24 November 2012

Trouble with Holes

Well, it's been a long time since writing.  Again.  This time, I've been distracted with musical pursuits, plagued with writer's block and, no surprise, engaged in plenty of DIY.

Breaking my left wrist and right hand at the same time does not appear to have given me an excuse for not doing DIY.  All that happened was it got delayed.  That's the thing about DIY: it isn't DIY if someone else does it...

The first thing I had to do, once signed off the sick, was put in three new fence posts.  At least I got to buy a new tool for the job: a narrow-bladed spade so the holes I dug didn't need a lorry-load of concrete.  They were quite deep, however.  Their narrowness made getting the final bit of dirt out difficult and I had to resort to lying on the ground, thrusting my arm down the hole and scooping out the soil with my hand.  It occurred to me that in that position I had an entire planet in my armpit!  Actually the soil was very sandy down there.  It made me wonder what my house is built on...  I thought my wrist would be bad the next day but my efforts seem to have done it some good.  No more excuses then.

The next job was to put a new spur from the socket in our dining room through to the lounge. To gain the necessary access for drilling the holes needed, I had to knock out the wall at the back of the cupboard under the stairs.  That part of our house was built in 1898 or thereabouts and all the walls are lath and plaster.  I am still amazed how much dust can be generated from a piece of wall about 50cm square.  Much to my Beloved's annoyance, I managed to fill every room on the ground floor with the stuff.  Of course, the simple expedient of shutting the cupboard door whilst working would have avoided the problem but then I would have had to do the job in my scuba gear and that's not what it's for.  Anyway,  My Beloved wanted a socket and a socket she got.  I have yet to see her use it...

The next task was beyond my abilities.  We had talked a long time about restyling the lounge and getting rid of the ugly brick fireplace.  We wanted to open up the hole and recess our log-burner. Chimneys are not something I know much about so we decided to employ a builder whose work we had seen in a neighbour's house.  We vacated the lounge and camped in the dining room for three weeks. Our builder did a great job in the first of those, solving some very knotty problems along the way and also fitting a new radiator and yet another socket (!).

Then it was over to me.  I had to fit a couple of skirting boards and paint everything in sight in time for our new carpet to be fitted.  Of course, we had to let new plaster dry out before we could paint it, which is why we spent so long living in the dining room.

We had a new curtain pole to fit.  I was quite surprised when my drill seemed to hit a space behind the plaster.  I don't know what I was thinking about but I prodded the drill more firmly into hole, all the time wondering what was in the wall that could be so springy.  At this point, my Beloved, who has an NVQ level I in Passing Screwdrivers, walked into the room and said, 'There aren't any wires to avoid there, are there?  Only you're drilling right above the socket.'

Indeed I was.  My drill was even plugged in at that socket.  How my heart sank.  I shone a light into the hole and discovered what was in the wall that was so springy.  I saw a neat red circle with a neat copper-coloured bullseye.  I hadn't gone right through the cable but I knew I would have to do something about it soon and it was likely to involve a lot of mess.  In our pristine new lounge.  Which would have a new carpet the next day.  Bummer.

On the basis that we didn't run any high current devices on the ring main, I took the decision to leave the remedial work until my Beloved was away and would never have to see the mess.

Today was the day...  I was hopeful that I could pull a new cable behind the plastic sheath in the wall but was worried I might have to channel out the wall, patch and repaint it all without wrecking the rest of the room.

Last night, my brother phoned.  Now, it must be said, my brother is a excellent DIY-er and knows a lot more about it than I.  Basically, he explained how to do the job.  I am delighted to report his advice worked perfectly.  There was one complication when I couldn't draw the cable down.  I looked up at the wall and saw a line of damage about five inches long where the plaster had been broken off from the inside.  I lifted the loose plaster away and found a large pimple in the sheath.  I cut out a small area to reveal a lump of Polyfilla about the size of a (Bird's Eye) pea which was binding the cable.  Once I removed that, the rest of the job was a doddle.  I had made no mess, and only a small amount of patching with Polyfilla was needed.  In the end, it took longer to reconnect the socket and join the cables in a junction box than it had to pull the cable through.

Thanks Bro. Respect.

Time, I think, for a celebratory single malt.  Cheers!