What do you mean, ‘Where’s the plughole?’

I am insanely jealous of these self-build smugs on the TV who run their building sites like a military training exercise, with endless checklists, projects plans, meetings and milestones. And who seem to know the precise position of every cable, socket, light switch and tap.

Of course, my theory is that naturally it’s easier to plan the precise layout and location of everything when it’s a new-build project and you’re starting with a blank piece of paper. Whereas when you’re working within the existing framework of an old barn, retrofitting pipes and cables alongside, through and around old stone walls, obviously things are a bit more problematic.

Well that’s my excuse anyway. I suspect, in truth, it’s probably got as much to do with my colossal lack of organisation skills as it has to do with the fact that it’s an old building. That, and the fact that I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing, having sacked all the expertise (the architect, the engineer, and even Mr Incompetent Builder), and was consequently making it up as I went along – in no logical order.

But be fair, if you were in that situation, when your building was still at the mud floors and bare stud walls stage, would worrying about plughole positions be top of your to-do list? I mean, why’s that even important when the walls are falling down around you?

Blame it on free-standing bath I’d bought, which needed an equally free-standing waste pipe to stick up through the floor in the appropriate place. The lovely chaps pouring the floor screed needed to know where that ‘appropriate place’ was.

At this point I think it’s probably fair to acknowledge that anyone who was more organised than me (which probably covers about 99% of the world’s population) would have checked the whereabouts of the plughole in the bath BEFORE telling the contractors where to bury the waste pipe in the concrete screed.

In my defence, I was at work when they phoned to ask. In the middle of a budget meeting to finalise a £400million IT budget, trying to have a surreptitious discussion about plugholes was not easy. “Yes, I have bought a bath already. What do you mean, ‘Where’s the plughole?’ Where do you think it is? On the bottom of course. Duh! Gotta go….”

Actually, I didn’t have a clue which end the plug was, so I guessed and said it was in the middle. Now before you all roll your eyes or laugh hysterically, it wasn’t entirely random coin-tossing guesswork; there was some method in my reasoning. It’s a big bath, roomy enough for two, and nobody likes sitting on the plughole – so of course it will have been designed with plughole in the middle to avoid that. Perfectly logical don’t you think?

Perfectly logical, but totally incorrect.

But so convinced was I by my logical reasoning that I went ahead and tiled the floor around the sticking up pipe – still without checking.

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It wasn’t until I actually unpacked the bath that my ‘logical’ theory fell apart and I discovered the plughole was at one end of the bath, whereas I now had a waste pipe  in the middle of the floor.

Oops!

It wasn’t even as if my new bath were an old fashioned rolltop on legs. At least then I could have fashioned a fancy stainless steel waste contraption and pretended it was all part of the design. And it would have been easy to get to.

Nope. Mine is a modern free-standing slipper bath that sits flush to the floor. So I had it precariously tilted on a couple of blocks of wood, giving me about 3 inches of accessible space as I tried to connect the waste trap at one end of the bath to the waste pipe in the middle of the floor…

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Cue the bruises and lots of swearing…..

And unfortunately the plughole sagas didn’t stop with the bath. The phone rang again, right in the middle of a heated debate with the Head of IT over his megalomaniac plans to bankrupt the company. “Yeah sorry love, it’s Bob the Builder again. What about the plughole in the shower?”

At least I knew the answer to that one. “It’s in the corner. Sorry, bit busy. Can’t talk now.”

Perhaps I should have been a little bit more specific. I got back up to the house to find the waste pipe for the shower in the corner. Right in the corner. So close that by the time the walls were boarded, there was only about 1cm gap between pipe and wall – compared with the 8 inch gap between plughole and edge of shower tray. To make matters worse, I’d deliberately bought a low-level shower tray, aiming for that ‘it’s almost a wetroom’ look.

My DIY-loving dad spent a whole weekend drilling and chiselling the concrete trying to create enough space and depth to fit the shower trap and waste pipe. In the end, the position of the waste stack meant it just wasn’t possible.

Plan B required. “Dad, can you just build a 2 inch frame to raise the shower tray…?”

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My cunning plan? Create a tiled plinth – nobody will ever know that’s not what was originally planned….

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It all worked out in the end, but it would have been a whole lot easier if I’d worked out what I wanted in advance. Hindsight is a wonderful thing……

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