Last week’s post left us going back to basics, lighting open fires to stay warm when the boiler broke down. The following week, the heating engineers were back to start work on replacing the boiler and water cylinder with a new combi boiler. As our village has no gas supply, we rely on oil, which makes boilers large, complicated – and expensive. There was much discussion between the two engineers about the best place to site a new boiler and how to get the supply to the radiators with the minimum work and disruption as they both seemed to have their own ideas as to the best way to work.
Eventually, we agreed on an external boiler out on the drive, as the back of the garage (where the old one lived) was deemed too far from the hot water supply for a combi. The pipework then has to come up the outside wall and in through the bathroom, which caused all sorts of problems in itself. “We’ll have to slide the bath out”, one of the engineers told me cheerfully at the start, choosing not to see my panic at that thought, as the bath panel is made up of tongue and groove woodwork and so is vulnerable if disturbed. It was bad enough that our power shower had already fallen victim to the changes, as it was incompatible with a combi boiler. The other chap, possibly more sensitive to my obvious concern, disagreed. “We might be able to work around it,” he offered. As was becoming usual with them, a lengthy discussion followed, where they put forward a dizzying array of options, all with detailed and technical explanations. Not that they were trying to blind me with science – they genuinely wanted me to understand, so that we could agree the solution best for us – but they managed it anyway. In the end, I left it to their professional discretion and let them get on with it.
Having work done in the house, especially work causing so much upheaval, does not make it easy to work from home. D came home each day, impressed with the amount that they had done, chatting to them about progress (they rarely left before 7pm and were then moving on to other jobs for the evening) and noting with approval how tidy they left things each day. All that was true and I am glad he was there to notice it and appreciate their efforts, as they rarely took breaks and worked hard each day. However, living through it was a totally different experience. D saw the result of the decision to route the pipework under the floor without disturbing the bath after all. I was privy to the discussions which went on before that decision was finally made. I heard them as they removed the panelling as carefully as they could and the muffled curses that followed as they realised that the bath was solid enamel, huge and heavy and set into a wooden frame that kept it firmly in place. I listened to the conversations, as one argued for the need to move it and the other pointed out all the potential dangers of doing so, until I heard “maybe we should ask the customer?” Good plan, I thought. I was, after all, sitting mere feet from them in my office. After hearing the arguments for and against, my decision was clear. The bath stays.
Each day they assured us that the job was going like a dream, better than they expected for a system so out of date. Not exactly the impression I had during the day, when one of the engineers was complaining bitterly about having to cut imperial-sized pipes with a metric cutter, or trying to remove the water cylinder from a small airing cupboard with no space to manoeuvre.
And I won’t bore you with the complications of trying to use the toilet under these circumstances. Suffice it to say that I managed not to fall through the floor, in spite of there being no floorboards down. The engineers discreetly removed themselves to their van, as there was a large hole in the house wall at the time …
The poor cats suffered too. We had them locked in the bedroom all day, to make sure that they didn’t end up under the floorboards that were up in several rooms at a time. They slept through the mornings, but by lunchtime they had had enough. So, not only was I listening to the trials and tribulations of the heating engineers, I also had to cope with Calamity’s heart-breaking crying. “I want to get ooouut!” “You don’t love us any moooore,” and, true to form, “The least you could do is bring us something to eeeaat”. At the end of each working day, I slipped in to spend a little time with them and they both snuggled in, desperate for comfort and reassurance (as was I, if truth be told).
The engineers were with us for four days, that is all, although it felt like much, much longer. They have done a great job and we now have a heating system which comes on when it is needed and goes off when it isn’t, rather than coming on mindlessly between certain hours each day. I am warm when I am working, we no longer need to light a fire each evening and the cats have both taken to sprawling underneath radiators or in doorways where the pipes run under the floor. And we have a boiler outside which is so large that we are thinking of giving it a name and officially welcoming it into the family!
All that remains is for the engineers to return to complete the cleaning out of the system, which they delayed to give the cleaner time to work on the years of accumulated grime in all the radiators. Oh and to fit the new shower. Of course, as anyone who has renovated an older house will know, one thing leads to another and so a bathroom refurb is now imminent, bringing with it its own issues and expense. However, we love our home, which welcomed us all so generously two years ago (yes, it is two years since we moved our furniture in, if not ourselves – where did the time go?) and so we are happy to pay back a little of that welcome in maintaining and improving it.
Now, what shall we call that boiler …?