Out of necessity

I had missed my early morning walk on Friday because of a doctor’s appointment so instead I spent time on the treadmill, the cycling machine and especially the cross-trainer. Over the three machines I covered a couple of miles and with other daily chores following later I was tired by bedtime and slept through seven hours. Now as you may already know I seldom get more than five or so hours of continuous sleep. It was Saturday morning, a little windy but dry and sunny and it would have been ideal for taking a walk only for the fact I had something else to do. During the day on Friday I chanced to see there was a slight leak of water on the floor inside the airing cupboard in the upstairs bathroom. It appeared to be coming from a ball valve on one of the heating pipes to the radiator outside.

The problem had been brought about by own mistake in fitting the ball valves in the first place when I was installing the new bathroom a couple of years ago. I had removed the easier to reach valve over a year ago and thought the other would hopefully not be a problem for it was situated in a very awkward place at the rear of the airing cupboard. In the picture below you can see the replacement straight-through connector I somehow managed or rather struggled to fit. The hand tools were either too small or too long to manoeuvre in the confined space but I did it!

You can see the old and original wooden skirting board (white) in front of which is the narrow pipe, The joint in the middle of the section of pipe is where the valve had been but is now replaced with the connector. You can also see that the wooden floor is wet due to the leak and it had in fact travelled down the wall into the kitchen below and loosened some of the wallpaper there. That can be easily repaired but will probably shrink back into place. In the effort to reach the pipe some of the lagging jacket around the hot water storage tank was damaged. The heat eventually breaks down the plastic covering so it is easily broken if handled too much. Did I tell you I hate plumbing? That by the way is a sort of ongoing joke in this blog as I have done an awful lot of plumbing at home and there is always, almost without exception a minor leak after I have done the work! This time however I bucked the trend for a change. Of course before I could do any of the work I had to shut off the water supply to the ‘header’ tank up in the loft and then drain off some of the water from the system down in the boiler room. Having re-instated the supply later I had to go around all the upstairs radiators to bleed off any trapped air. It all takes time and the bathroom radiator part of the circuit was difficult to rid of air. At the top of the house are three radiators of which one had been blocked in by my son’s stored furniture. All that had to be moved to gain access to the radiator. I had started the work soon after seven o’clock and finished four hours later. So much for taking an early morning walk!

Shirley Anne


Montbretia at thirty paces

Another warm and humid day on Thursday yet I had determined to arise early and do some more work in the garden before it got too warm and sticky. Alas it didn’t work out that way as by the time I had finished breakfast it was already uncomfortable to work in. The repairs to the brickwork I had done on the raised bed the day before was now solid. The job I had in mind this time was to mix some, well quite a bit, of concrete made with granite dust (granno). I wanted to place it along the joints between the paving slabs and the border stones I had placed around the Mound and the west wall flowerbed. When I did the stone border along the long flowerbed a couple of months ago I formed a substantial joint along the whole length in order to prevent gaps appearing either caused by the weather or more likely the activity of ants! Ants have been very active lately along the west wall flowerbed border and also along the front edge of the Mound where they face the lawn and a couple of gaps have appeared along with the tell-tale sign of excavated soil. I’ll say one thing for ants, they certainly work hard. However I had to shelve the idea of doing the work until it gets a little cooler. I was sitting at the computer late morning when I received a call for my services. Someone not far away wanted me to replace a ceiling light. I was happy to do it and off I went. I was back home twenty-five minutes later. I waited a short time before having lunch after which I sat out on the patio for a while. I noticed the ‘bib tap’ (faucet similar to that shown in picture)  was leaking water from the handle yet it was valved-shut.

English: Metal engraved tap (valve) in Fužine ...
Metal engraved tap (valve) in Fužine castles yard, Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The garden hose is usually kept connected to this tap in the rear garden whereas we keep the hose for use in the front garden in one of the garages and connect it to the tap there when we want to use it. The packing seal, usually called the stuffing box, was worn so I used some PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) tape to wrap around the stem which effectively cured the leak. Now I was keen to do something else but there was little else to do so I sat it out again on the patio before watering the garden plants. I thought I would sit a while longer outside to relax and enjoy the view but I spotted a montbretia sticking out of the soil on the far side of the garden, about thirty metres away! When you have been digging out montbretia and bluebells for weeks on end (see earlier posts) you get to spot them as soon as they appear. Actually I don’t know how five minutes earlier I hadn’t seen it when watering the plants.

Shirley Anne

Eleventh hour

I took the short walk of about a half-mile to the doctor’s surgery on Tuesday morning to have my blood pressure checked and to arrange a repeat prescription. Actually the doctor presses a couple of keys on the keyboard to place the order at the local pharmacy and about three days later I collect my prescription. It has been a few years since it was all done on paper and the patient took the prescription to the pharmacy themselves. That done I walked back home for my belated breakfast just before nine o’clock. The morning was supposed to occupy my time clearing out the lounge of paint cans, brushes and all the other paraphernalia associated with decorating but it didn’t work out quite that way. Yes, I did clear out the room but in the process I noticed a small brown stain at the bottom of the radiator near-to but not where the lower valve was. In a recent post I mentioned there being a small leak on the valve connection but I had solved that problem, this was a short distance away. I wiped it clean and felt for the presence of water and there was an extremely slight amount. I wiped that away and it appeared again. The radiator was showing the first sign of corrosion. It meant a replacement but first I had to drain it down and avoid spoiling the decorations doing it. I set everything up and released any pressure using the bleed valve beforehand. The mess was kept to a minimum and it was just as well that the new carpet hadn’t been laid for some dirty water ended up on the floor. The old underlay absorbed most of it but that will be getting replaced when the carpet is fitted. I struggled a little but I managed to get the radiator outside and parked it near the entrance to the garage for disposal later. Now I had a space where the radiator had been and brackets fitted to the wall and skirting board which most likely wouldn’t be suitable for use with the replacement radiator. I decided to go and purchase a new one immediately but the store didn’t have the size I wanted (about 6 ft x 2 ft) in stock but they would deliver one the following day which was fine. I wanted to at least fix the new one to the wall before the carpet was laid and if I couldn’t do the plumbing immediately I could do it later. I would have to drain down the whole system if it was not possible to connect the radiator without altering the pipework. I would only discover that during the fitting of the radiator. The new radiator cost me £88. It was now well after two o’clock and I went to the pub for my lunch. The following day would hopefully be better.

Shirley Anne

Had to do it

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A couple of months ago I bought several new radiator valves to replace those which have become worn or stiff or have simply stopped working properly. Changing the valves is relatively simple and straightforward. Is anything ever straightforward? For the most part though it should be a simple job. It all started with the radiator in my bedroom which had two faulty valves on it, the control valve and the lockshield valve. In real terms they are exactly the same. One, once set through balancing the whole radiator system, remains in a fixed position usually facilitated by removing the control knob and replacing it with a cap which cannot be turned and the other  can either be left as a manually controlled unit or be fitted with a thermostatic control. As long as the correct tools are available then the hardest part of the job is in draining down the system and then refilling it and bleeding out the trapped air and that isn’t difficult at all. On Wednesday evening I noticed that the lockshield valve on the radiator in my bedroom was leaking water but I knew that already as I had wrapped the valve with a cloth to absorb it until I could get around to changing the valve. The leak had become too heavy so the replacement was now a matter of urgency but it was late at night and I was about to get into bed. I wrapped more cloth around the valve and closed it off. The following morning I arose early, that is six o’clock, and after breakfast I began the process of replacing the valves on my radiator. Up to the loft to valve off the header (expansion) tank water supply then down into the cellar to affix a hose pipe on the boiler drain point. I then switched off the electrical supply for I didn’t want the system starting up for the day whilst I was working on it. I opened the drain cock on the boiler then went upstairs to the radiator in my room to open the bleed screw and wait for the water to cease flowing before returning to the cellar to close the drain cock and stop the system from draining down completely. There was no need to drain off the lower floor once the radiator in my bedroom was drained. It took about twenty minutes to replace the two valves then I returned to the loft to open the water supply to the header tank. Slowly opening the bleed valve on the radiator I waited for the air to escape. Finally everything was done so I switched on the electrical supply at the boiler and raised the room thermostat setting to force the heating system to come on so that I could check the radiator was operating correctly. That was it, end of the work so I put away my plumbing tools. Now I could have replaced more valves and done some other planned work whilst the system was down but I didn’t want to tie myself down in case I received any electrical work as it was Thursday, part of my normal working week. If and when I tackle the remaining plumbing work I will probably take a few days off to do it. At the moment I have no plans to do that, or anything major at home.

Shirley Anne

For a reason

Porridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After such a nice day on Sunday things started going downhill in the evening. By that I mean I found myself getting a little bored and unusually tired. I decided to have an early night and started upstairs at around 9.30 but by the time my head hit the pillow it was around 10.15. I had the television on whilst I was getting ready for bed, something that has become a habit over the years and there was an interesting program on the channel I’d switched to so I watched it until 11.00 and then nodded off to sleep. I awoke about three times after that until finally at 0430 I had to get out of bed and stay out. I just couldn’t sleep any longer. After my ablutions I dressed and went downstairs but decided not to apply my make-up until I had eaten a breakfast, something I was determined to have that morning having skipped breakfast for a few days. I wanted to wait until daylight to put on my make-up which would have been after 6 o’clock. I prepared some porridge with sultanas in it. I poured on the milk then added some blueberries. This is how I eat porridge. I had the last of the fruit and vegetable drinks I wrote about yesterday (Sunday), this time it was beetroot, cucumber and lemon! Just as I placed the bowl on the table I noticed E had written a short note telling me that a leak had developed in the airing cupboard upstairs in our new bathroom. I ate my breakfast then went to investigate thinking to myself all the possibilities where a leak could occur and hoping it was accessible. I opened the door to the airing cupboard and saw that E had placed some containers beneath a dripping valve but they were now full. The leaking valve was part of the pipework supplying the towel rail/radiator on the bathroom side of the wall and it was accessible. What do I do now I thought? First, go into the loft and shut off the water supply to the header tank supplying the radiator system. Second, go into the garage for some tools stored in the van. Third, switch off the heating controls (though the heating doesn’t switch on until 8 o’clock), Fourth, fit a length of hose pipe on the boiler drain cock in the cellar and drain off half the system. Fifth, remove the faulty valve and replace it. Finally, carry out all the previous stages in reverse then going around each of the radiators to bleed off any trapped air. I had started the process at 0640 and when I next looked at the clock it was 0720. All this before setting out to do my electrical work, though the first job wasn’t scheduled until 9 o’clock. Still, I never expected to have to do all that on a Monday morning before work! I suppose my going to bed early was for a reason.

Update: Although the leak was fixed the radiator now doesn’t get hot and I will have to leave it that way until we have finished using the central heating (usually sometime in April). I hadn’t realised that the way the pipes are arranged in the airing cupboard there is always the possibility of air becoming trapped and preventing water flow to the radiator, the cause of the present problem. The reason for this decision is that whilst I have the system drained down again to alter the pipe in the airing cupboard to prevent an airlock in the radiator supply pipe in the future I plan to replace some radiator valves around the house and make provision to install a small towel rail heater in the wet room too. I will be better to do everything during one drain-down rather than draining it all down just to cure the airlock in the bathroom radiator supply pipe.

Update 2: It is Thursday morning as I write this. The radiator is now working so I guess the air found its way out of that part of the system. The other work will still get done as and when I can get to it.

Shirley Anne