More years ago than I care to remember, probably 15 years or so, I fitted ceramic tiles to the floor of our kitchen. They were hexagonal cream tiles with dark brown grout lines and looked reasonably stylish at the time, or so we thought. They had a slightly rough surface and were a bear to clean. The stylish dark brown grout began fading in places, especially as a result of the application by my mother of ant powder following a summer invasion. Since I hadn’t sealed the screed – blasted amateurs – a few tiles became unstuck, though they didn’t actually lift courtesy of being faded-brown-grouted to their six neighbours. The tiles were also damn cold underfoot in the winter. Having just redecorated the kitchen, we fancied a new floor, hopefully easier to clean and warmer underfoot. We settled on a stone effect tile by Karndean.
Monday & Tuesday
Our kitchen was due to be re-floored on Monday and Tuesday this week. On day #1, two fitters duly arrived to remove the old tiles, seal and screed the floor surface ready to receive the new Karndean tiles on Tuesday. My ceramic tiles were beneath three kitchen appliances so, naturally, the appliances needed to be removed. This work was all part of our flooring quote. Empty and unplug fridge …move it. Unplug dishwasher … move it. Disconnect range cooker … problem. Whereas modern cookers are apparently connected to a gas supply using some form of bayonet fitting which can be disconnected and reconnected, our cooker had been fitted 15 years ago prior to this fashion and was “hard-wired” to a gas supply pipe. This was not he best time to find out that the cooker couldn’t be moved without a gas technician.
One floor fitter called a couple of contacts with no luck. A neighbour had been having some building work done but, when Carol went along to seek help, the builders had finished and scarpered. I called the nice man who replaced our gas central heating boiler – he could probably do it but not until later the next day. Carol, meanwhile, had spotted some heating engineers working further up the road. They agreed to help out and a nice young lady eventually came along, disconnected our cooker and capped off the gas pipe. She reckoned they could reconnect it on Wednesday. Great, many thanks! The cooker could be moved. We got our new floor.
Time to move the white goods back in. Dishwasher … no problem. Fridge … no problem (oh, except for the newly redecorated wall having been scraped moving it out and my having to fill and repaint a section of it). Cooker … oh b******s! The cooker stands of four rubber adjustable feet; adjustable for levelling the beast. Three of said four rubber feet were now bent such that the cooker was sitting unattractively on three rubber disks which were at 45° angles. It’s a heavy cooker. I think the rubber slid across the surface of ceramic tiles but gripped the new flooring quite tenaciously. Instead of moving when the cooker was shoved by our able-bodied floor fitters, the feet stayed put and metal bent. Upon investigating more closely, it wasn’t actually the feet which had distorted but the supporting metal plates, recessed inside the cooker’s legs, into which the feet were bolted. The cooker is a SMEG, Italian – long on style, short on quality, like most things Italian. In addition to it not being able to be reconnected, we now had a cooker which wouldn’t stand correctly and couldn’t be levelled. Judicious use of a hammer failed to make any impression on the SMEG’s bent feet. Our floor fitters left me scratching my head.
If simply pushing the cooker across the floor could distort the legs, surely, if I could find a suitable lever, I could distort them back straight again? I worked out that the bolts of the feet were M10. Just sticking a hefty screwdriver into the foot plates might ruin their internal threading but, if I could find a length of M10 bolt I might get enough leverage to straighten things up. Low and behold, I found a couple of 150mm/6in M10 bolts in Homebase. My fear was that my bending things back again might cause the plates n the feet to come adrift of the cooker, in which case I’d be stuffed. I decided to wait until Wednesday and discuss my predicament with the flooring folks. It was, after all, they who had bent the legs.
Flooring boss and one fitter arrived at 4:00 PM to view our damage. At the risk of sounding like Baldrick, I explained my cunning plan with the M10 bolts, followed, given my remaining fear, by getting into, “what if the plate thingies give way while I’m straightening them? You’re insured for such damage, right?”
“Yes but I’m not replacing your cooker, it’s just one of those things. Moving the stuff is a courtesy we offer to save you from doing it.” [It’s a courtesy they charge for, BTW.]
“I see, so if this breaks it’s just my hard luck and I’m looking at £1600 for a new cooker because I spent £1300 on a new floor.”
Very generously, they did help move and support the cooker while I put Baldrick’s cunning plan into operation. The plates actually bent back straight-ish with very little force. Italian metal really must be rubbish. We stood it on some carpet pieces so it would slide over the floor more readily. I left the adjustable feet out to get some heavy duty felt pads which, I hoped, would eventually allow the rubber feet to slide, when we were reconnected to the gas.
Speaking of being reconnected, no gas fitter arrived to adapt our cooker to the new building regulations. I could plug the cooker in and use the electric oven but cooking with no hob is a bit of a challenge. I resorted to the microwave for some vegetables to accompany oven-baked fish cakes.
Carol called the gas folks and got an answering machine claiming that someone would call back. She duly left a message. Dinner was an oven-only affair. Nobody called back.
Carol searched Yellow Pages and found a local gas fitter. They thought they’d be able to do it next Wednesday. A second contact said they could do it today. Result! Or was it?
The gas men did turn up at ~3:30PM. Hitler would’ve been proud of them, this was blitz-plumbing. Mind you, at £70 per hour plus VAT plus parts, speed is good. These guys storm-plumbered their way into the kitchen and started without a pause. Without a pause, that is, except for the lead storm-plumber to start muttering unsettling phrases about a kitchen with a gas cooker needing a vent through the wall. Apparently, the air brick the house was built with doesn’t count. the air brick is behind built-in kitchen cupboards but the doors aren’t airtight for chrissake. Memories of our experience with cavity wall insulation, which resulted in a building-regulations-enforced, ludicrously large 5-inch-diameter vent causing a draught that made the Artic feel positively balmy, loomed large. Here we were again. Now some faceless plonker in Whitehall (or somewhere) has decreed that we should have a 12 cm2 vent in our kitchen wall creating another draft. The house has been here for 35 years, man and boy, equipped with a gas cooker throughout, and it’s been perfectly all right. Now we need a
draft vent. Madness! For some glorious reason, he seemed to let us off but told us we needed it fixed. Phew!
Or was it phew? “We might be turning it off yet”, he said, cheerfully. The next nonsense was to check that we were getting the specified kilowattage out of each of the five burners on the cooker. It seems our gas supply pipe, 15mm copper, may have been smaller than expected. Being too low powered is apparently not good enough. Now look, I’ve been using that cooker quite successfully for 15 bloody years. Most folks seem to think the food’s edible. It works. If the 3.5kW burner is actually giving me only 3 kW, do I care? NO, not a hoot! Does the chicken breast that I’m sautéing care if the heat under it is 500 Watts down on specification? NO! For Darwin’s sake!! The specified 12.5kW total seemed to be giving a little over 11kW, in reality, which miraculously satisfied Herr Oberblitzplumber.Oberblitzplumber and Leutnant Blitzplumber grabbed their money [no cheques, 3% surcharge for credit cards so have you got a debit card?] and blitz-left as we got on with
cooking a proper meal having a stiff drink.
The icing on the cake
As part of the initial entrance blitz, we got into the background of why we were where we were, having a 15-year-old cooker reconnected to a capped off gas pipe. The floor fitters were going to disconnect the cooker [Oberbliltzplumber had a heart attack – they weren’t gas engineers!] to move it out but couldn’t ‘cos it wasn’t connected with a bayonet fitting. “It is a bayonet fitting”, he said, deftly separating the severed pieces of metal with a flick of the wrist.
SHIT! Double SHIT!! This was all completely bloody unnecessary in the first place!!!
I kid you not, I was trembling with nerves, so much so that I couldn’t pick up my vodka martini without risking slopping it. There are some improvements that you wish you’d never started and this most assuredly fell into that category.