Do you ever have a day where everything that can go wrong does go wrong? I try to see the positive in every situation so days like this are few and far between for me, but they do happen. And when they do… [insert scream]

I had one of those days last winter. It all started the night before when I set my alarm for 5 p.m. instead of 5 a.m. I know some people like to play this card when they hit the snooze button one too many times, but IT REALLY HAPPENED!

That morning was a mad rush, not the best way to start the day. I thought things would turn around when I got some coffee into my system but I got more coffee on my lap and, as I was already running late, didn’t have time to grab another. As I rushed to my vehicle, I missed the patch of ice under a fresh layer of snow and before I knew it was on my back. What else did the day have in store for me?

Well, luckily, I have the best job ever so, apart from a severe lack of caffeine to cure my fatigue, my workday was pretty breezy. But as the workday came to an end, I had new battles to face.

I made a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up dinner. When I got to the till, I realized I forgot my wallet. That’s okay, I’ll run home and grab it then head back to the store. Once I’m home and ready to make dinner I realize I didn’t pick up my main ingredient! That’s all right, I can make it work. But… Phone rings and its my side hustle calling. Client needs an urgent task completed, NOW. Okay, dinner is on hold. Two hours later it’s nearly 8 p.m. and the day has kicked my butt. TV dinner it is…

After a day like this, I was due for some self-care. Nothing relaxes me more than sitting in a hot bath with a cool drink, watching Netflix. So that was the plan. Until… I turned on my faucet and nothing came out. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

The culprit? Frozen pipes.

When the temperature starts to decrease, the risk of your pipes freezing and bursting starts to increase, leading to one of the most common causes of property damage in the winter months. To keep this from happening, it’s time to prepare your home and business for winter by winterizing your pipes. Here are some tips to keep your pipes warm and water running:

  • Inspect the exterior of the property, making sure that all visible cracks are sealed. Cold air can enter through the cracks and, once inside, cause your pipes to freeze. If visible cracks are noticed, seal them immediately using caulking or spray foam to fill the voids.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas. To prevent drafts, seal cracks and openings around windows, doors, and at sill plates where the house rests on its foundation. Block vents that lead to the outside of the home or building using cardboard or wood. 
  • Insulate pipes with inexpensive insulation sleeves from your local hardware store. Be sure not to leave any open gaps without insulation as cold air can affect the pipe in these areas. 
  • Keep a faucet dripping, allowing the water to move freely and continuously through your pipes, preventing it from freezing.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing, especially if your sinks are on an exterior wall. If you have small children or pets, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners, household chemicals or medications.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during day and night. A cold snap is not the time to set back the thermostat at night to save a few bucks on your heating bill.
  • Some individuals recommend using heat tape to protect pipes from freezing. Heat tape is one of the preferred methods for winterizing plumbing but be aware that using heat tape can be a fire hazard and to take all necessary precautions.

If, like me, you didn’t take these necessary precautions and you turn on your faucet to find the water isn’t running, you may have a frozen or burst pipe. If a pipe has burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve (at the water meter where the main line enters the house) and contact a licensed plumber.

If you suspect your pipes are frozen there are some steps you can take to thaw them, but please take caution because if a pipe has burst, the water can come flowing out and flood your home.

  • Turn on your faucet. As you heat the frozen pipe and the ice plug begins to melt, you want the water to be able to flow through. Running water through the pipe, as cold as it is, will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do NOT use a blowtorch, a kerosene or propane heater, a charcoal stove, or any device with an open flame; this can damage the pipes or even start a fire.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all of the other faucets in your home to see whether you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
  • If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

Last winter I didn’t know anything about winterizing my pipes and I paid for it (well my husband and my brand new blow dryer did). This year, I’m prepared and I feel pretty confident that when one of “those” days comes along, I will be able wind down with hot bath, cool drink and Netflix.