Summer’s End

We had a busy old time here as summer showed no sign of hurrying towards the cooler days of autumn we’re finally now enjoying – August is always a time for transitioning from old to new and not always without it’s problems!

Usually we’d be trying to make hay while the sun shines through those last lazy days of summer with a family break to York before returning to London and getting ready for the transition to a new school year and gearing up for the post-holiday return to work. This year however, we holidayed in July so we could take August to get some bigger jobs done on the house.

Instead of relaxing days out, our plans for this usual transition period included:

  • replacing our boiler
  • re-landscaping our patio & purchasing some all-weather furniture for it
  • ordering a new dining table & chairs for 8,
  • ordering two new sofas and
  • (last but by no means least!), fitting a new kitchen.

Phew! More transformation than transition this year.

Needless to say, the cheque book and I are now exhausted and Christmas is looking like a lump of coal and a satsuma if we’re lucky – if we invite anyone to sit on our new kit, the kitchen is likely to only produce beans on toast while we hunker down to repair our badly damaged savings!

Installing the Combi Boiler

We started with the boiler in August. The 9yo and I moved to my mum’s while the hot water was off – they had to drain the system and install a new insulated hot water tank too – and we’d scheduled it to coincide with Mr J’s business trip to Europe so he was unaffected by the chaos. It also distracted The 9yo from his Daddy’s absence, something he finds quite hard.

It took three and a half days to have our ancient but reliable boiler removed from the kitchen, where it sat on the end wall in a cupboard that unfortunately prevented best use of the space in one corner of our kitchen.

The old rogue only broke down once in the last decade we’ve lived with it though, having been installed 30 or 40 years previously. We’d been advised that it was not only inefficient but also there was only one spare part still in production for it, so we felt we’d been pushing our luck to leave it this long!

No Pain, No Gain!

The plan was to pull out our old kitchen as we replaced the boiler giving us a chance to redesign the layout and incorporate a new separate tumble dryer by reinstalling the new combi boiler inside the garage (behind our internal kitchen wall).

Previously, we only had room for a washer-dryer. They are far noisier and less reliable in our experience and we’ve washed and dried our way through three different machines in the last decade!

This was a daunting project to embark on as the new school year begins for The 9yo, but an exciting one nonetheless!

‘All the best laid plans’ of course and we quickly learned you can’t pour new wine into old bottles without spilling a drop, as several issues subsequently arose in September and October…

Apparently the pressure from the new boiler was too much for the old radiator valves 😫 and we were a little disappointed our plumbers (who otherwise did a great job) hadn’t advised us to take this into consideration as we did the work.

Problem No 1
First, we had an unusually autumnal Saturday evening in September, when we felt the house was chilly enough for us to “test” our new boiler’s central heating credentials. Popping the heating on, we quickly noticed some of the rads were not really warming up. The plumbers popped back, checked it all over and readjusted the flow through the rads which seemed to improve things. Of course, the weather got warm again so we didn’t need it for a while! Touch wood it’s been fine since Autumn temperatures finally arrived!

Problem No 2
About a week after the first call out, as our new kitchen units went into store in our garage, our project manager (also a plumber) was admiring the tidy work we’d had done. On opening the front of the boiler to take a closer look at it, he then spotted the lack of pressure showing in the dial (which would never have noticed!), something he told us was usually a sign of a leak somewhere in the system!! (Cue visions of the house being torn apart to find the rogue pipe!)

A second call out later and the plumbers had found two leaks. One was just a lightly weeping valve on a radiator we’d had issues with before and fixed but we’d never replaced the faulty valve. Luckily, this had not yet caused any damage.

The other was a valve which had clearly been weeping heavily for a while as the edge of our wooden floor in the lounge was saturated! This was the radiator that had not heated at all when we tested the heating and which only partly heated when they rebalanced them. Luckily we’re planning to put carpet in that room (new radiator and valves first please!) and most of the damage is hidden behind furniture – the reason we were unaware!

Last, but not least
The last issue was more of a pain. For weeks Mr J was running a bath and moaning that the water wasn’t running hot. By then, The 9yo and I had been staying at my mum’s, as with no kitchen and the content of the old one rammed into the dining room, we decided it was easier on the poor kid to establish his new school routine of homework etc with hot meals, a clear table to work at (and also hot water, as it turned out!). He really missed his Daddy though who starts his day antisocially early anyway so decided it best not to impose that on my poor mother or add to his commute (Grannie lives five or six miles further out of London) and so he camped at home instead.

I tested the problem for myself by drawing a bath with just the hot tap. The tepid water barely covered my ankles before it ran cold again! Definitely a problem. I relayed this to the plumbers who came out promptly and found the new motorised valve on the new hot water tank they had installed with the new boiler was stuck. They released it and said to keep an eye on things.

We went back to normal for a few days but then it went again. This time they bought a replacement and on investigating the valve further, replaced it with a new one.

Just for Good Measure
Finally, we decided to replace all the valves on all the rads for peace of mind and convenience. We also had them flushed through to help improve the new flow. None of our rads downstairs ever had thermostats and we always found our living room about ten degrees warmer than our dining room. Our kitchen never had heating, so this used to suck heat from the adjoining dining room. If we opened doors to all three rooms to let heat circulate and balance out, this just resulted in extremely high heating bills as it just never seemed to come up to temperature! In contrast, the hallway was always roasting, as was our spare room (great for drying laundry, not so much for sleeping guests!) and The 9yo’s bedroom. He’d happily sleep in just a pair of shorts under a duvet in mid-winter, reserving his PJ’s for snowfall only!

Moving Forwards

We’re touching wood and crossing our fingers that this is the end of our teething problems with the new system. Painful though it’s been, we’re so grateful that we did this in August, not October and hope we’ve been able to sort out all the hot water and heating niggles while it’s been milder weather. We’ve also been blessed to have a responsive team of plumbers and a very dedicated kitchen team for whom nothing was too much. Without them we know it could have been so much worse.

Now to see how we cope with the Big Freeze they’re forecasting for November ⛄️❄️😱!

Did you ever replace an old boiler or have a tough time transitioning from old to new? Please do share or link to your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!