Crawlin’ under the cabin on Christmas

Yeah, Christmas is not really a big thing here at the Secret Lair but it is awfully close to the change of the year and that’s traditionally when we get a huge cold snap. Not every year, but it’s worth watching out for. I checked the forecast and indeed things are supposed to go very cold starting, basically, this very evening. And you know what I never got around to doing? That’s right! I never did crawl under the Lair to make sure rats hadn’t made condos out of my pipe insulation or something. So far December has been pretty mild but that’s about to change big time and it makes a lot more sense to crawl around on dry dirt on a mild day futzing with insulation than it does crawling around in half-frozen mud repairing pipes when the afternoon peaks in the twenties.

And sure enough, I should have been paying more attention to my insulation. Took me a couple of hours to finish fixing the damage, in fact. A couple of sheets of rigid insulation had fallen, one piece of pipe wrap was god knows where, but the best part was what I saw when I looked at the riser.

The riser, of course, is the pipe between the ground and the floor. It hangs out in the wind in all weather, with no earth or floor to keep it warmish, and so is by far the most likely to freeze first. I’m from Michigan, busted pipes are not new to me, but I’m also no builder and have never figured out how to make a cabin skirt tight enough to keep rats out. My one attempt at skirting the cabin resulted in such a huge mess that I decided I was better off without. That means I need to keep the riser insulated beyond all reason. I wrap the pipe in pool noodle, the noodle in fiberglass batting, and the batting in plastic. Of course I looked at it in autumn but never climbed under and gave it a real inspection. Looked fine from the outside, but under the cabin we were pretty much down to the noodle. Somebody had stolen the bulk of my batting.

So I got that replaced (never throw old insulation away) and all the other inadequacies made as adequate as possible. Nighttime temperatures are headed for the wrong side of zero and days are supposed to stay below freezing, so if the plumbing is going to freeze it’ll be this week or next. At least while I’m crawling through freezing mud fixing it – again – I’ll have something to grumble about besides my own negligence.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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12 Responses to Crawlin’ under the cabin on Christmas

  1. Mark Matis says:

    Hopefully this “preventive maintenance” will get you through the winter without further enterainment!

  2. Dianne Feray says:

    oh, don’t listen to Mark. instead let the maintenance go. . . .I love reading about how you fix things that aren’t right to begin with!!!!! merry xmas to you and the little one. i’d send you stuff you might like or need but alas, no address!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    What if you did all you said with the layers of insulation and then wrapped that with hardware cloth or a discarded piece of aluminum that you could bend around the pipe like a sleeve and the. Tie it off with wire. Happy New Year

  4. Joel says:

    Yeah, I should have thought to do that.

  5. Zelda says:

    Another idea for your riser pipe is a tall metal collar with a kind of wide diameter, dug into the dirt at the base of the pipe and filled with more dirt, which is a good insulator. Wrap that with insulation, wrap the insulation with aluminum and tie with wire as Anonymous said, cover with 6 mil plastic tied with wire. If you’ve been using fiberglass insulation next time you are near a Lowe’s or Home Depot or you want to spend time looking at it online, there’s a double sided foil insulation with plastic bubble wrap in between that might be less interesting to rodents. I think it is called Reflectix double sided. All that may withstand mice, rats, wind, etc. and will be easy to remove should the pipe break.There are heavy riser pipe plastic covers with a flared bottom, about $15 each, but they slide down the pipe from the top, won’t work for you. BTW if you have mud under the Lair I’m surprised you haven’t made redwood (light weight and rot resistant) duckboards to crawl/slide along. Staple a length of Reflectix along your duckboard and you’ll slide easily, be warm and dry.

  6. feralfae says:

    On the dirt-filled sheet metal cylinder: great idea! Buried a ways, it will stay rigid and timing it off with wire and leaving lots of overlap means if you need to get to the pipe, or to add more insulation, you can remove or enlarge the cylinder. Elegant. ** everyone. feralfae

  7. feralfae says:

    Zelda, your ideas are super inventive. The last thing you said, about the duckboard to crawl/slide is exactly what I need for a special project. Thank you for the tip. Lots of great ideas here. ** feralfae

  8. Malatrope says:

    Instead of metal, for most beasts you can buy 4″ ABS sewer pipe (cheap, or found in a trash bin) and split it in two with your sawzall. Build up the noodle and whatever, then clamp the ABS pipe around it with one or two large gear clamps (like for dryer vent hose).Voila, never worry about your riser pipe again (especially if you bury the bottom of the ABS a foot into the ground).

  9. Norman says:

    RE: ABS/PVC pipe – the little @#*% will chew that, too, unless it’s wrapped with sheet metal or multiple layers of hardware cloth. Metal stovepipe is readily available in 6″ and 8″ diameter and has a longitudinal interlocking seam to make it easy to put around a pipe, plus one end is crimped to allow joining sections together. It’s a warm weather task, but digging down ~12 inches, putting a couple sections together and securing to a flange mounted on the floor bottom isn’t that hard. An 8″ diameter stovepipe centered around a 3/4″ waterpipe provides ~3 3/4″ of insulation; drill a few holes and inject minimally expanding closed cell foam (approx R value of the canned (non-professionally installed) stuff = 4.2/inch, so that’s ~R 15) to fill the space between stove and water pipe(s) which will also make it airtight. If R 15 isn’t enough, glue some polyisocyanurate pieces together – R=6.4/inch, actually building a square box in place around the stovepipe with an 8″ center opening would be easy with 2″ thick iso board – to add an R 12 external layer. Iso board is easy to chew, so either figure replacing it 1X or 2X/year or wrap it in multiple layers of hardware cloth.

  10. Mark Matis says:

    Screw it! Just get you a concrete truck with about 5 yards of mix and fill the entire area under the Cantina! That way you won’t have to worry about no steenkin’ rats chewing wires nor insulation, and if something starts to leak, where’s it gonna go? Of course, you better have a damn good plumber’s snake in case you or TB plug something up, but other than that – and the fact that you’ll never be able to run anything underfloor again, you’ll be in like Flint!

  11. Klaus says:

    Norman nailed it. I’ve used the 8″ stove pipe around regular fiberglass isolation for exactly the same application. Keeping the red squirrels out of other parts of the cabin was another story.

  12. Joel says:

    I have some 8″ stovepipe I knew I was hanging onto for a reason. That’s a very good suggestion.

To the stake with the heretic!