Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Plumbing new depths

Having the plumbers in to fit a new boiler shouldn't really have a knock-on effect on everything else - but it does. Even when things go well they seem to pervade the whole place and make getting anything else done near impossible. And things have not gone well. Yesterday they cut through two defunct pipes and capped them off. At least they thought they were both defunct, but one wasn't... So yesterday was spent repairing the damage and getting hot water back to the kitchen sink.

Today it was freshly reaming out the holes bored on Monday for the new pipes, right next to the remaining non-defunt, non-repaired pipe of the three available. The time-served borer of holes, who's experienced the flex in drill bits of any length (and due to the thickness of the cob wall this particular bit is three feet long) well, that borer would exercise caution and elect to drill from the pipe side in. Ben, the plumber's mate, knows that - now. Unfortunately he didn't know it earlier today, the bit wandered and he managed to nick the mains water pipe thus achieving the full house on all three pipes. The rest of the day was spent repairing it.

All this was preceeded by a lot of "it should" and "we'll try that first" by Vic, the boss, which I said at the time boded ill, but being able to say I told you so is little comfort. I can't honestly blame them though. This house is a sort of textbook example of how not to do it. If tradition and logic dictates the cold water pipe should be on one side of the hot one, well it's guaranteed to be the other way round in this place (and it was). Pipes wend their way gaily down the middle of the wall above wash basins, just asking for a nail put to hang a mirror to go right through it (and it did). Electric cables go not up and down as safety dictates, but rather throw themselves jovially across the wall at a diagonal. Spare bits of live cable still live under the floor and no-one's yet been able to decide what exactly they do but don't dare cut them because they don't know where to go to replace them again. The usual old house problems of an abhorrence of 90° corners anywhere and strange creaks and groans at about 3am are mere peccadilloes.

Monday also brought us the delights of having three-quarters of the spare room floorboards up to find out which pipe did what (before finding out they didn't, in fact, do that at all). There's a cynical story told in one of John Winton's books about how dockyard folk go about fitting out the pipes and cables in one of HM Submarines. Viz; all the pipe fitters, 'leccy fellows etc are drawn up on the dockside, a whistle is blown and they all sprint for the boat. Whoever gets there first gets to fit his pipe or cable straight as a die from A to B, regardless of its size. All others, even if 3 inches in diameter, have to work round it, leading to an end product not unlike a facsimile of a plate of spaghetti. Well that appears to be what's happened under our spare room floorboards.

I can say this with confidence 'cos I can easily refresh my memory. Yes, you've guessed it; the floorboards are still up... We assume from the debris on the stairs and in long-haired cat Polly's fur that she's had a good rummage round while the going's good. Too late to find the mummified mice found under the airing cupboard though - bad luck, Poll. She reached the dizzying heights of sixteen yesterday, which is something of a record for our cats. She was born in the bathroom behind the toilet, hand fed in order to avoid imminent death, fostered onto our other cat (who happened to also be having kittens) by her mother within a week, had to "break-in" three or four other cats who've come and gone, spent a couple of years travelling to and from Cornwall once a month and now has a pair of parrots to contend with. Heck, it's been a hard life thus far so a little under floorboard exploration is nothing.

And what does all this have to do with woodworking? Quite frankly, sod all :)


  1. But it was a good read, Alf. Hope your problems are sorted soon.


    Paul Chapman

  2. Alf,
    I am sorry to hear of your plumbing nightmare, but not that surprised. We had an extension built, end of last year, finished in January. Brickies, roofers, tilers, plaster, electricians, painters, window fitters and then the plumber! Everyone else turned up with lots of materials before starting the job, plumber arrived, ripped out all of the radiators and then went to get the new ones.
    Drilled through the newly installed 40Amp feed the workshop and even when taking the now out of service old back boiler out managed to have water running down the walls in the hall.
    I hope you come though this OK.


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