May 7, 2013

Good news, bad news

Good news – at last after waiting and arguing for over two weeks, I’ve received a label to return GrosBill’s wrong black microwave at their cost! The bad news though, is that I still haven’t got my money back from them and there’s no guarantee that even when they’ve got the ruddy thing back, they’ll then do a quick refund. I’ve given up hope of ever getting the right model from them, I have to say 😐

Good news – I’ve got my new toilet installed and flushing water just as it should! The bad news however, is that there’s a leak from somewhere underneath, where you can’t see, so I still can’t use it until I’ve located the problem and rectified it 🙁

One of the things that I will be eternally grateful to my old Dad for is that while I was in the Sixth Form he refused to pay me any pocket money or any parental support either, to top up my grant while I was at University. What he said he’d do, though, was help me get jobs to earn good money in my holidays, and that’s exactly what he did. My Dad was a surveyor and a very good one too, working in the public sector, so he had some excellent contacts with lots of top contractors. And so there was I, a ‘college boy’, getting stuck in and getting my hands dirty with a plumbing contractor for almost three years and a building contractor for another three. And these were some of the best times of my life. Initially the guys I was working with were a bit suspicious of me because they knew who my father was, but when they saw that I was ready to muck in and do whatever I was asked to, that soon vanished and not only did I have some great times working with some really genuine and skilled people who I had great respect for, I also learnt skills of my own that have stood me in good stead for the rest of my life.

Over the years I’ve been able to do all my own plumbing and building work, with the help of my Dad while he was alive and my brother-in-law who was a skilled plumber until he went into the office. This has included some pretty complex projects, all of which I was able to work my way through to a successful conclusion. However, I have to say that fitting this ‘WC Suspendu’ has been one of the worst and least enjoyable that I’ve ever done. The kit itself came with no instructions other than a couple of flimsy sheets of paper with some hand-drawn illustrations on them. There were some rough dimensions shown on the box that it came in but no detailed measurements to work to, so everything had to be precisely measured by hand and/or calculated from two or more measurements. Despite that fact that holes for the water inlet and the support bolts are in fixed locations, there was no template to work with and again, the positions had to be measured as closely as possible, together with the hole for the outlet pipe, and adjusted a bit at a time until they were right, which was both tedious and time-consuming. And to top it all, a pre-welded support bracket and some pre-drilled holes were in the wrong places. Generally speaking, the overall quality of the kit left an awful lot to be desired.

Then we come to the plumbing fittings. I like to use capillary (soldered) connections on a job like this where access is impossible after the job is completed. The joints are permanent and there’s no chance of a leak developing that would end up ruining your whole day. However, you can’t get soldered fittings in France which have the solder pre-loaded inside the joint. What? Yes, amazing but true. That’s why all the soldered joints you see in France have great gobs of solder on them or solder running down the tube away from the joint, something guys were fired for by the old plumbing contractor I worked for all those years ago. So I’ve had to use screw/cone fittings which seem to be of very variable quality here in France. Only after buying a new stop-cock did I find that it didn’t even have proper cones, but instead had an even cheaper arrangement involving weird metal spring washers combined with rubber washers, which must eventually harden up and start leaking I’d have thought. And then, after I’d got the water inlet pipe plumbed in and turned the water supply on, I found that the gland nut on the top of the stop-cock hadn’t been tightened and was highly delighted to have water spraying out like a fountain before I heard the noise from the kitchen, dashed in to find what was causing it and switched the supply back off again. And then to top it off, because the gland nut was difficult to get a spanner on, I managed to drop it down into the now-boxed-in cavity behind the toilet, so I was very pleased with the overall outcome, as you can imagine 😐

Anyway, here are a couple of pics just taken showing the latter stages of the project. The wood boxing in the second shot has had a coat of white emulsion to match the walls and that’s how I intend to leave it until I can do the bathroom and re-tile the lot.



So where am I now? Well, I’ve already removed and re-fitted the toilet once in the hope of fixing the leak and although the initial signs were encouraging, I think there’s still some slight dampness underneath the ‘cuvette’ (toilet pan). If so, I can’t leave it, because if it’s from the outlet, that’s what known in the trade as ‘foul water’. Why it should be leaking I don’t know – I can’t imagine that it’s because I’ve cut the outlet pipe half a centimetre too short, but it might be. If so, what a poor design it is, that it should depend on such a high level of accuracy. My next step will be to try the old tried-and-tested method that can only be used where it can’t be seen – get hold of some good quality waterproof mastic and smear both parts of the suspect joint with it after ensuring that they are perfectly dry and clean. Then make the joint and leave it for a day to allow the surfaces of the mastic to cure enough to make a waterproof seal – not difficult when the joint is not subjected to any pressure. And then I’ll have to just keep my fingers crossed, not using the toilet, of course, in the meantime. And that would be more bad news, although it’s something I’m getting quite used to after the last week or so 😕

Footnote – the final pic above was taken after I’d confirmed that the leak had been fixed and the job completed, prior to tiling at some time in the future.