Heat-trace or in­su­la­tion for a drain­pipe?

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QUES­TION: Can you please ad­vise if my wash­ing ma­chine plas­tic drain­pipe needs to be heat-traced or in­su­lated in my cold crawl space? Some say yes, in­su­late. Oth­ers say no, heat-trace. Still oth­ers say as it doesn’t con­tain wa­ter, do noth­ing. Fi­nally, a friend said, yes, in­su­late as there will be some con­den­sa­tion form­ing when the warmer base­ment air mi­grates up the open end and en­coun­ters the pipe in the crawl space area.

It has a good fall and a run of about 10 feet to where it pen­e­trates the base­ment wall to dump wa­ter, about a three-foot vertical drop, into the laun­dry tub. Thanks very much for any clar­i­fi­ca­tion. Dan Hall, Toronto

AN­SWER: You have posed a ques­tion about an un­usual sit­u­a­tion for a nor­mally sim­ple is­sue. The an­swer may de­pend on the in­su­la­tion and av­er­age win­ter tem­per­a­ture in your crawl space, but also raises some other pos­si­ble is­sues. Be­fore I di­rectly ad­dress your ques­tion, I will dis­cuss th­ese is­sues.

The nor­mal sit­u­a­tion for a wash­ing ma­chine drain hose is to dis­charge di­rectly into a ded­i­cated drain stand­pipe with a trap to pre­vent sewer gas in­tru­sion into the liv­ing space. Be­cause the waste wa­ter from the washer is dis­charged by a pump, the drain­pipe should be rea­son­ably well-se­cured to the drain pipe to pre­vent leak­age.

Most washer drain hoses have a semi-rigid loop on the end to en­sure they don’t eas­ily pull out of the drain­pipe when dis­charg­ing. This loop can also be hooked over the edge of a typ­i­cal laun­dry tub, as is the case in your home, as long as it is prop­erly se­cured and the tub drain is prop­erly plumbed. It is not wise to ex­tend this hose to ex­treme lengths, as you have done, which may cause sev­eral prob­lems.

To ex­tend a washer drain hose to the length you have de­scribed, it will re­quire at least one and pos­si­bly more joints. If the flex­i­ble drain hose is con­nected to other flex­i­ble ma­te­rial, the joints will have to be prop­erly con­nected with pipe clamps. If lower-qual­ity joint con­nec­tors are used, the pres­sure in the drain hose can cause the con­nec­tors to come loose or break. Also, a flex­i­ble hose of that length would sag sig­nif­i­cantly and will re­quire proper sup­port at many ar­eas.

To jump ahead to your ques­tion, sag­ging sec­tions of flex­i­ble hose would be more sub­ject to freez­ing due to stand­ing wa­ter in the pipes. How­ever, the real con­cern would be leak­age at the joints in the pipe should the con­nec­tors come loose, which would be dif­fi­cult to see in the crawl space be­fore sig­nif­i­cant leak­age could oc­cur.

I’m as­sum­ing you have run the long washer drain­pipe in the crawl space be­cause there are no ac­ces­si­ble drains in the area in or ad­ja­cent to the laun­dry room over the crawl space. If there are drains nearby, per­haps in the walls or un­der the counter in a nearby bath­room or kitchen, a bet­ter op­tion would be to at­tach a laun­dry drain­pipe and trap to this ex­ist­ing drain. This would be de­pen­dent on the dis­tance be­tween the washer and the vent for the ex­ist­ing drain, but would elim­i­nate two of your main prob­lems.

Be­cause this new drain would be com­pletely within the con­di­tioned space of the home, there would be no prob­lem with freez­ing. Also, this new drain could be con­structed of proper ABS pip­ing with glued joints, which would elim­i­nate the pos­si­bil­ity of leak­age from poor fas­ten­ers.

If there are no plumb­ing drains close enough to the laun­dry area to al­low easy ac­cess, you should en­sure you still have proper drain pip­ing in the crawl space. By that I mean to sug­gest you re­place any flex­i­ble hose with prop­erly sup­ported and sloped ABS pipes. This will not only pre­vent the pos­si­bil­ity of leak­age from loose pipe clamps but will only re­quire min­i­mal num­bers of joints or con­nec­tors.

To ac­com­plish this, the drain­pipe should be in­stalled ac­cord­ing to the washer man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions with a full stand­pipe in­side the laun­dry room. This will al­low you to in­stall the washer loop into the top of the stand­pipe in­side the laun­dry room where it can be mon­i­tored for leak­age.

If you in­stall a proper drain as­sem­bly in the crawl space, with proper slopes and min­i­mal joints, it should not re­quire heat­ing or insulating. Be­cause the wa­ter from the washer is forced into the pip­ing by a pump, it is less likely it will have slow enough move­ment to freeze. This will only be com­pletely true if you also con­nect the bot­tom of the drain to the proper drain pip­ing be­low the laun­dry tub in the base­ment. This will al­low the sys­tem to be pri­mar­ily closed and pre­vent the warm air in­tru­sion from the base­ment, which was an­other con­cern of yours.

It ap­pears that you have a drain for your clothes washer in­stalled by an am­a­teur or do-it-your­selfer. Th­ese in­stal­la­tions are not usu­ally a prob­lem if the dis­tance is short be­tween the washer and laun­dry sink. In your home, it can be much more of a con­cern be­cause the drain is ex­ces­sive in length and trav­els through an un­heated crawl space.

In­stal­la­tion of proper ABS drain pip­ing, com­plete with traps and proper vent­ing, will elim­i­nate most of your con­cerns with freez­ing. If you do not feel that this job is within your ca­pa­bil­i­ties, con­tact a li­censed plumber who will be ca­pa­ble of do­ing the job prop­erly and ac­cord­ing to the ap­pli­ca­ble build­ing codes.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba (www.cahpi.mb.ca). Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at (204) 2915358 or check out his web­site at www. trained­eye.ca

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