It has been bloomin’ cold lately, hasn’t it? And the cold has had consequences. In the kitchen I heard an unfamiliar noise. It sounded very near; in fact nearer than very near. Just outside the conservatory, water was gushing down one of the panels. I went outside and confirmed there was a torrent on the other side, too.
For a couple of minutes I fretted and panicked, then clarity and logic nudged them aside: I remembered where the stopcock was to turn off the water. This gave me some time to stare at the wet panel and the pool of water on the floor while I figured out what to do. First thing was to call our local plumber. He wasn’t answering.
Wet, wet, wet
I went back to figuring. As ever, when I’m about to embark on some DIY my mind drifts back to debacles in the past:
- using a breezeblock to hammer fence posts into the ground and nearly taking my head off when the breezeblock broke in half;
- the appalling paint job in the hallway a few years ago, so bad that when a friend saw it he dropped everything and repainted it there and then;
- and the attempt to fill in a hole in the lounge ceiling by cutting a new piece of plasterboard… the horror of it still makes me shudder.
To determine the source of the leak, some basic DIY dunce work was required. So with a clawhammer I pulled out – by which I mean, effectively destroyed – the panel which the pipe was going through. Inside the panel was a large block of polystyrene. I dug this out to reveal the copper pipe. And, success! … a bit more more digging exposed the hole where the pipe had burst.
The pipes are calling
This pipe was going into the conservatory because that’s where we used to keep our washing machine. Now it was redundant and had been capped off. The other side of the conservatory, where the pipe went into, was attached to the outer wall of the kitchen for about a foot and a half and then went into the wall and into the cupboard under the sink. Thus, I realised that I didn’t need the piping that went into the conservatory anymore so the logical thing to do was to cut the pipe and cap it off.
I make it sound as if it was the easiest thing in the world, but it was at least the logical solution. For a DIY dunce, even coming to a logical solution felt like a win.
I looked to see what tools I had. I found my junior hacksaw.
Then I got lucky. I found some PTFE tape, known to be useful in plumbing situations. I’d had it from a couple of years ago when I replaced a thermostatic valve on a radiator – a much easier job than it sounds. But the real bonus was finding a bag of isolating valves. I still had a few from when a friend replaced one of our radiators a while back.
If I had a hammer
I tried the plumber again. Still no answer. With the daylight beginning to fade, I set to work.
When you start to saw through a copper pipe, there’s a moment when you wonder if the blade is actually sharp enough to get through the metal or it is simply scoring the pipe pathetically. But then a trickle of water appears and you know you’re making progress. I got some abrasive paper and sanded off the burrs on the edge of the pipe. This felt like a particularly professional touch.
But I was taking no chances. I watched three different videos on YouTube about fitting an isolating valve. I was ready.
I slid the nut on first. This went fine. Particularly after I gave it an encouraging tap with the hammer. I then slid the copper olive (a ring of copper that when compressed forms an air and watertight seal… hopefully) over the pipe. I wrapped the PTFE tape around the thread of the valve, happy that I was doing it the right way. I turned the screw on the top of the valve and watched the ballcock close up. Then I fitted it over the end of the pipe, slid the olive into place and screwed the nut to the PTFE-covered thread. I did it hand tight, then tightened it with grips and a spanner.
The final countdown
If I’m honest, this all went smoothly. Perhaps a little too smoothly? My son volunteered to stand outside while I gradually turned the water back on. He gave me several thumbs ups. I went out to look. The valve was doing its job.
It is not possible to put into words how delighted I was with myself. Even my son, a teenager, seemed vaguely impressed. There is no higher praise.
Which left me with a nagging feeling: I’ve always been perversely proud of my reputation as a no-hoper when it comes to fixing things. Now maybe I can cast aside that DIY dunce persona.
At least for now…