Most rustic village Bulgarian houses that can be found on property sites do not have indoor bathrooms, but outhouses are common. We still have one at the end of our garden – I think we will probably use it during the summer months, once we have carried out the crucial task of repairing the floor that is. And I must say that going through the motions al fresco has a certain appeal to me… I am seriously tempted to do away with the walls and just sit a proper throne on the grass so that I may survey my grounds as I pee/poo. Outhouses may seem rather outmoded to all you noughties kids (with your internet and such forth!), but it was not so long ago that outhouses were common in the UK, and septic tanks still prevail in far-reaching corners of the island. We have started to replace the bathroom and plumbing in our house, and will take you through what has happened so far.
We were originally pleased that the house came with a bathroom ready installed because we had plenty of work to be getting on with (I use the past tense here – wishful thinking!). There was naturally a toilet and sink, and a wet-room shower. Well, it all seems wonderfully ultra-chic. Wet room? How very avant garde! Unfortunately, it having been installed by a drunken plumber (not our words), you can probably guess what has since transpired. The “wet room” turned out to be very wet indeed, so much so that two rooms downstairs are now quite wet also. Although the plumber put down a thick slab of concrete, all of the pipework was buried in said concrete, including many leaky joints. So there was nothing for it but to rip everything out and start again. Another interesting quirk is that the soil stack (the bit that conventionally joins the sewage system) is inside the house – I reckon this has something to do with the freezing winters we have over here; everything is either running underground or inside so as to minimize the risk of pipes freezing. So the soil stack is adorning our kitchen wall, but we’ll probably end up boxing it in so that I am not thinking about poo while I am cooking dinner.
The first step was to go out and buy a bathroom suite. An important aspect of carrying out any renovation work is shopping around; this requires plenty of patience and a willingness to rummage and to keep a sense of detachment. Keep an eye on your budget – it is very easy to get carried away and buy something really pretty that individually won’t break the bank but these little frivolous purchases can really spiral out of control and before you know it you have run out of money. Thankfully we are way too paranoid for that. We headed over to Ruse to Mr Bricolage, where we purchased some c-pvc pipes, joint fittings and solvent – after having measured the lengths and number of tees, elbows and converters required of course. We got a lovely big fibreglass bath for 120 leva (approximately 50 GBP), a toilet for 70 leva and a sink for 35 leva. Taps, PTFE tape, metal joint fittings and bendy metal pipes were much cheaper to buy locally. Which reminds me, if anyone knows what jointing compound is in Bulgarian, I would be very happy to know!
I say that this was the first step – the first step really was figuring out how we were going to fit the bathroom. We knew we had to put something in there to prevent the house from going rotten and ultimately falling down. A shower tray would probably be the cheapest, but they are very prone to leaks, so a better long-term solution really had to be a bath. Okay, so I may have biased the decision. I love baths and bathing in general, I’m not ashamed! And, being the master plumber, I can do whatever the hell I want! I drew up a plan of the bathroom which is an awkward shape on account of the chimney breast sticking out in the middle. To cut a long and boring story short, we have to move the toilet in order to fit the bath in. In addition to this we have to move the boiler, which isn’t such a big deal, but it does involve rewiring it because the cable won’t stretch to the other side of the room. Moving the toilet also isn’t such a big deal, and I am glad that we are putting in new waste pipes because the old ones are – you guessed it – buried in concrete, so there is no telling what is going on or what is leaking. It’s really the sum of the parts that is a big deal, and the fact that we have no back up toilet really (well, there is the outhouse, but somehow that is not appealing in the middle of winter).
So at the moment we are stripping tiles from the walls and floor. Once that is done I can make a hole in the floor for the new toilet waste pipe, so that I can fit a new waste pipe into the soil stack – this means that when the tiling is done I can install the new toilet immediately, even if we can only flush it by throwing buckets of water down it. That means that we only have to hold it in for a day while I do the tiling!