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Cold snap keeps plumbers busy with frozen-pipe calls

A plumber's advice: disconnect hoses from outside taps, make sure water to those taps is shut off

For some homeowners, having a plumber show up on their doorstep on Christmas Eve was better than having Santa come down the chimney.

Plumbing companies have been inundated with calls for help with frozen pipes, backyard irrigation lines and even some water mains during the cold snap.

“We had 60 calls over the Christmas weekend. It was crazy,” said Wade Roberts of Wade Roberts Plumbing. “On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we had one technician on call and another one helped out the one on call. They did a little bit of work together to help keep things going, but it’s impossible to keep up with that kind of call volume. It’s wild.”

It’s a bit of a sacrifice to be on call and away from family during the holidays, said Roberts.

“But the reward is great in the reaction you get from clients when you show up and fix their problem on a night like Christmas Eve,” he said.

“One of the technicians who was on all this Christmas was on call last Christmas as well and he wanted to be back out there because of the reaction and the thankfulness.

“One of the hot-water tanks he did last Christmas Eve, he put a big bow on it for the clients and wore a Santa hat and they were just thrilled. It can be rewarding for sure.”

To keep the plumber from your doorstep, Roberts strongly advises people to disconnect hoses from their outside taps and make sure the outside taps are shut off.

Hoses should also be disconnected from frost-free outdoor faucets, he said.

Isolation valves for backyard piping or irrigation should be shut off inside the house.

The B.C. plumbing code says a water main should be 18 inches underground in our climate, said Roberts, but in some cases in older homes, or if someone ran their own irrigation line underground, it may be shallower and could freeze.

“We’ve seen that a couple of times this freeze,” he said.

“Generally, inside a house you can locate those frozen pipes and thaw them out. But if it’s underground coming into the house, it’s pretty complicated to thaw them out and get them flowing again.”

Inside the house, leave a tap running at a very slow trickle, especially if it has frozen in the past.

Open cupboard doors as well, said Roberts. “Maybe that space in the cupboard can be warmed up by the air in the room.”

With continuing cold and more snow on the way, Canada Post is encouraging customers to clear the snow and ice from their walkways, stairs and driveways to ensure safe access to the front door for their mail carriers.

The City of Victoria is reminding residents and businesses they are required to clear snow and ice from sidewalks in front of their properties by 10 a.m. each day under the streets and traffic bylaw. There’s a fine of $125 for non-compliance.

Saanich is also reminding property owners that they are responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks in front of their properties.

Both municipalities are ­urging people to keep an eye on their neighbours to see if they need help with the ice and snow.

Langford, meanwhile, said mud and snow tires are mandatory on Bear Mountain, and any vehicles abandoned in driving lanes will be towed at the owner’s expense.

The city is also asking residents to park all vehicles in the garage or the driveway to allow for proper snow clearing. If vehicles are ­impeding snow clearing, your street is at risk of not getting plowed, the city said.

On Tuesday, B.C. Transit had a number of snow-related detours and service disruptions, and advised customers to sign up for its alert system online at

Spokeswoman Tessa Humphries suggested leaving plenty of time for journeys by transit. “We’re doing our best to get our riders to their destination safely and thank customers for their patience.”

B.C. Ferries cancelled sailings between ­Tsawwassen and Duke Point on the Queen of New ­Westminster on ­Tuesday due to freezing weather that led to frozen water pipes, washroom closures and unsafe ­conditions on the vehicle deck.

The 10:15 a.m. and 3:15 sailings from Tsawwassen and the 12:45 p.m. and 5:45 sailings from Duke Point were cancelled.