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holes around pipes

Notice the gaps between the pipes and the drywall in the pictures above? These gaps appear in both the walls and the ceiling, and I feel like in at least one case, I've noticed a difference in air temperature if I stick my finger in the gap.

Should I try to plug up these gaps? If so, are there any recommendations for how to go about it? Note that I'd need to seal around:

  • electric cabling (for a dishwasher and for a hot water heater)
  • a hot water pipe (warm to the touch)
  • drain for a kitchen sink/dishwasher
  • flexible dryer vent hose (not very strong)

My first thought was just to spray in some of that expanding foam, but I'm concerned that it might not be appropriate for electric, hot pipes, or that it might crush the dryer vent when it expanded.

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That electrical wiring around the front of the stud and the drain pipe in your second picture looks like a real hack job of installation. As a matter of fact all three pictures leave that impression but the one with the wiring around the drain is nearly the worst that I have seen. –  Michael Karas Nov 11 '12 at 21:24
    
Pretty evil construction. The pictures belong in "There, I fixed it." or on "This Old House" in their chamber of horrors picture collection. –  Fiasco Labs Nov 11 '12 at 23:00
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I am proceeding on the assumption that these aren't visible areas, so looks do not matter.

I think you were right the first time, I'd use expanding foam for those jobs. I've used it in all sorts of cases like yours and it has done well. It isn't going to crush anything, even flexible dryer hose.

The alternative would be to cut pieces of drywall with the right diameter holes and to screw and/or glue them into place around this material. You'd need to move those wires around some if you have enough slack. Once the drywall is in place you'd just use caulk or silicone on the remaining small gaps.

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I vote for the expanding foam. If I was going to cut extra pieces to place over the drywall I would use 1/4" (6.5mm) thick plywood instead. Sanded nicely this can be painted to match and is much neater than pieces of added drywall. When I have made such access covers around pipes and vents I usually screw them in place so that they can be easily removed in the case repairs are necessary to the drain pipes, vents or electrical wiring. –  Michael Karas Nov 11 '12 at 21:20
    
Thanks. Any thoughts on how expanding foam will work around a warmish hot water pipe? –  Nate Kohl Nov 11 '12 at 21:26
    
Will not be a problem for domestic hot water. The only heat sources that would be an issue would be those such as gas flues that require clearance to combustibles. In which case using regular foam would be illegal anyway. –  bcworkz Nov 11 '12 at 22:15
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