The tears and trauma of a bit of plumbing……

As you might have gathered from the previous blog, plumbing is clearly not my favourite job. In fact it terrifies me, but with 3 more bathrooms to get finished it’s obviously something I couldn’t avoid. I put it off for as long as I could – not hard given how much else there was to do – but eventually I had to bite the bullet and start playing with the pipework.

To make life easier I decided first job was to isolate the water supply in a couple of extra places so I could work on fitting the bathrooms without have to keep cutting off the water flow to the heating system.

My water is pumped in from a borehole, and it can be turned off at two points in the house. One stopcock turns off the supply to the kitchen and bathroom in the cottage, the other, located at the top of the house in the main kitchen, turns off the supply to the rest of the house.

(Interestingly, there is nothing to turn off the supply between the two – so if a pipe bursts in the roof space of the cottage, I’d have to leg it outside to the pumphouse to shut down the borehole. Bit of a design fault if you ask me – but since the original pipework bringing the supply into the house was installed by Mr Incompetent Builder, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised.)

I’d had a plumber in once to put in the first fix pipework for the bathrooms before they were plasterboarded – but he’d turned out to be another contractor disaster. He got the hump about half way through the job because he claimed I hadn’t paid him for work done. I had. But he downed tools and started sending ridiculous letters threatening to take me to court and charge me Wonga level daily interest until I paid up in line with agreed schedule. I eventually sent him a copy of the transaction from my bank statement, at which point he realised he had received the money – it had just gone to account he didn’t use very often so he had noticed it. Well don’t blame me matey,  I just used the account number you gave me – a trader who has so many bank accounts he loses track of his customers’ money?! Seems very dodgy to me. I didn’t get an apology. I didn’t invite him back.

Which left me with not enough pipes, most of them not in the right places and none of them actually connected up to anything.

Hey ho – back to the old DIY option. After all, a few pipes and fittings – anyone can connect up a couple of taps, right? How hard could it be??

I duly sat down and drew up my plan of where I was going to put all my taps and loos, and worked out how much more pipe and how many fittings I would need. A quick visit to the local plumbing shop and I returned with enough pipes and fittings to plumb all the leaks at Westminster.

I started with the main bathroom and the ensuite above it. Plastic pipe fittings are dead easy. The pipe has got enough give in it that you can manipulate it into awkward spaces, and to join it together you just fit a pipe insert and push the ends into the fitting; (though as I learnt the hard way with the dishwasher episode, you do need to make sure the pipe is properly pushed right the way in!)

For the main bathroom I’d already bought the taps and fittings so I connected them all up. For the bathroom upstairs, I’d only purchased the bath taps, as I hadn’t finalised the layout of the rest of the room. Fortunately the plumber had stopped off the ends of all the pipes, so I could just leave them be. (Or so I thought…)

Right, now time to actually join it all up to the water supply.

I shut off the water, drained all the water out via the tap in the boiler room, cut through the main cold supply pipe and water came gushing out. Don’t panic, it’s just the residual water in the pipes emptying – I had my bucket ready! Admittedly the water seemed to be pouring out for ages, and I was beginning to panic that maybe I hadn’t turned off the stopcock fully. But just as I was wondering where the nearest spare bucket was, the water trickled down to nothing and stopped.

So, just fit a couple of T-joints, connect up the pipe to the new stopcock and jobs a good’un.


The moment of truth – I went up to the kitchen to turn the water back on…  And heard the unmistakeable sound of gushing water coming from the bathrooms.

I sprinted down the length of the corridor and into the downstairs bathroom. Only to discover that I’d left the shower tap in the open position and water was merrily cascading out of the shower into the shower tray and down the plughole, exactly as it was meant to. I heaved a sigh of relief, turned the tap off and relaxed…. for about 2 seconds…. until that ‘fear-of-the-sound-of-running-water-in-a-barn phobia’ kicked in again and told me I could still hear gushing water and it sounded like it was in the next room.

I dashed into the bedroom next door to find water pouring through the light fittings and down the walls. Bolting up the stairs I discovered that the plumber had not been quite thorough enough. The pipes set in the floor for the basin in the ensuite had not been capped and were happily spraying a fountain of cold water up the wall of the sauna and down through the floor into the bedroom below.

Fortunately I didn’t have to leg it all the way back to the kitchen to turn it off. The new stopcock I’d installed was a few metres away, and it worked! The sounds of running water died away….

When I’d recovered from the trauma of the fountain in the bathroom and mopped up all the excess water, I capped off the offending pipes, checked all the taps were off, and opened the stopcock again.

The golden sound of silence – which meant that all my plumbing efforts were sound and nothing was leaking. See, it’s not that hard, is it?

Well that’s the cold water connected. Next job – connect the hot water pipes. Maybe I’ll leave that for another week…..

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