Plumbing Revision/Winterization

In February 2021 central Texas experienced some extremely cold weather. There were at least five days where the temperature did not get above freezing which is pretty unprecedented here. Three days into the winterpocalypse our pipes froze. This fall/winter I’ve been working on making the plumbing system more robust.

I focused on reducing above ground piping and insulating the pump house.

Houses built on pier and beam are more susceptible to freezing temperatures because at some point their water pipes have to leave the protection of the thermal mass of the ground and be exposed to the ambient environment before entering the house.

The water pipes for our cabin were really susceptible because the water pipes were all strapped to the bottom of the cabin. The pipes were insulated which seemed fine for the light freezes we experienced earlier in the winter but did not hold up to sustained freezing temperatures.

I buried the pipes going to the kitchen sink so that they’re only exposed for about 18 inches from the ground to the underside of the cabin so it’s feasible that I can wrap that small section with heat tape to keep it from freezing. I also isolated the kitchen water supply line from the rest of the house so I can turn off the water to the rest of the house and keep water running to kitchen.

During the winter storm in February I put heat lamps in the pump house to try to keep it above freezing but after a couple of days it wasn’t enough. Retrofitting the existing pump house with insulation while keeping everything running seemed problematic so I opted to build a new pump house instead. I built it on a rubble trench/concrete grade beam foundation so I could practice the technique and the thermal mass of the foundation will help moderate the temperature in the pump house. The new pump house is a4x4 post and beam structure with 6″ wide fence pickets for cladding. I put 3″ foam insulation panels between the posts and on the underside of the roof.

Here’s a video of the project:

And here are some stills:

In preparation for the winter storm I wrapped up the exposed pipes with foam
I put lights in the pump house to generate a little heat
Cracked water filter housing