD: Sorry. Didn't see that you were looking for tubing suggestions. We used 1/4" PP (or maybe PE) tubing similar to this. Doesn't like to go around 90* bends, tho, so you'll have to make sure you've got a fairly straight run from where you start to thread it into the system. Good luck!

    http://www.toolking.com/dial-manufa...&cagpspn=pla&gclid=CIaC6dyhxLwCFQvxOgodmHUAmg
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  6. cwc

    cwc .

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    I've wondered about the hookup of the welder at the curbside valve. Do they just clamp onto the cover for the pipe that goes down to the valve??

    In my youth I dug up a fair number of those valves and I don't remember if there was a connection between the "wrench" pipe and the copper pipe.

    I've always been nervous about going away and leaving water running. Maybe I need to reconsider.

    No time frame on splitting, but the plumbers didn't seem to think there was a problem with waiting.

    It's never frozen up in the 14 years I've been here, but according to the DOT web site http://www.mrr.dot.state.mn.us/research/seasonal_load_limits/thawindex/frost_thaw_graphs.asp at a site south of Rochester ( about 20 miles from me) the frost depth is 55". In the time I've been in this house the previous low was about 52".

    The pipe comes up through the basement floor. It goes across the house under the floor and across the yard, under the driveway and on out to the street. IF it travels near the sewer line the first ~65 ft. is ~9 ft. below grade. Under the driveway for ~15 ft. it is 5½ ft. deep and stays at that depth out to the street. The yard on the far side of the Drive has ~2 ft. of snow. The basement is at 60° now.

    It seems to me the problem is under the driveway or in the street.
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  7. troidus

    troidus Long timer

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    My wife and I lived for a year in a craptastic house that had numerous poorly-thought-out additions over the years. The kitchen feed lines froze on us once. I learned from a plumber from a previous visit that the feed and drain lines ran together in an open shallow trench in the crawl space under the kitchen, so I got a big pot of hot water from the tub, heated it to boiling on the stove, and poured it down the kitchen drain. That put enough heat in the water lines to thaw them.
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  8. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

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    As a retired plumber-----I spent much time unthawing water lines underground.
    We had a machine specific for the job and it worked well. We hooked on the pipe in the meter well always---not a fire hydrant and also to the pipe in the house--hopefully in a basement.

    Good thing you have a metal water service---------nobody around here has metal pipe for a water service anymore-----everybody went to plastic.

    Sometimes we just couldn't get one unthawed and found out somebody had made a repair to the line and spliced in a piece of plastic----------no worky.

    God I hated doing that. Cold--cold--cold. Then the pipe would freeze up the next day again and the customer wouldn't pay the bill------said I didn't to a very good job. :eek1:eek1:eek1:eek1

    BigDog
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  9. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    fwiw,,, the frozen part will be where there is no snow cover. I've seen a welder work for thawing.
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  10. cwc

    cwc .

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    Thanks Mark.

    So is the access pipe down to the curbside valve physically connected to the valve or did you have to put something down to the valve to make a good contact?

    It was only -20° today, so not that bad.:D
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  11. rapidoxidationman

    rapidoxidationman Easily trainable

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    If you have a neighbor close by and a city that will work with your water bills, the easy way to work around the problem is to just use some potable water hose (RV hose) and connect to their hose bib and feed back into a hose bib on your house. KEEP THE WATER FLOWING in your house cuz if you freeze up the hose line you're fooked. You won't have great pressure, but you'll be able to have running hot and cold water.
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  12. cwc

    cwc .

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    Nice looking outfit.

    A number of years ago I worked on the design of radios to attach to the water or gas meter so the reader just drives by you house to get the reading. Being from Minnesota we were AMAZED to find out that some places people had their water meters outside at the curb. Ours are all indoors with various types of remote reading devices.
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  13. cwc

    cwc .

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    Hadn't thought of doing that, but it probably work, depending on your relationship with the neighbors.

    I think when it's -20° you might need a LOT of flow to keep 100+ feet of hose from freezing. Maybe you could bury the hose in the snow.
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  14. troidus

    troidus Long timer

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    Mine's out by the curb. 3' down, so hopefully it doesn't freeze. It is copper service, so it's good to know that I can get it thawed out if need be. I expect this month's bill to have an E on it, 'cause all the meters are still buried under snow. (The downside is that they always over-estimate, and this is the period they use to determine sewage rates for the rest of the year.)
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  15. troidus

    troidus Long timer

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    Get some closed-cell foam pipe insulation and run the hose through that. As a belt-and-braces approach, also get some mobile home heat tape for the line and put that inside the insulation.
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  16. trailer Rails

    trailer Rails Long timer

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    Call some tool rental places and ask for a pipe defroster. Most places do not carry them. You'll have to do lots of calling. When you do find one, it will be basically a small welder with hundreds of feet of cable. I had a 1" buried copper line that was frozen solid, this machine thawed that pipe in 5 minutes.
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  17. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    got two of these and have never had to use it. note it's dangerous to use a welder unless one knows specifically what type welder and what settings to use. there's been fires caused by using welders to thaw pipes.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #17
  18. cwc

    cwc .

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    What is the current rating on those units?

    The local guy told me they use about 300 amps and are taking 2-7 hours to thaw a pipe.
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  19. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    Trindl Thermotron has two settings, 200amp and 300amp
    200 amp setting puts out AC voltage at 3volts, 300amp setting puts out 6volts AC.

    have seen all sorts of funky setting on welding forums including reports of fires. safer to rent one instead of using a welder. unless you are able to duplicate spec's above.
    '
    #19
  20. rustycager

    rustycager Long timer

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    Is this a bad time to open a how to change a leaky flapper thread? :1drink

    No water is better than water backing up. Spent a bit of my childhood learning that. Grease traps in the summer are hard to forget. :D
    #20