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Cut Open Hydronic Pipes in Winterized Home?

eduncan911eduncan911 Posts: 3Member
edited April 2018 in THE MAIN WALL
We are looking to purchase a foreclosed 2-story home that has been winterized. Upon inspecting the baseboard hydronic units, almost all of the piping has been cut open?

See attached pictures.

It is like this on every baseboard unit on the first level. I can see that if they are trying to bleed the system dry, sure. But seems quite excessive. However, the second level baseboard units don't seem to have these openings though.

Is this a normal thing to do for winterization?


  • delta Tdelta T Posts: 789Member
    In my experience 'winterizing' a house almost never works. I would absolutely require that the heating system be demonstrated to be fully operational before you consider purchasing the house, unless you want to replace a good chunk of the heating system yourself. Also keep in mind, that if the heating system was 'winterized' by the same company as the domestic water supply pipes were, then plan on replacing some of the plumbing as well.

    Somewhere I have a great picture of steel supply piping coming off a boiler with a bright orange WINTERIZED sticker attached to it and a freeze break on a fitting not 2" below the sticker. Made me chuckle.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 11,834Member
    X-3 the pipes froze.

    Perhaps more to the point, it is very likely that at least some of the domestic water pipes also froze.

    And even more to the point -- the places which are burst are the ones which actually failed. What you don't see is the places which were seriously overstressed but didn't quite happen to burst -- this time. They will.

    Plan on replacing all of the heating piping and appliances (boiler, pumps, valves, etc.) and domestic water piping and appliances (valves, water heater...).
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 6,431Member
    One might think that you could just cut out the split and repair with 2 couplings and a short pipe.........don't even consider it.
    That is the obvious place of rupture but a lot of the pipe has been stretched to where you may not get a new fitting installed.

    This was a good lesson for me as a newbie. Fortunately I was dealing with soft copper and could swage the oversized a little more and create couplings.

    Also many surprises show up later. Toilets that were barely cracked and leak later. Wall hydrants, faucets, boiler, water heater tank, traps etc that leak later.
  • FredFred Posts: 8,195Member
    Actually, it is pretty clear that this house was not winterized. Expect to find leaks everywhere, including any supply piping that runs across ceilings to any second floor bathrooms. I'm guessing this is a Repo/bank owned house, being sold "As Is"
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 840Member
    edited April 2018
    Bank auctions I've seen here are no inspection, as-is. Only a walk thru 1/2 hour before bidding starts. Good for a general contractor who knows costs of what he's getting into, even then it's a educated GUESS at what's bad..

    If bidding on house reduce your offer by cost of replacing most of any systems that contained water. If you don't inspect it to be safe I'ld just assume you have to replace it all. Don't forget to include cracked tolet tanks,in wall pipes, and such. Maybe even sewer U-traps hidden behind ceiling dry wall.

    Depending on how cold your state is and size of house possible even boiler in basement froze, cracked, and needs to be replaced.

    Here in NH I'ld also check city hall and registry of deeds for back taxes owed, any other leans attached to the property (2nd lien, mechanics liens, water and sewer bills, court judgements, ex-wife. ect ) . When owners don't pay the bank they usually don't pay the taxes either. Bank sells it before back taxes hit 3 year in arrears at which point here city sells it for back taxes. So possible ~ 3 years of back taxes could be attached to the property.

    Also should check for environmental oil spills. Heard of a bank that was advised by their lawyer to not foreclose on an oil contaminated property since they would become full responsible for it's clean up, which exceeded the outstanding loan. (Guy ran a heating oil delivery business with large tanks on the property )
    Heard of another case somewhere, a church's large underground heating oil tank rusted and leaked for years , contaminated property underground 1000 ft away. (Oil went down to water table then traveled sideways)
  • ZmanZman Posts: 5,456Member
    Finding a couple freeze burst pipes in a house is like finding a couple cock roaches. There will be many, many more.

    The entire heat system is obviously shot. Probably all the baseboards, distribution piping and the boiler.

    Then comes the domestic water. I have yet to see a foreclosure that was properly winterized. You will probably be looking at new piping, shower and sink valves and water heater.

    I figuring the cost of all this, don't forget all the flooring, drywall, tile ect that will need to be replaced as well.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    Buy it if you planned on taking dwelling down to studs, otherwise pass.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 6,431Member
    One other land mine to avoid is buried UG storage tanks.
    Sometimes the piping is cut off just below grade and tank abandoned when owners switch to gas.
    You would own it and any mess with it.

    Here "the basement wall straightening company" bored out to a dead man anchor right thru the lower part of an old tank. The sludge followed the anchor rod into the basement and things got messy.
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 840Member
    edited April 2018
    In our neighborhood old guy went into nursing home, eventually passed away. Roof leaked in the mean time , no oil heat, water buckled up the hardwood floors SEVERERLY. and house was mold. Real shame.

    That was few years before the bank repossessed it and put a warning sticker on door not to drink the water as the pipes were winterized. Too little and too late.

    Contractor bought it and ripped it down to the studs and beams
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,427Member
    edited April 2018
    Junk, figure on new baseboard convectors.

    I’d also be concerned about the rest of the system..
  • FredFred Posts: 8,195Member
    I've bought several repossessed homes. If you can get them for the right money and go in with a plan that covers the cost of all the major mechanicals, heat, air, plumbing, electrical, etc. and you have the skills to do a lot of the work yourself, you can make money. You can see what needs to be done on the exterior before the purchase. If it is for your own use, it is even better. If you don't have any skills, the rehab costs are probably going to put you under water. You MUST always make sure you are starting with a solid structure/foundation. Don't ever find yourself making an emotional purchase. If you are going to err in your estimated cost of rehab, err on the high side. If the numbers still work, then go for it but understand you have to commit the time and energy. Those rehab shows, on TV, are a joke! Don't make a decision based on any of those.
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 840Member
    edited April 2018
    I agree, got to have skills to do your own work so you won't be underwater on labor cost. Labor costs much more than materials.

    On a few jobs I've done on grandma's house as a curtsy to my father and aunts I charged almost nothing and my almost minimum wage gift labor was still 5x materials costs.
  • rick in Alaskarick in Alaska Posts: 963Member
    I have to respectably disagree on replacing everything. I have been in and repaired more than one house that had the heating system freeze and break up, and never had to go back for anything that broke after that. The baseboards are thin, and you will notice they always break right after the copper fitting, and just before the fins. This is its thinnest point in the whole system, and the first to break. This also causes the pressure to be taken off the majority of the system, which keeps it from breaking. Usually, I will find broken baseboards, and broken pumps, but not much else. This is also depending on how many low spots there are in the system, and how lucky you are. If the baseboard is less than about 6 feet long, I just replace the element because it is cheaper than repairing it .
    I also live in an area where I do lots of winterizations, and except for the 3 times where I just wasn't paying attention, have never had a problem winterizing it successfully. The trick is to start where the water starts and blow everything from there. And, to look around for any hidden trap primers, or capped off lines. Water softeners also suck to do.
  • eduncan911eduncan911 Posts: 3Member
    edited April 2018
    Thank you all for the replies, especially in such a short timeframe! Wow, I really should have posted here earlier for other REOs I've looked at.

    Built in 1997. Two story house, with crawl-space.
    1300 sq ft first floor.
    1300 sq ft second floor.
    1100 sq ft add-on addition (permitted and built to code).
    Foreclosed and "winterized" in 2015 and been vacant since.
    Went up for sale a few months ago.
    Bank listed $375,000.
    Comps rate it around a $400,000 home.

    We already put in a bid of $300,000 (financing) with the consideration of replacing several of the mechanicals as I hate fuel oil bills (really want wood burner, but may have to go cheap electric to satisfy insurance needs to get into the house, and then add a secondary wood burner), all the flooring throughout the house and new kitchen as well as time goes on.

    Repairs needed already is the front-porch has rotted away completely and needs to be tore down and rebuilt, along with the entire porch roof (it was a flat roof over the porch that basically just pooled the water for years). Along with all shaggy carpet has to go throughout the house for hardwood.

    A nice-to-have would have been to retrofit radiant floor heating using the existing pipes, and lower temps. But if the pipes busted open...

    I'm handy enough to do all the work myself after close, starting with the floors asap so we can move in and live in it. But, New York building departments really don't like owner-builders and may require only professionals to do all the work.

    However, I am pretty sure there has to be "heat" in order for the house to be insured - and the banks won't finance if I can't get insurance (been down that road before).

    My numbers were to spend about $30,000 on the home to bring it to life. But that did not include replacing all piping and plumbing.

    Fuel Oil heat, I think the burner is a Burnham PV83WT-TBWF. Not sure but this model was very popular around the time of the build for indirect heating and the "on-demand domestic" add-on to the front.

    Overall, the house looks to be in really great condition. The wife and kids really like the layout and acres of land. But if the pipes have burst, and expect plumbing issues, that's going to be a major set back.

    All in all, I don't want to go in over $350,000 total invested in the property. Something nice to live in for a while and sale for a profit down the road.
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 840Member
    edited April 2018
    Check on zoning set back footage if new parts of house are "near" the property line. Sometimes owners build additions without permits and it creates problems latter for buyiers.
    Also get it surveyed heard of driveways and things being on other people's land.
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    Depending on your electrical service, sq ft and available lines, electric baseboard might be able to get you by in the meantime for insurance.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 11,834Member
    Several perhaps more gentle thoughts here, @eduncan911 .

    First, on domestic plumbing. Do not assume that there are no problems with it. On the other hand, you may be fortunate, and there won't be -- or they will be relatively simple things like replacing water closets or traps. That said, before you turn on the water at all, close all the faucets and shut off the water closet feed valves, then pressurize the system with air. It won't necessarily hold pressure perfectly -- in fact I'd be surprised if it did (leaky faucets!) but it should be possible to pressurize it to say 50 psi or so, and it shouldn't drop precipitously. If it doesn't, then go ahead an turn on the water. You should hear it come in -- and then it should stop. If it doesn't stop, turn the water off again and go looking for the problem! Why do all this? To check on hidden damage to the feed pipes before you get a catastrophic leak which wrecks the ceiling somewhere. Check the water heater very carefully for leaks, particularly around the bottom.

    On the heat, given that you know the baseboards are damaged, you can't do the pressure with air test. There may, however, be valves with which you can shut off most of the heating and test the boiler and near boiler piping for damage. That would be worth doing; it's possible that that area has survived. Then if it has, it would be relatively straightforward to repipe the heating system and install new baseboards. Using pex-AL-pex or other oxygen barrier pex, it wouldn't be much more difficult than wiring in temporary electric baseboards.

    That will at least get you started...
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • eduncan911eduncan911 Posts: 3Member
    edited April 2018
    Ah, sorry I didn't mentioned sq footage. It's roughly 3700 total square footage with 1100sf of a large open living area.

    Great advice again! Especially in shutting off all the zones to test the boiler and to pressure test the domestic water lines first.

    I may want to go back and renegotiate our offer lower now knowing the severity of the damage.

    Then again, our offer does state they have to De-winterize it. I just don't want them to do a half-ass job of patching lines just to get it De-winterized for a quick inspection, since it is "as-is."
  • FredFred Posts: 8,195Member
    When they "de-winterize" it, that usually means they will flush all the lines and fixtures out. Don't let them turn any water on or pump any water into the supplies or the heating system until it has been pressure tested (We already know the heating system has damage). That will not be a pretty sight. I can recall one house I bought where the water supplies ran across the living room ceiling to a second floor bathroom. Not good, unless you intend to replace drywall anyway. If you spot a leak, make sure you know where the main water shut off to the house is and shut it off immediately and open a faucet on the lowest level to get the bulk of the water out of the pipes. Also, don't assume that if there is no leak that all is good. Shut the main off whenever you are not there, at least for the first few weeks. In the same house I mentioned above, I have gone there, while working on the house and upon arriving found outside spigots blown off, during the night, probably because the expansion that occurred when freezing/thawing caused the spigots to push out.
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 840Member
    edited April 2018
    Good point about shutting off water when not there.

    Surprisingly one winter I forgot and left outside spigots pressurized and filled with water, they didn't split. But spigots were short and UNFINISHED cellar is heated (~70). Wall is uninsulated, only wood ~ 1 to 1.5 inches thick. Guessing copper tubing conducted enough heat to over power spigot heat losses.

    Another winter I had 3 metal Y spliters screwed onto spigot (big loss, heat sink), only had to tighten packing nut in spring. For past 15 years no problem using plastic Y splitters outside and leave it open so water can drain out of spigot ( it's not type that has water seat ~ 12 inches inside warm house). Odd, Gets to 0 degs or -5 every winter.
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