Author Topic: frozen pipes  (Read 4905 times)

PloddingInsight

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frozen pipes
« on: March 23, 2015, 08:04:10 AM »
I'd be gratified if the more experienced DIY folks would share any reactions they have to our current situation.

We made on offer on a vacant house last fall.  It is a short sale.  The house was heated when we viewed it.

In December, my wife noticed that a sign appeared on the front door of the house stating that it had been winterized.  December is a bit late for that, but we presumed that they had left the heat on until that time.  (As it turns out -- probably not)

In early February our offer finally got approved by the bank.  The seller's realtor claims the utilities are back on for our inspection.  We show up with our inspector and everything is off, so our inspector can't complete his inspection of the electric, heating, and water.

It takes ages, but they finally get somebody to come turn everything back on.   Upon turning the water back on, water starts coming out of the ceiling fan in one of the downstairs rooms.  They turn it back off, clean up, and leave.  We are told that they are going to bring in a plumber to fix the leak.  That might happen this week.

At this point, I am having doubts about the entire plumbing system, not to mention the sewage and the boiler in the (oil) heater.  If the house was allowed to freeze, there could be lots of other pipes that were damaged, but are not leaking catastrophically like the one that has been identified.  Do all the walls need to be opened up to inspect the pipes?  Can this episode come back to bite us years down the line or does the absence of other leaks mean that we are in pretty good shape?  I'm told that if the water meter is newer, it will indicate whether even a small amount of water is flowing through, so we'll be able to tell if there's a small leak, even if we don't know where it is.  If the meter doesn't have that, a plumber would have a device that could give the same information.  My question is -- if we're able to determine that there's no leaks at this time (after the big one is fixed) -- should we trust that?

My wife is extremely attached to this particular house, so I don't really want to walk away if I can help it.  If it were just me, my attitude would be to let it be somebody else's problem.  But it would do a lot for my marriage if I can salvage this transaction. 

waltworks

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2015, 08:18:04 AM »
Maybe ask the sellers for a VERY comprehensive home warranty that covers all the mechanicals and plumbing?

I mean, I'd probably walk in your shoes. Honestly, if the whole system froze, that's pretty bad.

-W

PloddingInsight

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2015, 08:35:17 AM »
Maybe ask the sellers for a VERY comprehensive home warranty that covers all the mechanicals and plumbing?
remember it's a short sale.  It's not clear the sellers have any financial resources to draw on.  I mostly deal with the bank.
Quote
I mean, I'd probably walk in your shoes. Honestly, if the whole system froze, that's pretty bad.

-W
That's my gut reaction, but my wife is in love with this house.

waltworks

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2015, 08:37:06 AM »
Ok, make the bank do it.

Or, worst case scenario, buy the home warranty yourself if it'll make your wife happy to have this house. You should be able to find something for ~$500 or less that will cover all that stuff for a year.
Horrible deal most of the time, but in your shoes it might be a good hedge.

-W

Maybe ask the sellers for a VERY comprehensive home warranty that covers all the mechanicals and plumbing?
remember it's a short sale.  It's not clear the sellers have any financial resources to draw on.  I mostly deal with the bank.
Quote
I mean, I'd probably walk in your shoes. Honestly, if the whole system froze, that's pretty bad.

-W
That's my gut reaction, but my wife is in love with this house.

PloddingInsight

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2015, 08:40:23 AM »
Ok, make the bank do it.

Or, worst case scenario, buy the home warranty yourself if it'll make your wife happy to have this house. You should be able to find something for ~$500 or less that will cover all that stuff for a year.
Horrible deal most of the time, but in your shoes it might be a good hedge.

-W


This is beginning to get at the kind of information I need.  First, what kind of company sells a home warranty on the sale of a used house?  The bank?

Second, is one year enough?  That's part of what I'm trying to figure out.  I don't have any experience in this area.  If hidden damage was done, would it normally come to light within a year?

Axecleaver

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2015, 08:41:00 AM »
Quote
My wife is extremely attached to this particular house, so I don't really want to walk away if I can help it.  If it were just me, my attitude would be to let it be somebody else's problem.  But it would do a lot for my marriage if I can salvage this transaction.

Once you're emotionally invested in a purchase, you have lost all your negotiating power. This problem is someone else's headache, but you can choose to turn it into your advantage or to walk away.

I remember my first house purchase attempt. My wife was 3 months pregnant with our first child and we were anxious to buy. I was 28 and our savings rate was about 80% - I was making a lot as a new business owner and our expenses were ridiculously low. (Ah, if I had it to do over again - I made lots of mistakes after that!)

We put in an offer on a great little house that was used as a weekender home for a couple that didn't use it much anymore. Lots of new upgrades and overimproved for the area, motivated seller, and we were getting a great deal. But the property had a buried oil tank (this was common in the 70s and 80s) and the bank wouldn't give a mortgage until the oil tank was relocated above-ground. We had 20% down but not enough to buy it outright.

So they hire a guy to do this work. He installed a new oil tank aboveground, pumped out all the old oil and filled the old tank with sand. Except, he did a crap job and the legs of the new tank were just put on the soft grass under the gutter downspout, no gravel underlayment or cement or anything! Predictably, after the first rain, the tank legs sank into the ground and spilled 220 gallons of #2 fuel oil (aka diesel) right over the well.

I get a call from the agent on the day of the walkthrough that they had "a small problem." You could smell the fuel oil from a half mile up the road. I walked inside, got a glass of water out of the tap, and saw a rainbow oil pattern on the surface. I just canceled the deal and walked away, and saved myself a lot of trouble. Fortunately, Mrs Axecleaver supported my decision, and while she was sad about losing the house, she didn't want to buy a headache, either.

So, easiest solution is to walk away, knowing that there will be other houses for sale and other deals you can make. The other way you could go with this, is to get some estimates from a plumber for a "worst case scenario." Get at least two or three estimates. Take this price off the purchase price, and ask them to kick it in for you at closing to lower your out of pocket costs. Be willing to walk away if you don't get it. This way, you're buying a problem but if things work out in your favor, you stand to come out ahead.

Good luck and let us know how it works out.

waltworks

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2015, 09:01:08 AM »
We've gotten HWs on used houses many times. Google up some companies in your state/area.

IMO, you will find most/all of the problems in a year. You might want to talk to a plumber about their opinion on that, of course.

-W

Ok, make the bank do it.

Or, worst case scenario, buy the home warranty yourself if it'll make your wife happy to have this house. You should be able to find something for ~$500 or less that will cover all that stuff for a year.
Horrible deal most of the time, but in your shoes it might be a good hedge.

-W


This is beginning to get at the kind of information I need.  First, what kind of company sells a home warranty on the sale of a used house?  The bank?

Second, is one year enough?  That's part of what I'm trying to figure out.  I don't have any experience in this area.  If hidden damage was done, would it normally come to light within a year?

bizzy

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2015, 10:26:40 AM »
Maybe ask the sellers for a VERY comprehensive home warranty that covers all the mechanicals and plumbing?

I mean, I'd probably walk in your shoes. Honestly, if the whole system froze, that's pretty bad.

-W
I don't know how the home warranty is in other states but in California my experience is that they are almost worthless. I purchased it in two different occasions for two homes that I bought and oh boy I was such a headache to deal with. I called for various things that were covered under the warranty. Each time they send this idiot "contractor" whos only job is to find out how to tell you that the repair is not covered because of lack of maintenance or something. Out of 8 calls in two years for various things they only covered one repair. The other repairs they always found a way to say they were not covered.
I would not count on it. Remember home warranty companies are not there to loose money.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2015, 10:51:06 AM »
Water came out through the ceiling fan? Sounds like you might not need just a plumber.

PloddingInsight

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2015, 10:58:07 AM »
Water came out through the ceiling fan? Sounds like you might not need just a plumber.

Not sure if this is sarcastic or not.  Presumably the pipe with the leak is above the ceiling in that room.  Water is going to pour through a hole (for instance where you attach a ceiling fan) before it soaks through the ceiling itself.  Once upon a time a toilet overflow caused water to suddenly pour from the recessed lights in a kitchen I was in...

Am I missing something?

waltworks

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2015, 11:16:03 AM »
Well, there could be many smaller and less dramatic leaks that are slowly rotting/molding/destroying stuff you can't see, of course. There could be electrical issues if water has gotten into j-boxes or something, I suppose, as well.

Honestly, if the whole house froze, I would not buy it under any circumstances unless someone was giving me a crazy discount or paying to replace everything.

-W

Water came out through the ceiling fan? Sounds like you might not need just a plumber.

Not sure if this is sarcastic or not.  Presumably the pipe with the leak is above the ceiling in that room.  Water is going to pour through a hole (for instance where you attach a ceiling fan) before it soaks through the ceiling itself.  Once upon a time a toilet overflow caused water to suddenly pour from the recessed lights in a kitchen I was in...

Am I missing something?

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2015, 01:18:09 PM »
I was just saying it sounds like some damage to electrical components could have been done through that event. Definitely wasn't being sarcastic, I've known people who had sudden leaks leading two water coming through light fixtures.

LiveLean

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2015, 01:47:08 PM »
We had this exact issue with a second home/rental property we bought last summer. It had been vacant for three years, pipes had definitely frozen. We could not turn on the water for inspections because of this unknown. That also precluded us from getting a mortgage on the place since the lender required us to turn on the water before we closed. (Talk about a catch-22. Nothing like learning of this news 72 hours before closing and realizing you have to scramble cash together if you want to do the deal. Rather than sell lots of highly-appreciated stocks, we took a loan from family member, and got a mortgage after closing to pay it back.)

In hindsight, this issue probably was why it wallowed in foreclosure/online for nearly a year despite being an incredible value. Nobody could turn on the water.

The key was that we had a plumber do an inspection before purchase, one of the two main plumbers that handles this community. Even though he couldn't turn on the water, he took a very educated look at everything. I asked for a worst case scenario. He said "thirty-five." I assumed he meant $35,000, but he meant $3,500. That was a modest risk so we closed. He ended up doing all the work and it cost $800. The key was this was a small 1,300 square foot home with all of the plumbing running in a relatively small area. He had to open drywall at two points, which I patched and painted myself when he was done.

Needless to say, I use this plumber for all of my seasonal winterization and de-winterization issues.

theoverlook

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2015, 08:40:18 AM »
I had a similar situation except it was an unknown as to whether or not the lines leaked.  I got a plumber to do an air test on the water lines.  They disconnect a fixture and connect an air compressor, charging the lines up with air to 75psi or so, then leaving it at that pressure for a while to see if anything leaks.  If the pressure stays constant, there are no leaks.

Since they're charging the lines up beyond the usual pressure they will leak if there's the tiniest pinhole.  And the gauge will tell the truth about whether there's a hidden leak.

Do not pay a ton of money for this test.  The first plumber quoted me $750 for it and the second quoted me $250.  We passed the test, and I haven't had any problems with leaks on the supply lines, and we've been living here for six months or so.

Since you're just testing the pipes, they'll want to turn off the shutoffs at the fixtures to eliminate the risk of them leaking and showing a false positive on the test.  Otherwise a leaky faucet or toilet could throw the whole thing off.

PloddingInsight

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2015, 10:39:21 AM »
I had a similar situation except it was an unknown as to whether or not the lines leaked.  I got a plumber to do an air test on the water lines.  They disconnect a fixture and connect an air compressor, charging the lines up with air to 75psi or so, then leaving it at that pressure for a while to see if anything leaks.  If the pressure stays constant, there are no leaks.

Since they're charging the lines up beyond the usual pressure they will leak if there's the tiniest pinhole.  And the gauge will tell the truth about whether there's a hidden leak.

Do not pay a ton of money for this test.  The first plumber quoted me $750 for it and the second quoted me $250.  We passed the test, and I haven't had any problems with leaks on the supply lines, and we've been living here for six months or so.

Since you're just testing the pipes, they'll want to turn off the shutoffs at the fixtures to eliminate the risk of them leaking and showing a false positive on the test.  Otherwise a leaky faucet or toilet could throw the whole thing off.

That's a neat way to do it.  Thanks for the suggestion.

math-ya

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2015, 06:05:27 AM »
I always see foreclosures that get frozen all winter, and it's not a big deal at all. If the pipe is messed up, it will leak, you'll be able to find it, and fix it.  Copper pipes have the tendency to burst in cold while galvanized holds up much better.
Swapping out a frozen boiler and radiators is different.  That would probably be a deal breaker for me

PloddingInsight

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2015, 07:23:25 AM »
They're now claiming that the house didn't freeze.  I asked, if the house didn't freeze, what caused the leak?  They say, we won't know until we open the ceiling to fix it (which should happen this week or next.)  I'm not sure I believe it, but I will wait and see what they say after it is fixed.

Maybe we'll dodge the bullet, but I'm steeling myself not to be too gullible.

Outlier

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Re: frozen pipes
« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2015, 09:34:20 PM »
I had a similar situation except it was an unknown as to whether or not the lines leaked.  I got a plumber to do an air test on the water lines.  They disconnect a fixture and connect an air compressor, charging the lines up with air to 75psi or so, then leaving it at that pressure for a while to see if anything leaks.  If the pressure stays constant, there are no leaks.

Since they're charging the lines up beyond the usual pressure they will leak if there's the tiniest pinhole.  And the gauge will tell the truth about whether there's a hidden leak.

Do not pay a ton of money for this test.  The first plumber quoted me $750 for it and the second quoted me $250.  We passed the test, and I haven't had any problems with leaks on the supply lines, and we've been living here for six months or so.

Since you're just testing the pipes, they'll want to turn off the shutoffs at the fixtures to eliminate the risk of them leaking and showing a false positive on the test.  Otherwise a leaky faucet or toilet could throw the whole thing off.

Oh this is an awesome idea. I wish I'd have known about this when I bought my repo house. I just turned on the water and watched stuff leak. Then I fixed the leaks and the damage to everything that got leaked on. I'd totally have rigged this up with a compressor if I'd have thought of it.