What I'm Seeing Now


It's Not Only Freezing Outside, But Inside Too!

I have received three calls* in two days for freezing pipes.  That is not so unusual...

It's where the pipes are freezing that makes this so odd.  You see, in every call, it is the kitchen sink cold water pipe that is freezing!

It has been very cold and got to 5 degrees F last night at my house in Northern Virginia.  We get that now and then, but not often.  I say "cold" fully realizing that 5 degrees is T-shirt weather for some of you people...  but that is beside the point.

Often in the past I have gotten calls because the pipes servicing the large master bath tubs have frozen.  It is a large, enclosed space, with plumbing inside.  Sometimes the exterior wall(s) does not get properly insulated.  Because of that I always look for complete insulation there on pre-drywall inspections.

But kitchen pipes!  That is unusual, in my experience anyway.  Apparently the small space between the base of the sink cabinet and the sub floor is poorly insulated.  Would that shock you?  I should mention another thing - ALL OF THESE CALLS CAME FROM HOUSES LESS THAN TWO YEARS OLD.  There, now you should NOT be shocked.

There is no way a home inspector can see that space.  Such cold air is probably not very detectable even with an IR camera (I looked at my cabinet with my IR camera and I don't think so anyway...).  So what do you do?

When asked for a solution my question was whether the pipes were visible in the basement.  None was.  So I suggested they get the kids down there under the sink with a blow dryer, set on hot with the fan on high, and go at that pipe for a couple of minutes.  Then open the valve just a bit.  Once a trickle is started the ice will melt quickly.  Hopefully no pipes have burst! 

Well, at least I show everyone where the water main is...


* All these near-panic calls were from friends.  I am the go-to guy...

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 5 commentsJay Markanich • January 17 2009 05:14PM


You were the first person I thought of calling this morning when my cold water wouldn't turn on in the kitchen. But, I refrained (the effort about killed me) since I don't like asking for favors. Four hours with a space heater did the trick, though. I now have cold running water. This house is only four years old. What gives?!

Posted by Lanna about 12 years ago

Good grief I know it is cold outside but frozen kitchen pipes in a house with the heat on.  Go figure. 

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) about 12 years ago

Lanna - you would not have been the only call this morning from the locals!  What gives is my theory about the insulation...  a space heater was a great idea!  Feel free to call anytime.  I had a call waiting for me tonight after my date (with a cute 11 year old - we saw "Hotel For Dogs.")  I called right back, and problem solved.  Soooo, call anytime...

Hi Cindy!  Long time, no hear!  Well, dead air space and little to no insulation.  I am not shocked, are you?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 12 years ago

Jay, up here in the cold north, I did an inspection earlier this week where the temperature INSIDE the house was 26F. BRRRRRRRR. Yeah no heat turned on and the water main was frozen when I arrived. That didn't over to well with the realtor. She was a bit upset with her client, who said she couldn't afford to keep it heated any longer. But anyhow, that was one cold inspection.

Posted by Ian Niquette (Square One Home Inspection) almost 12 years ago

Ian - that is a chilly inspection!  I have them now and then when the heat is not on, but it has not been that cold!  We had an unusually cold snap a week ago or so, most of the country did really, and when we get those cold snaps things like this happen.  Kitchen pipes is unusual for me though!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 12 years ago

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