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Archive for the ‘The things they don’t tell you about home ownership’ Category

I have to preface this post with the following: while I am not the most patient person in the world, and niggly, fidgety, finnicky, fiddly tasks tend to drive me n.u.t.s. I can usually damp down my ire with a couple of choice curse words, or occasionally a steady stream of pithy, acerbic cursing and commentary directed at the thing, or the designer of the thing, causing me issues (Exhibit A: If Wine Is Proof That God Loves Us And Wants Us To Be Happy, Toilet Cisterns Are Proof That Bathroom Designers Hate Us…).

Very pretty, still very rage inducing.

However, it is fair to say that I have never – n.e.v.e.r. – been driven to such rage as with the topic of this post. N.E.V.E.R.

Who knew it would be light fittings and replacing bulbs that would tip me over the edge?

Tip me over the edge? Tip me over the edge to the point where I want to ask John Wick to find the designer of this light fitting, and make them pay. And once John Wick is done with the designer, then I want to ask Pinhead from Hellraiser to make them pay even more. And when Pinhead is done, I am going to call Michael Myers (not to be confused with Mike Myers, but both could be punishment in their own ways), then Jason from Halloween, then Freddy Krueger. And then once everyone is done, I am going to wander over to where the designer is lying on the floor, and kick them in the proverbials. Yes: I know that is a little extreme (the kicking in the proverbials, everything else is frankly fair game and well deserved), and in real life I will probably settle for a stern scowl and maybe a basilisk like glare, but I am actually that angry. And the stern scowl and basilisk like glare would definitely come after John, Pinhead, Michael, Jason and Freddy have worked their magic.

If you are a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, shiny, brand-new home owner: learn from my lesson. Or deal with the same rage I currently have. And there is definite rage. RAGE.

And this story starts innocuously enough. When I too was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, shiny, brand-new home owner…

…we need some flashback music for this, don’t you think?

Way back in August 2009 I had to get my house rewired. It was both a happy and a sad time: happy because it meant I was going to be able to plug both a kettle and a radio in my house, and I’d even be able to turn them on at the same time; happy because I could get rid of some rather heinous lighting fixtures…sad because rewiring your house and buying new light fittings is an expensive thing to do in the first month of home ownership. And sad because – if I had only known – if I had waited 2 more weeks to put in an offer for my house, the cost of rewiring the house would have been on the seller instead of me (some arcane law changes, the impact of which I didn’t understand at the time).

Way back then, in addition to downlights in my bedroom, and pendant lights in my living and dining areas, I purchased some energy efficient lighting for my office, my studio and my hallway. Track lighting, with spotlights you could position on it. I thought I was saving the world: energy efficient light fittings, energy efficient bulbs…I was doing.the.right.thing.

Well I may have been doing.the.right.thing. for the planet, but I most definitely not doing.the.right.thing. for me. Although I didn’t know it at the time.

What I didn’t realise is the bulbs were actually fluroescent bulbs. So they took minutes to warm up, gave out the most unflattering light possible and were generally a pain in the a** (if I had realised that to start with, I would not have bought the fittings). The quality of the light has become more of an issue as I’ve got back into painting. I need good light to work.

While you can fit LEDs and Fluroescent bulbs into these fittings: the spotlights are actually teeny little tubes about 8cm long, the fluorescent bulbs are about 7.5cm long and almost every compatible LED bulb is 5.8cm long. It’s easier to get leverage to slide in the bulb if it’s 7.5cm long, otherwise you are fiddling around with your fingers about 3cm into the spotlight trying to turn a 5.8cm bulb in the socket. That’s…quite difficult to say the least. To say more: it’s almost @#$%$^$ING impossible. Requiring superhuman patience, agility and…did I mention patience? You probably need two lots of superhuman patience, if I’m honest.

And by the way: you can’t just pick a bulb off the shelf and use it. You need to use a little suction cup thing (comes with the light fitting) to get the bulb into the little tube, to line it up before you can turn it in the socket and the suction cup does not stick to all bulbs. Of course it doesn’t stick to all bulbs, why would it do that? Then you would be able to buy any economic compatible bulb in any hardware store, rather than having to go back to the lighting store you purchased the fitting from to buy bulbs. ARE YOU @#$%$^$ING KIDDING ME????

This expensive LED GU10 bulb is compatible with the suction cup, the cheaper GU10s from Bunnings…not so much.

If that’s not enough: if you think getting the bulb into the little tube and miraculously aligning it with the socket connection is easy, think again. Regardless of the little suction cup…it most definitely is not easy. There is no visibility on the actual socket, because it’s about 8cm down the spotlight tube. Behind the bulb you are trying to fit in. With the bulb  in the way, and the tube is just wide enough for the bulb to be misaligned when you try and fit it in…let’s just say the bulb will not go in first time every time. More like twentieth time, every time. Replacing these bulbs is as frustrating as one of those claw machine arcade games: except you are lifting your arms above your head to manoeuvre this thing into a tube to connect with a socket you can’t see, you barely have any grip on the controls and you won’t have any light in your room until you do all of that successfully.

The one bulb you can see in this fitting isn’t working,and it’s also one of the pants fluorescent bulbs. Maybe I can have tealights in my hallway instead of actual lights?

And the bulbs aren’t cheap: I have 10 to replace. That’s about $150 in one sitting. While I don’t mind paying for energy efficient bulb, I object to the fact that I can’t purchase compatible bulbs elsewhere for cheaper and use them. They are compatible: there is just no way of actually turning the bulb in the socket to screw them in (that is, if the gods are smiling and you’ve actually managed to align everything so the #$%^ing bulb is actually in the #$%^ing, @#$% of a thing). ARE YOU @#$%$^$ING KIDDING ME????

It took me 10 minutes to get this bulb in and 5 minutes to do the first one. I still have one more to do… For my sanity: I can live with only having 2 of 3 working spotlights.

I suspect the next time I need to replace the bulbs (once I have finally been able to replace all the current ones), I will be purchasing some new light fittings to go with my new bulbs. And replacing the whole ARE YOU @#$%$^$ING kit and caboodle.

ARE YOU @#$%$^$ING KIDDING ME????

I know the designer meant well, just as I meant well in buying them. But – as well meaning as the designer was in making energy efficient light fittings and bulbs and as well meaning as I was in purchasing them – the level of patience and finnickyness in fitting means these light fittings are completely incompatible with my lifestyle. Because I really don’t want to spend my time wishing I had every single villain from ever 80s horror film series as well as an overly efficient hitman on speed dial, while I am changing a fucking light bulb.

So…learnings?

Just like you should check the washing tags before you purchase any clothes (to see if the washing method(s) are compatible with your lifestyle), and the cooking time before you make any recipe (so you don’t accidentally commit to a 3 hour recipe that you should have started the night before), you should also check your light fittings for ease of replacing bulbs. It has to be easy, simple and obvious to replace the bulbs. Replacing bulbs in the fitting has to be something you can do while standing on tiptoes, in a darkened room, with your arms above your head. If that’s not the case…DON’T @#$%$^$ING BUY THEM.

 

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Let’s get something out of the way first: toilet cisterns are a**holes. Absolute a**holes.

And when they leak, they are quite possible the worst a**holes in the world. They are the parking inspector of a**holes. The traffic cop of a**holes.

They are incredibly fiddly and finicky things. If they were a human being, they would be a difficult person to deal with. If they were a person, they’d be the sort of person who can’t eat gluten as a rule, but can eat wholemeal stoneground organic wheat that’s been harvested by virgins. They’d be the sort of person who can’t eat dairy, except goats cheese (but only if those goats were milked under the light of a full moon) and they’d probably be able to eat those woeful cream cheese wheels that have fruit or herbs on the outside (who eats those things? they are a disgusting hangover from the 80s or 90s imho). They’d be the sort of person with weird, unpredictable, but definite food dislikes. Dislikes in spite of never actually having tried the thing in question, so an illogical dislike as opposed to an actual preference for/against something based on experience.

That’s what toilet cisterns are: one of THOSE people. Ugh.

There are 4 places they can go wrong, 3 of them are quite simple – but incredibly fiddly – to fix HOWEVER what usually happens is that they go wrong in combinations of those 3 places. So you might fix one part of the problem, but there’s still another part – and another trip to your local hardware and/or plumbing supply store in your future.

And unfortunately, while you can certainly selectively weed out THOSE people from your life (keeping only the best of a finicky bunch); basic house planning regulations mean that you will always have to have a toilet cistern in your house, and therefore your life. At least one. UGH.

I really hate those a**holes.

/end rant

If you can see water trickling into your toilet bowl even though you haven’t flushed it: know you are dealing with an a**hole. One that is simple to problem solve, and you can fix it yourself with some basic supplies but it will be a little fiddly. But knowing how to problem solve and fix, means you can potentially save money.

What makes is confusing is that:

  • the internals of the cistern can look slightly different
  • there’s no standard washer size (remember my point about incredibly finicky things)

However, there are 3 simple things to check (and fix) before you call in someone, regardless of what the internals look like:

  • The flush or outlet washer
  • The float
  • The ballcock or inlet washer

If water is trickling into your toilet bowl even though you haven’t flushed it…this is how to problem solve

Step One: Lift of the lid of the cistern

The lid is usually held in place on the cistern by the flush button. You should be able to unscrew that, lift out the flush button cover pieces (pieces: the button will be held in place by a threaded seat) and then take off the lid of the cistern.

At this point it’s good to place the lid and the flush button pieces somewhere out of the way, where you won’t step on them.

Step Two: See if you can visually identify the problem

  1. Underneath where the button sits, you will see a piece of equipment that is broadly called the flush unit, or outlet unit. If you press the flush button (you can still do that without its cover on), you should see part of the flush unit lift up to let water into the toilet bowl. The flush unit should also have an outlet for excess water towards the top (so if your cistern gets overfull, water leaks out through the water outlet and to the toilet bowl without you flushing it). There are two things to check here:
    1. When the cistern is full (so the water stops running into the cistern): does the water level sit higher than the outlet for excess water? If it does sit higher, you will see water trickling into the bowl. Then you need to adjust the float so that it sits lower (we’ll get to where the float is in a second).
    2. If the water level does not sit higher than the outlet for excess water, then the problem is probably the washer for the flush unit. This is the easiest thing to fix.
  2. You also need to look at the other piece of equipment in the cistern: this is the unit that is connected to a pipe that runs to the tap in your wall. This is the inlet unit, where water comes into the cistern. The inlet unit also has a washer in it (called a ballcock washer normally or inlet washer), as well as a float (the float floats on the water level in the cistern; when it reaches a predetermined level, the float acts to stop the cistern from filling any further. The predetermined level is adjustable). There are 3 things to check here:
    1. The level of the float, and where you can adjust it (this is the second easiest thing to do): if the water level is sitting higher than the outlet for excess water, you need to adjust the float so it sits lower in the cistern (the water level should be 2.5cm lower than the outlet for excess water). After you have adjusted the float, you will need to flush the toilet, and let the cistern fill. Watch the cistern fill to confirm you’ve adjusted the float properly, and then leave it for about an hour and then check the water level:
      1. If the water level is still 2.5cm lower than the outlet for excess water, you’re golden
      2. If the water level is back up to sitting higher than the outlet for excess water, there are one of two things that could be the problem:
        1. The inlet washer could need replacing. This is the third easiest thing to do.
        2. If the washer is fine (or you replace the washer and the water level still sits higher than the outlet for excess water), the issue will likely be the whole inlet mechanism. Somewhere in the mechanism there is a leak(s) that is bypassing the inlet washer and filling the cistern.

Step 3: Fixes

A) Replacing the washer for the flush unit

This is the most common problem, and the easiest to fix. Although it is a little fiddly.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the flush unit to work out how you can lift it out so that you can change the flush washer.

The washer sits at the bottom of the flush valve (between that mechanism and the pipe that carries the water from the cistern to the toilet bowl), it seals the flush valve so water does not leak out. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what washer you need to purchase.

Equipment

  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • Replacement washer:
    • If the degraded washer is still in place, take it out and go to your local hardware/plumbing supplies store to pick up one.
    • If there’s no washer, you might have to google or buy a couple of different washers to see what fits

Note: sometimes the recommended washer does not sit nicely on your outlet. I use a washer that’s different to the one recommended for the flush outlet in my cistern. I tried the recommended one, and literally would have to flush 4/5 times before the valve would seal, who needs that in their life? So I bought 4 different washers and tried them until I found the one that worked best. The washers are $4-5 each normally, so not a huge expense to try a couple.

There are different ways to get to the washer, so I’ve included a couple of videos to illustrate

B) Adjusting the float level

This is the second most common problem, and the second easiest thing to fix.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the inlet unit to work out where the float is, and what is keeping it in place. That should be adjustable: you should see a little knob or screw you can turn. You might have to google your cistern brand and model to see if you can see inlet units and find instructions for where to tighten/loosen floats.

Equipment

  • Flat head or phillips head screwdriver: some floats can only be adjusted by turning a little knob, which usually can be easily tightened/loosened with a screwdriver. The type of screwdriver depends on the float.

C) Replacing the washer for the inlet unit

This is a little more fiddly, as you will likely have to take off the float to get to the ballcock washer/inlet washer.

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. Then you need to look at the inlet unit to work out how you can  unscrew it so you can change the inlet washer.

The washer sits in the inlet unit, normally below the float, and when the float reaches the level, the float presses on the washer and seals the inlet so water does not leak out. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what washer you need to purchase.

Equipment

  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • Replacement washer:
    • If the degraded washer is still in place, take it out and go to your local hardware/plumbing supplies store to pick up one.
    • If there’s no washer, you might have to google or buy a couple of different washers to see what fits

There are different ways to get to the washer, so I’ve included a couple of videos to illustrate

D) Replacing the inlet unit

This is the most fiddly, and I’d only do this if I’d exhausted all other avenues as it’s also the least likely. But if you’ve replaced the flush washer, adjusted the float to get the water level right, replaced the inlet washer AND THE CISTERN IS STILL OVERFILLING AND LEAKING OUT THE OVERFLOW OUTLET AND DOWN TO YOUR TOILET BOWL…then you need to replace the inlet unit.

At this point, I call in DIY Dad (sometimes the nuts fastening the cistern and inlet unit to the inlet pipe are quite tight, and the instructions are painful to read when setting up, so it helps to have someone else doing this with you.)

Before you do anything: turn the tap off at the wall, and flush the cistern. You will need to purchase a new inlet unit. To replace this, you will want to google your brand and model of cistern (should be written on the front of the cistern) to determine what inlet unit you need. Or pop to a specialist plumbing supplies shop, so you’re given the right unit

Equipment

  • A spanner
  • Flat head or phillips head screwdriver: some parts of inlet units can only be adjusted by screwdrivers
  • Needle nose pliers: some inlet parts are detachable, they are held together by plastic pegs. You can pull out the pegs using the needle nose pliers
  • New inlet unit
  • Bucket

This video has two parts and includes a section on replacing the inlet unit.

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No one told me being a home owner meant I would be stalked by a 10cm long grasshopper when watering my garden.

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things-shoppingPast me is always so thoughtful…and knows exactly what future me would want.

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Sampler: Some people can water their gardens without getting most of the water on themselves, others can't. I'm in the can't category

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Sampler: Sometimes being an adult means working out what pest is infecting your citrusIn my case, it was two pests: citrus leaf miner and red scale. Treatment was a significant prune of the older citrus tree and then a hearty spray of a pest oil at 5 day intervals over all the citrus trees on my property (I think citrus leaf miner must be quite a problem in my neighbourhood): hello very large bottle of pest oil, goodbye plans for shoes this week.

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Dear Clumsy Diaries,

Today I split a bucket of bokashi + water down my front. It was supposed to go on some plants. (Bokashi, in case you don’t know Dear Diary, is a composting process that you can put meat in as well as veggies, it produces a juice which you can dilute and use to fertilise plants. It is fragrant…to put it mildly. It also lingers, much like if you accidentally step in cat pooh.) I also managed to drip some in my house, which is unavoidable…but not nice all the same.

Then I hooked my skirt in an iron chair as I stepped over some limestone edging. Luckily I managed to right myself and the chair before I hit the pavers. After I unhooked my skirt, I was very glad I did this in my back garden otherwise I would have shown the world my knickers as well as significantly hurting myself when I landed on the pavers and then having the chair land on me.

But that was not enough, Dearest Diary, because I decided to prune my lemon tree, which has scale. Scale attracts ants, for the record. Lots of ants. Lots of angry black ants who like to bite. I got ants in my hair, on shoulders, in my cleavage. To top it off, they started milling around on the ground and climbing onto my toes and feet to bite me.

I even got an ant in my eye – how many people can say they have done that?

On the whole, I think I handled today’s ant incident much better than the day I was sick and decided to treat myself to a ginger/honey/lemon drink for which I needed a lemon.

I forgot to tell you about that, but that was before I realised my lemon tree had scale and was infested with ants, so I was happily leaning into my lemon tree branches to reach the one ripe lemon (well as happily as you can be when you are running a fever and feeling sickly), only to feel tiny little bites on my arms. When I looked down, my chest was absolutely covered in those bitey black ants and they were busily biting me through my pyjamas.

That was the day I ran from the lemon tree to my shower faster than Hussain Bolt and had a shower in my pyjamas before I went up to the shops to get a lemon, even though I felt awful…..come to think of it, I think that day was the day I realised my lemon tree had scale and was infested with ants.

Now that I have had a shower and removed all the ants and the bokashi smell (even the cats were avoiding me), I feel righteous and satisfied that my plants are fertilised and my lemon tree is pruned. Although I do still have to mop up the bokashi water spillage in my laundry and hallway before my chores are done.

Yay for the glamourousness of home ownership.

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