Tag Archive: Maintenance

Mar 17

Plumbing Update


Okay, so it’s all been sorted out. (I’m sure you were all holding your breath to find out what happened next with my plumbing.) The plumber showed up today at around 9:30. Despite the pouring rain, we were able to show him the leak.


Less than 30 minutes later, he’d used a hammer and chisel to knock a 30cm by 40cm hole in the concrete in front of our house and had dug down to locate the leak.


I snapped a photo of it (right). It doesn’t look like much, but this was taken after the main water valve was turned off and the pressure was dissipating. The leak itself was tiny, like an invisible hole pricked with a needle in a garden hose, but under much more pressure (remember, this pipe services the first floor toilet and all the upstairs facilities). When we first turned the water on with the pipe exposed, the force at which the water came out was frightening.


The plumber went off to get some specific tools, but by the mid-afternoon, he’d replaced the damaged section of pipe with some ABS he clamped on. Sadly, he buried the whole thing before I could get a snap of it. (And yes, we tested to make sure there were no other leaks.)


So it’s actually going to cost far less than we thought. Except… the question we need to ask ourselves is this: given the condition of this old pipe, should we not replace the whole length of it before something else happens, maybe with worse results? That will cost quite a bit more. Or, being rather depleted, do we simply content ourselves with the patchwork and hope that nothing else breaks for a while?


Decisions, decisions…

Mar 15

House Update

It has been a long time (more than a year, I think) since I last posted about the house. That’s because there hasn’t been much to say. More than 18 months since we moved in, we’re still enjoying everything about it: the neighbourhood, our renovations, the large tatami room, the modern bath, etc. Most of all, we’re enjoying having a place that is ours.


Of course, the downside to that is that when shit happens, there’s no landlord to call to fix things.


I was working on the Yokohama Theatre Group website yesterday when the doorbell rang. I answered it, and the woman from the water company was there. She showed me my bill, which was insanely high (think 4 times the usual) and asked me if any water was running in the house, as the meter was spinning around. After a quick check to confirm that there was no water running, she explained to me that I probably had a leak somewhere.


Ichikawa-san, my neighbour, overheard our conversation, and we quickly discovered the leak. A wet area in front of the front door that I had dismissed as runoff from the recent rain we’ve been getting was the giveaway. A closer inspection revealed a crack in the concrete pad and water trickling out.


This is bad for several reasons:


    1. I have to turn off the water until we can get it fixed, turning it on only for short periods so that we can wash dishes, shower, flush the toilet, etc.
    2. The house is built on the side of a hill, and there’s no telling if the extra water we’ve injected into the ground over the last few weeks has done anything to weaken the land the house is built on. (My wife is more worried about this then me; I don’t see how this would be much worse than rain.)
    3. The leaking pipe is embedded in concrete which runs from the meter, under the front door, to the northwest corner of the house. The cost of chopping through concrete alone is approximately 50,000 Yen ($500) per meter.




<—In this photo, you can see the water leak as we discovered it.























<—You can see the leak on the right, just above the white stones. The pipe runs from the top middle right of this photo (the meter) under the tree, under the concrete pad at the front door, and another meter or two off the bottom left of the frame. The repair work means that we will probably lose the marble stone.










<—This is the water meter that I have to turn on and off every few hours so that we can get on with our lives.





















So, with any luck, this will be repaired on Saturday. (The leak, that is. Rebuilding the concrete might take longer.)


Someone on twitter (@martintokyo) suggested that the water company would help pay for the repairs or at least the amount of the bill consumed by the leak. However, the info paper given to me by the water company shows that they changed their policy five years ago, and that even if the leak had been between their tank and the meter, I wouldn’t get a red yen from them.


On the other hand, the meter-reader who came to the door was super nice, and even dropped by the house today on her way somewhere else (not in uniform)  to make sure I’d got things sorted out and had a plumber coming.


So there’s that.


The other happy thing is that the leak hasn’t managed to get any water on the inside of the foundations, which I was slightly worried about.

Sep 17

House Update – Paint and Damn Drains

I’ve been posting a lot about the show recently, and not much about the house because I was in Canada and relatively removed from the process.


The good news: it’s almost done.  Everything is installed (the air conditioners went in today), put up, and painted.


The bad news: the electrician is obviously either an idiot, lazy, or just doesn’t listen.  He didn’t install any of the electrical outlets in the office the way I requested (earthed, with twistlock-style 3-prong plugs).  One outlet I’d requested at 40cm off the ground and he installed it at what must be 140cm off the ground.  Even a couple things he suggested himself (four outlets on the one behind my computer desk for one) didn’t get done.


The bad news: Japanese painters apparently are used to painting exteriors only.  The paintjob inside the house looks like it was done by me,  I think there are maybe 5 straight lines on the entire first floor!  One of the walls in the living room is painted so thinly you can see the roller strokes.  Plus there are lots of little brush mishaps, which Tsukide-san was going around fixing on his own (we’re lucky we ended up with such a conscientious guy as our main renovator) on Wednesday.


The bad news: remember that drain I mentioned in my last post?  The trough-like thing that runs around the west side of the house and drains all our first floor grey water?  Well, it was plugged.  Good and plugged.  We ran a test by emptying the bathtub (it had been filled by the gas company to check that the water heater was working properly) and it absolutely backed up.

We started cleaning it by pulling off the concrete covers and shovelling out the silt and other junk that had built up over the years.  That worked until we realized that a bunch of the concrete blocks on the west side of the house wouldn’t come up… and that’s where the pipe was good and plugged, with debris almost touching the top of the concrete slabs.


I was thinking we’d need to call in a company with a rooter, but I went over this morning and while I was futzing, Ichikawa-san joined me.  He had a couple of crowbars with which we were able to raise several of the slabs that we’d previously though were unmoveable.  There were still a few that were wedged in place thanks to a proliferation of roots from the tree planter on the west side of the house.  We also managed to pull up the four concrete blocks in front of the main door, which I’d also though were not moveable (I thought that the drain became a pipe under them).


In Ichikawa-san style, though, while he saved me time, he also took a few scenic routes.  To get to the slabs at the front, we had to shovel out the white stones and earth in front of the door.  We then spent about an hour WASHING the stones!


Just as we were getting ready to do a final flush, at about 11:15, Ichikawa calls a halt to work.  “Tea-time.” is all he says, and we proceed up to his house where we take more than an hour’s “tea time”.  It was very nice of him and his wife, and on a day on which I didn’t have to be in Tokyo and running auditions at 16:00, it would have been great.  At some point, an English-speaking neighbour (who lived in England for quite a while, and whose son is there still) was invited over.  At 12:40 or so, I had to apologize for my rudeness (oh, if only I could have kept talking!) and go back to the house and finish.


I had been hoping originally to go back to the old house (where we’re still living until Monday) by 12:00 or 12:30.  My goal now was 13:00.   Yeah, right.  After running the bath and letting it drain, there was still a lot of silt and gunk in the moat.  Ichikawa-san and I flushed the whole length again with the house and realized that the level of the moat wasn’t perfect, meaning that it didn’t consistently tilt downwards enough, meaning that the water will pool and there was nothing we could do about it today.  After that, we had to put the cleaned stones back in the front (actually, I’m very happy now that he did this: the front area is now all concrete, which is much easier to deal with).  I think I was on my bike and out of there by 13:40.


I won’t even write a big thing about how I had to go back again, after I was ready to leave for Tokyo, because I realized that I’d left the automatic bath thingy on and wasn’t sure whether it would try to make a bath while I was out (and the drain was open).


Well, that’s the update.  Not the most well-written one so far, but I felt it was important to get it posted.


Oh, and moving day is Monday, but we’re starting to sleep in the house as of tonight.  More in the next post.