New Adventures In Plumbing

We’re on tenterhooks at chez rusty duck this morning.

The bathroom project so eagerly anticipated a few posts back has come off the rails. Not permanently. I hope. But the train of events previously hurtling toward a future of cantilevered loos and sandblasted glass doors has encountered the wrong sort of leaves. Meaning that the signal is now firmly stuck on red.

How did this unfortunate situation arise I hear you ask? Well I will tell you. At Bathroom Planning Meeting #10 the question of our existing water supply came up. I know. And guess what. It fails to make the grade. The water is gravity fed. This is bad. Because even though gravity is a force to be reckoned with on the side of a 45° hill it is of no help whatsoever when your cold water tank resides a mere gnat’s whisker above the top of the bathroom ceiling. Falling some way short of producing the two bar pressure needed to induce the new power rainshower to splutter out as much as a dribble.



As luck would have it, and it doesn’t often happen this way, we’d already arranged to have a new heating system installed. The inherited boiler, above, belongs in a museum. To be fair to the old girl, she must have been knocking 30 years old when we took her on yet she has let us down not even once. I hope they still make them like that one. But would the replacement system we’d chosen solve the shower problem? No.

Cue Emergency Boiler Planning Meeting #2 at which it is decided that what we now need is a combination boiler. This is the sort that heats up the water on demand thus overcoming the other obstacle we’d faced, that of a minuscule hot water tank. In this brave new world there’ll be no need of a tank. Just as importantly it is now to be a pressurised system, ensuring that the inhabitants of chez rusty duck can shower safe in the knowledge that water will indeed flow. And that the second person to shower each morning will have just as much heat in her water as the first person had in his.

So that’s all hunky dory then isn’t it? Well.. hopefully. It does mean I lose my airing cupboard. No hot water tank also means no immersion heater. No back up hot water supply should anything go wrong with the boiler. And just what will happen when pressure is applied to an ancient plumbing network that is in places already creaking at the seams? No doubt we shall find out. Maybe even tomorrow.

Wish us luck..?


2017-11-06T11:26:45+00:00November 6th, 2017|Tags: |


  1. justjilluk November 6, 2017 at 11:35 am - Reply

    I wish you luck. When is all this to happen. Its cold outside…..

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

      They started this morning. Coldest one of the season so far. I can’t even hermetically seal the study and put a heater in there because that’s where the hot, cold and heating header tanks are.. googling thermal underwear as we speak.

  2. Caroline November 6, 2017 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Aah plumbing is always going to be an issue in these beautiful old cottages, where old meets new and the two often don’t talk to each other. My dear husband is a plumber/gas engineer/mechanical engineer and his preference is to rip out (everything!) and install new. I’m sure you won’t need anything as dramatic as that :O
    Very best of luck with the refit.

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 11:43 am - Reply

      Thanks Caroline. It’s going to be a long week!

  3. derrickjknight November 6, 2017 at 11:51 am - Reply

    We certainly do wish you luck, with a smidgen of identification. Because of the water table in our area the drains are quite shallow. This means that we are very limited as to how we can plan our new kitchen.

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:07 pm - Reply

      There’s always something. Renovating an old cottage is not for the faint hearted. But always worth it. Good luck with the kitchen. Kitchens, bathrooms (and central heating!) so disruptive.

  4. Helen Cronin November 6, 2017 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    I can sympathize with the loss of the Airing cupboard. If you still have the cupboard space would the system cope with an additional small radiator plumbed in there? Alternatively why not have a Oil filled radiator powered by electricity fitted in it? Just thoughts I have been having for when our boiler/Immersion Cylinder gets changed….

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Helen. We’ve been thinking about that too. It’s a tiny cupboard (hence the minuscule tank) so it wouldn’t take a lot to warm it. There’s electricity in there already from the immersion heater. I do hope, when you get your boiler done, it’s at a warmer time of year! Sitting here wrapped up like the Michelin man in fleeces and scarves. Gloves next..

  5. Torrington Tina November 6, 2017 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Oh I do hope it all works out, I understand it is always a conundrum on combo versus tank. Good luck and hope it is all installed smoothly and you are soon enjoying a nice hot shower!

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      A nice hot shower will be in my dreams tonight! Thank goodness it isn’t January.

  6. Archie The Wonder Dog November 6, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Have you considered an electric towel rail in the airing cupboard? I only ask because I mentioned to the British Gas service engineer that I’d miss the airing cupboard if the system was ever renewed and she suggested a towel rail – apparently some come with timers so you can still have dry towels and warm socks and they can also be linked to the central heating. Or, at least, that’s what I took from the conversation! Or one of those heated clothes horses that Lakeland sell? Good luck with your adventures in plumbing!

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      I’m thinking along the same lines. Think I’ve still got one of those clothes horses which funnily enough I used the last time we had a combo boiler, in a rented cottage. Will send Mike up to the attic for a look around..

  7. Peter/Outlaw November 6, 2017 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    I wish you luck as your pressurize your ancient plumbing network and am sending you warm thoughts as you brave the now cold interior of your study! Hopefully it’ll all work out beautifully and your new bathroom will be up and running in no time. (Right, like that ever happens with an old house.)

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      Warm thoughts much appreciated Peter. I’m getting too old for this. But we’re halfway through apparently. Thursday. That’s what the man said. But he did also mention that if he misses it we might be without hot water for a night..

  8. Caro November 6, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Exciting times, Jessica! Hope it doesn’t all become too exciting – plumbing should be a calm and considered activity in my book. As others before me have said, you could get a small wall heater in your airing cupboard. There was a narrow heater in the airing cupboard of my previous flat, a switch outside the cupboard turned it on and off (I mostly left it on) and my (then) little boy’s vests and pj’s were always toasty to put on. My combi boilers (3 in two flats) have been reliable but I thought the downside of instant hot water was less pressure? Just saying … hope I’m wrong as your rainshower sounds delicious!

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Anything is better than the ‘pressure’ we currently enjoy. To get the hand shower in the bath to work it has to have a bit of plastic jammed underneath the diverter to hold it up. Very 21st century.

  9. New Moons For Old November 6, 2017 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    There is an unwritten rule that the inhabitants of an old cottage will always be without hot water on the coldest day of the year so far. I don’t know why. Good luck with it all.

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Getting colder..

  10. Josephine November 6, 2017 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Luck wished for you !
    We’ve been dealing with septic tank issues last week, there is always something 🙁
    Instant hot water is a dream come true.

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      There is always something. Septic tanks are no fun either. I hope it’s fixed!
      Thanks Jo.

  11. Kris P November 6, 2017 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Oh my! You make me glad my house is only 66 years old. I hope all the loose ends get tied and everything works out well. I’m sorry for the loss of your airing cupboard (a term I had to look up).

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      I did wonder if the term would make sense across the water. It is probably one of those peculiar British things. You have no trouble keeping things warm!

  12. snowbird November 6, 2017 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Here’s to all going well, I haven’t got over having our bathroom and toilet done last year!xxx

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      The trouble with central heating is that you can’t go anywhere to escape it. Apart from the noise, and the insidious cold, a lot of the plumbing appears to be in my study. And then there’s the constant thump thump thump of the plumber’s radio…

  13. Jayne Hill November 6, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    I’ll wish you luck, because that is what you asked for, but I won’t agree with your boiler choice. Maybe they have improved in the last few years but I once endured life with a combi-boiler and it was horrible. Yes, it produced “endless” hot water, but even with fierce mains water pressure, there was a limit to how much could be heated at one time …… and it would take 30 minutes or more to run a bath – never, ever again. Especially as last week we had a “boiler incident” and thanks to the mahhoooosive water tank in the basement and an immersion we maintained decent showers until things were fixed.

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:53 pm - Reply

      To be honest anything’s better than what we have already, which includes 30 minutes to fill a bath. But I do hope things have improved..

  14. bittster November 6, 2017 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    All the best. It’s never been known to happen over here but perhaps you will be able to see this upgrade through without any additional “bonus” projects!

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Additional ‘bonus’ projects would not be welcome. One is quite enough! Thanks Frank.

  15. wherethejourneytakesme November 7, 2017 at 12:07 am - Reply

    This sounds like a rerun of our bathroom dilemas – when you put your post up about your bathroom I nearly mentioned about our problems to warn you and then thought perhaps I should mind my own business and felt sure you would have been advised like we were not at the time we planned ours. Basically a lot of the power showers and these new fancy taps you see in the showrooms only work on high pressure water that comes off the mains under pressure rather than tank fed. This is because the taps are designed for the European market and this is how their water is delivered. You can still get taps that operate on a lower Bar but they tend to be quite old fashioned basic ones. We bought a beautiful basin tap and had one of those tapless bath fills only to find they did not work with our old boiler (which was not that old only 8 years) and the hot water tank. The water barely trickled out! The only options were to have a presurised hot water tank installed or a pump. Researching this we found that presurised hot water tanks are so large we would not get one into our airing cupboard and the pumps are just plain noisy especially if you visit the loo in the night.
    In the end we opted for a new boiler as even though we could have bought new bathroom taps that would work but look awful we knew at some point we would be doing up our shower room and kitchen and this problem would not go away. So here we are now with a brand new boiler with remote control – and that is a whole other story and problem! But the taps work. Oh and we have that once loved microbore pipes and they have held up to the pressure so far.

    As for losing your water tank and airing cupboard as we have – we installed one of those little strip heaters you can get they cost very little to run and just need a socket putting in your cupboard to plug them in (you will undoubtedly have electricity running in your cupboard somewhere if you had an immersion heater in the tank). And they keep the cupboard nice and cosy – perhaps not as hot as a tank might do depending on the level of insulation you had but not bad at all. (Just thought I might mention about this – you can tell me to mind my own business later!!). Good luck.

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      I would never tell you to mind your own business. Or anyone else for that matter. Whilst the style of the blog is light hearted, intended to give people a chuckle, it is based on real time events. If anyone has been through something similar, as I know you have, I’d more than welcome the advice!
      Your comment on the taps is spot on. We were given two options, either the combi boiler or a shower pump but advised against the latter on account of the noise. In the bijou environment of a cottage it would really be quite intrusive.
      Thanks Viv.

  16. Catherine Pritchard November 7, 2017 at 7:50 am - Reply

    I just read the comment above and agree wholeheartedly with the last paragraph. W had to have a new boiler also a combo, so no airing cupboard. My husband installed a strip heater in a cupboard and it works so well. I have stacks of all my towels and bed linen all warm and aired. Costs next to nothing to run.

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Catherine and welcome!
      It is certainly something to think about. I was originally intending to reclaim the cupboard as general storage space, a precious commodity around here, but I would miss the airing cupboard so much. I have Mike on the case.

  17. Vera November 7, 2017 at 8:57 am - Reply

    The one thing I missed when I came here to France was the loss of my airing cupboard. I also missed hot running water as all water was carried from the cold water tap from across the courtyard and back to the caravan. The caravan did have a hot water system in it, so we did have a shower of sorts, but the cubicle was tiny and I was carrying a fair bit of weight at the time so it was too much of a squash, so I became skilled at ‘flannel and bowl’ washes. It was a joy when we moved into the house several years later and I could shower, but we kept the shower arrangements simple… power showers or fancy taps here, just plain and simple fittings, and no posh shower cubicle which takes an age to clean either…. just wall tiles….might not look as glamorous as ‘modern day’ bathrooms, but it suits the look of our old farmhouse.
    Hope everything goes well with your bathroom. Vx

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      The flannel and sink is my preferred option if I’m honest, given my problem with water and claustrophobic tendencies (the caravan shower would be my idea of hell on earth!). But I’ve got used to showers in hotels on holiday and if it is spacious enough I can even enjoy it. So if we have a shower here it will be completely open, just one panel of glass to protect the rest of the bathroom and nice and easy to clean!

  18. bitaboutbritain November 7, 2017 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Hmm – good luck with that. Though I will say that I’ve lived with combi boilers for many years now and problems are few – don’t forget to keep the water topped up. The one downside is that, if you have more than one shower you’ll find strange changes of pressure and temperature when people shower simultaneously (using different showers).

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      That’s very reassuring, thanks Mike. We too have had previous experience of a combi boiler. Our problem with that installation was that the water supply was from a borehole and a tad unreliable. The lack of a back up tank and immersion a real issue in that case!

  19. Susan Garrett November 7, 2017 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Cheap back up water supply – kettle? Good luck

    • Jessica November 7, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      And a cuppa to calm the nerves.

  20. Dorothy Borders November 7, 2017 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Oh, my. It’s always something, isn’t it? Good luck. I’m sure everything will work out in the end.

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 1:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks Dorothy. I’m sure you’re right.

  21. Linda from Each Little World November 7, 2017 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    I guess this is the other side of the charm found in old buildings!

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      Indeed. Amazing how quickly solid walls lose their core heat. Then it gets really cold.

  22. Denise November 7, 2017 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    It’ll be fine…just keep telling yourself that. We have a combi-boiler and even though there is no airing cupboard, I console myself that at least we’ll never have a water tank come crashing through the ceilings. Or have to fish out a dead pigeon. There are compensations.

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 1:48 pm - Reply

      I can always rely on you to cheer me up! I expect our cold water tank was a leisure venue for the mice. Swimming lessons in exchange for titbits plundered from the garden.

  23. Christina November 8, 2017 at 8:08 am - Reply

    I needed to smile this morning; thank you and I hope that by now all is resolved!

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      Hopefully today will be the last day of teeth chattering and goosebumps. I hope you are alright Christina..

  24. pollymacleod November 8, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Oh the trials and tribulations of hot water supply. Many years ago I had to shower at a friends house for a couple of days while my system was being fixed. I hope it all goes well for you Jessica.

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 1:52 pm - Reply

      Thanks Polly. It’s amazing how you come to take these basic things for granted. Until they aren’t there!

  25. Brian Skeys November 8, 2017 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Hi Jessica, when we installed a combi boiler we had a small radiator installed in the airing ciboard, it is connected to the central heating, the pipes were already there. Works wonderfully as an airing cupboard.

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      We’ve left the connections so we’ll have that option in the future. Great idea Brian.

  26. Brenda November 8, 2017 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Oh my, good luck. If it’s any consolation, we have a combination boiler and love it.

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      That’s good to hear. We’re already finding the water pressure is transformed. As long as the old plumbing holds it should be a great improvement.

  27. Sarah November 8, 2017 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Good Luck, we have low water pressure and a combi boiler and the children always complain about our shower – we have got used to it’s speed. Some of our neighbours have added an electric pump to improve the situation. Sarah x

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 2:02 pm - Reply

      Slow showering sounds quite relaxing. It took so long to fill a bath here with the old system we’d have to walk away and leave it.. dangerous!

  28. CherryPie November 9, 2017 at 12:04 am - Reply

    I hope it works out for you. We have a combi boiler but it is a special system that also has a water heater!

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks Cherie. Who knew replacing a boiler could be so disruptive. Not a single room in the house has escaped unscathed!

  29. hb November 9, 2017 at 4:16 am - Reply

    Luck in multitudes and torrents!

    • Jessica November 9, 2017 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Multitudes, yes.. 🙂

  30. denisebydesignsgooglemailcom November 11, 2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    As my mum would say….”Bloody Hell!”

    • Jessica November 12, 2017 at 10:03 am - Reply


  31. Steve November 12, 2017 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Its never easy. We have to put up with two header tanks (at different levels) and two hot water cylinders (at different ends of the house). At one end we have a pump which does create a noise but there was no easy solution without a total refit. Good luck.

    • Jessica November 12, 2017 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      If it weren’t for the bathroom project I doubt we’d have gone this far either. The original proposal was for a much simpler, less disruptive system. Hey ho.

  32. Cathy November 19, 2017 at 8:27 am - Reply

    Hope all goes well, Jessica. We replaced our bolier last year during that freezing spell at the end of Nov(meant to do it during summer!) but there was something not quite right and we had to wait over 2 days till (gas qualified!) had timeaway from his day job to sort out; meanwhile the gas Aga had been switched off for the gas connection andvwouldn’t relight and our Aga man couldn’t come for 2 days either. It meant a weekend wrapped in blankets and eating microwave meals. But heyho, it makes a good story as your travails always do!

    • Jessica November 19, 2017 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      We meant to do ours in the summer as well but it didn’t work out that way. I’m learning that down here work needs to be booked about six months in advance. We’ll know for next year. Either that or buy more blankets. There’s a lot more plumbing to come 🙁

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