Living The Dream 77. The Haunted Pump of Doom

Question

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the pending bathroom refurbishments.

We were in a second bathroom store, looking at shower units.

“Pump or gravity?” The salesman quizzed Margaret. She turned to me.

“Pump or gravity?”. I turned to the paint pots.

“Pump or gravity?”

Damned paint pots were silent.

“I’m not sure. We’ll check.”

I believed we had a pump, but being sensibly averse to ladders, I hadn’t actually checked the roof myself. I checked with the previous owners.

“Mum. Is there a water pump on the system?”

“No. Definitely not.”

The answer

Several hours later, I received an e-mail from Mum. Memory had returned, there was definitely a pump up on the roof.

This talk of the pump had unsettled it. Within days, the pressure dropped in the bathrooms. The haunted pump of doom was on strike. The following day, water damage was noted the ceiling beneath the water tanks. Had we offended the God of Pumps?

Yianni, our contractor, scampered up a ladder, accompanied by Andreas, a plumber and heating engineer. Together we chatted in a bizarre combination of English, Greek, Russian and sign language.

The haunted pump of doom was a thing of the past.

And the leak?

“That’s nothing to do with the pump. That’s the rain.”

Mags and I looked at each other. Neither believes that the pump is innocent. The timing was just too close.

Solution

It seems that our tanks are designed to be pump-less. Our options therefore, are:

1. Use the tanks as intended (as they currently work). More trickle-shower than monsoon-shower.
2. Replace the haunted pump of doom with a similar model. Better, but not ideal.
3. Replace the hot tank with a new one, designed to work with a pump and have whatever showers we want. Likely to make the credit card squeak.

A series of quotes are inbound, and frankly, I can’t wait to get that belligerent pump off the roof.

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Living the Dream – 76. Property Repairs

Property repairs, not my thing.

We are fortunate to live in a villa with a pool, set on a substantial plot in a beautiful spot. My Mum and Dad bought the land, commissioned architects and builders to create it. That was more than a quarter of a century ago, and the house has been permanently occupied for most of that time. Discounting decoration, the house is unchanged. We have done some work outside – recommissioning the pool, and having a fence built around the property.

Internals

Now, our attention has turned to the inside. First order of business, bathrooms. We are renovating the guest bathroom and our own, main bathroom. We have a quote from our favoured contractor, and are now investigating materials.

There’s a bathroom store, quite local to us. A charming salesman swooped upon us before I had even closed the door. He toured us around the store, furiously taking notes. So far, so good. We’ve done renovations in the UK, and it worked much the same way.

“How much are those tiles?” I asked.

Antonis, our salesman squinted at the fading sticker on the corner.

“22€ per square metre. I’ll do it for 13.”

I nodded, feigning disinterest. Inside, my mind was whirring. 22-13 is 9. 9 over 22 is, give or take, 30%. Blimey.

In the UK, we had been given a price and then, at the end attempted to get a discount. Usually we had got some, but 30%? Never. As we toured the store, I kept stealing glances at Antonis’ notes. Some items we were getting 50% discount. Awesome.

Two days later, we received an itemised quote, covering everything we need for the two bathrooms, from tiles to toilet roll holders. Instinctively, some of the prices look really good, while others look expensive.

Project Management

Here comes my masterstroke. I have put Mags in charge. She is Project Manager. We’ve agreed a provisional budget, and I have declared myself entirely comfortable with whatever decisions she makes. She is drilling down into each cost, and sourcing alternate suppliers, including recycling some of the existing items. Mags possesses a ruthless, investigative streak that I lack. I’m confident we will know what prices we should be paying.

Most importantly, Mags has “an eye” for things. I’ll be honest, once the bathroom has changed, I’ll instantly stop noticing it. I’ll struggle to tell anyone what colour it is, without going to check. Mags sees detail. Constantly. She is a perfectionist. This is, in equal measure, a superpower and a curse. Inspecting work, she misses nothing, meaning that any and all contractors get away with no corner-cutting. On the other hand, once she has spotted something, she can’t un-see it. It’s really, really difficult for her to be accepting of imperfection.

Property Repairs

For example, the floors throughout the house are concrete, and in places are showing their age. Replacing them however, is a big, disruptive and expensive job. One that we have decided not worth doing, at this point. That decision doesn’t stop Margaret noticing every blemish, every day.

Predictions

I predict that we are going to end up with two sparkling bathrooms at a reasonable cost. Whether the contractor will survive the process remains to be seen. My role? Possibly peacemaking from time to time, but mostly, it’ll be the paying thing.

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