32 Degrees Causes Separation

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

The hose is still attached in JanuaryThis winter has been radically different in Connecticut compared to last season. The temperatures have remained mostly mild, with out any snow fall with the exception of a freak fall snow storm that wreaked havoc across the region in October. There have however been some very brief cold snaps where the mercury has dipped into the teens and even the single digits over night.

As everyone knows water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in Connecticut homeowners start removing the summer accessories and making their homes ready for winter in the fall. One task is to bring in the garden hoses. Not everyone bothers to store their hoses as can be seen in the photo from a recent home inspection.

Hose bibb after removing frozen hose

Since this home has a private well, the buyers had requested a well flow test be performed as part of the home inspection. The test is done by attaching a flow gauge to a hose bibb on the exterior of the house. The gauge is set and water run through for at least an hour monitoring the gauge and recording the information.

In setting up this particular test as I already mentioned the hose was still attached to the spigot. It was also full of now frozen water. This valve was a “frost free” type which is intended to not require a second valve down stream to shut off the water during the cold months. The design has the valve seat well inside the home where it is supposed to be warm, thus preventing freezing.

Frost Free valve installation diagram

When I began the test I noted the pressure began to fall off as soon as the valve was opened. Odd, but not entirely strange, a washer could be running I thought. The agent arrived at just about that time and opened the door to the house. She almost immediately hollered there was water on the floor.

The pipe in the valve had apparently frozen and burst. Going down under the stairs I found water cascading down from inside the wall where the valve was located. I also saw the remnants of an old valve sitting on top of the foundation wall. Turning the valve off outside stopped the flow of water, thus confirming my assessment.

The assumption with these frost free valves is they are freeze proof. I certain the labeling was checked with a dozen attorneys before these ever hit the market.

The main reason the one in this house burst was the hose was left attached to the hose. Also the area where the valve is located is outside the conditioned space and not insulated.

The freeze proof valve must be installed in a way to drain off the water inside the long pipe of the valve. This is usually accomplished by a gasket installed behind the valve on the exterior or the plumber can build in a slight pitch. Since the hose was left on the spigot, the valve could not drain.

While the homeowner is not pleased about the water on the floor, my client was quite happy the problem was discovered now by me instead of by him after moving into the house.

 

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services. Learn more about our home energy audits, the Home Energy Tune uP®.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.

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  1. Dan Edward Phillips 01/09/2012 02:42 AM
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim even though we are a lot milder here I still see a lot of these things installed as if they are somehow magic.  If they are in a situation where they can freeze they WILL freeze :)

Jan 07, 2012 01:35 AM #1
Rainmaker
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Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim,

 Had this happen to me last year. My wife had re-attached the hose at one point it froze and yippee I got to replace it ; ) Lucky me it was squirting on the garage not the house.

Jan 07, 2012 07:49 AM #2
Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I have learned not to trust the frost-free bibs and still recommend to people that they be diligent in winterizing them just as they would a regular bib.  Why not anyway?  It's an easy thing to do.

Jan 07, 2012 08:21 PM #3
Rainmaker
686,484
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Charlie, I found what looked like the remnants of another valve on top of the foundation wall below the broken valve. Apparently not the first time one of these froze in this house. 

Don, A lot of the water that leaked from this valve also end up in the garage...and the carpeting :(

Jay, Really if they are installed correctly and you don't leave your hose attached they should be fine, but like you say, better to be safe. 

Jan 07, 2012 11:50 PM #4
Rainmaker
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Dan Edward Phillips
Dan Edward Phillips - Eureka, CA
Realtor and Broker/Owner

Good Morning James, a great solution to a very common problem in snow country.  One I am delighted not to have to deal with.

Jan 08, 2012 12:02 AM #5
Rainmaker
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Michael Thornton
RadnorLake Video - Nashville, TN
Nashville Area - Photography & Videography

Good morning, James. Far too often I see where folks have left the hose on the spigot. Often a sure sign of disaster...

Jan 08, 2012 01:27 AM #6
Rainmaker
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Jack Gilleland
Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton - Clayton, OH

Funny, I could walk through any number of neighborhoods and see at least 1 out of 5 not winterized sufficiently.  Maybe thats a sign we are going to have a mild winter.   Well, maybe.

 

Jan 08, 2012 05:38 AM #7
Rainmaker
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Lisa Von Domek
Lisa Von Domek Team - Dallas, TX
....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless!

Hello James,

Great post - we are on the same page for winter, I blogged a video on preventing pipes from freezing.  Here in the Dallas area, we do have to contend with the possibility of frozen pipes.

Have a lovely Sunday.

Jan 08, 2012 06:41 AM #8
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

If you have a frost-free type faucet you should also not put those insulated covers over them---save your money for another latte.  Even the tiniest leak that one might not notice can drip inside the cover and build up with ice inside the cover and back up into the valve.  I have seen it happen. 

Jan 08, 2012 11:57 AM #9
Rainmaker
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Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Where's the photo of the water damage?  I'm guessing it was really the stem of the sillcock that froze, not the pipe itself.  Whaddya think?

Jan 08, 2012 10:17 PM #10
Rainmaker
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James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Dan, You are a lucky guy, I hate the snow :)

Michael, Yep, just like this case.

Jack, They all must read the Farmers Almanac :)

Lisa, Thanks, frozen pipes are almost as common as snow flakes up here in Connecticut. 

Charlie, Good point.

Reuben, I thought that's what I said :) Yes the stem had to have frozen or the water would not have stopped when I shut the valve. 

Jan 09, 2012 12:13 AM #11
Rainmaker
233,473
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Ah yes, you did.  

Jan 09, 2012 05:02 AM #12
Rainmaker
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Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

You probably have a lot of those during this cold weather( frozen pipes), so they keep you busy. Stay warm and safe.

Feb 07, 2014 02:47 PM #13
Rainmaker
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James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Inna, I'm thinking you don't see a lot of frozen pipes in LA :) Thanks!

Feb 07, 2014 08:43 PM #14
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