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Can Plumbing be Installed in an Exterior Wall?

Plumbing be Installed in an Exterior Wall

If your Buffalo, NY home has plumbing installed in an exterior wall, you need to ensure it is well insulated.

We know that pipes can freeze anywhere, especially here in Buffalo, NY during our cold and unpredictable winters. Sometimes there is nowhere else for plumbing to go but in an exterior wall. While there is plumbing code specific to where you are, and your local expert plumbers will know that code, you may find that you have plumbing in an exterior wall or need to put some there. This may leave you wondering, can plumbing be installed in an exterior wall, and should it be?

Here’s the Basic Answer…

Having a water line in a chilly exterior wall is generally a recipe for disaster. It likely doesn’t matter how well the pipe is insulated; on the coldest days it will freeze. Unfortunately, when it comes to installing plumbing, sometimes the only place to put it is in an exterior wall, especially in older homes. It is also recommended not to have pipes in unconditioned attics in colder climates, like we have in Buffalo.

It is recommended to avoid having water related plumbing located in exterior walls or through unheated attics. It is best to have plumbing fixtures in interior walls. If plumbing is in exterior walls, the pipes should be well insulated. To further protect the pipes from heat loss, the wall cavity containing the pipes should be air-sealed by caulking or foaming all seams between the back wall of the cavity and the framing, and by sealing any holes through the framing for the piping. Cavity insulation should also be installed behind the pipes and between the pipes and the exterior wall. Anything that can be done to keep the pipes warm and from freezing, should be.

Common Places in a Home for Plumbing to be Installed in an Exterior Wall

Exterior plumbing is commonly found in areas of the home where there is no where else for the plumbing to go. While every home is different, some common places in a home to have plumbing on an exterior wall are:

  • – Basement bathrooms
  • – Attics
  • – Shower heads in a ceiling
  • – Laundry hook ups
  • – Kitchen sinks

Insulating Plumbing Installed in an Exterior Wall

Insulating water pipes can save energy by minimizing heat loss through the plumbing. Pipe insulation can protect the pipes from freezing and cracking in the cold; this is very important for plumbing located in an exterior wall. Studies by the Department of Energy (DOE’s) Building America program have shown that distribution heat loss in non-insulated hot water pipes can range from 16% to 23%, depending on the climate. Adding 3/4-inch pipe insulation can cut overall water heating energy use by 4% to 5% annually.

If your Buffalo, New York home has plumbing installed in an exterior wall, you need to ensure it is well insulated. There are several types of plumbing insulation you can choose from. Knowing what is best for your home and your plumbing, based on the climate, is key. Insulation for your plumbing is not the same insulation you use for all your home’s insulation; pipe insulation is in addition to traditional home insulation.

Pipe insulation is available in different forms: tubular pipe sleeves, spiral insulation wrap, and fiberglass batts. This insulation should be added around pipes, especially in exterior walls, to give an extra level of protection.

To Sum it up

Having plumbing installed in an exterior wall should be avoided. If plumbing has nowhere else to go but inside an exterior wall, as a homeowner, you should ensure that the pipes are well insulated and that plenty of cavity insulation is installed behind the pipes and between the exterior wall. Having plumbing in an exterior wall can increase your risk of having a pipe freeze and burst.

At Reimer Home Services, our team of experienced plumbers is fully capable of taking on large, complex projects—including whole-home re-piping and new pipe installation. If you need new plumbing in Buffalo, NY, we’re the team to call. Get an estimate from us today.