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Barn & farm plumbing that won't freeze in winter?

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  • Barn & farm plumbing that won't freeze in winter?

    We're starting our barn in March after we move in. Will be doing a run-in shed and paddocks to start while the barn is being built. It will be the start of spring in NoVa but want to plan accordingly after this winter! For those of you in northern climates, what did you do to your water systems, pipes, troughs, outdoor spigots etc. so that you still have hot and cold water in your barn throughout winter, AND near your paddock troughs? We plan on electric and a water connection near the "main" outdoor trough so at least the big field will be able to have a heated trough (but how do you keep the spigot or pump thing AND the hose from freezing??). We have 2 horses and would have a max of 4. So the plan is one trough in the "big" paddock fairly close to barn.

    We already had a "T" pipe and valve box put in at our well, for connecting water to the barn. The trench will need to be dug but that's about it to connect it to the well.

    The barn will have 4 stalls, a tack room and wash stall. In my last barn where I boarded, the tack room had a baseboard heater and utility sink, and the water heater was in that room near the wall that abutted the wash stall wall. I assume that room was also insulated (it had paneled walls and felt like more of an interior type room)

    So please share! What did you insulate - walls? Pipes? Did you certain types of materials that had less of a chance of freezing for pipes, are auto waterers best for this purpose? Thanks!

  • #2
    For outdoors you use frost free hydrants. They drain out when turned off unless the weep hole at the bottom gets plugged up.

    We have an insulated, heated tack room and we had the water main come up through the floor in the tack room. We have a main shut off right were it comes out of the floor. We use frost free faucets that extend through the tack room wall into the wash stall. Since the wash stall is centrally located in the barn (we have the same configuration as you) that is the water source in the barn.
    A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.


    • #3
      In northern central MD, near PA line, also in a valley, temps in the mornings here have consistently been single digit lately and not out of the 20's during the day.

      Make sure you bury your lines below the frost line. I have a Bar-bar-A waterer in the field and just commented to DH yesterday that it hasn't missed a beat in this weather, no electric/heater required as it is based on frost free spigot, everything is buried below the frost line, have a friend that has 3 of these in same region and hasn't had any issues either, look them up on the internet.

      My tackroom insulated, piping/water heater in there with small baseboard, no problems, wash stall on the other side of the wall so the spigot/pipes for that are through the tackroom wall, make sure you use spigots that are specifically frost free for outdoor use and heat tape them if you need to, I don't and have had no issues. Frost free spigot out infield as well, has not frozen. Hose, bought a lightweight hose and I do transport that back and forth between the field and the tack room just to keep it from freezing, draining the hose after each use helps but isn't fool proof, and I am always rushing in the morning so bringing it in I know it's not frozen. One heated muck bucket out there for one horse so only need to fill 1/2 and I dump it every night so it doesn't freeze and crack overnight when it is unplugged.

      Probably should put your electric that is going outside the barn in conduit as well and put in the same trench as your plumbing

      Have fun building I have had my barn for about 3 years now after about 3 years of not having anything, and am still thrilled every time I walk in to it
      "They spend 11 months stuggling to live, and 25 years trying to die" my farrier

      "They are dangerous on both ends and crafty in the middle"


      • #4
        Make sure you find out what the WORST frost depth your area has ever gotten, dig water lines below that.

        Here in MI, I would have to lay waterlines down 6ft to expect them to stay unfrozen. That is the depth of successful waterline staying unfrozen, in barns or homes I know.

        HOWEVER, (always one of those!) waterlines need to be DEEPER than 6ft if vehicles of any size will be driving over the waterline. So if your waterline runs across the barnyard, driveway, you probably want to go deeper to lay it than 6ft. It "seems to be" that weight of vehicle pushes frost deeper than normal depths. Saw this at work, where city waterline under the driveway would freeze EVERY winter because of the daily use by big service trucks coming in and out of the paved driveway. City would tell us to leave the faucets drip after opening water pipe the first time each season, so they didn't have to come do it again. Didn't charge us for water in those months.

        Same thing happened with some farm waterlines running under their main driveways, used daily, waterlines got frozen. Digging them up, had frozen ground down below 6ft. Other waterlines at the same 6ft depth, no vehicles driving over, never had a problem with freezing.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks everyone! Goodhors, luckily we have a very smart well guy who buried our main water lines at about 6 feet here in NoVA. He said he goes WAY deeper than the recommended amount - I think he said it was something very shallow like 18 inches! The line from the main well pipe to the barn will be the same. Should be fine in this climate although this winter has been more like a Michigan winter for sure! There will be a gravel drive crossing it but it will only be the drive to the barn for us, and used maybe a few times a month by us to drop off shavings or park the trailer - even then we can use our tractor 90% of the time for those chores. The barn is a short walk to and from the house.

          I wasn't sure on the "frost free hydrants" if they were truly freeze proof - didn't know how they worked so that's helpful. I guess you just need to bring the hose to/from it to fill the troughs so the hose itself doesn't freeze. We plan on having the hydrant right by the main trough, so a small hose will be enough. But obviously the hydrant is dependent on the water lines TO it, so will make sure all is buried deep to and around the barn.


          • #6
            This diagram (scroll down) shows how a non-freeze yard hydrant works, it is good information to have.


            • #7
              Good advice here. As far as plumbing, put your hot water heater inside the heated/insulated tack room and then run your plumbing exposed on the inside of your tack room walls. Ideally, the hot water heater should be just right on the other side of the wall so the pipes will not have far to run. This isn't the fanciest way to do it, but is the best way to keep pipes from freezing and if something does go wrong it makes problems easy to spot and easy to fix.

              As others have said, be very meticulous about keeping your water lines well below the frost line. Also, photograph water lines before you bury them to make future location for repairs or modifications easier. I would strongly recommend the installation of an automatic waterer for your paddock. Installation isn't cheap, but they are a huge savings in terms of labor and should last for many years. They also are insurance that your horses get plenty to drink in the dead of winter and aren't ever accidentally left without water. Again, when you install an auto waterer it is critical to dig down well below the frost line to get adequate geothermal heat to keep the pipe up to the waterer unfrozen.

              I think that auto waterers in the stalls are lovely, but perhaps more of a luxury. If you can afford them, great. Personally I use heated/insulated buckets in the stalls, with the cords carefully out of reach of the horses.


              • #8
                I would put a frost free hydrant in the barn, as well as one outside by the trough. Sometimes my outside one freezes up when the ground is saturated with water, but the inside one has always been fine. Make sure you have good electric to the trough. A trough heater draws a lot of electricity when the temp is 4 degrees.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by AKB View Post
                  I would put a frost free hydrant in the barn, as well as one outside by the trough.
                  I like this advice, for another reason.
                  It is much easier to put in extra hydrants while you are building than wanting to add them down the road.
                  Water never seems to be close enough when you need it so keep that in mind as you locate your hydrants and hose bibbs.


                  • #10
                    Someone posted a comment one time about loving the system in their barn. The way I pictured her explanation, and it was brilliant, is that her barn had water lines or hoses going to each stall and feeding off of one main pipe. Each stall had its own spigot and the last spigot on the line was a few inches lower than the rest. So in sub-freezing weather, you could turn off the water at the source which was connected to a frost free control, open the first and last spigots, well, actually, all the spigots, and all the water would drain out of the pipes.

                    In other words, you can have water lines in frozen areas if they are designed well so that they are easy to drain and if you meticulously drain them after each use. This would be ideal in an area that has short winters and light to medium frost. I think in really cold areas it would be less successful without heat tape.

                    As for the water lines buried under the frost line: I would put the lines in a trench (below frost line) and add a layer of styrofoam or similar insulation for extra anti-freezing insurance.
                    "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tpup View Post
                      I wasn't sure on the "frost free hydrants" if they were truly freeze proof - didn't know how they worked so that's helpful. I guess you just need to bring the hose to/from it to fill the troughs so the hose itself doesn't freeze. We plan on having the hydrant right by the main trough, so a small hose will be enough. But obviously the hydrant is dependent on the water lines TO it, so will make sure all is buried deep to and around the barn.
                      One place I barn sit for has a frost free hydrant in between the two fields. She uses a quick connect on the end of a short piece of hose- 5-6'. We fill the large heated bucket and then disconnect the hose. The hose is left running stretched out and down the incline so it drains. The hose does not have a nozzle on the outlet end.
                      Since the hose is short it drains well and doesn't freeze. You do need to take the end out of the bucket so you don't siphone it empty and you need to take the hose off the hydrant anytime there is a chance of freezing temperatures.

                      Depending on how far from the hydrant your troughs are you may not need to trek the hose in.
                      Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                      • #12
                        A little bit of info on frost free hydrants and how to do winter water on my blog post:

                        Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                        • #13
                          I have no idea if this would be a problem in Virginia, but -- also think about the drain from your wash stall, and your utility sink if you have one. Be sure the water drains fast and far enough so that it doesn't freeze on its way. Our barn sends the gray water from the wash stall and bathroom sink down under the parking lot to a culvert, but every winter, it freezes and we end up needing to disconnect the drain in the sink and put a 5-gallon pail underneath (installing your utility sink at a suitable height to put a 5-gallon pail underneath might be a good plan, even if you never have this problem!). HUGE PITA. The frozen washrack drain is also a big PITA, but nobody really expects to use the washrack between Thanksgiving and Easter anyway...


                          • #14
                            Hoses in the winter, um no. Automatic water is the way to go for paddocks. Then you don't have nasty mosquito breeding tanks in the summer. I had DP waterers professionally installed outside in paddocks and they are routinely freezing. While I like the idea of unheated waterers, and in principle it should work, I do not recommend that brand at all. I have 30 year old Nelson heated wateres inside the barn and for the most part, aside from maintenance work, they work great. My barn has a heated bathroom which froze when it was -24F which was not catastrophic because the plumber wisely used the pex tubing which expands instead of breaking. The little heater couldn't keep up so I added a small space heater and it has prevented that from freezing again.

                            I bought my farm 3 years ago. It has very few water shut off's. If I were starting over, I would put them everywhere! It's a total pain in the butt to all the residents here when I shut the well pump off to repair one of the DP waterers (which I have done half a dozen times in the last 30 days.)

                            All my ancient yard hydrants have worked fine through all this extreme weather.

                            Good luck!!


                            • #15
                              At each of our paddocks we have a frost free AND power. We use a short hose (3') to fill the tanks and the tank heaters are plugged in right there.

                              Same with our pasture tanks. They are on the fence line next to a frost free and a power outlet.

                              A friend has a nice set up in her barn.
                              There is about a foot long row of gravel between the stall doors and the barn aisle.
                              About every fourth stall there is a frost free.
                              Each stall has heated water buckets. There are holes in the stall walls that the cords run through to plug in.
                              That works really well in a climate that freezes all winter.
                              Kanoe Godby
                              See, I was raised by wolves and am really behind the 8-ball on diplomatic issue resolution.