Improper Piping Installation Leads to Costly Repair


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A newly constructed house was flooded when a plumbing pipe ruptured in the attic during unusually cold weather well below the freezing point.  This was a very large house and had been constructed with the most visually appealing and expensive finish materials in the construction industry.

Out of sight of the homeowners was a section of plumbing piping in the attic. This piping had been routed without any insulation and had frozen and ruptured, resulting in a large leak when the freezing temperatures subsided. Unfortunately, the homeowners were away for the holidays when this occurred.  The leaking water flooded all three stories of the house and resulted in substantial damage repairs that far exceeded the minor cost to have properly insulated the piping section to begin with.

Residential water damage from a ruptured frozen pipe.

Modern building codes have required for the past decades that plumbing piping in unheated areas such as attics or crawlspaces be insulated to prevent freezing and rupture. However, in normally warm climates, such as the Southeastern United States, these requirements are often not followed by general contractors and plumbers and are sometimes not found during building and pre-purchase inspections.  The failure to properly insulate the plumbing piping in this case was found to be a condition of defect in the construction of the house due to the improper work of the general contractor and plumbing company.

The homeowner’s insurance company was able to successfully subrogate this loss against the general contractor and plumber’s insurance companies.

John Phillips, senior consulting engineer at Warren, has more than 30 years of crane and heavy equipment experience and more than 17 years of experience in forensic engineering. A licensed professional engineer in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio, he’s NCEES registered both as a model engineer and with The United States Council for International Engineering Practice, USCIEP. John has designed crane systems, supervised installation, tested and certified lifting equipment even serving as a project engineer for maintenance and certification of nuclear weapon lifting and handling systems. John is a certified fire and explosion investigator and fire and explosion investigator instructor by the National Association of Fire Investigators. John is a member of the American Society of Materials and American Society of Testing and Materials, as well as a voting member of ASTM Ships & Marine Forensic Sciences, Forensic Engineering, and Performance of Buildings committees.

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