Installing a showerhead on an exterior wall can cause For pipes to be susceptible to freezing and bursting especially if you live in a cold climate (below 20 degrees Fahrenheit) However, if you live in warmer climates installing a showerhead on an exterior wall won’t make much of a difference.
You probably already know that installing plumbing fixtures like showerheads isn’t among plumbing best practices. But what if your bathroom layout doesn’t allow you to place your showerhead anywhere else?
You may be contemplating if it’s worth the risk and if anything can be done to mitigate them.
In this article, we’ll help you weigh the pros and cons. If you decide to go ahead with it, we also discuss the factors you need to be aware of and how you can install a showerhead on an exterior wall in the best possible way.
Let’s get started.
Can Water Pipes Go on Exterior Walls?
In general, installing water pipes on your home’s exterior wall isn’t recommended. Why is that?
Placing water pipes along exterior walls can make them susceptible to freezing and bursting especially if you live in a cold climate where temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, they’ll be harder to repair should anything go wrong.
Let’s take a look at factors you need to consider before going ahead with the installation.
Pros and Cons of Plumbing on Exterior Walls
While we can all agree that pipes and showerheads ideally shouldn’t be placed along exterior walls, sometimes it can’t be avoided. In such cases, the best thing we can do is to be prepared for the possible plumbing issues which may arise and do our best to circumvent them.
If you need to install plumbing along an exterior wall, you’ll need to ensure that the pipes are adequately insulated and the wall cavities are airtight.
Despite the fact that it isn’t the best practice, there are still a few advantages.
- Energy-efficient. If the pipes that supply hot and cold water are adequately insulated, the heat loss through pipes is reduced, and in turn, saves energy.
- Lower electricity bills. As long as your pipes are properly insulated, you save energy and can cut down on the electricity bill.
It’s important to note that plumbing on exterior walls can only be beneficial if the insulation conforms to the pipes and the wiring in the walls.
- Risk of condensation, heat loss, and air movement. To mitigate these risks, the exterior walls should be sufficiently insulated. This will prevent ventilation issues and the settling of insulation over time.
- Pipes can burst. In colder climates where walls aren’t adequately insulated, pipes can freeze and burst. This usually happens when temperatures reach below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Such occurrences must be avoided at all costs due to the hefty repair bills, excessive leaking, and further damages it can cause in your home.
- Watermarks. If the plumbing is weak, it can lead to the appearance of watermarks. These signify excessive leaks in the walls that can severely affect the integrity of a house’s walls and structure.
Additionally, watermarks are not just an eyesore. They could also be an indication of mold and rot growing behind the walls.
- Pressure. In hot weather, pipes have a tendency to expand. There’s also a significant risk of water pressure buildup if the pipework isn’t done right. In both scenarios, your wall’s durability can be compromised.
If you’ve decided to go ahead with installing pipes and your showerhead inside an exterior wall, you’ll need to ensure that you have good insulation.
How To Insulate Pipes on Exterior Wall?
The purpose of insulating your pipes isn’t to generate heat but to slow down the loss of it. However, you should still be ready for the possibility that your pipes can still freeze, burst, and flood your home even after providing good insulation.
Here’s how you insulate the pipes in your exterior wall:
Insulating Pipes with Foam Pipe Sleeves
Foam pipe sleeves are a great option for insulating your pipes. They’re best for longer straight pipes without any curves. Usually, they are six feet long and can also be manufactured in rubber.
- Open the slits in the sleeve and position it along the pipe.
- Glide the sleeves over the pipe until the slits close up completely.
- If the sleeve comes with a self-adhesive strip, use it to secure the pipes and seal the seam in the sleeve. If you can’t find an adhesive strip along the sleeve, use duct tape to seal it.
- Use a utility knife to cut the tube according to the length of the pipe and seal the butt seams or the ends of the sleeves together.
Insulating Pipes with Pipe Wraps
Another way to insulate pipes is by using a pipe wrap. You’ll find pipe wraps in different materials like rubber-backed foam, bubble film, rubber pipe insulation tape, and more.
Pipe wraps are suited for smaller pipes with many bends. Here’s how to use them:
- Wrap the tape around the pipe in spiral loops while overlapping the last layer by at least half an inch.
- While doing so, make sure that the pipe is completely covered with the pipe wrap and no area of the pipe is exposed.
- As you reach the end of the pipe wrap, tape it in place. If necessary, use another pipe wrap to cover the pipe’s entire length.
Why Insulate Wall Cavities?
Additionally, you can also insert insulating material in the cavities of your wall. This seals out air and prevents cold air from circulating around your pipes. It can also lower your heating and cooling bills.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), households with insulated wall cavities save an average of 11% off their total energy costs.
Common materials used for insulating walls are polystyrene beads or granules, blown mineral fibers, and urea-formaldehyde foam. Among the three, foam has often been touted as the best material for insulating wall cavities.
It is, however, difficult to install so you should get a professional to do it for you. Since some types of foam degrade after a while, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of insulating foam.
Added Insurance for Your Plumbing: Heat Trace Systems
Want better control over your pipes’ temperature? You can also use trace heating cables to monitor the water temperature inside the pipes and prevent them from freezing.
A heat trace system relies on a power source to regulate temperature. They are placed along the length of the pipe together with your insulating material. Once installed, you can control the system with a thermostat or a temperature sensor.
Tips for Insulating Your Pipes
- Always wear safety goggles while insulating your pipes.
- Ensure that all the hot and cold water supply pipes running through unheated spaces in your exterior walls are well insulated. If you neglect to insulate even a small area, the entire fixture can freeze and burst.
- Pipes that carry your supply of hot water can freeze too and should be insulated to keep this from happening.
- When shopping around for insulation, take a look at the R-value. This is an indication of an insulation’s thermal resistance. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.
- Before insulating your pipes, make sure that they are clean. Use a cleaning solution to wipe off any dirt, filth, grease, or dust from the tape.
- Similarly, your pipes should be completely dry before you attach insulating material. Moisture can make the insulation come loose faster. If you use a cleaning solution on the pipe, make sure it’s completely dry.
- Lastly, you’ll want to check your pipes regularly to ensure that the insulating material and the pipes remain in good condition. If you anticipate low temperatures, reseal any areas where the insulation has come off.
For those of you living in warmer climates where there are no wild swings in temperature, installing a showerhead on an exterior wall won’t make much of a difference or cause undue problems.
However, if you live in colder regions where temperatures can drop suddenly or drastically, a showerhead installed on an exterior wall will cause more issues. In such cases, you may want to consider a ceiling shower. Doing so will save you the trouble of insulating your wall without compromising its integrity.