Thursday, 19 January 2017

Cracking up, falling damp, and a bit of a bonkers bad patch

I am sorry for the delay in my usual (loosely weekly) posting schedule/habit. My Facebook friends will know that I don't put a status update on there if I can't either think of something funny to say (or something intended to be funny, more like - who knows what people actually make of my comments?) or haven't got a new picture of Truffle in an amusing pose. Or Truffle just being impossibly cute in a slightly - some might say imperceptibly - new way. And the same is true on the blog, pretty much. Even when I report on the misfortunes that periodically befall me - and there have been a fair few down the years, notably on my business travels, but also after I moved into this house - by and large my posts set out to be entertaining, as opposed to merely a cathartic rant about outrageous fortune and her pesky slings and arrows...though they are that as well.

All the same, I felt that sufficient time had passed for it to behove me to put my head over the tumultuous parapet and give you the topline on what has been happening lately. Perfume reviews, a Truffle winter special and a bathroom refurb report will follow, but right now I am in the midst of a particularly worrisome twist in that particular renovation saga. It is a bit of a spoiler alert to mention it now, but unfortunately, on the day that I put the finishing touches to the room - a few ornaments and pot plants with appropriately toned dark green foliage - I could no longer deny the fact that both the bath and shower were separately and jointly (joint possibly being an operative word!) leaking through the floor and into the kitchen below, causing a number of big damp patches at the top of one wall and all around the track lighting. Why, there's a good excuse not to bathe - it's an electrical hazard!




Additionally, last weekend 20+ longish cracks appeared out of nowhere on walls and ceilings all over the house, one or two the entire length of a room. It felt as though the place was haunted, for no sooner was my back turned when another one or several popped up! I spent a couple of dark nights of the soul googling the small print of my buildings insurance policy to find out the amount of the subsidence excess, and getting ballpark estimates for underpinning(!) the foundations in case the worst came to the worst. In the event, these particular cracks, though legion, leggy, unsightly, and downright alarming, only register as a Category 2 on the architectural equivalent of the Beaufort scale ('fine structural'), and it seems the house - though subtly shifting beneath me - may yet stand for some years to come. ;) I did half wonder whether Truffle may have precipitated the movement by persistently clawing at the dining room door every morning to be fed(!), but a friend who trained as a surveyor reckons the cracks are more likely to be linked to the many, varied, and violent kinds of weather we have been having lately.




So I have put my crack problem behind me (got to be careful how I phrase that, on several levels!). However, the unresolved matter - and associated horrible piquancy - of a brand new bathroom that was five months in the making leaking from multiple undiagnosed and mostly inaccessible sites, remains with me. So I may be liaising with my plumber - and possibly other plumbers! - on an ongoing basis until we can get to the bottom of everything. I have myself done a ton of forensic investigation: this has involved every kind of water volume/pressure, from jet spraying with the shower's own diverter to pouring from a watering can, squirting with a spray bottle designed to banish Truffle's arch enemy, the interloping Tootsie, and administering small amounts of water into the casing of the bath taps via a pipette. I have also isolated certain components from the water blast as a 'control' using a freezer bag and some gaffer tap. Ooh, 'gaffer tap'! Freudian slip...On the plus side, I have learnt an awful lot about the gubbins behind a mixer shower, including the plumbing meaning of the word 'escutcheon'.

My stress levels are compounded by the fact that I am entering a hellishly busy work phase, though I should not be sorry for that, in case some money has to be thrown at the problem one way or another...





Finally, hats off to Truffle for showing a great deal of empathy this week - I'd say 'a rock', but that way lies Princess Diana and that rum bodyguard chappy, Paul Burrell. I swear she (Truffle, not Diana) knows I am run ragged with it all. In the mornings she has taken to sitting on my neck for a bit like a furry comforter, and staged a dedicated vigil outside the bathroom door when the problem was first diagnosed. But that may just have been because she was dying to explore the airing cupboard where the action is all going on!


22 comments:

  1. I think cats and dogs do know when you are suffering and sometimes do their best to make you feel better even if it's just by not making things worse. And purring is a balm for all manner of ills. I hope your cracks and leaks all get fixed in a timely and not overly expensive fashion.

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    1. Hi Bejoux Noir,

      Thanks for your good wishes and I love your phrase 'even if it's just by not making things worse'. Funnily enough, Truffle had been going through a bit of a feisty, borderline naughty phase before all this kicked off, but now she has the bedside manner of the very best kind of nurse. ;)

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  2. Or perhaps she wants to re-enter the underbath Narnia of her kittenhood. I am sure the house, having stood 100+ years is good for a few more.

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    1. Hahaha, Hazel - I did wonder that, even though the bath is now round a different way. She is certainly drawn to holes and cupboards of every stripe.

      Yes, I am learning to get used to the cracks, though some of them do look a bit shocking!

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  3. Oh no! Building stuff is horrid enough when nothing goes seriously wrong! Have you paid for the bathroom work already? It seems somewhat logical that the root of the problem lies with the renovation. Lots of hugs.

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    1. Hi Sabine,

      I know you are all too familiar with the trials of building work from having your kitchen done so recently, a much more complex job. I have paid for the bathroom, yes, though so far the plumber is coming back at his own expense and I hope that may continue. The kitchen did need decorating anyway, and if the damp damage is worse than just cosmetic, I might be able to claim that on insurance?

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  4. DRAMA! It's so scary when cracks appear. Does my head in too.
    Good luck Vanessa.
    Portia xx

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    1. Thanks, Portia! I spotted a few more cracks today in window frames, which is surprising given that I am consumed by the bathroom at the moment and not noticing much else. A new patch of damp also appeared in the kitchen, but we have been doing an awful lot of water tests troubleshooting the problems. xx

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  5. Oh dear, this sounds terribly stressful! I hope it all works out quickly and relatively painlessly. Thanks for putting together the phrase "crack problem behind," it made me laugh aloud :)

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    1. Hi Yuki,

      It is true that it has been really high anxiety stuff and I have barely slept since Tuesday. The doctor even sent me for an ECG yesterday, just to be sure my heart is behaving!

      Glad you liked the crack comment - came out of nowhere, as these things tend to do. ;)

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  6. Ugh! I'm so sorry, V. What an avalanche of stressful building/plumbing problems. I admire you for doing your own research because these are issues that are not easy to get to the bottom of let alone understand as a layperson.
    Good news at least that you said to Sabine the plumber is coming back at his own expense (unheard of in London I'm sure) and the cracks sound superficial. Also as much as you enough on your plate, having work to pay the bills is positive.
    Look forward to catching up properly when things calm down.

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    1. Hi Tara,

      Thanks for your concern. It has been one thing after another, even this afternoon when the plumber had finished his second long session of trying to fix things and gone home. We are hoping this is residual water finding its way out after the fact...fingers crossed. Meanwhile the plumber instructed me over the phone to 'hoke up the banjo fitting', which funnily enough I was just about to try myself, after spending a useful ten minutes on the Screwfix Community forum! And he volunteered to come back to apply PTFE tape, which was going to be my next suggestion from the reading round I have done. So yes I have learnt quite a bit as well as doing all the funny water tests. ;)

      And it is great that I have not had to pay for these extra visits. That would have been the last straw, I think.

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  7. I so sorry to read your home trials, a particularly stressful category of problems in my experience. Just after a major renovation, including freshly whitewashed ceilings, we had a similar event, no cracks, but a growing big water spot (right under the shower). In the end it was all solved and repainted, and it is one of those episodes that when they are over you (at least I) forget them. I am glad staunch Truffle stands by you! Hamamelis

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    1. Hi Hamamelis,

      I am sorry you are also acquainted with these troubles, but they are par for the course, I'd say. That water spot must have been upsetting in the newly painted shower. Weirdly, the only cracks that have appeared in the bathroom have been hairline ones, following drilling for the fixtures, which is fair enough really. But I am glad you got your issue sorted. I know what you mean about it being so great when it has gone away, as hopefully it will soon. Truffle is a great support, and am very glad of that.

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    2. PS If only Truffle could also 'staunch' the leaks!

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  8. Anything related to remodeling and/or fixing things at home scares me out of my wits. Looking at my kitchen that has never been "updated" since the house was built 27 years ago (I'm not sure how many it is in kitchen years), I'm seriously considering an eventual move to another house with already remodeled kitchen instead of doing anything with this one ;)
    I'm telling all that so that you understood how much I sympathize with your problems. I wish you all possible luck in this situation.
    Truffle looks as if it was she who did all the investigations and now she's resting.

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    1. Hi Undina,

      I can quite understand your reluctance to update your kitchen and moving sounds a very sensible plan, hehe. If I hadn't done so much redecorating of the rest of the house I might almost think the same, but I am very much like Macbeth in that regard when he had gone too far forward to go back.

      I loved your observation about Truffle!! And you are right - that is exactly the impression she gives. ;)

      Fingers crossed that after another long intervention by the plumber yesterday, with me acting as his mate this time, he may have sorted the various problems. I had a test bath and shower today (yes, I got washed twice in the spirit of scientific inquiry!) and the inside of the airing cupboard looked dry. Certainly if you take a fairly 'normal' bath and 'careful' shower...

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  9. So sorry to hear about all your trouble.Water and structural problems really are the worst kind, I hope you get it sorted since keeping walls (and ceilings) dry really is essential.

    I'm a bit like Undina, I moved from my previous flat instead of having the old bathroom made into a new waterproof bathroom/wetroom. But then ended up with a joint bathroom project where I now live which has left me with a not totally satisfactory result, but no leaks after having the plumbers back several times.Hopefully it is easier in smaller towns to get plumbers to sort out the problems before they leave the site.

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    1. Hi Ingeborg,

      Thanks for your sympathy, which is much appreciated. As you say, it is important to keep the fabric of the house dry. When this lot dries out in the kitchen it will be time to redecorate, along with the worst of the cracks.

      Sorry to hear that you have had plumbing problems of your own, despite moving, as Undina suggested! I am glad you got the leaks sorted at least, though you say there are still things that aren't quite as you would like? This plumber is very good in the sense that he will see something through to the end. It may be harder to find such people in big cities, I sense.

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    2. Darn! Now I have to cancel those movers... Kidding. But I know that with any new place some "unknown unknowns" come. I hope we all find good "small city plumbers" to deal with those.

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  10. Truffle shows a very proper empathy under these circumstances. Cats do know what is going on in the most surprising way.

    As to cracks ugh, I know. They are very worrisome and around here the building inspectors say that they're due to "mini-quakes". As if this were likely to make us feel any better about them. Anyway, good luck with your bathroom.

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    1. Hi Blacknall,

      Thanks for your sympathy. Truffle has indeed been a sweetheart through all this, apart from having to be restrained when she has tried to get in the airing cupboard and under the bath again. ;)

      I think I have had a flurry of mini-quakes, no question. I should speak to my brother really, with him being a seismologist!

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