Run Those Pipes!


Previously published in The Wave.

Happy Birthday Matt!! On my husband’s birthday, which also happens to be New Years Day, we get a text from our tenants, “So strange, our water isn’t working.” “What?!!? Turn on all the faucets – hot and cold!” I went into red alert mode, grabbed a blow dryer and extension cord and ran upstairs. I tried to find access to the pipes but there were no major lines exposed. My husband spent the next hour or so trying to figure out where their pipes were in our ceiling and where they ended in the basement.

We had no choice but to open up a few holes in the ceiling. If the pipe burst, it would be far more expensive than patching up sheetrock. A few holes turned into a few large sections of  drywall removed in our bedroom and kitchen. I poured the wine – it was New Year’s day after all. We taped a blow dryer to the ceiling where the pipes ran from the upstair apartment and hoped for the best. A few hours later, the water started running!  Our ceiling wouldn’t come crashing down over our bed while we were sleeping and our understanding tenants could shower before work the next day! Crisis mode over but we needed to fix the issue for good.


The frozen pipes were  located near the roof where the first floor extends. Meaning, there was no second floor protection above those pipes. If your water pipes are 6 inches from the exterior and it’s below freezing for a few days, insulation or not, they will freeze. Over the next few days Matt and our handyman friend Chris moved the pipes, added insulation and set up an electric water pipe heat cable for safe measure. This is a mechanism that coils around  water pipes and heats them when plugged in. To use this, we put air vents in the ceiling so we have easy access to the area, if we needed to plug the cable in incase of another issue.

An interesting thing I Iearned through all this is in some cases hot water freezes before cold. I couldn’t understand why our tenants hot water took longer to thaw than the cold. I did some research, this phenomenon is called the Mpemba effect, named after a Tanzanian student  in 1960 who observed in his cooking class that a hot ice cream mix freezes faster than a cold mix! There’s conflicting research in the scientific world about why this happens and the Mpemba affect is still being debated.

I know a few other friends in Rockaway that had their pipes freeze up. Word to the wise, if we get another bomb cyclone, keep all your faucets dribbling, the moving water will prevent freezing pipes!