Water just pouring out of state office building

Ashburton Place flooding

Waterlogged lobby. Photo by Sara Bourne.

Around 1:20 p.m., Julia C. wondered why there was "water pouring out all the windows" of the McCormack state office building on Beacon Hill. The Globe reports the leak, apparently from a burst pipe, is "massive."




Free tagging: 


Plumber shortage??

Mayor Walsh said there is a shortage of plumbers in the Commonwealth, and that there has been an unprecedented number of cases of burst pipes in the city this week. So do what you need to do to protect your pipes.

Voting is closed. 23

You've lived here two years

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Nothing unprecedented here - I'm surprised that it hasn't happened more than it has. 2014 was an ice wasteland.

No plumber is going to fix any of the reason why ... IT IS RECORD COLD. Gonna be freezing. Sorry- that's reality.

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I've lived here

30 years (total in MA) the last 28 of those years in Boston. Sorry, that's accuracy.

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No! — Do Even More Than You Think You Need To Protect Your Pipes

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I took the standard precautions I used in the past — running my furnace, Freda, at a higher than normal temperature 24 hours a day, and using fans to make sure her warm air circulated around the area where it once froze in the past. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough, and to my horror the water main between my meter and the street froze yesterday!

I had Freda heat the house to 90 degrees, and applied a heat lamp and heat gun to the water main where it leaves my house. To my great relief, the water main just now unfroze!

So, as this next round of extreme cold descends upon us, consider doing even more than you did in the past to protect your pipes from freezing. What worked for you before, might not be enough this winter!

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Low volume tap open?

what about just leaving a tap running at a steady trickle? I didn't have any issues during the Polar Vortex (™ the Weather Channel) a few years ago but now you have me worried.

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Open your sink cupboards

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Keep your kitchen and bathroom doors open. Open your sink cupboards. Run a space heater if you have an unheated/underheated space.

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A hair drier might be better than a heat gun for all but the thickest pipes in areas with no flammable materials around. Having thawed my share of pipes (burst and otherwise, PVC, PEX, brass and lead) I believe in most cases, slow but steady reduces the the freeze/thaw stresses and the risk of kicking burning embers back into old wooden-beams and framing (don’t ask how I know that last part). I feel like most Boston homes just weren’t built for this weather as homes in Canada and the Midwest tend to be, but every home has its pain points. Learn the pain points and put a safe modern space heater with a thermostat or electrical heating tape in those locations and you should be set.

Voting is closed. 21

Never Use A Torch Or Other Flame! — Go Slow, Be Patient

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Hundel adds helpful and important things to keep in mind! Every year, tragic fires are caused by people trying to defrost frozen pipes with a torch — it's never safe to do that.

I thought knew my home's "pain point" — but Freda accommodating it with a constant 72-degree thermostat setting wasn't enough to keep the pipe going into the ground from freezing. It's been so cold for such a long time, apparently, our homes' "pain points" need an extra measure of coddling this year!


The "heat gun" I used was basically a 1000 watt hair dryer — not hot enough for brief usage to start a fire in the surrounding materials. Even so, I used some pieces of sheet metal as a shield, which also helped focus the heat on the area of pipe I wanted to warm up, right before it goes down and out of my house.

The metal shield also helped focus the incandescent spotlight on the pipe, providing a constant, gentle warming. I only used the heat gun for a few minutes at a time, and only on that one "pain point" shown in the picture.

I tried several rounds with the heat gun last night, spaced 15-min to an hour apart. I knew the freeze was somewhere outside my house where I couldn't access. My hope was by heating up the end of the pipe coming into the house, the heat would slowly migrate out to the frozen area. Repeated again today, many more times before crawling back into bed for an unhappy catnap.

When I awoke, the water was flowing — as were my own tears of joy and thankfulness!

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I'm was glad that my apartment was gut renovated by a plumber and made it through the mid-1990s without incident. Now I am giving thanks that the main systems in my current home were reworked by a meteorologist. All our water lines are internally routed, many teamed with supply lines for the radiators.

Also thankful that we had the resources to get an entirely new roof early last month, and that we were able to get it done after the super storms let up but before this hit. That has made a huge difference in the heat flux to the outside world and the capacity of our steam boiler to keep up with the load. This cold is beyond the 2014 Arctic Vortex so far.

We were warned by the outgoing owner that the incoming water line might be an issue for freezing (they had it wrapped in heater tape). But they did not consistently heat that finished basement space and the adjacent garage did not have an insulated door at the time. We are also at full staffing levels for Ffffiona the Maine Coon so water use is relatively high until mid-January. My older son lives in the basement for now (just graduated), and while he is frugal with the heat, I have told him not to turn it off when he leaves and keep it as warm as he likes, opening the door from the heated basement to the garage for an hour each day (I have never had our emergency water hoard freeze down there before this winter! I keep a jug of water near that water line as a warning - so far so good).

TL/DR - heat spaces where there are pipes or get heat to them in some safe manner (open closets and cabinets and service doors up to let heat in from rooms, keep your house warm during the day if you can afford it, etc.). Dripping taps also works - if you don't want to waste water, drip them into containers and water plants, flush toilets, etc.

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LOTS of frozen pipes

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A water main in my office building on Tremont also burst taking out, in order; the water, elevators, and finally the boiler.

Fortunately I'm actually working from Florida this month. Temp has dropped to 57F, so getting out of the pool this afternoon was a little nippy, but given what's going on back home I think I'll keep my complaints to myself! ;)

(In all seriousness; stay safe folks!)

Voting is closed. 18

how about we import some plumbers?

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Plumber shortage could be alleviated by bringing in plumbers from other regions of the country, or changing the permitting laws whereby non plumbers (for example, contractors with plumbing experience) would be allowed to perform routine plumbing tasks.
But strict licensing rules and Union protectionism prevent that from happening.
So, we are stuck.

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What is stopping them from moving here?

Ah yes - let's tank wages to make working in an expensive area attractive. You do realize that people have to pay for trade school now, right?

Non-plumbers doing plumbing tasks? Please, tell us what these "bad rules" are that keep that from happening - and why those rules were made in the first place. I'm betting it has something to do with burning down houses with blow torches and schools full of water pipes soldered with leaded solder and inappropriate alloy choices.

You might want to give that whole rant a rethink. It doesn't make any sense unless your goal is to gut living wage jobs for developer profits and kick the consequences down the line.

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