Some Christmastime DIY


I added two switches, one for the undercounter light, the other for a downlighter I still need to fit. Not the most professional installation, but it’ll work.


Remember the bathroom we built from scratch back in November 2008? I ripped it all apart again. The bath (a Libra Neptune Euro) was too big for Tanya, so Frank and I fitted a smaller (1700 x 700 as opposed to 1800 x 800) and much cheaper bath.

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Here’s the redone tiling. Look at the clever gyppo [1] in the corner. The grout line would have been on the edge of the bath, so we made a cut-out in the front tile so that the front edge matches the rear wall.


If the front edge looks like it gets narrower towards the right, that’s because… it gets narrower towards the right. The (professional) tiler tiled the rear wall at an angle (I know I built the box square to the rear wall, before the tiling happened) and I opted to square the bath at the back. I’m sure by next week I won’t notice it any longer.

[1] In the sense of “avoiding work”.

Found the problem

This leak must have been there for… months… years… a long time. Strange that the previous owners never noticed. Or maybe they thought that paying the R150 extra a month was cheaper than getting someone in to fix the problem.

Doing our bit to save the environment, part 2

Our water bill has been high every month since we got the house. I attributed it to the building and other work going on, but now that we’re settled in, it became clear that Something Is Not Right.

Specifically, we’re using about 40 thousand litres a month. That’s about 10 thousand US gallons.

So I thought I should make a daily note of the water meter reading, to see what’s happening (Many councils have a habit of estimating usage based on one month’s consumption, for months on end). Immediately noticed that the wheel is turning, even though I knew there was no water running anywhere in the house.

Closing the stop cocks available to me, I figure it must be a leak in the plumbing I didn’t replace. The water mains enters the property through a stop cock, from there (I think) it goes to two outside taps, and then to the junction which feeds the geyser (via a stopcock), the prep bowl and the toilets.

This is the junction, below all the other stuff I ripped out (picture from April 2008, when I just started). It feeds the geyser (thick pipe going left and bending up) and the toilets and prep bowl (the other side of the T junction). All the other cold water taps are fed from the geyser side of the pressure regulator, so that the hot & cold water pressures are the same, so that mixer taps work right. And taking the geyser offline doesn’t stop the meter.

So, the leak is either under the front lawn, at the junction, or under the house. I’m guessing the latter. Tomorrow it’s Frank and a spade, that’s the only way to find out.


(I was in a hurry when I took these photographs so y’all will just hafta live with the autofocus, OK?)

The last five or six times we went to Muizenberg market, I looked for but could not find a prep bowl tap — i.e. a single tap for cold water only, not a mixer.

On Sunday we saw this one and I snagged it, even though it’s not quite what I wanted (R180).

Well, lo and behold, we found the one below at the next table. Exactly what I wanted (Cobra Capstan – R200). So now I have a preb bowl tap spare.

While I much prefer the look of the Cobra Capstan range, I want a continuous mixer at the zink*. This makes it easier to select the temperature when rinsing, for example. Example above cost R180.

Tanya found this shower rose which she quite liked. R375.

And somewhere along the line I found some time to cut the holes for the three dominos. We’re still sort of deciding where to put the electric one, but I think I’ve settled on the layout in the picture.

* While the rest of the (civilised?) world calls ’em “kitchen sinks” or “basins”, in Cape Town we call ’em “zinks”. Much to the chagrin of SWMBO.

Cheap^H^H^H^H^HLess expensive brass

This is R226 worth of brass fittings from Muizenberg market. A *lot* cheaper than buying from a hardware store.

And this is the progress I made on Saturday.

I cheated by making the frame on the ground, using No More Nails glue to hold it together (I realised that I would need four hands to build the frame in place on the ceiling). Even then it was tricky to get it tacked into position, one hand to hold the nail, one to hold the hammer, so I had to balance the other side of the frame on my head.

After the market on Sunday, Tanya and I picked some paint for the living room (off white) and Tamsyn’s room (a very light shade of purple). Also got a cheap lantern type lamp fitting for outside the back door. We then went past CTM to pick up some more spot tiles for the dining room / kitchen floor, but they’re still not in stock. While there Tanya found some light green border tiles on special, R5 each (normal price is closer to R25). We bought the lot (5 linear meters).

Sunrise from the top of Ou Kaapse Weg this morning. Cape Town is beautiful in June.

Bling! Plum-bling!

Brass is the new gold. Chrome plating is the new platinum.

This is R1400 worth of plum-bling. And it’s the cheap stuff, mind.


Shopping around

We looked at different options for baths and sinks, with aesthetics being more important for the baths and price (and size) being the factor for the sinks. I’ve been set on the Libra Misty bath for a while (it would have been in Jessica’s en-suite bathroom in our previous plans), and Tanya decided on the Libra Neptune Euro for our main bathroom (The “Euro” is the 800mm wide version). When it comes to kitchen sinks, the Franke Curvline is their narrowest option, at 435mm, so I asked for quotes on both the 1235 and 1500mm long versions (all quotes from Exquisite Bathrooms, because they’re just down the road from where I work and because while I’ve been bothering them on and off for a long time they’re still nice to me :-).

Meanwhile Mica in Bellville was running a special on the Neptune Euro, at 1499, but Exquisite Bathrooms came through and quoted 1307 + VAT = 1489. The Misty is expensive at R 4 162 with the front panel included, but it’s… nice. We also like the Verona cloakroom basin (as an addition to the main toilet), but I guess it’s imported, since it goes for about R820, more than I want to spend on a small handbasin (I can get something similar from Mica for under R200).

Exquisite quoted 1066 for the shorter Franke and 1556 for the longer one. The extra 265mm is not worth it in my opinion.

I also balked at paying R605 for a basic round stainless prep bowl, and picked one up at Muizenberg market for R150.

Cheap prep bowl

Comparative shopping also works for toilets — a basic close-coupled dual-flush unit goes for 2200 at one place, but we got a different model from Brights for 499.

And then of course there’s the price of plumbing fittings. Copper pipe is… unaffordable. Which is why I’m reusing as much as possible (unfortunately the existing T fittings are really old, requiring one to flare the pipe over a ferrule, rather than slipping the ferrule over the pipe). There’s a plastic composite alternative, which also uses compression fitting and sells for R11/m. But I can get polycop at Muizenberg market for R3/m (this is all for the 15mm stuff). OK, polycop flows less than the other alternatives, but I can fit 22mm polycop for a lot less than 15mm anything else.

Of course when working with copper one can use the solder type fittings (Solder elbow 5.75, compression elbow 16.50. Solder T 9.50, compression T 21.25) but you need a gas torch, which will set you back a few hundred, so it’s not economical for small jobs. I have the torch, so I’ll be using solder fittings and left-over pipe for some of the plumbing, and polycop for the rest.