Wednesday, 30 January 2013

More about water

Some time ago I mentioned the unusual hybrid system we have for delivering mains water to the house and cottage here.  In recent days we have had a rash of problems, caused we believe by high rainfall sincethe start of last summer, aggravated by snow melt last week.  The pumphouse was built about 30 years ago and it was not considered necessary then to waterproof the concrete slab which forms its roof.  When things get really wet outside (and they have) things inside get wet too, as water seeps through the slab.  This is not good for the complicated electrics which control the pump.

So yesterday we woke up to no electricity in the house or cottage because the RCD on the pumphouse supply had tripped the whole system.  We also had no water as the pump was obviously without power.  I isolated the pumphouse circuit and got the rest of the electric supply back first, then went down to the pumphouse for the first of many visits.  In spite of the fact that the electrics are protected by sheets of polythene, the distribution box and the connections on the pump were running with water.  No surprise that the RCD had tripped then.  An hour or so of drying everything out did the trick, and we had water again.

Through the day I plotted (waterproofing the pumphouse having been on the 'Big Jobs' list for 2 or 3 years) and decided on two courses of action.  One was to put aside today to take some of my stock of corrugated steel panels and lengths of telegraph pole (salvaged from the old post barn) down to the pumphouse and construct a ground level 'roof' to keep the rain out.  The second was to contact Welsh Water to ask whether it might be possible that improvements in their infrastructure over the last 30 years mean that they now have enough pressure in their pipes to bring water up to the house without the need for our pump.  WW have a good website so I completed an online form asking the question.

Then, just for a laugh, after our evening meal we ran out of water again.  No problem this time with the electricity supply, but another trip down to the pumphouse with the multimeter to see what was going on.  The mains switch on the distribution board had 240 volts incoming, but 8 volts on the other side of the switch.  Damp again.  Some vigorous switching created a working connection.  Water again, and, fingers crossed, we have had water since.

This morning brought a really efficient response from Welsh Water and an appointment for an engineer to visit next Monday.  Fingers crossed.  However, deciding that crossed fingers were not enough with more rain forecast, we set off with the materials in the trailer to take the Subaru through the fields and down to the pumphouse.  Mistake.  We got stuck.  Having disconnected the trailer, I just managed to get the Subaru back to 'dry land'.  Liz bravely helped me push the trailer back, though a tow was needed for the last 20 yards or so to get it through the gloop.  A bit of a wasted morning.  So after lunch we man/woman handled the materials down to the pumphouse and I set about digging down to the concrete slab to fix the poles and steel sheets.  As dusk fell the last bolt went in and I made my 6th climb of the day back to the house.  Tired is a polite description for how I felt.  So now the pumphouse looks like this:

(it has a few stones on top for fun) and we are hoping that we get good news from the Welsh Water man next week. Chances are, though, that the pressure won't be enough and we will then go for phase two - a dehumidifier in the pumphouse with some background heating to keep it working efficiently.  We are going to get this problem sorted!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Shelves to Devon

Our younger son and his wife have recently moved to South Hams in Devon to pursue their medical training, aiming to qualify as GPs in a couple of years' time.  On our first visit to their new house we identified an alcove which was asking quietly to be filled with book storage.  Obviously a job for some stock timber and tools back home, with the interesting question of how best to get it south.

The shelving timber came from my long-used Manchester timber-yard on the Subaru's roofbars.  Much clamping produced double-width pieces to form the lower storage section, fitted with mdf doors on hinges recycled from our old kitchen cabinets.  Suitably routed and glued together, the shelves entered the painting stage:

Just about this time, the weather changed and the temperature plummeted, leading to condensation forming on the underside of the barn roof and dripping onto the paintshop below.  Time to dig out a tarpaulin and rig a roof lining:

The next problem was transporting a highly flexible sheet of 6mm plywood for the backs of the units from Denbigh on a rainy day.  Sheet materials have a way of taking off from roofracks if you're not careful, so I took with me some battens and G clamps and bought a cheap sheet of hardboard as a rain cover.  It worked a treat:

I didn't fit the back to the upper shelf unit at this point as I needed the uprights to fit snugly around the head restraints on the front seats of the car - otherwise it would not have fitted in.  The lower storage unit went underneath it, with doors and loose shelves wrapped in copious amounts of cardboard.  Three hundred miles later, and with a little more construction time, here it was:

My customers were pleased, and I was glad to have the space back in the barn.  However, before I left it seemed a good idea to help to prune their pollarded willows, and with basket-making in mind I ended up bringing the Subaru back to North Wales wearing a dishevelled red wig (the car, not me):

So for now the willow is taking up the space in the barn which the shelves vacated.  More stock.  Sigh...