A Train Wreck of Borehole Water Supply

A previous train wreck of a job has been rectified and done to a far superior standard than the original. I can’t understand why anyone will undertake a job and do so without forethought. I can appreciate that over time, physical conditions and works will deteriorate, but it was obvious, that the original job was not undertaken with a single care over practicality of use and ease of access. There were pipes running through at ridiculous positions and the electrics were perilous to say the least.

Securit Guards

My property has a borehole in one place and is protected by garden Gnomes, a water pressure tank in another, situated under an exterior staircase that’s enclosed, and the electrical controls in another. 

When I first purchased my property, the doorway under the exterior stairway was a bunch of wood planks held together with wire, string, nails, screws and a few bits of grapevine growth. An eyes sore to say the least. Opening the door would result in another bit of the door crumbling away and the displacement of woodworm. A good yank was also required as the door scraped the ground. None of this mattered much as the system worked and supplied water.

After a period of time and gaining a better understanding of how borehole supplies work, I became concerned with the obvious leaks from the pressure cylinder and noted the constant cycling of the water pump. Upon investigation, I became aware that this was bad news as it drastically increased wear and tear on the borehole pump and these things, are very expensive to say the least.

The property had been used very little for perhaps five or so years before my purchase, and now, being inhabited full time, and the borehole used on a regular basis, the pressured system started to deteriorate rapidly due to high pressures. After not too long, it became necessary to shut the system down with a view to refurbishment.

The space under the stairway had no proper floor and was prone to water ingress and had small puddles during the wet season. The original installers knew this would be a problem so mounted the unit on three bricks with a little mortar around each. Unfortunately, this never alleviated the water and general moisture problem, and this will have lead to increased rust problems. The original cylinder was made of steel and the lower part had rusted very badly and the rubber seal, had perished also. I removed the whole only to discover that repair was hardly worthwhile as also, the enclosed balloon had failed too. Replacement parts would have been near on the cost of a new steel cylinder.

Where the Cylinder Died

Pressure cylinders are available in both steel and stainless steel. The latter does not rust, so this is what I purchased. Stainless steel units are in the region of 380 euros in Portugal. I purchased one from Germany with a special offer price at almost 200 euros less to include delivery. Delivery was within ten days.

Upon starting the job of replacement, I discovered yet more water leaks from pipe joins buried in walls. The piping parts consisted of Rubber, plastic, iron and brass. The iron to master black plastic/rubber tube was incredibly corroded and in a real shitty state. So more involved than originally thought. By this time, I am now totally dependent on the company water, which is metered. Being metered and without any taps open, I discover the passage of water was the case. So, more leaks in the system in as yet, undiscovered locations. The plumbing is even worse than I first thought. No matter, one job at a time.

Some of the Old Pipes

Me being me, I go the whole hog plus the extra mile, and decided to put a proper concrete floor into this new hobby area. Then I decided it would be nicer if the floor was tiled, and nicer still if I built a dividing wall to isolate the usable part from the inaccessible lower part of the stairs. And, to top it, render all the walls so they looked better and permitted the area to remain cleaner and more water proof. Further, the door needed to be replaced, so a door frame was required. All of which are none standard sizes.

I started out by removing all the crap and incorporating a level concrete block floor. This I did so it was above other exterior levels and water would not pool. When the sub-floor was in place, I was able to determine the size of the door frame required. Upon discovery, I had a marble frame made. It took just under a week to receive and was delayed, due to a weekend and also, a Monday bank holiday. Not bad for something custom made, and the cost, very reasonable.

The whole job has taken a considerable amount of time due to some rains, high humidity and having to allow mortar to set properly before the next part could be undertaken. In the case of the door frame, I set the base part first and allowed a couple of days to pass so it would be very secure. Following this, the uprights and top section, again allowing a good period for the mortar to set. Knocking something out of place due to impatience would not be ideal.

Nothing Wrong with These Old Tiles

It seems the Portuguese never throw anything away if there is a place where in can be stored. This has it’s problems but also, benefits. So far, it had cost me nothing in concrete blocks and little to build the additional little wall. Initially, I considered using scrap marble from my garden for the finished floor. Unfortunately, these were not very regular in size, so I first thought, I would purchase ceramic tiles. However, I was fortunate because I found some on the property and discovered that if I soaked them, the old none waterproof adhesive fell away, leaving them as new like quality tiles. These I used.

With the sub-floor and door frame in places I was able to lay the tiles. This again was a job that even though small, took a few days as I needed to start at the entrance for aesthetic reasons and work my way inwards. I laid the tiles so they are angled to allow water run towards a small drainage point I’d created. A small amount of water does seep in from the above exterior stairway.

The pressure cylinder is cylindrical and therefore, nothing could be placed above it without something flat over its top and I considered this not to be ideal. Again, I was fortunate because I had a large slab of marble, almost perfect in size to place above.  Unfortunately, it’s very heavy and so required two more little walls built to support it. I built these.

The Marble Shelf

The interior rendering was the next stage and this I found very difficult as the space is only one metre high and I was on my knees doing the job. Again, this took a few days due to rains and roof leaks within. Finally, the rendering was completed and the marble top could be put in place and again, at a slight tilt so water runs off if the roof continues to drip water. It was five millimetres too wide so required trimming. The installation almost killed me due to the lowness of the space and having to lift a great weight inwards and then upwards. Needless to say, I managed

Plumbing Bit

I keep finding useful items and the little workbench and pipe clamp was a treat to have discovered. Now the real nightmare began.

The plumbing. In the UK I have no problems in that quarter as I’m used to the materials and methods used. In Portugal things are a little scary and it appears, screwing is a great thing. I’m talking plumbing here, but screwing in other forms is delightful too. So in Portugal, you screw it or force it in. 

How do you force together when one part is too small to fit onto something too big? How does that work? The first time I came across that problem, I went back to the shop and informed the man he’d sold me the wrong size fitting. He corrected me by saying I needed to heat the rubbery tube and force it over the brass fitting. He also told me, if I did not know what I was doing, I should get a professional to do the job. I was a little offended by the latter comment and I’ve met a professional that ain’t professional. See my fire fitting post. I’m now a professional at fitting rubbery stuff to brass stuff with a little heat and liquid soap.

Making the Thread

PVC pipe screw joints was my next challenge. I’ve never made them but remember such from the Flint Stone days when my Dad would joint steel pipes this way, using hemp and past. Okay, Google is our friend so I investigated. There are two types of thread. One is tapered and one is not. There are two joining compounds, TPFE or hemp and paste. The tapered thread is better because as you screw the parts together, it becomes tighter and more waterproof. I have not found a tapered tapper here in Portugal, so straight cut thread is what I used. In the case of hemp verses TPFE, it seems that many pipe joins in Portugal that leak, leak where a connection between metal and PVC are made and when TPFE has been used. It is therefore not recommended according to the web.

Hemp and paste were the way forward, but being a none experienced hempy, paste-e joiny man, they leaked on initial attempts. Okay, watch the Youtube videos again. Seems I’m doing it right, but they still leaked. Right, I will not be beaten so I try again and again and again and even have a go with TPFE, that proceeded to leak even worse. Persistence won and my problem was, I needed to use far more hemp than I had. Perhaps with tapered thread there would not be a problem. For future projects, I’ll have to find a tapering threaded gizmo. Got them in Germany. While undertaking the joins, I pressure tested as I went along, and all seems fine at 5 bars pressure and that’s high.

Gosh - That Looks Good to ME Compared to the Previous Shit

Finally after what seemed like an absolute age all the interior works were completed and at long last, I was able to fit my beautiful new door to enclose the marvellously improved clean and tidy one time shit hole.

There is a saying. Measure twice, cut once. I did that when I took the door measurements. I measured several times. On receiving the door the width was perfect but the height was very fractionally short. Two millimetres. The door was perfect so what was wrong. I had taken the measurement of the width from the ten centimetre point on the tape measure. This is something I often do. In the case of the height, I used the tape end. I’ve discovered the tape end is slightly bent off a true right angle. Two millimetres is neither here nor there. I just try to be precise. The door is now fitted and looks a treat and on the whole, it’s just a job that needed doing, but I step back and look at it, and I’m proud of the results.

Finally the Door Is On

The job still needs minor works in that the electrics are crap, so I’ll make them good in a short time. I still have a water leak that’s somewhere under the drive and the exterior to the place I was working on, needs great visual improvements. The whole is a work in progress and all in all, what I’m doing I’m truly enjoying. There are moments of frustration, but they are few, and the rewards and self satisfaction is tremendous to say the least when comparing start to finish.

Be a Devil, Pass it On

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2 thoughts on “A Train Wreck of Borehole Water Supply

    • Thank you so much Peter. I shall get around to painting the Gnomes when I find small quantities of the correct paint type. I’ve decided I’ll call the largest Gnome Peter. As for the other job, it’s been fun if not difficult and painful at times. Mixing the mortar by hand is the worst part.

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