Once again, water has gotten the better of us this winter at the Harn. Not as tragic as it was last year with the busted cistern. Not as tragic as it could have been. But a bit of work nonetheless. As usual though, there is also a silver lining.
We had a lovely evening Christmas Eve dinner with neighbors Bill and Connie and farmer friends Jeff and Angie. Dinner included a scrumptious ham, perfectly basted by the first couple and lovingly raised by the latter. We brought mashed potatoes and cornbread. Angie brought beets and carrots and a beautiful braided Christmas bread. Connie made yummy Pilgrim Pumpkin Custard for dessert. We stuffed ourselves and headed home for a warm winter’s nap. When we awoke Christmas morning, we did the usual stuff and eventually turned on the tap… only to find it was frozen. Bummer!
We put a space heater in the corner cabinet where the pipes run and… nothing. We decided to clear all the crafting stuff (a 6’ high pile of boxes in the corner) and put a space heater there. Ran it all night and, about 11:30 the next morning, we had flow.
I did some dishes to clear the lines and we kept checking the tap through the day. We contemplated all day what we might have to do. We knew it was not feasible to run space heaters like that all the time. We ran the heater overnight as it was to be even colder than the previous but I decided at bedtime that we could turn it down to 64 instead of 72… to use a bit less energy. Not a good idea. We woke up the next day to frozen pipes again! [Pretty sure I drive Dan crazy with my “saving” plans.]
This second night in a row of freezing let us know we really needed to take out the wall to look at the pipes and see what could be done to mitigate the issue. The next day, we got to work. We pulled all the trim and removed the tougue-in-groove. We knew the lines ran along the east exterior wall of the Harn but once we opened up the wall, we found another issue. There was cold air in the wall.
Our walls are basically steel exterior, then insulation batting and a layer of 4 mil plastic in the studs, then tongue-in-groove pine boards. There is a stub wall between the kitchen area and the craft area and it is in this stub wall that the kitchen lines run from the west side of the Harn to the kitchen area. Since we put electrical outlets in this stub wall, there is a wire that runs from the exterior wall, through the plastic and into the stub wall. This wire happened to enter the wall, just where the 90° bend for the water lines (with brass fittings) took a turn to the kitchen sink. And there, a hole in the plastic was creating a jet of cold air right at that bend in the pipe.
First Dan taped the hole to stop the cold air jet. I was glad he did as a short while later I saw a large mouse run into the gap in the wall. He was under the plastic and I touched him telling him to get on out of there. We then pulled the water lines off the exterior wall and stapled them to the next stud over. We added a piece of foam board between the exterior stud and the bend in the water pipes and added insulation in the studs at this location. We covered the water lines with insulation and tied the hot and cold lines together higher up with a second piece of tube insulation. Then we also stuffed fiber insulation around the lines where it was still exposed. We decided we didn’t need to heat tape the lines but we did cut the tongue-in-groove to allow for access to the area, should we need it again. Let’s hope that does NOT happen!
Before we put things back together, we also ran a new 20-amp line down into the stub wall to allow for the addition of a couple more outlets – since I had been cooking on that side of the kitchen as a habit. And, knowing me, Dan gave me a 6-plug outlet! Now I can cook AND do crafts at the same time. AND Dan is going to add two new shelves for me on that wall, since I moved the tall cabinet from that corner to the opposite one in the craft area. On the opposite side of the stud wall, I’m also getting that high kitchen shelf I’ve wanted.
We realized after the wall was apart and everything in the craft room had been piled to the side, that we might have company over the New Year’s weekend… so we scampered to clear clutter and get things put back together. And, while digging through craft boxes to determine what could go to the storage area, I found a small Mary Engelbreit shelf that Mom had made me that fit the bill for a small kitchen shelf we planned for the new cooking area we had created a couple weeks back.
So things are shaping up pretty good! We’re keeping warmer now and the pipes are in good shape! The weather has been cold as ever and no more frozen tap in the morning.
Hope our New Year flows easily. And we hope yours does too.