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Old 03-06-2015, 12:10 PM   #1
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Does PEX burst when it freezes?


Years ago, the back of my garage got converted into a bathroom. The floor of the bathroom is about 2 feet higher than the garage floor. There is a little crawl space under there, where the pipes run. Not much heat gets in there, so the pipes freeze.

I just got back from a 3 week vacation. I had shut the water off and I opened the tap in the basement to drain the pipes. But it didn't work. Both pipes exploded.

Two neighbors said their pipes froze, but they had PEX and it didn't rupture. Is that just a coincidence or does PEX really not burst when it freezes?

I'm not looking forward to slithering across the junk in that little crawl space more often that I have to. I've never used PEX, but is now the time to learn? Is there something that would work even better for me?
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Old 03-06-2015, 01:05 PM   #2
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PEX is supposed to tolerate freezing, but I'm sure there are exceptions. For one thing, fittings such as T's and elbows can burst from freezing even if the PEX itself doesn't. I know that the PEX in my barn has frozen a number of times, and hasn't burst (yet). I installed an outdoor underground shut-off, last fall, though. No point in tempting fate.
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Old 03-06-2015, 01:06 PM   #3
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The plastic piping institute claims that PEX is freeze resistant. See http://plasticpipe.org/pdf/pex-plumb...07-13-2010.pdf.

That does not mean freeze proof, simply resistant. You can certainly use PEX, and will probably get better results than copper pipe, but you can also install heat trace, insulate the pipe, or develop a better method of draining the pipe.
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Old 03-06-2015, 01:15 PM   #4
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Prevention would have been the key on this one.
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Old 03-06-2015, 01:34 PM   #5
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Ayuh,.... In my experience, Pex expands way more that water, when water freezes,...

But, as noted by Mushcreek, the fittin's Don't,....
So any breaks from freezin' will be at the fittin's,....

'n I completely agree, keepin' that area above freezin', is the Best plan to stop frozen pipes, regardless what they're made of,...
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Old 03-06-2015, 02:00 PM   #6
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Supposedly pex can take up to 7 freeze thaw cycles. Your better option is to prevent freezing.
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Old 03-06-2015, 05:51 PM   #7
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I'll echo what has already been said here. Not sure of how many cycles but definitely more tolerant than copper. We just moved to NW PA (South of Erie) and it has been one brutal cold winter. AM temps in the negative 25 range before wind chill. The place we have has a similar situation but the pipes are pex so we can thaw them each time. As said we plan on fixing once the spring thaw occurs in sometime later July;-/ Also if you cant keep it above freezing try to at least have home runs to minimize couplings that will experience the freeze thaw cycles.

Good luck.
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Old 03-06-2015, 06:03 PM   #8
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uponor wirsbo aquapex tubing..
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Old 03-06-2015, 07:50 PM   #9
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Ahhhh... I see. The copper pipes hook up to the BOTTOM of the pipes in the basement. So when I drained the water, those lines didn't empty out. I should have realized that. I guess to really drain them, I would have to blow them out with the compressor or something.

The pipes are insulated, but that just slows down the freezing. How could I keep the area above freezing? Would I actually put some kind of little heater in that little crawl space? I can't really visualize that.
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Old 03-06-2015, 09:00 PM   #10
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Best option would be heat tape. Temperature activated so only on when it gets cold.
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Old 03-06-2015, 09:25 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MushCreek View Post
PEX is supposed to tolerate freezing, but I'm sure there are exceptions. For one thing, fittings such as T's and elbows can burst from freezing even if the PEX itself doesn't.
That would be one of the advantages of installing PEX in a homerun configuration using continuous runs of PEX with no elbow fittings in any run. Provided of course that the supply manifold and the termination fittings are all in temperature controlled areas. The PEX tubing itself in the different runs could withstand freezing. Wouldn't apply to termination fittings in an unheated barn that you described below though .

Quote:
I know that the PEX in my barn has frozen a number of times, and hasn't burst (yet). I installed an outdoor underground shut-off, last fall, though. No point in tempting fate.
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Old 03-07-2015, 02:34 AM   #12
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As the water in pex is freezing, the tubing is expanding in an attempt to keep the pressure constant. I doubt the fittings would ever burst. Know anyone with a PhD in physics?
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Old 03-07-2015, 02:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeniorSitizen View Post
As the water in pex is freezing, the tubing is expanding in an attempt to keep the pressure constant. I doubt the fittings would ever burst. Know anyone with a PhD in physics?
No PhD but I wonder about metal crimp rings stretching when the PEX tubing right at the ring expands due to freezing. After thawing, if there are leaks, it could be a disaster.

In this case I think the Wirsbo/Uponor Propex fittings are the safest way to go. Propex fittings use PEX expansion rings and both the tubing and the rings are expanded to get them on a fitting. Then both tubing and ring contract to make the seal. Seems both tubing and ring could expand and contract as required to maintain the seals.

HRG
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Old 03-07-2015, 02:56 PM   #14
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From personal experience. Sharkbite fittings will break and/or the tubing will push out of the fitting.
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Old 03-10-2015, 03:55 PM   #15
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Is there any compelling reason to slither into the crawl space and secure the tubing to the joists? Or is it fine to just lay it across the floor?
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