Derby Surveyors

Toilet Tales from a Resi Surveyor

I have been asked to do my first ever ‘Blog’ and the first thing I asked myself was ‘What is a Blog?’ 

Good old google comes to the rescue and it is in fact an ‘online journal where a writer shares their  views on an individual subject’.  

Well, there you go, now I know what it is. I am now going to attempt to write one. 

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and there was no such thing as the internet, social media, mobile phones etc. In fact I can remember when my parents had a landline installed and we all had to learn how to answer the phone properly stating what the phone number was and our name before the person on the other end could even open their mouth. How times have moved on. Anyway, I digress, so the word ‘Blog’ I don’t think had even been invented back then, it certainly was not in the vocabulary of our household when I was growing up. In fact the closest word to ‘Blog’ was the same word without the ‘l’ commonly known as the ‘toilet’ or the posh word for it is ‘lavatory’. There was no such thing as a posh toilet in our house as it was outside in the brick ‘outhouse’ along with the cobwebs in the corner. My Mum was petrified of spiders and so the cobwebs in the outhouse never got touched. I spent a time on that toilet with a close eye on the corner of the ceiling praying that the spider would not come out. If it had, I would have shot off that toilet seat at 100mph ……I am not quite sure what I thought it was going to do to me. My Mum’s fear had been installed in me. Thanks Mum. 

The toilet was a classic 1950’s with the cistern high up close to the ceiling and it was flushed by means of a chain. ‘Have you pulled the chain?’ was a common thing asked in our house as my siblings (never me of course) always left a little surprise for the next person who used the toilet. Imagine saying that to your kids nowadays, they would look at you as if you had come off planet Mars. ‘Don’t know what you mean Dad’ ……….’Sorry Son, I meant did you press single flush or double flush?’ ‘Duno, I  just pressed it’. Using that toilet in the depths of winter was a mission on its own as it often froze over so we had to defrost the toilet before we could begin to use it. If you got caught short then things  became a bit desperate but that is a different story altogether.  

As a Residential Surveyor we still come across these relics and they are often no longer in use, the pan long since dried up and the toilet hidden beneath a pile of junk having long since seen better days. Occasionally we come across them still being used but these are more likely to be in the house in a separate room from the bathroom rather than in the outhouse. What a luxury that would have been back in the day. An inside toilet and not a cobweb in sight. Getting back to ‘Pulling the chain’, that always gave me great satisfaction as you knew when it was pulled that ‘Niagara’ falls was coming down the pipe and would hit the pan with great velocity taking everything in its path down past the ‘u’ bend  and disappearing forever. Blocked toilets were unheard of. 

Of course, we are more conscious nowadays of wasting water and so the modern toilet is a much more delicate affair. In fact, in most homes there is often more than one and it is quite common to have a WC on the ground floor, one in the main bathroom and one in the en-suite shower room. Why do we need all these toilets? Using the en-suite toilet might save you a 15 second journey having to use the one in the main bathroom which very often is right next to it. Having an en-suite in a modern house is now ‘expected’ rather than a luxury but this is very often at the expense of having tiny bedrooms and makes the  property more expensive to build. It seems crazy to me. 

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The modern toilet comes in all shapes and sizes, but it is our duty as a surveyor when carrying out a  survey to make sure they at least work. We will all have our own way of checking the sanitary fittings, but I will normally check the taps, check the shower if there is one, check the mastic seals, look for  any leaks, check their general quality and flush the toilet lifting the lid to make sure all is well. However, on one occasion this procedure nearly fell apart. The house was a typical 1980’s three bed detached with a cloak room on the ground floor.  As I approached the front door the Vendor came out all masked up, clearly keen to keep their distance in these uncertain (Covid) times and muffled to me that they were going to sit in the car and promptly disappeared. I normally try to get at least some information from them on the property I am surveying. Clearly there was no opportunity to do that on this occasion. ‘Fine’ I thought, I will just crack on then. I followed my normal procedure and when I entered the cloak room the toilet lid was down, and a small box was resting on top. Now normally, as I have already said, I would just flush the toilet and then lift the lid, however on this occasion I did actually need to use the toilet, and this is another conundrum that us surveyors experience particularly during Covid times. Out of courtesy I always ask if I can use the facilities however with the Vendor nowhere to be seen I thought well I am going to have to use it, Covid or no Covid. So, I lifted the lid and that’s when I realised why the small  box had been put on the lid. There was a hole the size of a dinner plate in the side of the toilet. It was only  visible if you got on your hands and knees or lifted the lid. Imagine if I had flushed it, Niagara Falls would have ended up all over the floor. Clearly the box had been positioned as a deterrent or the cynical side of me thinks they did not want me to spot the damaged pan. 

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‘I do apologise but I have flooded your house out ….. I think your toilet may have a small leak’.  Lesson learnt, always lift the lid first. 

As for actually using the toilet well it was a modern house so there were at least two others to choose  from so no worries in that department. 

Well, that is my first ‘blog’ completed. At least if I get asked to do another, I now know what one is.

By Gareth Brookes.