The sudden drop in temperature in the winter causes many major issues, including frozen pipes. Pipe freezing can put your pipes at risk of leaking or even completely bursting.
So, how do you keep pipes from freezing in your crawl space?
The best course of action that most people take is to insulate their pipes. Alternatively, some opt to insulate their whole crawl space to ensure the pipes won’t get exposed to cold air.
Keep reading to learn more about how you can prevent your crawl space pipes from freezing!
Yes, water pipes inside a crawl space can freeze, as crawl spaces are typically exposed to the outside environment.
As we all know, fresh water freezes at 32°F. When it starts solidifying, its density lowers and it starts expanding.
When the water freezes and expands, it adds a lot of pressure on the pipe, which can cause it to leak or even burst.
Leaks can cause major problems like mold and mildew growth. There are instances wherein it can even damage the floor joists, weakening your home’s structural integrity.
If you don’t want your pipes to freeze during the winter, there are lots of preventive measures you can take, such as the following:
Insulating your crawl space is one of the most tasking yet efficient measures to keep your pipes from freezing.
You’ll also benefit from this during the summer when your crawl space is at risk of condensation formation that can cause mold and mildew growth due to humidity.
To insulate your crawl space, you’ll need to do the following:
It’s best to seal the areas where water can leak into your crawl space. This includes the footing, as well as any cracks or openings in the walls.
If you have a dirt floor, you should regrade the soil around the foundation so that it slopes away from the house. This way, if water comes in, it’ll flow away from the crawl space.
Cold air can seep through your vents during the winter, so you have to seal them as well.
You can opt for vent covers to cover the outside of the vent openings of the crawl space. Then, seal it with foam board insulation and sealant.
After fixing the leakage and sealing air vents, you can start insulating the crawl space walls.
Professionals suggest using rigid foam insulation boards instead of fiberglass because the latter can sag or fall out over time. This is because moisture can easily get trapped inside the layer of insulation and weigh it down.
Rigid foam, on the other hand, uses expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is an effective moisture and water-resistant material.
Instead of installing insulation boards in between the floor joists, you should place them against the foundation walls.
This step only applies if you have a dirt floor in your crawl space.
It’s necessary to isolate the crawl space from the earth because water vapor can evaporate from the ground. If it happens, it can move into your home, causing wood rot and poor air quality.
A lot of homeowners prefer to use reinforced polyethylene sheets that are at least 6mm thick as a vapor barrier.
Since insulating your whole crawl space can be expensive, a more wallet-friendly alternative is to insulate the pipes themselves.
Popular insulation options include spray foam, traditional foam, and pipe gap insulation.
Spray foam is ideal for covering areas with small gaps. It’s water-resistant and can help reduce vibrations from the pipes.
However, you should be careful when using spray foam because it can cause skin, eye, and nose irritation. Some people also experience difficulty breathing, so use this material cautiously.
On the other hand, traditional foam insulation is ideal when you have to cover a large area. When using this, cut the material according to your desired length, then tape it around the pipes.
One of the reasons your pipes freeze is that your home’s temperature is way too low. As such, an excellent way to combat this is to keep your house warm.
To do this, set your home’s temperature to at least 55°F. During the times when your area’s experiencing a polar vortex, you have to crank up the heat a few more degrees.
The heat will radiate from your house to your water pipes, preventing them from freezing. This method is effective, especially if you’re leaving your home for a vacation.
The only downside of this method is that it consumes lots of energy, making your bills go up. Regardless, it’s still a better option because you’ll spend more money repairing your pipes in case they burst.
A common mistake that homeowners make whenever winter starts is leaving their garage doors open.
If you have water supply lines running from your garage to your crawl space, you should always keep your garage doors shut.
Doing this will also help retain the heat coming from your living space.
You should leave your faucets on during winter to prevent pressure buildup on the pipes, as it’s the primary reason they burst.
By turning on your faucet, you’re replacing the cold, almost-frozen water with a fresh, warm kind coming from the ground. Professionals recommend doing this method on faucets located on the exterior walls.
Considering the pipes in the interior walls are already kept warm by the heat coming from your living space, you don’t have to worry about them as much.
Another way to circulate the warm air in your house is to keep your cabinets and doors open.
This step is essential, especially in areas with non-conditioned plumbing, like under your sink. Removing the items stored in those storage spaces will help too!
However, you should store all toxic household chemicals and cleaners in an inaccessible area for children and pets to ensure no one will get harmed.
Installing electric heating cables is another method that relies on electricity. Homeowners prefer using the self-regulating variant as it can increase its own wattage per linear foot in response to the cold temperature.
Heat cables work by producing heat when they get energized. Their conductive core contracts microscopically, increasing their heat output whenever the temperature drops.
The installation process is straightforward; you just have to wrap the cables around the pipe.
The heat cables alone are already effective, but some people prefer to take things a step further by wrapping the whole pipe with insulation to make them retain more heat.
In case the pipes in your crawl space have started freezing, here are some solutions you can try to thaw them out:
If you’ve located the frozen pipe, you can thaw it out by applying direct heat to it.
You can use any tool available in your home, such as a hair dryer, electric heating pad, heat gun, or warm towel. It can take hours for the pipe to thaw out, especially if it’s freezing outside, so patience is key.
Always remember to supervise the appliance, and never leave them unattended. If you don’t want to use electric tools, you can opt for propane heaters or charcoal stoves.
Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water slowly and check for leaks or cracks.
If applying heat to your frozen pipes doesn’t work, you can contact a licensed plumber instead. This is recommended if the affected area is inaccessible.
They’ll usually investigate the area and devise a plan on how they can thaw out your pipes.
How to keep pipes from freezing in a crawl space? Well, you have to remember that retaining heat inside your home will significantly help in your situation.
As such, the help of your home’s thermostat and heat cables will save you lots of time and effort.
On top of that, you should keep your cabinets and doors open to let the warm air circulate throughout your house.
Alternatively, you can try insulating the pipes or the whole crawl space to ensure cold air won’t enter the area.
With all those solutions in mind, we hope you are now enlightened about the necessary actions to take for your crawl space pipes when winter starts!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.