Sunday, October 04, 2009


Trying to fix your own plumbing is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard. In the history of dumb ideas, it’s right up there with trying to cut your own hair. The other evening I tried to fix my own plumbing.

It all began when I had friends over on Sunday night. One of them came back from the bathroom and asked me if I realised one of my radiators was leaking. I checked and they were right. A very slow, but nonetheless visible drip.........drip…........drip from the pipe going into the bathroom radiator. Bollocks! I wedged a few sheets of toilet paper underneath it and left it like that. The next morning the toilet paper had absorbed the night's drippage. It was a tiny leak. No real drama.

But things like this torment me. I imagine I can hear it, like a ticking clock in a silent room can seem almost deafening, I was thinking about this drip….....drip….....drip. By the middle of the week I could bear it no more.

That evening, I stopped off at the DIY store and bought a nice big new adjustable spanner as the one I had was just not quite big enough. This is cool because I like buying tools. Rather cleverly, I also bought a roll of PTFE tape which you wind around the threads of a joint and it helps to make a watertight seal. Clever eh! I was pretty sure I would only need a little turn on the nut with my shiny new spanner and I would tighten the joint and fix the leak but I bought the tape as an added precaution.

First I turned off the boiler and turned off the water supply. I then ran all the taps to take any water out of the system. Then, with my sexy new tool I tightened the lower nut connecting the copper pipe to the radiator valve. No longer was there a drip……….drip………drip. Now I had a drip drip drip drip drip drip. Bollocks again.

I would have to undo the joint, put some PTFE tape around the thread and reconnect the pipe and that would fix the leak. I closed off the radiator valve and undid the nut and pushed the pipe down to move it clear. A jet of water came straight out the pipe and went a full half metre into the air…..FFFFUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKK. I shoved the spurting pipe back into position. It was not leaking any more. It was now gently pouring out of the loosened joint. I ran to the kitchen, grabbed any receptacle I could find (a few old pans), ran to the cupboard and grabbed some big towels and went back to my slowly filling bathroom to mop us some of the water. By repeatedly lifting the pipe out of position and catching the spurting water in the pan I managed to perform an improvised draining of my heating system. When each pan was full I put my thumb over the pipe to stop the flow. As the edges of the pipe were razor sharp, I managed to cut my thumb quite impressively.

Finally it was empty. I put some tape around the joint, reconnected it and tightened the nut. Drip drip drip drip drip. On closer inspection it now also appeared to be leaking from the joint above the valve. I would have to fix this as well. With my shiny new spanner, I now undid the upper joint as well. As this was above the radiator valve I had earlier shut off, as soon as I undid this new nut all the water in the radiator also came out. More pans. More improvised draining. I put some more tape around this joint and reconnected it. The drip had stopped. No surprise really because there was no longer any bloody water in the system to drip out.

I tuned on the water supply, turned on the boiler and turned on the taps. I still had water. Phew. I then bled the air out of the radiators to check my handiwork. Drip drip drip drip drip. I checked the boiler and now the digital display was flashing to indicate there was no pressure in the system. Oh for God’s sake! I carefully (yeah right) read the boiler manual which may as well have been written in Chinese for all that I understood in it. So, having started with a small manageable leak, I now had a much less manageable leak, a busted boiler and a gashed thumb. It was also 10pm.

I will continue this later……after I've given myself a cool new haircut.


sabrina said...

LOL!!!! Poor dear

We've all been there....not only cos we're all convinced we're gifted like McGyver, but more so becaus i think plumbing costs a bitch and we'd rather save that money for the hairdresser :p

Rebecca A. Maynard said...

, although I don't like pain; everything ends, after all. I'm just surprised at the plumber: a wrench in the hand tends to focus me on the present problem, not metaphysics.contractor