Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Big Chill

Well, once again my kitchen water pipes froze.  This is the second time in nearly five years.  I decided to investigate why only the kitchen pipes are freezing so I headed down to the basement.  Last year after the first time they froze I covered the pipes under the sink with pipe sticks and I covered every pipe in the basement with the sticks in October.  I assumed the issue was due to the fact that the entire exterior of my house is flush with the foundation except where the kitchen sink/cabinets are.  The exterior wall of that portion of the kitchen juts out an additional foot from the house’s foundation.

IMG_2775Once you’re in the basement, if you look up to the floor joists, there is about 10” of space between the cinder block wall and the house’s subfloor. That space is filled with paper-backed insulation in the entire basement, except where the kitchen pipes are.  Behind the pipes that lead up to the kitchen I found thick foam.

IMG_2576 I pulled out the foam to be greeted with old insulation and balled up newspaper (along with many cobwebs):

IMG_2589 I cleaned out the space and determined that the crevice was about 21” deep.

IMG_2590When the hole was empty I could immediately feel a draft of air coming from where the crevice and the cinder block foundation walls meet.  J and I decided to cut 1” thick foam board to lay down in the crevice before we applied more insulation as an extra layer of protection. We also decided to re-insulate each crevice that is underneath the kitchen.  In most we found the same insulation and balled-up newspaper.  One crevice, however, the old owner got lazy and just folded a paper in half and placed it in the crevice!  The paper was from February of 1977.

IMG_2588 We measured each crevice and cut the foam board and R30 unfaced insulation to fit tightly in the spaces.

IMG_2594 We then inserted each piece of foam board and insulation in the crevices.

IMG_2596 Once each crevice was filled we measured and cut R13 faced insulation to place in front of the R30 insulation to provide one more layer of protection.

IMG_2598 IMG_2597 My goal this spring is to then cut pieces of wood to fasten into each crevice to completely hide the insulation but for now this is doing the trick!

Now, if you remember I mentioned feeling a draft.  I couldn’t just ignore that and think that the insulation would be enough so I donned old winter clothing and went outside to inspect the overhang. I found a pretty thick space between the cinder block foundation and the wood of the overhang.  I filled the space with expanding foam and voila – no more draft!

IMG_2776 As you could see in the first pic, you can see some of the yellow foam so when spring decides to visit Michigan, I’ll go back out and trim the foam so that you can’t see it unless you are lying underneath the overhang (like I did to spray the foam).

Have you had freezing pipes this winter?  What steps did you take to remedy the situation? I was shocked mine froze since we’ve had such a mild winter so far in SE Detroit.


  1. Ugh. This hasn't happened to me, but it makes me think I should pull out the old insulation and see whats back there. Hope the problem is fixed!

  2. Yes - no more frozen pipes! We actually did this about a month ago but I kept forgetting to post about it!

  3. We've never had the pipes freeze, thankfully!

    I have read that if it's going to be super cold at night you should open the cabinet under the sink so that the air temp is a bit warmer in there. I have no idea if that actually works or not.


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