What is wrong with my house? Frozen pipes are the symptom...
January 6, 2014 3:30 PM Subscribe
We are in Illinois and gripped by the coldest weather in 20 years. Our house is 15 years old, we've lived in it for 2. With the cold some plumbing has stopped working to one toilet and one bathtub. Weirder, ice has formed around the drain of the tub. Inside. We had a plumber out and he was at a loss. More details inside.
Need to know what is wrong and what are our next steps?
posted by arniec to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Our house is two story. Before going to bed last night the biggest fear we had was frozen pipes. Online we read the pipes most at risk are on external walls, and there are only three plumbed items we have on external walls -- Kitchen Sink, Kitchen Dishwasher (both 1st story) and master bathroom toilet (2nd story, a bit above kitchen). We set the kitchen sink to drizzle overnight but thought there was nothing we could do about the toilet.
At 3:30am I check the toilet and sure enough, no water (it worked at 10 pm). We check the shower and both sinks in that bathroom, all work (spouts on inner wall perpendicular to the outer wall). We then try the tub located between the shower and the toilet and after a couple drips from behind the faucet the tub did not work either. This tub is under a window, next to the outside wall, but the faucet is at the foot, again perpendicular to the outer wall.
We figured the pipes were frozen and perhaps the pipe to the tub went up the outside wall and hence why it would be frozen. We then called a plumber as we feared the pipes leaking into the basement.
The plumber came out and said there was nothing he could do as the pipes were all behind drywall. He showed us where the main shut-off is for the house and told us to run the heat to thaw the pipes. He told us there's likely only one run of pipes to feed the entire bathroom (though he had no way to prove that...again, drywalled in) so he thought the pipes went to the sink and shower, then along the outer wall to the tub and toilet, so the freeze would be confined to that tub/toilet area.
We noticed the few drops that had dripped into the tub, however, had turned to solid ice. Touching the tub it was really cold, a good 30-40 degrees colder than the room. We had the heat at 70, that bathroom always runs a bit colder but never freezing. However the tub bottom froze the ice.
All day we ran a space heater in that bathroom, plus we ramped the heat on that story up to 80. It was easily 90 degrees in that bathroom, but the pipes still do not work and the bottom of that tub (only 2 feet from the space heater) is still cold. We put more water in the tub...it will not drain (why would the drain pipe freeze? The tub has not been used in many months). The scalding hot water we put in the tub instantly dropped to icy temperatures but has not turned to actual solid ice (yet).
We looked outside and see no breech in our siding. What is going on with these pipes? Why would a drain pipe stop working when it would have been perfectly dry, and why would these other (theoretically frozen) pipes be so cold as to not thaw in a room where the ambient temperature is hotter than hell?