Our hair dryer is older than this one - but just as effective.

Wow. I haven’t written squat since December 12! No wonder I have so many blog ideas. Fear not, faithful readers – I’ve noted down a whole slew of topics that I’ll get to in the next days and weeks… just as soon as I find a spare moment or two.

Let’s start with the item that’s been giving me the most hell.

On Saturday – that’s New Year’s Eve for those keeping track – I arrived back home from a visit to see my Dad and Step Mom in Moncton (more on that later). I had a pleasant flight home on Porter airlines. Everything went smoothly. As I was soon to learn, however, I was clearly being lulled into a false sense of security.

Junkii picked me up at the airport, and no sooner had I opened the car door than he uttered the dreaded words: “There’s a situation you need to deal with at home.”

I sighed heavily and my blood pressure rose. “What,” I asked flatly.

“There’s a frozen water pipe.”

Oh goody.

First, a little information about our home: the water comes into our house in a little crawlspace under the staircase. It’s all very accessible, and the meter is easy to access, but it’s all situated along an outside wall and, in winter, it can get pretty cold in there. There’s a baseboard heater in the crawlspace that, if everything is working properly, keeps the water from freezing.

As you can guess, not everything was working properly. For some reason, the heater conked out – and when Ottawa frosted up with a cold snap the day before I got home, so did the pipes.

The actual piece of pipe that was replaced. And all it cost me was $160 and no end of stress.

By the time I got home, the whole system was completely seized. I couldn’t even turn the main water shut-off valve. It was frozen solid (or else I was a 190lb weakling, I chose to believe the former.) I could, however, see a gaping hole in the pipe above the water meter. As you can see from the photo, it almost looks like someone had planted a cherry bomb inside the pipe. It was completely blown out. Who knew ice could do so much damage.

I placed a call to my plumber – not knowing if he was even working on NYE – and set about inspecting further. I realized that, since the shut-off valve was stuck on and yet no water was flooding out the broken pipe, the blockage had to be somewhere in the line before the hole.

The entire length of pipe between the hole and the spot where the pipe emerges from the floor is only about a metre or so. I decided to see if I could get the ice to melt. I stuck a pail under the hole in the pipe, grabbed a hair dryer, and directed the heat at the pipe and water meter in a last-ditch effort to thaw the pipes myself.

It worked! And fairly quickly too. About 10 minutes of heating led to a gush of water from the broken pipe. Huzzah! One problem solved.

Of course, with me, that usually means another problem is about to crop up. True to form, once the water was flowing, it was pretty evident that the water meter itself was also cracked. And, since that’s city property, I knew the plumber wouldn’t be able to help. I was gonna have to call the city. Which I did, only to be told that, yes, they could replace the meter, but they couldn’t fix the broken pipe. I would need both the city people (for the meter) and the plumber (to repair the pipe). Bollocks!

It’s always a treat to deal with City services (please note the tone of sarcasm) but in fairness, this instance was actually pretty good – I guess because water is such a necessity. They basically said that, once the pipe was fixed they could have someone there within the hour to replace the meter. Being all red-tapey, the city service people were pretty adamant that the pipe needed to be fixed first, so I was in for a bit of telephone tag to coordinate the plumber, and the city, but it all eventually worked out.

Were actually luckier than I’d like to admit. My plumber was actually working on NYE – itself a bit of luck since he had just returned from three weeks of holidays and decided last-minute to do a half-day of work on a few little jobs around town. I was also lucky that I was able to clear the frozen pipe myself because it meant I could better coordinate between the lumber and the city as there were only two simple, clearly-defined tasks to take care of: repair pipe and replace meter. In the end, the two parties showed up within about 30 minutes of one another, and the whole system was back in working order by late afternoon. What could have been a pretty shitty New Year’s Eve turned out fine, and we were even able to have a few friends over to celebrate our working toilets!

You’ve probably realized, though, that getting the plumbing done was only half the problem. That still left us with no heat in the crawlspace – aside from an oil-filled radiator that we were using as a temporary fix. With more cold weather on the way, that was going to be an issue that we’d need to deal with sooner rather than later.


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