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Old 01-13-2014, 06:43 PM   #1
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PEX In Attic


I just completed a $60,000+ remodel, including a new kitchen. During the very cold snap we just had in early January, I discovered that the plumber ran the water supply line from the main sink cold water supply to the refrigerator ice maker/water dispenser by connecting PEX to the in-wall copper, ran the PEX up the wall, across the attic space above the kitchen ceiling, and then down the wall behind the refrigerator. I live in Florida so we rarely get hard freezes but on the coldest morning it was 17 degrees and the water dispenser would put out only a dribble. I ran it like that for several seconds until it finally freed up. My natural assumption was that the line had partially frozen.

I climbed up in the attic to inspect and sure enough the PEX is laying directly on top of the ceiling insulation. The route also takes it fairly close to the eaves and soffit vents. Photo attached.

I also noted that the connection to the main cold water supply under the sink is completely enclosed in the wall. There is no shut off at the supply end of the PEX line, only at the refrigerator. So I have no way to turn this line off in the case of leak or required maintenance.

So I have two main concerns. One of course is the potential for damage due to freezing - either immediate or long term from repeated freeze/thaw cycles. Like I said, we rarely get a hard freeze here but this has to last me and be fool proof for until the next kitchen renovation - which will definitely not be during my life time.

The other concern I have is the effect of long term heat exposure typical of what would be encountered in an attic space in a hot climate like Florida. My layman's thinking tells me that long term exposure to that level of dry heat is going to make the plastic brittle and at risk of failure.

I'm now very uncomfortable with the safety risks associated with this installation but with the complete kitchen installed, and the low pitch of the roof where the PEX runs above, there is really no way to "fix" this.

The main cold water supply and the refrigerator are on right-angle walls to each other, with a solid line of cabinets in between them. I've a good mind to have someone open up the cabinet and wall under the sink, disconnect the installed PEX, and run a new PEX or copper line through the back of the cabinet spaces over to the fridge.

That way I have no issues of freeze or heat damage to the piping and if there ever was a leak, the damage is limited to stuff at ground level or below. I wouldn't have a case of everything from the ceiling down being ruined.

Would appreciate the input of a pro plumber on this who really knows the ins and out of PEX.
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Old 01-13-2014, 07:26 PM   #2
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You have some options- If I were to do it, I'd run 1/4" copper tubing through your cabinets- up high and out of the way, or in the cabinet base if possible.
Really no need for 1/2". At your CW sink valve add a quick tee to connect the new tubing
http://www.plumbingsupply.com/quick-tee-adapter.html
The existing pex can be capped at the sink and the ice maker box removed and patched.

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Old 01-13-2014, 07:57 PM   #3
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You have some options- If I were to do it, I'd run 1/4" copper tubing through your cabinets- up high and out of the way, or in the cabinet base if possible.
Really no need for 1/2". At your CW sink valve add a quick tee to connect the new tubing
http://www.plumbingsupply.com/quick-tee-adapter.html
The existing pex can be capped at the sink and the ice maker box removed and patched.
The more I look at trying to run a new line inside, the harder it seems like it will be. Attached two photos. One of the cabinet install in progress, and one of the finished kitchen.

In the "in progress" photo, if you look just to the right of the corner, you see that narrow 6-drawer unit. Unfortunately it has no voids in side the carcass at all. Each drawer occupies its own separate niche and is basically "wall to wall" in side that niche. There is no space up high just below the counter material, or in the back behind the drawer. The only option would be to cut the back out of one of the drawers to and rebuild to make it shorter so as to allow the line to pass behind it.

Then you get to the cook top. The cook top unit itself pretty much occupies the entire front-to-back space of the counter and juts about 3-4 inches down in to the base cabinet. So no room to run high there. And then in the base there is a roll out unit so there are glides and congestion at the bottom of the cabinet.

The only way I can visualize getting from the sink to the refrigerator would be to go under the cabinets behind the toe kick. But the toe kick behind the veneer is not open air, it is solid construction. So the veneer would have to be removed and holes cut in the base material through which to work and thread piping.

I think I'm going to puke.
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Old 01-13-2014, 08:16 PM   #4
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PEX In Attic


Since your in Florida I would suggest you dig out the insulation so you can get the pex as close to the kitchen ceiling as possible then insulate above the pex. The heat should have no effect on the pex if you roof vents are properly installed.

Funny that is the first comment out of my mouth when a plumber in northern Ohio does a stupid and exposes water to freezing. "Do you think your in Florida?"

For your information pex is less likely to burst if it freezes then any other water pipe.

Running a 1/4 inch line through the cabinets is your safest bet.

Last edited by Ghostmaker; 01-13-2014 at 08:20 PM.
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Old 01-13-2014, 10:13 PM   #5
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Since your in Florida I would suggest you dig out the insulation so you can get the pex as close to the kitchen ceiling as possible then insulate above the pex. The heat should have no effect on the pex if you roof vents are properly installed.

Funny that is the first comment out of my mouth when a plumber in northern Ohio does a stupid and exposes water to freezing. "Do you think your in Florida?"

For your information pex is less likely to burst if it freezes then any other water pipe.

Running a 1/4 inch line through the cabinets is your safest bet.
Burying in the insulation was my first thought also. Unfortunately the line was installed from below when the ceiling was opened for the remodel and was laid very close to the eaves where the very shallow pitch roof descends to the exterior wall. In fact the line enters the exterior wall top plate under that eave where the refrigerator is. Just don't know if it's possible for anyone to get up in there and do the work.

I've spoken to and sent a complaining email to my general contractor but so far he hasn't come back with any kind of plan or commitment to address the problem.
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Old 01-13-2014, 10:25 PM   #6
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Is there an actual problem?

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Old 01-14-2014, 08:03 AM   #7
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Is there an actual problem?

Andy.
Other than the fact that the line has already partially frozen up once and it's only the first winter it's been installed? I can't wait until an actual problem occurs. If this line fails, it will rain down water all the way from the ceiling downward and destroy $60k worth of work. I realize that "stuff happens" sometimes but this installation method just seems risky and lazy. The guy didn't want to be bothered with installing through the wall studs. The ceiling was open and so he just tossed it up and over. Then to add insult to injury, left me no way to turn it off if there is a problem. I'm trying to be proactive in identifying and mitigating possible future risks.
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Old 01-14-2014, 06:50 PM   #8
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See if the contractor stands by his work. Then check if the contractor pulled required permits for inspections, Then contact a lawyer and sue. You might end up with a new kitchen.
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Old 01-15-2014, 07:54 PM   #9
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Since your in Florida I would suggest you dig out the insulation so you can get the pex as close to the kitchen ceiling as possible then insulate above the pex. The heat should have no effect on the pex if you roof vents are properly installed.

Funny that is the first comment out of my mouth when a plumber in northern Ohio does a stupid and exposes water to freezing. "Do you think your in Florida?"

For your information pex is less likely to burst if it freezes then any other water pipe.

Running a 1/4 inch line through the cabinets is your safest bet.
I went up in to the attic today and I was able to dig out the insulation and bury the line back under it along about 12-13 feet of an the approximately 15 feet of run. I have 2X4 trusses and the line runs perpendicular for most of the length. Where the line comes up out of the top plate and in a few pieces where it got draped over in stead of under an electric cable there's about 8-9 inches below the line to the drywall. But for most of the length the space below the line is just the width of the truss - 3 1/2" inches.

I dug out a space between each truss and below the line about 3 or 4 inches wide, and then piled the insulation back over the top.

Where I can't get to is where the line turns parallel to the truss and dives in to the top plate behind the refrigerator. That's right up under the eaves of my very shallow roof. Even laying on my stomach reaching as far in as I can, there is still a couple of feet of exposed pipe that I just can't get to. The insulation that is there seems to surround it pretty well underneath and maybe even some tucked between the line and roof deck above the top plate and exterior wall.

That section is somewhat worrisome to me because there is a soffit vent right there that could allow cold air to intrude directly in to that space.

A friend of mine suggested I fashion a longish-piece of cardboard in to a narrow U-shaped channel, slide it over the top of the exposed pipe and shove as far toward the top plate as I can, then use a broomstick to shove an insulation bat over the top of that as far toward the top plate as I can.

On the other hand, I'm thinking that since that is the section that goes down in to the top plate and through wall behind the refrigerator, which is enclosed in a cabinet, that the several feet of line below the top plate will be getting constantly warmed. Could that possibly create enough conductive heat in the line and the water enclosed just above, coupled with the insulated line on the other side of that section, to keep it from freezing?

Last edited by gbchriste; 01-15-2014 at 07:56 PM.
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Old 01-15-2014, 08:42 PM   #10
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How about calling the contractor and telling him to come fix it.
60 grand on a remodel!
I'd be calling his butt.
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Old 01-15-2014, 09:01 PM   #11
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How about calling the contractor and telling him to come fix it.
60 grand on a remodel!
I'd be calling his butt.
Already spoken on the phone and emailed. No committment from him yet to come and address the problem. In the mean time I've mid-20 temps tonight and forecast for Friday night. I'll deal with him when I can and must but for now I'm just trying to head off an immediate problem.

Add to that there were a number of workmanship items during the course of the remodel that I was not happy with and basically forced him to re-accomplish. I monitored the work every day that I could and caught things when I saw them but the day they put this water line in was one of the days I couldn't be here. I definitely would not have allowed this to pass if I'd see it. Anyway, the point being, I'm kind of weary of fighting the fight with him and we may be getting to a point where he just stops responding to my complaints at all. At that point I have a choice - bite the bullet and fix it myself (or pay someone to fix it), or go the legal mat with this guy. Option 1 is probably cheaper, easier and less stressful in the long run.
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Old 01-15-2014, 09:52 PM   #12
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This is just a thought, but if for some reason your contractor blows you off, my recommendation would be one of the cost saving route. You just shelled out 60 large for your kitchen, so another 1 to 2k would be just irritating. I live in Colorado, and my water lines with pex run off my boiler into a radiant system. I can't relocate them, so I wrapped heat tape AND Fiberglass insulation around the pipes. It has kept them warm in sub ten degree temps in an uninsulated garage. If it bothers you too much, go for the fix. If you can deal with it, it might be a good money saving route.
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Old 01-16-2014, 09:28 PM   #13
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I don't understand what you mean by no way to shut it off. It has a shutoff at the refrigerator, right? It's not normal to go around putting shut off valves between the source and the fixture, except at the fixture itself, and one main somewhere in the house. An exception would be a PEX home run system with a main manifold, but a normal copper system doesn't have this, so no reason you should require it.

Or am I misunderstanding you?
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:07 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by gbchriste View Post
I went up in to the attic today and I was able to dig out the insulation and bury the line back under it along about 12-13 feet of an the approximately 15 feet of run. I have 2X4 trusses and the line runs perpendicular for most of the length. Where the line comes up out of the top plate and in a few pieces where it got draped over in stead of under an electric cable there's about 8-9 inches below the line to the drywall. But for most of the length the space below the line is just the width of the truss - 3 1/2" inches.

I dug out a space between each truss and below the line about 3 or 4 inches wide, and then piled the insulation back over the top.

Where I can't get to is where the line turns parallel to the truss and dives in to the top plate behind the refrigerator. That's right up under the eaves of my very shallow roof. Even laying on my stomach reaching as far in as I can, there is still a couple of feet of exposed pipe that I just can't get to. The insulation that is there seems to surround it pretty well underneath and maybe even some tucked between the line and roof deck above the top plate and exterior wall.

That section is somewhat worrisome to me because there is a soffit vent right there that could allow cold air to intrude directly in to that space.

A friend of mine suggested I fashion a longish-piece of cardboard in to a narrow U-shaped channel, slide it over the top of the exposed pipe and shove as far toward the top plate as I can, then use a broomstick to shove an insulation bat over the top of that as far toward the top plate as I can.

On the other hand, I'm thinking that since that is the section that goes down in to the top plate and through wall behind the refrigerator, which is enclosed in a cabinet, that the several feet of line below the top plate will be getting constantly warmed. Could that possibly create enough conductive heat in the line and the water enclosed just above, coupled with the insulated line on the other side of that section, to keep it from freezing?
It might but who knows what the weather will bring in the future. I might try using this product below on the entire length of pipe.

Flexible Elastomeric (Rubber) Closed-Cell Pipe Insulation


http://www.zorotools.com/g/00055227/k-G1365341?utm_source=google_shopping&utm_medium=cpc &utm_campaign=Google_Shopping_Feed&kw={keyword}&gc lid=CLWv69aphLwCFY1AMgoddB0Ajg

But with no heat no matter how well insulated a pipe will freeze. I do not recommend electrical heat tape to keep the pipe unfrozen due to fire risk. I would never do it myself. Who was the plumbing contractor I suggest you call him direct.

Last edited by Ghostmaker; 01-16-2014 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:11 PM   #15
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I would just slide on some pipe insulation and forget about it. If you were a few states further north I'd be concerned.

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