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Go Back   BHM Forum > Self-Reliance & Preparedness > Hands-on

Hands-on Hands-on/Repair topics that do not have a dedicated board, above.

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  #1  
Old 01-23-2012, 04:10 PM
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CarolAnn Female CarolAnn is offline
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Default Frozen water pipes (trailer)

Friday morning my water was frozen for the first time in the three years I've lived there. I hadn't been all the way under the house before - just far enough to turn off the water when we were plumbing last fall. This time I had to get right in and thankfully, it wasn't as bad as I'd feared.

I was able to reset the safety on the outlet strip that my heat tape was hooked up to and get it going again without replacing the tape, thank heavens! I melted snow for a couple of days before it thawed, though. I bought a new heat tape before I started and then couldn't use it. I didn't realize just how much exposed pipe I had - it was at least 12 feet! I thought it was only the three feet from the ground up to the trailer where it went in - but there was a insulation-wrapped pipe all the way to the kitchen, and maybe more. I assume there's tape under the whole wrap.

Since the tape I had was 6' long, it wouldn't have done any good anyway, since you can't double it up, or wrap it around the pipes. I'm fairly sure there are actually TWO heat tapes, as there was a drop cord coming from the other end of the house that I didn't follow up. (Crawling around under the house in -5 degree weather didn't exactly give me a thrill!)

Can anyone tell me just how much exposed water pipe there's likely to be under there? There's a bathroom in either end of the 70' trailer, kitchen in the middle. I would have thought the water lines would be run INSIDE as much as possible! Sooner or later, I'm going to have to replace that tape, so if anyone has tips or instructions, I'd sure appreciate it! Trailer is about 12 years old.
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  #2  
Old 01-23-2012, 06:00 PM
MooseToo MooseToo is offline
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there's only one thing you can say about how things are installed in mobile homes - and that there is zip, zero, nada standardization - every one is different and has to be evaluated as a totally individual install - there's not even standardization model-to-model by the same manufacturer - and there will probably be significant differences between the two bathrooms you have at each end of the home -

i hesitate to say you're gonna have to "play it by ear" because i know it's not what you want to hear - but -- you're gonna have to play it by ear -
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Old 01-23-2012, 06:33 PM
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I would not assume there is heat tape under the insulation.
Is there a power cord connected to anything running to the insulated section?
If not then it's probably not heated.
I would get rid of the power strip.
You never know when it will fail.
If you can't then try to connect a light to the power strip so you can tell if it shuts off again.
I hated working on my MIL's trailer.
All aluminum wiring.
Plumbing was as cheap as they could find.
Hot water tank was behind a panel in the closet and not insulated from the outside air.
My BIL had a double wide.
Half the power stopped working.
I finally found a cheap plastic snap together plug that connected the 2 side together.
It was burnt completely up.
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  #4  
Old 01-24-2012, 03:11 AM
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You don't likely have heat tape inside the belly fabric unless someone has put it there - fire hazard. I've never seen it on any of the trailers I've worked on.

You should only have the exposed stub of factory pipe that your fresh water pipe is attached to when set up. This stub should have a shut off valve or one should be installed on your fresh water in-pipe underneath. (Run heat tape over this & insulate too!) (*Mark location on underpinning if there isn't a tag on the trailer marking this location - saves time on cold nights when you're frantically trying to locate the valve when water is spraying out the light sockets! ) There should also be a vent pipe for the hot water heater as well but you don't have to worry about insulating it. (A bit of old screen wrapped around it will keep bugs out, though.)

Defintely get rid of any power strips or cheapo extension cords!!! If I have to use an extension cord for some odd reason I only will use an exterior use 14 ga cord that is only long enough for the job. Best solution is to rewire properly if needed. There should be a dedicated outlet underneath near the trailer's fresh water in-pipe. Sometimes these are piggy backed off of a interior GFCI outlet or are a GFCI outlet themselves. (Newer trailers have the GFCI - older ones don't.)

You're correct - NEVER double up heat tape on the same section of pipe. You can use one -after- the other... but not running side-by-side. You can go to most mobile home supply stores and get custom cut lengths of metal sheathed heat tape although Lowes carries the generic orange heat tape in several precut lengths. Be sure to leave the temperature sensor exposed AND firmly taped to contact the pipe so it gets a good read of the pipe's temperature.

I use the 6' slotted foam pipe wraps with the adhesive lips over any exposed pipes with or without heat tape - just be sure to get the correct inside diameter wraps so they'll go over your pipe plus heat tape.

The factory pipes depend on heat radiated (and leaking...) out from the heat duct which is trapped reasonably well between the belly fabric and the floor. What happens is someone opens up the fabric to fix a leak and then a herd of cats, aardvarks, possums, wildebeest and any other critter you can imagine all open the holes up farther and move into the nice, warm insulation and leave the pipes exposed.

I fix these things often & there are a few tips to help ya fix it so they can't easily get back in after you get the leaks taken care of.

Lawn fabric - like you use under mulch or for erosion control. You can get it by the roll in various lengths at Lowes or any garden supply center.
3M spray contact cement - spray it on two clean surfaces... wait a minute... stick them together and they generally stay stuck.
Surplus insulation batts - faced is easier to work with.

I have learned to repair leaks with PEX pipes & fittings and urge anyone to do the same - especially on a mobile home. PEX resists bursting far beyond hard pipes (copper, iron, qwest (gray plastic) etc). Downside to PEX is you need a few special tools that are pricey if you're only going to need them once plus fittings to adapt to your existing un-burst pipes.

After you get the leaks fixed - I make sure the critter isn't home & lay insulation up in the belly fabric to cover the hole. For large holes you can use sheets of cardboard cut larger than the existing hole to help support the insulation... REALLLY big holes may need some creative use of luan (thin plywood).

Once the insulation is secure I make sure the area is reasonably free of spider webs & dirt by brushing it off with a handbroom or something similar. Then cut a piece of the fabric that is larger than the hole by several inches. NOTE: for large holes I sometimes will go a foot or more past the edges on every side of the hole when possible.

Spray down the underbelly with the 3M adhesive then with your cut piece of landscaping fabric laid out spray it down too. Give it about 15 seconds to 'flash' and then begin stretching it across the opening covering both the hole and your insulation. It is often difficult to get this done without dragging it across dirt so I often will have it laid across me and spray it from the top and then lay back to install it to the underbelly. Start at the highest point if possible and work your way across gently stretching as you go.

WARNING!: The adhesive will make you high as a kite if you don't have adequate ventilation and IS FLAMMABLE when sprayed so smoking isn't a good idea right then.
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Last edited by lunghd; 01-24-2012 at 03:24 AM.
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  #5  
Old 01-24-2012, 01:28 PM
grumble Male grumble is offline
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Great post, lunghd! Sure wish I'd read it back in the days when "home" was a 25 year old double wide -- it would have saved me years of trial and error, when my pipes seemed to freeze up and burst several times a year.

A couple other hints I learned:

-reinforce the belly patch with chicken wire. It also helps keep out larger animals that will tear through the belly fabric to find a warm spot.

-use Sharkbite fittings on the PEX. They're expensive compared to regular PVC fittings, but they're so easy to use and reuse they pay for themselves over time. They're approved for behind-the-wall applications. They are much easier to attach than the ones that need the compression ring, and you don't have to buy the expensive compression tool.
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  #6  
Old 01-24-2012, 03:52 PM
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Thanks, everyone for the excellent advice.

Uh.... belly fabric? I didn't notice any! Goldangit! I'm going to have to crawl under there again, even though it's thawed right now. I need to know what's going on under there!

For sure I have a heat tape, as that's what's plugged into the power strip. The safety switch on the power strip was off, that's why my pipes froze. Flipped it back on and they thawed out in a couple of days.

After two days of melting snow to wash, brush and flush, I was glad to have it back on again! But I really don't want a repeat OR a fire, so I'll get under there after work tonight. It'll be a chance to use one of the new hand-crank battery LED light lanterns that my SIL gave me as a gift. Might take photos too - just to be sure of what I've got under there.

I have both hardware cloth and lawn fabric in the shed - but I'm going to have to use a hair drier to melt the ice out of the padlock. Dang - I hate winter!
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Old 01-24-2012, 06:58 PM
grumble Male grumble is offline
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Hardware cloth is great stuff, but it sure is expensive! Chicken wire costs more than it should, but it's a whole lot cheaper than hardware cloth.

If you have a little propane torch, it will make short work of a frozen lock. Of course, common sense applies to its use.

I think what was being said earlier about the heat tape was that what you have probably won't run the length of the pipes for the home, it will only be a short run from the ground to where the water inlet goes up into the insulation. Running the heat tape the entire length of the pipes could be a fire hazard.
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  #8  
Old 01-24-2012, 07:04 PM
J R Adams J R Adams is offline
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Rule # 357: Open the valve to let the faucet drip. Running water won't freeze.
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Old 01-24-2012, 07:16 PM
grumble Male grumble is offline
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Wanna bet? <GGG> Unless you leave the water going at a fast enough rate to prevent freezing, you can bust pipes with that theory. G'ahead, ax me how I know. <G>
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Old 01-24-2012, 07:20 PM
J R Adams J R Adams is offline
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Quote:
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Wanna bet? <GGG> Unless you leave the water going at a fast enough rate to prevent freezing, you can bust pipes with that theory. G'ahead, ax me how I know. <G>
The colder it is the faster you have to leave the water running. If it freezes at 4 or 5 gpm you probably have other problems and won't need water anyway.
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Old 01-24-2012, 08:33 PM
grumble Male grumble is offline
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Four or five GPM? Holy cow, that ain't a dribble! Most home water fixtures are limited at 3 GPM, 4 GPM for showers IIRC. That's turning on a faucet full blast, and another one halfway.

But, when it's -10 out there, it definitely does take a pretty good flow of water to prevent freezing.
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  #12  
Old 01-25-2012, 02:05 AM
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Belly fabric can be anything and everything - the trailer manufacturers will go with whatever was cheapest that will cover up everything underneath. You may find a fabric similar to the lawn / mulch fabric, fabric similar to cheap tarp material, a type of thin cardboard or (in older mobile homes) a thicker type of cardboard that will last for years if it doesn't get wet. All of these products are there to keep the insulation in place during shipping... and if it happens to keep it in place after the sale - well, I guess they'll say it's there for that too!

Think of it as a sandwich - your floor is the top piece of bread, with floor joists, pipes, wiring, ducts etc as the ingredients all above the bottom piece of bread which is your insulation and belly fabric. The only pipes you should have sticking thru the belly fabric are the fresh water inlet with it's shut off valve which in turn runs down into the ground to your well house or city water. There should also be a hot water over flow pipe. The only heat tape is what goes on the exposed pipe beneath the belly fabric that is exposed above ground. The rest of your pipes inside that 'sandwich' will be kept warm by the heat lost by your heating ducts.
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Old 01-25-2012, 07:08 PM
MooseToo MooseToo is offline
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Quote:
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Running water won't freeze.
so the pics i've seen of niagra falls as a solid lump are faked ?
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Old 01-25-2012, 07:14 PM
J R Adams J R Adams is offline
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Quote:
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so the pics i've seen of niagra falls as a solid lump are faked ?

The water is running under the ice.
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Old 01-26-2012, 10:15 AM
MooseToo MooseToo is offline
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Quote:
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The water is running under the ice.
aahhh - sort of like between two layers of insulation similar to what is found under house trailers ?
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Old 01-26-2012, 09:11 PM
J R Adams J R Adams is offline
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Quote:
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aahhh - sort of like between two layers of insulation similar to what is found under house trailers ?
May be? But can you imagine the amount of water back up and flooding if the Niagra river quit flowing?
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Old 01-26-2012, 09:41 PM
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You GUYS!

I had to Google it. Here's what the main article said about Niagra Falls freezing over:

The Niagara River handles 212,000 cubic feet of water per second. The average depth is approximately 16 feet with a flow rate of 4 to 8 miles per hour. The Niagara River does not freeze over. The Falls of Niagara and the river below the Falls does not freeze either. The volume of water going over the Falls, the depth and speed of the water below the Falls also precludes freezing. The water will not be stopped or frozen solid.

> Later in the article, though, it says it HAS frozen six times in recorded history, only when the flow was cut way down by ice jams up river. <

The ice bridge however does form at the base of Falls and over portions of the Niagara River below the Falls. The ice bridge is formed in late December to the end of February and into mid March dependant on the weather.



Lake Erie which drains into the Niagara River is a large lake but rather shallow. By the end of December, the entire lake surface is frozen over. Although an ice boom has been put into place since the 1960's at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Erie. The boom holds back most of the ice but not all. When the ice goes over the Falls in volume the ice freezes to the edges of the gorge and builds upon itself until the river is covered in this giant layer of ice. This layer has grown to eighty feet thick in the past and currently 40 feet is not uncommon.


The Falls of Niagara still flows as does the water under the ice and the ice shelf seems to rise on layer of air that builds under the ice surface.


The American Falls have frozen over on six occasions since the keeping of records began. Each were attributed to ice jams that have actually curtailed the flow of the American Falls to mere trickles.

SO . . .if I can keep all the taps on at full tilt, maybe the water won't freeze in my little trailer house! But then I won't be able to pay the water bill and my water will be off anyway!
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Old 01-26-2012, 09:54 PM
MooseToo MooseToo is offline
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i love this forum - what an education ! there's a limitless variety of useless trivia available to titillate our fancies -
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:02 PM
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Quote:
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i love this forum - what an education ! there's a limitless variety of useless trivia available to titillate our fancies -
Useless rivia is like dumb questions; there ain't no such thing.
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:24 PM
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I too live in a trailer but thankfully it doesn't get that cold here in south central Texas though it does freeze occasionally. I've learned the hard way to let the water run a little if the predicted low is to be 35o or less. I've also learned that when I leave water run to prevent frozen pipes to leave the hot water on, because as I was told if you run the hot water it also keeps the cold water running since cold water comes into the water heater when the hot goes out. Only had one problem with a broken outside water faucet since I moved last fall and no one seems to know how it got broken. Had to wait about a day for it to get fixed as the landlord didn't have one that would fit. I do know where the shut off valve is though in case I need to use it at a later date.
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