Dec 042013
 

What to do when you have Blocked Drains

Blocked Drains01W Blocked Drains

Blocked Drains02 Blocked DrainsDo your drains sometimes look like this, with smelly overflowing waste-water running into the street? Well a few days ago we had this problem. After a few tries with the plunger I gave it up as a bad job.

If you think that this is going to be an article on how to DIY and unblock your drains, you’re wrong. I called in the plumbers – and that’s what this is about. As I have an agreement with our landlord to check with him before incurring any expenses when it comes to essential maintenance of his property, I duly sent an email with a couple of pictures explaining the situation before taking action. When, after nearly a week there was no reply from him, I decided to go ahead anyway as the stench and health risk to everyone had to be sorted out. I phoned and asked the plumber for an estimate over the phone. This sounded reasonable, and I asked how soon they could get here.

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Blocked Drains06 s Blocked DrainsWithin 30 minutes of my call, the plumber – a company I had sourced myself, but which was highly recommended – was at the front door. What follows here is a step-by-step of what they found and how they fixed it.

 

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*A word of caution, if you are slightly prone to feeling queasy DO NOT read any further.*

Blocked Drains03 Blocked DrainsFirst they did a site inspection and located all the manhole covers. There are six plus one on the verge next to the road.

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Blocked Drains05 Blocked DrainsThe manhole next to the road seemed to be fine as there was nothing backed up.

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Blocked Drains07 Blocked DrainsThis is what they found. Disgusting sewage completely backed up and overflowing.

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Blocked Drains08 Blocked DrainsNext it was out with the “Big-Guns” – an industrial-strength rotating drain cleaner.

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Blocked Drains09 Blocked DrainsThe way it works is that the man at the septic pit feeds in the rotating coil with an attachment fitted to the front that is designed to clear the drain pipes. The second man attends to the machine and feeds the coil through.

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Blocked Drains12 Blocked DrainsOnce the blockage had been cleared, and the sewage had flowed away, then the coil was withdrawn and all the tree roots that had been blocking up the pipe were visible.

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Blocked Drains14 Blocked DrainsExtra lengths of the coil were then attached and re-inserted into the drain to make certain the blockage had been cleared.

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Blocked Drains13 Blocked DrainsThe extra lengths allowed the probe to go into the municipal line to check that it was clear.

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Blocked Drains15 Blocked DrainsThe next section to get sorted was the line from the kitchen that runs under the house.

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Blocked Drains16 Blocked DrainsThe same procedure was followed as before, with one person on the front and the other man working the machine.

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Blocked Drains18 Blocked DrainsAll sorts of unpleasant matter was extracted after a lengthy probe down the pipe.

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Blocked Drains20 Blocked DrainsA special long-handled plunger was used to clear the grease trap outside the kitchen.

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Pipe SquashS Blocked DrainsThese guys are the experts, but they found it particularly difficult to clear the drain under the house. They explained that the reason they struggled was because, without a concrete casing (which should have been in place), the weight of the soil and the house above it has gradually, over time, made the pipe oval (or irregular) in shape, which can cause blockages … and clearly this is what has happened.

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Blocked Drains06 s Blocked DrainsIf you see what these plumbers have to go through to sort out our problems, they are worth every cent they charge. And they have smiles on their faces.

Specifically, I can recommend these guys if you are in the Cape Town area. Contact Casa Plumbing and ask for Cheyenne (pronounced Shayne) or Anni on 073 228 4278

Nov 272013
 

Great Bathroom Layout and Design Ideas

Bath Sharon 191 Bathroom Ideas

Over the years, the bathroom has earned a reputation as an area  unworthy of attention, probably because it has always been regarded as no more than a room in which to wash. Nobody can deny that this is still its most important function but, nevertheless, it seems a poor excuse for creating a whole generation of inhospitable bathrooms which offer very little in the way of comfort or ambience.

It is certainly possible to create a functional, hygienic and streamlined environment without sacrificing character and comfort. A bathroom is essentially a private area where one can close the door on the world and emerge soothed, refreshed and relaxed; a haven in which to bathe a tired body, restore flagging energy and unwind in blissful solitude. There are encouraging signs that more and more people are realising the full potential of this Cinderella room. Nowadays, bathrooms are designed as multi-functional envtronments which can accommodate a number of different activities – relaxation, reading, Iaundry, dressing and even exercise. To the uninitiated, creating or remodelling a bathroom may be a daunting prospect. The small selection of bathrooms below by Appleby Kitchens showcases the creativity that this company can give to any room in the house.

Bath Sharon 428 Bathroom Ideas

Bath Sharon 320 Bathroom Ideas

Bath Sharon 173 Bathroom Ideas

Bath Sharon 001 Bathroom Ideas

Bath Sharon 990 Bathroom Ideas

All these bathrooms were designed, manufactured and installed by Appleby Kitchens.

Contact Details:

Sharon Grant

Cell: 082 780 5104

Tel: 011 493 9663

011 493 6263

Fax: 011 493 8560

[email protected]

Website: http://applebykitchens.co.za/

ApplebyKitchensBlu Bathroom Ideas

 

Aug 072013
 

Great Kitchen Layout and Design Ideas

The kitchen, say the experts, will sell the house: an axiom that can’t be proved but which nevertheless rings very true. It is part of today’s house that, more than any other, will yield handsome dividends on your investment – providing you plan sensibly, choose the kitchen’s specific components carefully and apply good taste when it comes to decor.

It is an integral part of our daily lives, and as such, it should function with ease, and not be an endless source of annoyance because it has been badly planned: a cupboard that opens the wrong way or an appliance fitted in an awkward position can cause continual frustration to the harassed cook.

The principal aim of this post is to impart advice and ideas, both functional and imaginative, to those South African home owners who are thinking of fitting out from new or remodelling.

We hope you will find some good ideas in this enticing range of South African designs.

 

 

 

Appleby kitchen 001 Kitchen Ideas

A wide open kitchen in contrasting light and dark colors.

Appleby Kitchen 015A s Kitchen Ideas

This small design has made perfect use of every bit of available space to have ample working surfaces and cupboards.

Appleby Kitchen 114 s Kitchen Ideas

This open-plan kitchen boasts a practical centre island with space for hi-stools can double-up as a counter for eating breakfast or for having a social cup of tea.

Appleby Kitchen 303 s Kitchen Ideas

An eclectic retro-look with a rustic brick backing to the custom coloured stove. The practical and easy to clean floor follows the brick theme whilst shelves reflect the stove colour.

Appleby Kitchen 356 s Kitchen Ideas

A neat design for a bachelor pad with all fridges and storage areas concealed behind glossy dark stained oak.

Appleby Kitchen 411 s Kitchen Ideas

This room is the heart of the home where the family can get together even whilst food is being prepared.

Appleby Kitchen 974 s Kitchen Ideas

A classic design with a large centre island where meals can be prepared, as well as plenty of storage space below.

 

All these kitchens were designed, manufactured and installed by Appleby Kitchens.

Contact Details:

Sharon Grant

Cell: 082 780 5104

Tel: 011 493 9663

011 493 6263

Fax: 011 493 8560

[email protected]

Website: http://applebykitchens.co.za/

ApplebyKitchensBlu Kitchen Ideas

Mar 062013
 

Water Pipes, Steel Reinforcing and
Electric Cable Detector

MultiFinder Plus D Etch Detect Pipes and CablesEven though instruments that detect pipes and cables have been around for a number of years, they are, I believe, under used.

Pipe and cable detectors are indispensable tools for any contractors in the building industry from plumbers to electricians, and installers who have to drill holes into walls from time to time. All DIY homeowners should own one of these as well so that they know if they can safely drill in a particular spot or not. Building inspectors will also find this tool useful when making a report on a site. This universal detector for locating wood, metal, copper, iron and live wires is manufactured in Germany and distributed locally by RT Agencies cc. You can visit the rtagencies website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 MultiFinder use graphic1 Detect Pipes and CablesSeveral integrated sensors make the MultiFinder Plus a scanning and detection tool for many different applications. It features:

  • One-button operation to switch between the different measurement modes.
  • The user guide on the LC display makes the MultiFinder Plus easy and reliable to use.
  • Auto-Calibration: adjusts the device to different surfaces immediately after switching on.
  • Auto-Cal Plus: allows objects to be localized easily in Metal-Scan mode.
  • Acoustic and visual detection signals for finding objects.
  • High safety is guaranteed by the permanent voltage warning function.

Special feature: in metal mode it is even able to detect concealed lines when they are not live.

Detection Depth

MultiFinder use graphic2 Detect Pipes and CablesThe range of detection is up to 40 mm for wood/metal beam location in dry-walling i.e. a stud-scan, non-ferrous metals up to 50 mm and ferrous metals up to 100 mm depth. Live and dead electric cables can be measured to a depth of 40 mm with a live wire warning alarm built in.

The MultiFinder-Plus is the top-of-the-range model and there is a smaller model, the CombiFinder-Plus with a few less features but still a key piece of equipment to have in your toolbox.

There is more information on the RT Agencies website.

You can also contact Robbie van der Walt

Mobile: 082 444 2334  Office: 011 976 0388 Fax: 086 635 8799  email: [email protected]

 

Jan 062012
 

Burst Pipe Plumbing Problems can Result in Water Water Everywhere

BurstPipe5Jan775 s 300x200 Plumbing ProblemsIt was a case of water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink recently, when a burst pipe began to flood our rented home.

Tensions were high as water dribbled out from under the fridge. Another appliance was clearly about to give up the ghost! The bad news was that it’s the “best” of our three fridges, having been transferred from my mother-in-law’s Howick house only a year ago. We have one almost identical, but it’s changed its function to a full-on freezer. The replacement we bought when this happened some years ago is falling to pieces – literally, chip by chip. When the door disintegrates just a little more, we’ll be back in the fridge market yet again. So this was not good news.

What Happens When Water Leaks

Water has a devious nature, even when homes have been built according to building regulation requirements. It quite literally goes with the flow. The problem is that it is often impossible to assess the origin of the flow. That is why leaks can be such a huge problem.

In this case it seemed to be flowing from the fridge. But then on second thoughts, it looked as if it was coming from under a kitchen unit installed opposite the fridge. The entire bank of units is nearly 3 m long, and runs from steps that lead down from a guest loo that is located behind the kitchen, alongside the scullery.

Knowing that the house – or at least part of the house extension – was constructed without building plans, we figured it was quite possible that the water was coming from the cloakroom (so to speak). The fact that water was seeping out at both ends of the kitchen units seemed to confirm our suspicions.

Of course the know-all matriarch knew exactly what was going on!

“Your fridge is leaking badly!” she said on Day One… “It’s your fridge actually,” I pointed out.

Hearing chatter of a possible burst toilet or faulty water pipe a couple of days later, she pronounced: “Look, the toilet is leaking.”

“Actually no! It’s neither the fridge nor the toilet!” Like I said, water is devious.

By this time I had done a simple experiment using a towel and a sponge mop, and had ascertained that the flow was definitely from the direction of said fridge. The water that was seeping out the other end had reached its final destination.

BurstPipe5Jan776 s 300x200 Plumbing ProblemsI had also defrosted the fridge. Next we had to move the fridge. It was wet on the floor where the fridge had been, and the water seemed to be coming from the corner. My 21-year-old computer genius son was called in to help find the source. Since the inside floor of the cupboard just inside the scullery was already rotten to the core when we moved into the house – clearly due to flooding and probably due to burst pipes – he went to investigate the outside wall where he spotted water pouring from who-knows-where!

All we could do to stop the leaking water was to switch off the water supply to the house and hope that the owner’s agent would act immediately… which she did, though it only resulted in a temporary solution.

Plumbers and the Regulations

First of all, the National Building Regulations are VERY specific when it comes to plumbers and plumbing work. You’ll find the relevant clauses in Part A, Administration, A18 CONTROL OF PLUMBERS AND PLUMBING WORK.

It is clear as daylight that “No person shall perform the trade of plumbing … unless he is a trained plumber or works under the adequate control of a trained plumber or approved competent person.”

While the reasons are irrelevant when it comes to those who blatantly break the law by using untrained, unregistered people to do plumbing installations and repairs, the fact of the matter is that plumbing is one of the most expensive parts of any building process (if it isn’t then there’s something very wrong). Furthermore, if the proper procedures aren’t followed, people’s lives can be adversely affected in terms of health, injury and/or damage to property. However it would probably be difficult to hold a landlord liable because most lease agreements contain clauses that absolve him or her from all responsibility – even if it was in fact their fault.

So when a plumbing installation is done, plumbers have to use materials that have been approved by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and work correctly according to the National Building Regulations and various South African Nations Standards (SANS). Drainage installations must be tested by inspectors who work for the local authority before we are permitted to use the drains. Most local authorities also inspect all trenches and excavations before drains can be laid. They also insist that all plumbing and drain-laying is done, or overseen, by a qualified plumber who is registered with the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA).

For the record, a trained and qualified plumber is defined in South Africa as an apprentice who has passed a Department of Labour plumbing trade test or a plumber who has a national certificate in construction plumbing at NQF Level 3. But even if somebody passes the required trade test or national certificate, they cannot claim to be a legit plumber unless they are registered with IOPSA. The reason for this is perfectly simple: to make sure that all plumbing work is done safely, in the proper way, according to industry standards.

If plumbing is done correctly in the first place, maintenance issues will be minimized and we should all live happily ever after.

Plumbers and Our Rented Property

I have previously described a couple of the very many leaks we have experienced in the past 16 months. The horrifying fact is that owners of the property (past and present) have clearly ignored the law!

I discovered just the other day that renovations completed by the current owner include two bathrooms that don’t incorporate a septic tank in the (unofficial) building plans. Furthermore the “builder” who isn’t a builder in the real sense of the word, was also employed to do the plumbing! When a registered plumber was called in, he refused to do the job unless a septic tank was built or installed. Needless to say he did not accept the job.

While not related to plumbing directly, this same builder sealed one section of a roof from the inside! Seriously…  I dare not even think what would happen if these particular bathrooms were used on a continuous basis.

But back to the most recent leak that affects our home.

BurstPipe5Jan853 s 109x300 Plumbing ProblemsOn the positive side, someone was on site within two hours of us notifying the agent of the problem. I was assured that he knew the property. This puzzled me since it was a new name.

Funny how people can twist the “truth”. It turned out that he had never set foot on the property, but had a close relative who had worked for the dodgy “builder”. I cannot repeat what was said about the renovation-come-build because it appears a court case is pending!

The Leak Revealed

Having tracked the source of the flooding water to a corner of the kitchen, we were able to help the new (to us) plumbing expert find out where the leak was. It wasn’t too difficult since the water was pouring out on the outside at a position that coincided with what was clearly a poly-filled track down the wall for several metres, close to the geyser outlet pipe.

BurstPipe5Jan855 s 300x225 Plumbing Problems

Turns out he, like my son, is in IT. Plumbing? Don’t be silly!

BurstPipe5Jan859 s 225x300 Plumbing Problems

The temporary solution.

Nov 152011
 

Drainage, Plumbing, Sanitation and Water Disposal

drainage 035B s Drainage

Drainage and plumbing is not only what you see above ground. All water, waste disposal, soils and stormwater have to be drained away and treated to maintain safety and health. In many instances these pipes cannot be seen as they are buried underground and have to be installed by a qualified plumber using the correct pipework.

We get a number of requests asking us for the number of toilets, urinals, wash-hand basins and baths that have to be installed in buildings. This depends on how many people will live or work in a particular building. Part A20 states that:

“The occupancy of any building shall be classified and designated according to the appropriate occupancy class given in column 1 of table 1 and such classification shall reflect the primary function of such building: Provided that, in any building divided into two or more areas not having the same primary function, the occupancy of each such area shall be separately classified.”

There are two tables below Table 5 for residential accommodation and Table 6 for personnel in the workplace these are extracted fron the SANS 10400 Part P – Drainage.

Provision of Sanitary Fixtures Drainage

Sep 232011
 

IT’S PLUMBING CRAZY

BurstPipe511 s1 The Plumbing Saga ContinuesNot being a registered plumber, or even someone who would try to work with pipes and fittings, all I can do is read the relevant national standards when I want to check the legality of fixtures and fittings. Not that the owner of the property cares. Pipes and fittings have been cobbled together over time, and there have been plenty of leaks: half a dozen in as many months that we are aware of. Mind you he wasn’t the owner when the place was built, and his talents don’t rate anywhere in the handyman stakes.

But my stance is that instead of hiring the cheapest “plumber” to repair problems, why not get it done properly?  That way the problems SHOULD recur less often. I am at a disadvantage though, simply because I am currently not the homeowner in my place of residence. If I demand that the landlord repairs plumbing and other faults (for which he is legally liable), I cannot demand who does the job. Of course, not being the owner, I am not about to incur building costs that I am not liable for.

A Leak of Note

The most recent leak was, as described in my previous post, under one of our baths. The trusty plumber who repaired two of the previous six leaks (we were able to remedy the others) was “too expensive”. But then he doesn’t know the layout of the internal pipes, and envisaged the repair would involve lifting the bath.

In hindsight I should have identified the fact that there is more of a known history in terms of the horrendous pipework on this property. It has nothing to do with building design, building methods or business ethics, building plans, building regulation requirements, or anything else that immediately comes to mind.

BurstPipe509 s 271x300 The Plumbing Saga ContinuesThe property owner’s “plumber” of choice, it seems, knows the pipes and fittings like the back of his hand. He’s been there, got the T-shirt (in fact several it seems) and, on this occasion, was able to smile with pride as he smashed through the floor with a four-pound hammer… to reveal the evil leak, which was even worse than we had imagined.

The water was pouring out when he opened up the pipework. A quick chop on either side of the hole, a short length of new copper pipe and two new fittings, and the job was done.

But the question is, does the repair meet the relevant building laws and regulations? One thing I am sure about is that the pipes and fittings in place are dodgy.

What the SANS

& Regulations Say

SANS 10252-1: 2004 Edition 2, amendment 1 (which is the South African National Standard for Water supply and drainage for buildings) states that unless the water is suitably treated, “copper piping shall not be used where the water can so dissolve an undue amount of copper that an unacceptable green staining is produced”.

Well, our white acrylic bath in the adjoining bathroom is constantly turning a pretty shade of green-blue. And since the water is sourced from a borehole, there isn’t anything that can be easily done to treat the water before it heads for the copper pipes.

Then there’s the question of the floor slab. Since the allocated plumber was not hired to replace the two floor tiles he had smashed, I was able to measure the depth of the concrete slab – out of academic interest, just because I could.

BurstPipe513 s The Plumbing Saga ContinuesI have absolutely no idea what size the building plans (if there were any) specified the slab dimensions should be, but the building regulations (SANS 10400 Part J Floors) state that any floor supported on the ground or on filling shall be constructed of:

a)      impervious floor units not less than 40 mm thick and consisting of slate, bricks, natural stone or other approved material; or

b)      a concrete slab which shall have a compressive strength of not less than 10MPa at 28 days, or be mixed in the proportions by volume of 1 part cement, 4 parts sand and 5 parts coarse aggregate, and the thickness of such slab shall be not less than 75 mm.

Hmm. The floor is tiled with a quarry tile that is less than 20 mm thick, and the thickness of the slab PLUS the tile is less than 70 mm! Say no more!

 

Sep 192011
 

THE NEED FOR PROPER PLUMBING

I never cease to be amazed by people who ignore building rules and regulations, particularly when the regulations apply to plumbing or electrics. Not only are plumbing and electricity two of the most basic facilities in our homes, and vital for everyday life, but when installed incorrectly, they can be downright dangerous. For this reason both plumbing and electric installations must be undertaken by qualified and registered professionals who understand and adhere to the regulations. For many years I assumed that it was impossible not to build and maintain a home without using qualified contractors. But seeing is believing; and as a result, I have many tales to tell. OwnerBuilding3D Cover1 s1 Burst PipesHaving written South Africa’s only book on owner-building has allowed me the opportunity to give new house builders some insight into what building a house entails, and point them in the right direction. I wrote the book after a build-your-own home project of ours ended in disaster. I WILL tell the story in this blog, but not in this episode. Rather than start at the beginning, in what I hope will be a useful, interesting and sometimes humorous series of blog posts relating to plumbing and electrics, I’m going to share a range of personal experiences, in the hope that it will spare others some of the pain, misery and immense frustration I have suffered over the years. I’ve been through an immense learning curve, and if you’re reading what I have to say right now, chances are you’re on your own curve.

Fortunately I have a long-suffering husband, and a son who both have a natural aptitude when it comes to things like plumbing and electrics. They are the ones who now fix the leaks and drips and broken connections. Until of course there is a situation like the one that occurred last week!

 

Proper Plumbing is Vital

One thing we DID do right when we built the “disastrous” home of our dreams was to get the plumbing right – because we DID use a qualified and registered plumber. But ironically, the plumbing was one of the reasons the building project went horribly over budget and resulted in us “losing our socks” so to speak.  In a nutshell, our neighbour’s plumbing was illegal, and so we had to move the build downhill, adding to costs.

In those days we lived in a rather up-market area of what could probably be called rural suburbia. The regulations were tight when it came to building and a whole lot else, other than the squatters who, like the now much publicised British “travellers”, claimed areas for themselves with little regard for consequence.

We now live in a much more rural area which is, in many ways, wonderful. But not when it comes to the plumbing we have inherited. Since we don’t own the property, we can’t check on the building plans; but I’m willing to bet that, if any exist, they bear absolutely no resemblance to what exists “on the ground” – or in the ground – or even in the air (which would take in the telephone and other communications cables).

BurstPipe1197 s Burst Pipes

This was an easy leak to find, unlike the new one!

Pipes pop left, right and centre, and most are sub-standard. The fittings that have been used are too! (Sub-standard that is). Most are so far from the building regulation requirements, it’s scary. Every time a pipe pops we lose water and as a result we waste water. It’s borehole water, so we aren’t paying directly, but popping pipes affect sustainability in the broadest sense of the word, and it costs money to pump the water. That is another irony; electricity costs soar if a borehole pump has to work overtime to keep up with even minimal domestic demands.

The Most Recent Leak

While the boys have stopped the recently leaking water, there’s a hole in a pipe that hasn’t yet been found.

A qualified, registered, and I believe reliable plumber has been to check the leak. He is not keen to tackle the job because the best scenario, he says, is to bash a hole through the wall to access the faulty pipework. The worst scenario is that the bath will need to be removed, the pipes fixed, and then the bath replaced and new tiles laid. He has also identified scores of issues that do not meet building regulations in South Africa.

We can hear water running constantly when all the taps on the property are switched off. There’s a pool of water that has formed near to pipework that emerges from a bath in one of the bathrooms. Unlike most conventional plumbing systems, where the pipes would be encased in concrete under the floor, these pipes simply disappear into the ground (deep down into real dirt). Access is via a wooden lid that at first sight looks like a laundry bin!

An explanation from a former neighbour of the original owner of the house, sheds a little light on the manner in which the house was constructed. Like Topsy, the house just “growed and growed”, as he “owner-built” at weekends using local labour – presumably the ones who buy a spirit level in order to be categorised a bricklayer!

Who knows who did the plumbing? Since the former owner ran off with the former neighbour’s wife, we shall probably never find out.

However, we do know that more than a year ago a linked pipe, in an adjacent bathroom to the one now in question, was leaking. The floor of this “adjacent” bathroom had to be lifted and the pipe was “fixed”.

Now, without inspecting the property, and not prepared to pay a paltry max-R3000 (about US$430) plumbing bill, the property owner has decided that the “plumber” who did the previous fix, and whose credentials are seriously suspect, “knows” that the bath won’t need to be removed to fix the problem – simply because he did the previous repair! It’s odd logic, but typical in the minds of those who tend to ignore our mandatory national building regulations.

This same so-called plumber “repaired” a stop-cock just a year ago, by removing the plunger! While the fitting hasn’t leaked since, we haven’t needed to use it to isolate the water supply until this major leak. Now we discover it doesn’t work at all! So our confidence isn’t at a high.

Within a week we hope to be able to use the two bathrooms again. But with the standard of plumbing, and blatant disregard for the need to adhere to construction regulations, we am wondering whether this old house extension could ever be repaired to meet current building standards.

All I can do is promise to let you know! Please come back soon, and feel free to share your similar experiences.