Winter is Coming, Is Your Home Ready?

Will the pipes freeze again?

As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time to plant a tree is TODAY!  Today is the day to call or help someone else you know give us a call to stop the anxiety of “Did I leave the faucet dripping”?  “Did I leave the sink cabinet doors open”?  “Will the pipes freeze again”?  “Why did my contractor sell me a brand new kitchen and do nothing about the 1950s insulation in the wall behind my newly renovated space?”

This time between now and the first of December to get a conversation with us, an energy audit ($500 that is credited back to you on the work you hire us to do and is immediately available as a $150 Federal Tax Credit. Click here for more info about the incentives available via the Inflation Reduction Act) and finally put an end to the anxiety of “What will happen in my home this winter”?  Your home will have the same issues it has had in the past when it is zero outside! 

The two most common calls I get in the depth of the winter are, my pipes are frozen and my room over the garage is freezing!  Here is what you need to know to give us a ring and make this coming winter different than it has been.  Both of these complaints are common and we have the ability to resolve these issues regardless of what Mother Nature has in store this winter.  

First, let’s talk about those frozen pipes and how to avoid a flood in your home.  Frozen pipes are commonly in either the kitchen, the bathroom in the laundry room, or even in the newly added entertainment space in your basement that includes a sink and therefore plumbing that is coming from somewhere. It’s impossible to describe all places but, you will see similarities to your own situation… and WE CAN FIX IT!  Burst pipes can cause tens of thousands of dollars or more in damage prior to the water being shut off… assuming you are home to shut the water off.

Old houses that have not had frozen pipes are built differently than homes today.  Today we ask for construction to be done in a way that allows us to “live the life we want to live” and builders do that for us with little to no knowledge that one of the adults’ insistence that the plumbing be put inside a 2×4 exterior wall where it is almost certain to freeze during the first super cold snap when it will flood your newly renovated space.  If you have a newly renovated kitchen or bathroom with a sink cabinet on an exterior 2×4 wall, please go see if you can see the plumbing in the cabinet or if it is inside of a 2×4 exterior wall.  If you cannot see it, contact your contractor to ask them to properly move it to the inside of the cabinet or give us a call and we can coordinate a plumber, drywall, and foam it to keep you from freezing this winter.  The same would apply to a laundry or bathroom with plumbing on a 2×4 exterior wall.

Now, let’s talk about the common modification in many Chicago area homes where the rear (or front porch) was converted into a bathroom, laundry, or kitchen.  Many of these spaces add high value and satisfaction to your ability to host families and have a first-floor powder room, first-floor laundry, or a second bathroom but the question is where did the plumber put the pipes?  It is far too common for the plumber to “solve” the issue of hiding the pipe from point A to the new space with little awareness of the exposure to the freezing temperatures that will surely freeze the pipe at some point and burst it after a freeze or two.  Every time you add to the plumbing and allow it to be “more convenient” by adding a new dog washing station in that old porch with gorgeous new finishes… and no or little insulation, YOU need to ensure that proper planning and execution are done not only with the pipes but with the protection of the pipes.  Yes, that plumber was less expensive than five other plumbers… but do they have the knowledge to protect the plumbing from freezing?  At Chicago Green Insulation we use thermal imaging and a blower door as part of our paid energy audit ($500 but that is refunded to you on the final invoice for the work you hire us to do and is eligible for the $150 Federal Tax Credit as part of the incentives for energy efficiency included in the Inflation Reduction Act.) to find the shortcomings prior to the flood and fix it.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

$.10 of foam would have saved $200,000 worth of damage 

The most simple frozen pipe issue I have ever dealt with was an entertainment space in the basement that had a sink for the family to entertain, watch Bears games or movies.  The plumber struggled with how to get the water to the area where the family wanted the sink as it was no where near the mechanical room/ main water supply but was on the front wall at the opposite end of the basement and the only area the plumber could pull water from was a second floor bathroom and the only place that plumbing could be moved from the second floor to the basement was a chase at the front door in the same cavity as the door bell.  The chase ran perfectly from the second floor to the desired location, right past the hole that had been drilled for the doorbell.  The pipe was burst in that location as the zero degree wind blew outside, while the family was away on vacation….  The burst pipe was not discovered until water filled the entire basement and was running out the front door after hours of running, destroying the newly finished space AND other areas on the first floor of the home while the water ran out the front door and down the street, less than two hours after the pipe burst.

Bonus Room Fix!

For families with bedrooms over the garage or over exterior space, like a car port or other outside space, spray foam insulation is the best path to a warmer winter but it is not possible to do when it is super cold so… NOW IS THE TIME TO FIX THIS!

Why is my living space over the garage or outside cold?  Well, its cold outside and the existing fiberglass/ cellulose insulation is no longer in contact with the subfloor leaving space for the cold air to circulate under the subfloor 24/7 during the coldest months of the winter and denying the furnace the ability to reach the set temperature in that space that is either a primary bedroom, child room or bonus room for family during visits…. Or your new permanent home office.

The solution starts with removal of the finishes under the living space, applying foam insulation to the subfloor and then closing up the ceiling below to allow this issue to no longer provide winters worst temps denying you the access to fully use your home comfortably and wreck your plans for minimizing utility bills. 

If you are reading this and we are beyond the ability to “do something proactive” about this issue right now, heat tape with a 32 degree sensor on it is your best option for a temporary fix.  I suggest buying this from a locally owned hardware store like Ace Hardware or similar.

So, now that you have been warned, I hope that this is not a winter like other winters in your home and you can now fully use your home and know that your family will benefit from your actions today!  Click here to set an appointment to talk with me or a member of my team to schedule next steps!  If you are worried about the complex nature of modifications like the info above, we can coordinate with drywall, plumbers, HVAC on your behalf to make it one call to know that your work is done!

The best time to get ready for winter is TODAY!  Cold winters do NOT MEAN YOU NEED TO SUFFER!  Comfort is only a FOAM CALL AWAY!  847-987-3626

About the Author, Tom Decker

With ten years of experience selling spray foam insulation in Chicago, Tom Decker is THE person to call and the Chicago Green Insulation is the organization to hire when you are looking for top notch quality and performance as well as someone who can deal with the needs of code officials, home owners and general contractors. Call the others in Chicago, if you are interested in the cheapest price, call Chicago Green Insulation if you are interested in using your dollars to make Chicago a better city for all of us!

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