From dripping taps to CSI
As part of our series of 'Day in the life of...' colleague blogs, we follow plumber, Adrian Harris as he goes about his daily business...
It’s still dark when I get up! Even though I’m out of bed at 5.30am, mornings still seem like a mad rush. My daughter, who is nine, gets up at the same time – even at weekends. We have our breakfast together while my partner ‘lies in’ until about half past six.
Coco Pops and muesli finished, we make lunches before I polish my daughter’s school shoes and check what jobs I have on for the day.
We have something called an EDA (Enterprise Digital Assistant) that I turn on at around seven o’clock to see where I’ll be working today. I have to leave the house no later than 7.30am with a view to being on site by 8am.
Today’s first job is in Bristol so I carry out my daily vehicle checks – lights, oil and brakes – before driving the hour or so in the company of Heart FM. The EDA says that the customer has reported a dripping tap but when I arrive, there are actually three dripping taps and a toilet that’s not flushing.
When I asked why the customer hadn’t reported the other faults, he said that it only takes a couple of minutes to change a washer so didn’t think he needed to. The truth is that in most cases (and in this case as it turned out) the washers are normally fine. A little groove appears on the metal seating of the tap and, no matter how many times you change the washer, the water finds its way to the groove – causing the tap to drip.
To fix this, I use a special tool which grinds the groove out and makes the surface flat again. Times this by three and it’s closer to 45 minutes to fix the problem – not taking into account the toilet that’s not flushing.
A quick coffee and sandwich from my lunch box, then I tackle the rusty bolts that I need to undo to replace the syphon on the loo. An hour later, that’s nearly two hours in total at the customer’s house, and I leave to go to my next job.
A forty minute drive sees me arrive in Tetbury at about 11 o’clock where it’s been reported that there is a water-marked stain on the kitchen ceiling.
After a bit of investigating – and a fight with the boxing and panelling around the bath - I finally find that there’s a leak under the bath.
In this case, like many bath leaks, the bath waste (the bit under the plug) has become detached due to the screw holding it in place getting rusty over time. Ten minutes later and the new one is attached and the leak is fixed – but then I have to wait another half an hour while I filled the bath to check that everything was sealed.
Ninety minutes after arriving, I say goodbye to the customer. My next job is in Cirencester - about 20 minutes away - but before I set off I sit in my van and eat my lunch (what’s left of it). A ham sandwich, bag of cheese and onion crisps, box of raisins and a coffee from my flask sets me up nicely for the afternoon.
I arrive at the house and am faced with a fairly irate customer. Because their hot water cylinder has a leak they thought that they couldn't use the bath. After checking it, I assure them that it is fine to use until a replacement can be fitted – being on the front line I have to deal with customers' concerns regularly and I’ve learned to understand how worried they can get. Usually, once I explain what’s happening they are happy – and this was the case today.
I measure up the cylinder and explain to the customer that it will be a couple of weeks or so until a replacement will be fitted but it is fine for them to have baths as normal while they are waiting. As I leave the house I can hear the bath taps running.
Another 45 minute drive and I arrive in Cheltenham for my next job; this time a blocked drain in a customer’s front garden.
I get my paper overalls on (I feel a bit like the guys off CSI), my gloves and mask and then start the job of ‘rodding’ the drain - eight metres of rods later and the blockage is cleared.
This is quite a regular occurrence but can be easily avoided. For example things like wet wipes and sanitary towels shouldn’t be flushed down the loo and you should never pour fat down the drains either. It may be in liquid form when you’ve cooked with it but ‘solid’ fat (such as lard or ghee) goes back to its solid form once it hits the cold water and contributes to the blocking of drains.
With the drain cleared and everything cleaned and disinfected I change out of my ‘CSI’ gear and head home for the day. No chance of completing the eight jobs on the EDA thanks to the various complications -nothing new there though!
After a lovely roast beef dinner with all the trimmings and watching a bit of telly together, I read my daughter a bedtime story - there’s normally a princess involved somewhere! It’s then time for a run, three miles tonight, before showering and settling down to a bit of the real CSI – I’m sure I could do that job!
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