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Closing Up Soffit Area...

 
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Old 02-12-2015, 10:58 AM   #1
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Closing Up Soffit Area...


I have a freezing pipe situation that I thought was taken care of last year.

The house is a summer rental at the beach but the owner comes down from time to time during the winter months to stay for a weekend here and there. She just purchased the house last year and I was called in to replace some broken water pipes from the brutal winter we had.

The house is two story, sitting 12' high on pilings. The water pipes that keep freezing are over a bedroom ceiling and under the floor of the upstairs bathroom. Last year I blamed the problem on a few things and thought I had it solved. I was wrong.

Last year...
*The temperatures here were brutally cold for extended times. One of the coldest winters we've had.

*The water main was shut off but the pipes were not drained.

*The thermostat was only set to 40* (heat pump)

*I went in and found that a lot of insulation at a knee wall was out of place in a crawl space next to the bathroom, allowing cold air from the vented soffit to enter where the pipes are. Someone had been storing camping gear there and insulation was moved all over. This was put back, added to and I also blew insulation in an area from below to a cavity I couldn't get to.

I determined last year while doing repairs that freezing pipes had been a problem before. Drywall repairs and plumbing fixes were the clue.

So, this year, I go down to let a chap in who is replacing a whirlpool tub pump. I turn on the main and water floods the same bedroom. Tore out some of the ceiling and find a capped supply line that had broken. Whoever did the original repair, re-routed the supply lines and capped these two off. This was 5-6 feet in from the outside wall, pretty much in the middle of the bedroom.

Here is what I know from this year....

*She had a new heat pump installed and the thermostat was set at 55*. I was down two weeks ago and the heat was on and the temps were at 55*

*Though she turned the main off and opened all the faucets, she drained the system and then closed the drain valve back up.
Residual water was probably in sagging pvc pipes.

The area in question is a crawlspace about 16' long next to the upstairs bathroom. On the left is the insulated knee wall, the insulated area between the floor joists below and then the roof rafters leading down to a vented soffit (daylight..picture below).

I thought that adding attic chutes and filling in the area would still allow for ventilation while directing any cold air upwards. I'm thinking that is a waste of time though as there is no venting area where the knee wall meets the roof. Everything is closed in and drywalled.

So, after all this explanation, I'm wondering if sealing off the exposed soffit area should be done? This would not allow for any ventilation but again, we are talking about a crawlspace 16' long.

I need to make sure I get it right this time. I thought I had it right last time as all cavities where air could flow to the pipes was blocked off and insulated. I question why a pipe 5-6' in a heated room would freeze. I took down a temperature sensing gun and all the inside walls and ceiling register above 50*

All thoughts and opinions are welcome.

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Old 02-12-2015, 11:38 AM   #2
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


So where are the pipes? In the knee wall of about where the knee wall is but in the floor/ceiling? Im sure its over ventilated and you could reduce the venting. I would also do a house wrap or board foam behind the kneewall over the batts, something to cut down that wind chill.
I had a heat loop pipe burst from opening up soffits. I closed them up some and used the board foam to conceal the loop. In my case the loop ran along the kneewall expose and it worked.......also make sure the pipe itself is wrapped.

Chutes could help too, I see some need for more insulation by the floor & plate transition

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Old 02-12-2015, 12:16 PM   #3
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


The bulk of the pipes are centralized in the middle of the bedroom ceiling, between the ceiling and bathroom floor above.

The supply for all the bathroom pipes on the upper floor bathroom come from an interior wall where another bath is located...no problem there. The pipes branch out to take care of a whirlpool tub, shower, toilet and sink. All the pipes that froze last year and this year are in the center portion of the bedroom.

There are no pipes along the exterior wall where the soffit is.
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Old 02-12-2015, 12:28 PM   #4
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


Just a guess, but extended power outage??
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Old 02-12-2015, 12:30 PM   #5
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


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Just a guess, but extended power outage??
Thought about that but the time on the stove and microwave were accurate and not blinking.
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Old 02-12-2015, 01:35 PM   #6
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


Chutes will at least stop wind washing through the ceiling bays. Most architectural details add blocking to counter this phenomenon. Clearly drafting is the issue.
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Old 02-12-2015, 01:43 PM   #7
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


So there's insulation in between two conditioned levels?
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Old 02-12-2015, 01:59 PM   #8
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


A few quick thoughts - cold air doesn't rise, it generally sinks
These pipes are in unconditioned area's but below / or in the insulation? You need to pull them either into conditioned space or risk having issues again - one trick is one I showed in a recent fire sprinkler piece & that is topping off the cavity with either foam board or plywood & then making sure you have enough insulation above it
The only other trick without placing a heater up there is to wrap the pipes directly, recover with insulation & make sure to keep any air movement away from that area. The only catch is that insulation will only keep the heat in for so long, if temps drop to much they will freeze
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Old 02-12-2015, 02:00 PM   #9
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


What kind of pipe/pipes are freezing? Can you convert to pex, install heat tape and mechanically insulate pipes
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Old 02-12-2015, 02:07 PM   #10
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


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So there's insulation in between two conditioned levels?
Yes.

Here is quick sketch

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Old 02-12-2015, 02:21 PM   #11
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


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Originally Posted by festerized View Post
what kind of pipe/pipes are freezing? Can you convert to pex, install heat tape and mechanically insulate pipes
cpvc
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Old 02-12-2015, 02:30 PM   #12
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


I think your soffit is lower than the ceiling joist so I stand by my wind washing theory. 2 more questions are these pipes for the upstairs bathroom or are they heat loops & is there any heat going upstairs mechanically or at least by door opening?
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Old 02-12-2015, 02:35 PM   #13
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


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I think your soffit is lower than the ceiling joist so I stand by my wind washing theory. 2 more questions are these pipes for the upstairs bathroom or are they heat loops & is there any heat going upstairs mechanically or at least by door opening?
Yup, it is lower...drew the sketch incorrectly.

All floors are heated with forced hot air...floor registers, including the top floor and bathroom. The pipes supply all upstairs bathroom fixtures.
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Old 02-12-2015, 02:46 PM   #14
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


I'd seal the joist space right under the knee wall and remove all insulation inward from there.

That space would become 'conditioned', and the bathroom floor would be warmer as a bonus


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Old 02-12-2015, 02:52 PM   #15
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


Ahh I see now... fiberglass / cellulose is not an air barrier - all the bays, rim joist, etc... need to be sealed up with either drywall, foam board or even plywood to prevent wind / air-movement through the cavities. Chutes won't help you, all they are good for is making sure air from the soffit gets into the attic and keeping insulation from getting in contact with the roof sheathing which will hold water
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Old 02-12-2015, 03:27 PM   #16
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


There you go windwashing. You could cut some foam board 14.5 x joist depth and wedge them in. Any chance these pipes go up exterior walls and then across the ceiling, then you could really concentrate you efforts? . I suppose unless you were creative chutes won't block the wind.
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Old 02-12-2015, 03:32 PM   #17
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


Buy a couple of those spray foam kits, and filler up
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Old 02-12-2015, 05:27 PM   #18
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


The crawlspace nomenclature was confusing the heck out of me. It was just attic space.

Agree with sealing off those joist bays with ply or foam or something.
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Old 02-12-2015, 07:56 PM   #19
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


There is no attic. This is the second floor of a house...huge bedroom and huge bath. No useable space overhead.
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Old 02-12-2015, 07:58 PM   #20
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Re: Closing Up Soffit Area...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom M View Post
There you go windwashing. You could cut some foam board 14.5 x joist depth and wedge them in. Any chance these pipes go up exterior walls and then across the ceiling, then you could really concentrate you efforts? . I suppose unless you were creative chutes won't block the wind.
No, the pipes come in overhead from an adjoining bathroom interior wall.

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