On a recent quality assurance site inspection I found a situation where pipes froze and burst within an interior wall. Here is the story:
- The homeowners have been in the home for 14 years. The home is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- They contracted to insulate exterior walls, rim joist, & crawl space & perform air sealing in November, 2012. Blower door testing revealed a 25% air leakage reduction.
- They witnessed water damage after a long cold spell in January on an interior wall between a small addition space and the main house. The home's water heater sits directly below the area where the water damage happened - it is atmospherically vented. The addition is built on top of a shallow crawl space that was spray foamed.
- They added insulation to the small flat roof section at time of repairs for water damage. They did not think to contact their initial insulation contractor in regard to the water damage.
- Has anyone else seen water damage from frozen pipes on interior walls as a result of insulation/air sealing.
- Is there any way that the initial contractor could have potentially foreseen this situation.
In my experience, I am skeptical that such a complex condition could be anticipated by even the most seasoned home performance contractors, but I wanted to see what the experts think about this. In my judgement the improved air sealing and insulation caused cold air from the un-insualted flat roof to pass through interior wall chases toward the basement because of negative pressure (both furnace and water heater are atmospheric draft).
Addition in back with flat roof
Crawlspace insulation below addition. Water heater is directly to left of frame.
Wall where pipes froze (bathroom is on other side of wall)