When we first arrived in France our house was lacking pretty much everything, including bathrooms, so you won’t be surprised to know that getting a sink and toilet fitted was something of a priority.
We quickly got various plumbers around and discussed our grand plans for en-suites here and power showers there – typically to be told either:
(1) that concealing big pipes was not possible in thick stone walls so there would be a toilet downpipe through the middle of the kitchen below or
(2) “What does it matter what I think mate, there’s a two year waiting list for my services” (but in French)
So it was a happy day when one of the plumbers called in to tell us that his planned job had been postponed and he could start on Monday. “Yippee” we said (but not in French because we didn’t know how to translate “Yippee’).
About 10 minutes later I realised that meant I had only a few days to build the wall that would separate the bathroom and a new en-suite showerroom – the plumber coudn’t install pipes before the wall was built.
So I set to in what I thought was the quickest and most efficient manner, building a wooden frame and then covering it with wood panelling (‘lambris’ as we call it in these parts).
For a few short days I thought lambris was a godsend – quick and easy to install and not too bad looking – and I was a DIY superstar. It was only later that I realised the real reason that cheap wood panelling exists is so that DIY’ers can conceal every dodgy beam and old wall in a house at minimal cost – and my advice to anyone now would always be to not buy a house that uses cheap wood panelling all over the place.
But I didn’t realise that at the time.
It worked well enough and I was quite pleased until the plumber arrived and starting making disdainful comments, which I can’t recall exactly but roughly translated as “You useless idiot, what were you thinking of.”
I can blame many things – inexperience and stupidity come to mind – but ever since I have regretted building that wall the way I did. There is a great way to build internal walls (in France at least, not sure if its made it to the UK yet) that involves a metal framework screwed together a bit like meccano, then plasterboard screwed on that.
Compared with my wood and panelling idea this ‘proper’ method is both quicker and cheaper. It is also the industry standard and I’ve used it many times since. Works a treat for suspended ceilings as well.
Which brings us to this week. When our frozen pipes burst last month they managed to flood the bathroom below – with the only important damage being rather unpleasant bulges in my cheap panelled walls, which didn’t disappear when the wall dried out. To say the least it was starting to look a bit shabby, and there was no chance of hiding bulges behind a coat of paint.
So a mere 10 years later I am at last redeeming myself for what I will politely call my ‘learning curve’. The lambris has all gone and is being replaced by ‘normal’ plasterboard walls. And Mrs B says I never get on with things…
Anyway, for the time being I’ll spare you the other “Oops, why did I do it like that!” stories, of which I have many, because I have to go and hang up a couple of mirrors, which will be a pleasant surprise for people on holiday in the house this summer who have waited many years for the privilege.