Hello and welcome to a new week, here in Blogland.
How many of you home-owners have ever asked yourself “How hard can it be to change a radiator?” This question is generally asked after ringing around a few plumbers and trying to get a quote.
Plumbers will never give you a quote over the phone, they have to come and have a look and they are prepared to do that in four weeks’ time as long as you promise to make them a cup of tea.
Plumbers are very strict about this.
This is odd because as far as I’m concerned plumbers are just normal people like you and I, the only difference is that they have a good tool kit.
So eventually you get bored of trying, especially when the only quotes you get seem very steep. How dare anybody charge that much, just to come to your house and swap a radiator over?
It was exactly those two questions above that led me to buy a new-fangled, double-barrelled radiator off the Internet this week and decide to fit it myself. I’d finally caved in after three years of being moaned at. Our bedroom needed a new rad. Every single night (even in the hottest part of Summer) my wife runs through the bedroom adding layer upon layer of entirely unsexy thermal pyjama before bouncing about in the bed like an epileptic fly in a desperate attempt to warm up her zone.
These layers would absolutely not come off which makes certain night time manoeuvres a bit of a challenge. I’d had enough, I had to man up and get plumbing. I do, as it happens, have quite a good toolkit myself.
09:00 Saturday 18th February
I’m at the wholesalers buying the last little piece that I need to fix things into place because the radiator is five centimetres narrower than the old one due to the old one being Imperial - apparently. Everything is going fine until I look quizzically at said extension piece and attempt to ask the man behind the counter how it works. He shakes his head and rolls his eyes. I’m just another numpty who thinks he can plumb. He refuses to divulge his trade’s secrets; he is cross enough that he has to let me buy the parts.
The heating is off and I’ve lugged my toolbox, rags, sheets and new rad up the stairs. The lockshield is uncovered and turned off after carefully marking it and counting the turns (this is apparently important though it has no further bearing in this tale because it seemed to make no difference at all). The other end is turned off manually and with a bowl under the pipe I make my first attempt at unscrewing the nut connecting the radiator to the valve thingy. All that happens is that the pipe starts to bend a bit. This is not necessarily looking good. To rectify this I screw the nut in the other direction to bend the pipe back and the nut starts to loosen. “Interesting” I say to myself, “The screw turns that way does it?”
Water comes into the story about now – lots of it.
I managed to get about a quarter of the water that had been in the radiator into a bowl, I’m not entirely sure where the rest went. Slowly, but surely, the radiator emptied.
I proudly walk through the kitchen and out into the back yard carrying the old radiator. I display my prize like a prehistoric hunter showing his family the Mammoth that he has caught for their lunch. With the radiator deposited outside, I return to the fold to demand my first cup of tea because I’m a plumber now and there are rules.
I give up trying to get the old ‘tail’ out of the radiator in a huff. Kiss clever wife who happens to know where there is a different plumber shop that I can go to in order to buy new ones from, so that I don’t have to face the wholesalers again.
Lunch. Sausage sandwiches. Tea. Nice.
Discover that there was one measurement that I had overlooked.
I finally finish bending and smacking pipes and crack a wry smile as I realise that the big switch-on has arrived at the same time that my In-Laws arrive. What a chance to earn some serious points? Stand by to be impressed folks.
Mother-In-Law shouts up from the lounge below where I am frantically trying to stop the cascading fountain of water – “There seems to be some water coming through the ceiling!”
But not a lot, thankfully.
I manage to stem the flow and empty out the radiator. Thankfully it was just bad plumbing, the pipes weren’t split. I remake the joints and refill the radiator.
Then I turn the water off and empty the radiator again because the joints are still leaking.
Jo returns home from a Zumbathon (don’t ask) excitedly skipping out of the car at the thought of the lovely house she was about to walk into. She stops. She sighs. Inside the lounge window is an orange bucket and a load of towels. This, she thinks, does not look promising.
We have a bedroom radiator that is hot and, on the whole, not leaking. I start tidying up, tip-toeing carefully past the rad.
I’d spent all day and almost wrecked the lounge ceiling (got away with that one as it was only a small amount of water that had seeped through the very edge by the wall). I was knackered. The kids were at their Grandma’s as she had stepped up and rescued them from boredom.
Suddenly it becomes clear why plumbers charge what they do. At the end of the day they earn their pay.
Maybe plumbers aren’t just like you and I with a toolkit after all.
Plumbers are just people like you and I but with a good toolkit AND they know how to use it. That knowledge is worth paying for.
The bedroom is properly tropical warm though – Jo keeps walking around it in just the two layers, showing off.