I have some water pipes to my tub on on a outside wall. What can be done to keep them from freezing and breaking?



Protecting plumbing fixtures within and/or adjacent to the exterior walls of a bathroom where the bathtub is against the exterior wall.


Not knowing your specific circumstances, the age of your home, or the construction details, I will offer some general suggestion to solve the problem.  I hope the following will be of assistance.


Short term or immediate solution:

An electric space heater placed in close proximity to a metal tub and close to the plumbing fixtures (pipes, fitting, faucets, etc.) will raise the temperature of these materials above freezing and prevent the pipes from freezing.   In some cases the wall may actually need to be opened to allow access to the plumbing fixtures.  When the temperature is very cold (less than 20 degrees F) it may be necessary to leave the water running (both hot and cold) to prevent freezing.  Both of these strategies are not cost efficient, are not the final solution, but may be necessary on a short term basis.     


Permanent Solution:

When the weather allows for home repair activities, the bathroom plumbing fixtures in and/or adjacent to the exterior wall(s) must have their insulation and the insulation of the exterior wall significantly increased (also the floor and ceiling of the bathroom may need insulating). Suggested changes might include increased wall insulation (more and/or new insulation), insulation wrapping for the pipes, and foam sealing of all opening that allow air to move between the inside and outside of the home.  If possible a cabinet door access may need to be installed so the plumbing fixtures can be accessed from inside the house during cold weather.  The door access may be left open to allow heat to enter the area or to supply supplemental heating (in an enclosed, well insulated small area the heat from a single incandescent light is sufficient in climates such as Utah).  Home improvement stores also sell a variety of thermostatically controlled heating cables that can be affixed to plumbing fixtures.  When fixtures with these cables are exposed to cold temperatures the cables provide electric heat that prevents freezing.  There are a variety of freeze protection devices on the market to choose from and/or you may also decide to contact a professional for such home repairs.

Posted on 22 Jan 2009

Richard Beard
Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Specialist

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