Saturday, 14 November 2009

The bathroom, and associated grief

Red berries among dark green leaves
It's been an eventful week in the life of Lola Towers. She has been poked, prodded and violated in all sorts of ways, and is now sulking, refusing to reveal the secrets of her piping. For this weekend, at least, her inhabitant, the long-suffering author and student Lola, will have to endure a total lack of central heating and hot water downstairs. Mr A: not so much, he's gone away until Saturday night.

Last Monday, the builder arrived to work on the bathroom - sealing properly around the bath, restoring the tongue-and-groove woodwork, and in principle, removing the existing radiator in preparation for installation of a different one when the woodwork is complete. I was off at uni for the day, learning about Ethics, Nutrition in HIV/AIDS and working with my group on the introduction to our coursework on Gene Polymorphisms in Lipoprotein Metabolism. It was a tough day.

Mr A phoned me before lectures started - he was concerned about the skirting board that was going to be fitted. Unfortunately, he failed to convey his concerns to the actual builder, so the skirting board was installed, and he didn't like it. The other issue was that the bath panel had been built without the agreed access to the pipework behind it, and we were still hoping to investigate the poor flow to the bath taps. All had been glued and nailed thoroughly - both access under the bath and removal of the unwanted skirting meant the destruction of the whole panel. The builder had only been able to work for half a day, and he hadn't done anything about the radiator.

We went to see our decorator, who told us that she and the builder had decided (without consulting us) that the under-bath access was impractical, so they hadn't implemented it. We went away to think about this, while anticipating another visit from our lovely plumbers. This was on Thursday, with the objective of replacing our hot water tank, which was old, seriously corroded, and poorly insulated.

Again, I was away all day, learning about Regulation of Protein Expression, and Settings for Healthcare Promotion, and creating the index for our group coursework. Another tough day. I arrived home to find notices all over the place from Mr A telling me not to turn on the heating. He had gone to a meeting, returning very late. I had been quite looking forward to a shower...

The tank replacement job was due to be completed on Friday - another day at uni for me, learning about Nutrition in High Risk Pregnancies and finishing that damn coursework. Within my group, I had worked before with only two out of the four. It didn't go all that smoothly in the end, the workload wasn't divided equally at all, and we only managed to get it finished with an hour to spare before the deadline. Not what I'm used to at all. One of the group (whom I had worked with quite a bit before, we get on very well) told me later that she'd never heard me swear before. It's an interesting prelude to my other group assignment, for which my first meeting (with entirely different people) is on Monday.

I got home on Friday afternoon to find the lovely plumbers unexpectedly still there, but looking rather tense. In the next hour or two, I learned a great deal about plumbing systems. 'Dropping the tank' means to drain all the water out, for the purpose of doing some sort of remedial work. Hot and cold water and central heating systems have entirely separate header tanks. We have a rather old house. If someone, say a previous 'workman', insulates your tank with polystyrene but fails to do it properly, then a load of small polystyrene balls fall into the water in the tank and float on the top. When the water is drained out of said tank, your system will fill with small polystyrene balls. This will clog things up something rotten.

So at the end of Friday, we have a number of issues.
  • We have a new hot water tank: nicely insulated, should save us a load of money.
  • The flow of hot water to many of our household taps is seriously compromised, presumably by polystyrene balls, potentially inside pipes and taps themselves.
  • The routing of pipes around the house is somewhat obscure, given its age.
  • Something has also happened to the central heating (to be honest, I'm not sure how this is related to the tap water problem) which means that upstairs radiators are hot and downstairs radiators are not.
  • I had a shower in the sports centre after my badminton match.
  • The new bathroom radiator is still in the hall, in its box, although the old one has gone now.
  • The skirting board/bath panel issue is resolved.
We like the plumbing brothers A and M, and got hold of them through a very reliable chap (let's call him Alf) who's done a lot of good quality work for us in the past - our kitchen roof, rendering an outside wall. The builder and decorator came via a different recommendation, and we don't trust them so much. Turns out that Alf does carpentry too, and has capacity to fit us in. So the plan has changed somewhat:
  • The plumbing brothers A and M are back on Monday, and will sort our problem out somehow - although I'm anticipating that some collateral damage will ensue, both to the house and to the bank balance.
  • We pay the builder for what he's done so far, and say thanks, but we'll take it from here.
  • We get Alf in to finish the structural work around the bathroom, and see if he's interested in helping us with various other jobs that have been waiting for a long time (e.g. loft access and decaying parquet).
  • When all is well in the plumbing and woodwork departments, the decorator can come back in to do the bathroom, if Mr A wants her to. Otherwise - well, we've lived with shabby decor for coming up to seven years, so we can manage a bit longer if we need to.
I'm now just realising the implications of the compromised water supply. A (of A and M plumbing brothers) thinks it might be OK to run the dishwasher as long has it has a filter on the incoming supply, but I may be taking a bath together with our dirty dishes later...

1 comment:

Caz said...

Oh the joys of renovation!!