Drip, drip, drip

What to do with sweating copper pipes

There is sweating copper pipes and there are sweating copper pipes?

What’s the difference? Well, it’s more than semantics and grammar.

The first is a term used to describe the process of soldering two pipes together – your plumber calls it sweating the copper pipes.

But chances are with the extreme heat and humidity we’ve had this summer, you had more experience with the second type of sweating copper pipes – the ones that drip water all over your basement floor! That’s what we’re here to talk about today.

“The problem arises when the temperatures and humidity go sky high like they have recently,” says Mike Frentz. “The cold city water comes into your house at 45 degrees and, as the water travels from the main cold water line through your basement, the cold is transferred to the copper piping.”

It’s what we all learned in elementary science class – the warm moisture in the air condenses on the outside of the cold copper pipes and collects until its heavy enough that it drips off onto your floor.

Whether or not your basement is finished, it’s best to avoid this taking place, so there are a few remedies out that are simple and inexpensive.

Wrap it up
“The first way is to insulate the pipes with tape so that the moist warm air doesn’t come into contact with the cold pipe,” Mike says.

The least expensive are rolls of 3”-wide Wrap-on® Fiberglass Insulation with Vapor Seal. Locate the main water pipe that comes from your water meter and runs the length of the ceiling of your basement. Just wrap the fiberglass around the pipe, overlapping it as you progress. Then go back and wrap the plastic vapor seal tape over the fiberglass. The rolls come in 35-foot lengths and will cover about 12 feet of pipe that is 1” in diameter.

Another option is FrostKing’s® Pipe Wrap Insulation Tape. This is a hi-density tape made of sticky foam on one side and foil on the outside. This is easier because you can insulate your pipe in one step. The rolls will cover about 8 feet of 1” pipe.

Your final option is the tried-and-true Mortite® No-Drip™ Tape. “This is the old-time stuff,” Mike says. “I remember my dad putting this on the pipes in his house back in the 1950s.”

The tape is actually made of clay in a strip form. As you wrap it around the pipe, you simply squeeze it and it will form to the curves of the pipe.

Into insulation
The other method of insulating your pipes comes in the form of Polyethylene Foam Pipe Insulation Tubes from FrostKing®. This foam tube is hollow with a split down one side so that you can just slip it over your pipes. Secure the tube to the piping by wrapping it with piece of duct tape about every two to three feet. Plastic wire ties work well too.

There are two types – one for copper piping and one for galvanized steel. They come in 6-foot lengths and several of diameters to fit a variety of pipe sizes.

“You can probably cover your whole main cold water pipe for about $8.00,” Mike says.