Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Water Works

Husband and I have very little DIY experience between us. We also have different approaches to it as well, which can lead to fairly sparky sounding conversations. He is methodical and a bit of a perfectionist about it while I am patient and a bit more slap dash.

So if we have a choice to tackle a bit of domestic enhancements its more out of a sense of urgency as opposed to a planned and organised affair. This latest bout of DIY chaos was borne out of a dripping tap in our kitchen.

When I say dripping it was more like an incessant gradual pouring which was only getting worse the longer we ignored it. So at 6pm on a Sunday night we decided it was time to replace the tap altogether – as opposed to trying to work out what specifically was causing the leak and sorting that. Nope, not us, that would have required a level of understanding about our plumbing that we simply don’t have.

We approached it in a “logical” manner, for two completely inexperienced plumbers, and first cleared the area before pulling out the washing machine and turning off the water in the cupboard (where our boiler lives, this will become more relevant in a moment).

We stood and surveyed the underneath of our sink with growing dismay. There was a collection of different tubes ensuring that the dirty water from the sink and washing machine exited our flat in an orderly fashion. All these tubes had to be removed in order for us to get to the pipes supplying the water to the tap. Thankfully we had a bucket at the ready and the pipes came out in one section.

So far so good. And with a growing sense of pride and achievement blossoming in the Mario Brothers now stood in front of the sink, we assessed the next steps. There was still too much in the way so the whole sink would need to come out. The plan was straight forward enough. Get the sink out and remove the old tap, attach the new tap and put the sink back in.

Problem 1: We, or rather Husband, couldn’t get the sink out without shearing off some odd looking latch that held it to our counter top. Rather philosophically I think “well we have another load that will hold it in place so we should be fine”. Here is the first demonstration in my slap dash approach and Husbands perfectionism- he is fuming already and we’ve only hit our first problem. There are more to come as you will find out.

Problem 2 quickly raised its head when we started to try to remove the old tap. We had been through to my grandparents and dropped 90% of our DIY kit in their loft for space and safe keeping. We live in a modestly small and tiny flat and there is always a need for space. Given our lack of enthusiasm when it comes to home making in the literal sense we figured we’d have plenty of time to get what we needed for repairs to the flat etc. We had three spanners: one chunky adjustable one and 2 IKEA ones that had fallen out of the box now in my grandparent’s loft. None of them were co-operating.

Cue the blowing of Husbands second gasket when then first 2 of 3 spanners fail to work and the third looks too small to do anything. I suggest meekly that perhaps I can help. It is very hard to do this without bringing into question Husbands masculinity. Oh dear. I did have a go with my marigolds and the smallest spanner of the set (having already knocked on two of our neighbours doors for some help – to no avail) and success.

We are instantly elated. Husband’s gasket is well and truly back on and I am trying not to be smug about my achievement.

With the bucket ready I fully unscrew the first pipe a smidge of water pours out. But we did expect that. We did not expect a lot of water to consistently pour out of the second pipe. Hot water at that. 
 You might remember I have had some issues of late with scalds so I was particularly disturbed at what we now had to deal with.

Holding the pipe down into the sink with a sponge I tried to swap an empty bucket for a full bucket of hot water with Husband in a mini chain- running to the bathroom to empty them. While he kept shouting and swearing and sticking his head in the cupboard to turn any kind of knob that looked like it might be hot water related. After about 6 buckets of hot water he found it and the gasket that was number two of the evening flew off once again.

He was going to be in London on Monday and Tuesday and did I think I could cope without water altogether until he got back? NO was the reply. We can get this fixed we just need to take our time. And breathe.

He is back under the sink trying to work out what to do with the new tap and how to get the old one off. The old one clings desperately to the sink, pipeless, and in some sort of warped act of spite drops a bolt. Not just onto the floor but down a gap behind the base of the cupboard. A bang as Husband catches first his head then his knee exiting the cupboard he’s been lying in trying to get this bolt back. He perfectionism results in another gasket being blown.

I suggest quietly that perhaps my tiny, lady hands might be able to help. He very grumpy says he doubts it and adds that it is ridiculous that we are doing this job so late on a Sunday when he knew it was going to be a nightmare! I rescue the bolt and as quickly as this gasket of his has been flying off its back on again. And calm has been restored.

We take out the new tap, realise the instructions contained are for every tap going except ours and both are now ready to start tearing our hair out. I return to the three spanners and have to deliver some bad news. None of them work with the new pipes. Husband phones his friend.

Who comes round with the largest box of spanners known to man and immediately puts the pair of us to shame. Together the three of us work out how the new tap should be fixed- after several attempts. And get the sink and associated pipe works underneath reattached and go to turn the water on.

To which our Superior Spanner friend asks curiously why we are going to the cupboard where the boiler lives to turn our water off?

It’s where the knobs live that turn it off?

Why don’t you use the two values underneath your sink- here?
Husband thumps his thighs in rage while I laugh loudly and say because we didn’t know about them?!?!?!?!?

We could have avoided one near scald and gasket blow out had we known . . .


  1. You pair of numpties! That is all I have for you.

  2. Cass, husband and I lived in, and still own, the flat of shoddy repairs. all of our attempts occur in this way.

    Also, my husband once threw a whole shelf across a room because he measured out all of the fittings and stuff, carefully marking things, and then the shelf wouldn't go up because the wall was curved.

    I feel your pain.