Since we connected our Georgian cottage to mains gas and installed a combi boiler last year, it has underlined the fact that our water pressure is terrible, weighing in at a flow rate of between 6 and 9 litres per minute at the kitchen taps. As a comparison, the typical flow rate for the UK is around 20 litres per minute.
We still have old lead pipework feeding water into our property, which has slowly calcified over the decades, reducing the bore size and restricting the water flow. To compound the problem, we’re on a shared feed with the neighbour’s property, and our cottage is furthest from the main.
Flushing the toilet means the shower won’t flow for a few minutes, using the kitchen sink is impossible if someone’s cleaning their teeth in the bathroom, and now we finally have a bath in the property filling it is taking 15 minutes or longer. A new water connection was inevitable, disconnecting from the neighbor and establishing our own feed from the main.
The new connection from the mains to the boundary of our property had to be carried out by Yorkshire Water and their contractor, Morrison Utility Services. We submitted an application, had a survey, and upon receiving the quotation had a window of six months to go ahead. The cost of the connection, including a survey fee of a little under £200, came in at just under £1,500 to get the connection to our property boundary. From there, I decided to run the pipework from the boundary and into the house myself, to prevent the costs from escalating and to be able to document the process.
I started by digging the trench from our boundary to the front wall of the cottage. Regulations meant that to ensure the pipe won’t freeze, the trench had to be 750mm deep, which is quite a depth to dig!
Luckily, the soil where we are in North Yorkshire is easy to work, so this was fairly painless, plus our front garden is only a few metres wide. Also, our foundations turned out to be only as deep as the trench that I dug, so rather than having to remove stonework I was able to tunnel underneath. This was a relief as our walls are nearly a metre thick. However, digging underneath the wall was not an easy job. As I progressed I had to lay down in the trench with my head under the wall digging the final few scoops out with a trowel. That was not fun.
Once the trench was dug on the outside, it was time to carefully lift the floorboards and start digging down inside the house. That was a strange sensation and the joists made it tricky to dig quickly.
Our house was originally built with a stone floor, with the raised wooden floor added at a later date to allow for underfloor ventilation (we have a set of metal Victorian air bricks on the front of the house). I was hoping to see some of the original stone flooring underneath the floorboards, but unfortunately it was no longer in place.
Once I’d dug down and through to the outside with a hole big enough to take a piece of 100mm wide ducting, it was time for the next stage. I used a piece of soil pipe as a conduit to protect the pipe as it enters the property, attached to a flexible toilet pan connector to bring it up to ground level. I then fed through the 25mm blue plastic pipe, installed pipe insulation over its length and closed both ends with soil pipe end caps that I’d cut holes into.
Feeding the blue pipe under the floor to emerge in the understairs cupboard was fairly trouble-free, terminating it at a stopcock before drilling through into the kitchen and finishing the job with a run of 22mm poly pipe.
Then it was time for Morrison Utility Services to finalise the connection to the water main. Unfortunately, this meant disruption in our village again, with traffic lights installed for three days while a trench was dug, pipe laid, an external stopcock installed and then all filled in. As part of the excavation was very close to the roadway, the excavated soil had to be replaced with stones to ensure no instability was introduced into the tarmac.
The result? We now have excellent water pressure at last and a flow rate that greatly exceeds the 20 litres per minute UK average.
The next major job for us now is to replace the kitchen, which is very tired. It must be around 30 years old or more. Many of the cupboard carcasses are rotting out due to previously damp conditions, the worktops are badly worn and most of the cupboard fronts are hanging off the hinges. We’ve been cooking with just a microwave and a portable electric hotplate for the past year, so actually having a fully-functioning kitchen will seem like a luxury.