A very long story of a leaking tap

A friend said to me recently that there's no such thing as a small project in an old house; and that her dad used to have a rule of never starting plumbing jobs within two hours of the plumbing supplies store closing.

Ie, guess what: we have a leaking tap in the kitchen.

It's a pretty straightforward thing, really, the leak itself. It was leaking, tap-tap-tap, when we first bought the house and within a few weeks it has progressed to a proper run of the water all the time. By The Man's logic there is probably a piece of sediment that has lodged in the screw-top mechanism of the tap and now every time we open or close the tap, it gets lodged further and further, making it harder to turn the water off.

I haven't counted, but I'm guessing we're probably losing about 40 litres of water a day from it; and it's a good thing it's cold water because it's neither metered (so we're not having to pay for it) and we're not using energy on heating it, so it's basically free if you minus the fact that it can be irritating having to listen to water running all day long.

(Which is why over nighttime The Man sticks his toothbrush in it to reduce the noise.)

But I digress.

It's become a bit of a project getting it fixed - and I mean "a bit of a project" in a sense that today our entire street's water supply got turned off for a few hours so we could get our kitchen tap fixed.

Here's the story.

There are no turn-off valves under the sink. The only thing accessible is the waste outlet - the taps themselves run directly into the wall and into pipes under the house, so they're not visible neither accessible.

But how do you fix the tap if you cannot turn off its water?

We thought: okay, we'll turn off the water at the street to the whole house, fix the tap, and then turn the water on again.

But here's another problem: there was no access hatch at the street.

The bit of lawn where an access hatch should be
We checked the property plans, checked the houses up and down the street and came up with a theory that the house DID have an access hatch but it was for some reason buried somewhere under the front lawn - probably because the place had not been maintained well for years ;), but let's not get into that.

So, anyway: in the evening I set out with a spade and a garden fork, and dug through the front strip. Luckily we knew more or less where it was, so I only did about two metres worth until I found it.

Buried under about 10-15 cm of ground, it was obviously... uhm... beaten-up looking. Wonky and rusty and muddy, but it was there.

Except, The Man couldn't get the water turned off. He tried, and then ran the tap to drain the pipe, but the water was never-ending. The hatch was either broken or... "Oh, maybe we have a roof pressure tank!"

Yeah, that's a possibility. The Man climbed up in the roofspace through the only access hatch currently available to us, an opening behind a bathroom fan...

...which, may I tell you, is an amusing place for a fully grown man to climb into...

...but no, no pressure tank. Just a dusty roofspace criss-crossed with old electric cables, some replaced, some still functioning. (Replacing them is on the list!)

I called the council. After all, until the water pipes come on the property, it's the council's responsibility to maintain the hatch, so I figured, maybe if I can get them to replace the hatch, we can turn off the water and fix the tap?

The council came to check it out. Yeah, definitely poor quality hatch, they agreed, and they'll definitely need to replace it, except: to do so they have to turn off our entire street's water supply.

Which is basically why today, I'm sorry neighbours, there is no water in the taps all the way up and down this street stretch.

And tomorrow, we will attempt to fix the tap again.

And one day, when we replace the kitchen, we will put in tap turn-off valves everywhere where taps are, because this here is spectacular, seriously.

PS. New street-side hatch. Tomorrow we'll try fixing the kitchen tap again!

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