On ice, burst pipes and shocks

ice 1

In the month since I last blogged, you probably heard about the ice storm Southern Ontario endured Christmas week. It resulted in a ton of downed trees and power that was off for days, and in some places over a week. It was so hard to go out the next few days and see the destruction of so many beautiful old trees. While our block didn’t suffer a lot of damage, I don’t think a single tree on the blocks for two miles south of us wasn’t damaged. It didn’t seem to matter the age or type of tree, they were all affected. And some of those that survived the initial ice didn’t survive the high winds and snowfall that came the next few days.

We were lucky – while we did lose a few branches off of trees, including the main branch of our beautiful magnolia, none of the branches fell on our house so no damage there. And while we did lose power, it was back on after about ten hours. Unlike some of my friends who were without power for almost the full week. I felt really bad for those in Toronto apartments who wouldn’t have fireplaces like we had to stay warm, or couldn’t use barbecues to make a warm cup of tea or soup. The thing is, we’ve had worse/thicker ice. The day my youngest son was born there was an inch of ice on our car — you should have seen my husband’s eyes when I told him I thought I was in labor that day! But I think it was the worst it’s been in Toronto for a while, and their infrastructure was overloaded.  But on the days when the sun came out, it was like our entire street had been dipped in silver. It was absolutely gorgeous. Not so gorgeous is trying to take the dog for a walk. The sidewalks are still sheet ice, and many of them are still blocked by piles of fallen limbs.

ice 2

But we’re Canadian and it’s winter. So for me I’m not going to complain too loudly. I’m used to it. Okay, I may have grumbled a bit when the temperatures plunged into the minus forty range. Which caused our first ever burst water pipe. Again, we got lucky. My hubby and I were both home instead away at work or shopping, and we were both awake and about six feet away from where the pipe burst. There was this weird banging and rattling through all the pipes in the house and then this whoosh and the awful sound of water running at full stream. Which is exactly what was happening.

used under Creative Commons License, image from Wikipedia

We live in a side-split house similar to the picture on the left. It’s four levels, which results in some really weird paths for the HVAC and plumbing systems. Behind the garage is a family room, and beneath that is a crawlspace or basically a half-height basement. While there are no actual heating vents in that area it’s as warm as the rest of the rooms above it. Or just about. So we’ve never worried about pipes freezing before.

The pipe that burst was going to the downstairs bathroom so whoever designed the plumbing ran the pipe through a crawl space beneath the family room and bathroom, and up into a wall between the bathroom and the inside wall of the garage. I guess the original builders didn’t worry overmuch about insulation either. But here’s where we got really lucky — the pipe that burst sent a stream of water into the garage in an impressive jet going out at least ten feet  instead of into the bathroom and hardly a drop made it down to the crawlspace where we store a lot of…well, junk. Another piece of luck? Since we were awake, and quickly located the break, we got the water turned off within minutes.

Of course there’s a skating rink in our garage now, but it’ll dry out come spring and nothing in there will get hurt if it got wet.

Aw well, that was the adventure for the week.

Or was it?

aluminum-wires_webTurned out, no. Three days after our water adventure, I was working in my office and the electricity went out in half of my office. (It’s divided over two different fuses.) After some fiddling around, my husband replaced the fuse and tada, light! Five minutes later, the fuse blew again. And ten minutes later, a third time. Except this time only half the rooms tied to that fuse came on. Thank heavens we have a son who is an electrician, because though he was a ninety minute drive away, he could tell his father what to look for. Our house was built back in that lovely 1970s era where copper was expensive and builders cut their costs by using aluminum wiring. With use, aluminum expands and contracts, and gets brittle, and eventually this happens to the ends of the wires. When my husband pulled the plug out from the receptable (in a plug that we hadn’t even realized existed since it was hidden behind my bedroom’s dresser), the two black wires were fused together. And see the bubbling on what used to be the white wires? It’s not a good sign. We were so close to an electrical fire, it’s frightening.

Normally I believe things happen in threes. So can I bundle the ice storm together with the burst pipe and electrical woes? (If you don’t count the ice storm since it technically happened in 2013, can I then count the dead battery in my husband’s Jeep as the third thing?) Because I think we’ve had our share of house problems for the year already.

And yes, not a lot of writing got done while all that was going on. So little that I seriously considered jumping in my car and driving to a couple friends I have in Florida who have invited me to stay with them. I mean, seriously considered it. Cynthia and Rita, you nearly had a housemate for the rest of the winter. You may still!

Or maybe I should head to Texas…I could call it research, right?