back to article We're late and we're unreliable but we won't invalidate your warranty: We're engineers!

My pants are on fire. Would you like to take a look? Of course you wouldn't, don't be ridiculous. Besides, my shreddies are not ablaze at all. I was fibbing. No doubt they may be found later tonight dangling from some pole or gallows. Even if my nicknacks did catch alight, calling the emergency services would be a short-term …

  1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    I feel your pain. I'm writing this sitting under a leaky roof. Having finally found someone someone with suitable skills and qualifications who would even answer my calls I'm still waiting for them to come out and fix it....and the weather forecast's not looking too clever.

    Like the old joke goes....how do you know that Jesus was a carpenter? Only a qualified tradesman can disappear off the face of the earth for days at a time with no rational explanation.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Let me tell you about 'pain' in 2 words: 'French Tradesmen". The electric security gate on our rental fails so that to open it you have to actually get out of the car. I get the local electrician to come out, who spends 3 hours on a Saturday morning poking about the gate and the house and then decides that the problem was with all the lights, so he replaced all the LED bulbs .. at twice the price I could have bought them from Castorama. Problem with gate solved? Not at all. Cost: €500 including a discount since the LED bulbs cost so much .. "Désolée m’sieur". As my better half said, "Done, and you have been".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Bienvenue en France

        > As my better half said, "Done, and you have been".

        Ah, yes. France, and you're welcome to it.

        1. ma1010 Silver badge

          Re: Bienvenue en France

          There's a song by Frank Zappa called "Flakes" that kind of sums this sort of thing up. He pointed out that there's lots in California, but I suppose they're a worldwide phenomenon.

          Edit: add link

          Lyrics

          1. Ceiling Cat
            Pint

            Re: Bienvenue en France

            Upvoted for the Zappa reference. One of my favorite songs. Also, have a pint.

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Ahhh just wait until after Brexit! Once all those polish plumbers, romanian roofers, czech caperters, bulgarian builders, etc. leave, there will be a tonne of new British tradespeople just waiting to take back their jobs (stolen by those bloody foreigners), and they wouldnt leave you in the lurch now would they?

      On the plus side for Dabbsy, half of them will probably head to France (the other half Germany), so he'll have an even bigger selection of tradies that wont turn up to fix things as scheduled! Brilliant!

      It's win-win right?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "On the plus side for Dabbsy, half of them will probably head to France (the other half Germany), so he'll have an even bigger selection of tradies that wont turn up to fix things as scheduled! Brilliant!

        It's win-win right?"

        Sort of. Isn't Dabbsy living in Spain now?

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Dabbsy's Residence

          Sort of. Isn't Dabbsy living in Spain now?

          Indeed he isn't.

          Unless the Montpellier area has been annexed without anyone really taking notice.

        2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Sort of. Isn't Dabbsy living in Spain now?

          Is suspect you may be confusing Dabbsy with the late great Lester Haines, who ran El Reg's Iberian Bureau.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            You are both correct. I conflated "Here be Dragons" with "There be Dragons"

  2. DBH

    Happy ending

    Did you ever figure out who was meant to do the task at hand?

    1. earl grey Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Happy ending

      " who was meant to do the task at hand"

      Well, obviously, it was myself who took it in hand to complete. Simple now, innit?

  3. Terry 6 Silver badge

    The new world we're in.

    This highly tech world we've found ourselves in has created a new kind of problem - the "Which bit is the fault in and who's responsible for repairing it?"

    So, my new high tech heating boiler sometimes doesn't go on. An engineer is coming tomorrow. But is the problem with the Hive, which claims the heating is on and working, or the boiler - which sometimes doesn't make heat when the Hive claims it is doing?

    Maybe it's something simple and obvious, but the "sometimes" aspect makes me think it won't be.

    So is it going to be the Hive hardware, the software, the wiring, the boiler hardware......?

    1. Mr Sceptical
      Terminator

      Re: The new world we're in.

      I think you've already nailed it when you mentioned the Hive. It's indicating someone's heating is on somewhere - but necessarily yours...

      On a practical level, the signal to the boiler is a yes/no from the Hive - you can confirm the signal with a multimeter on either AC/DC or continuity mode.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: The new world we're in.

        On a practical level, the signal to the boiler is a yes/no from the Hive

        Eh, modern boilers communicate with modern thermostats in more sophisticated[0] ways than a simple on/off, although almost all boilers will fall back to on/off if you hook up an old-fashioned on/off thermostat.

        [0] usually proprietary, though often reverse-engineered.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: The new world we're in.

          Boiler problem sorted. By the guy who knew what he was about. As I understand it ( I don't really) the problem wasn't the Hive or the boiler but a valve by the water tank that hadn't been replaced when they installed the system and was also sometimes not getting enough current from the wiring....

          But we were lucky, the intermittent fault actually appeared while he was trying to figure out the problem ( A good rule of thumb is that normally no intermittent fault ever appears when the repair person is near).

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: The new world we're in.

            "the intermittent fault actually appeared while he was trying to figure out the problem"

            A faulty fault!

          2. 's water music Silver badge

            Re: The new world we're in.

            A good rule of thumb is that normally no intermittent fault ever appears when the repair person is near

            I once got eliminated* from Dragons Den with a business idea for an agency supplying tradesmen. They would have been entirely unqualified, reducing my training and wages budgets and making the operating model where the worker simply hangs around preventing the intermittent fault from recurring under his or her gaze financially viable.

            **ok, didn't apply because I only just made the joke up obvs

        2. Ian Johnston

          Re: The new world we're in.

          Eh, modern boilers communicate with modern thermostats in more sophisticated[0] ways than a simple on/off, although almost all boilers will fall back to on/off if you hook up an old-fashioned on/off thermostat.

          They might do, I suppose, but a Hive has two simple on/off outputs: heating call and hot water call. Been there, installed that, got the T-shirt.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: The new world we're in.

      When my boiler started complaining loudly and pissing black water all over the kitchen worktop it was fairly clear where the fault lay. It made me quite glad that I haven't had to deal with kit with water in since I last saw an ICL 1904D.

      I'm happy to work with electrons, whether in small quantities or in bulk, but things that come in pipes give me the heeby-jeebies.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: The new world we're in.

        I once fixed* a leaking pipe with a hammer.

        *I say leaking, more like pissing. It was an old house, and this pipe was about 10mm wide and I (mistakenly) thought it didn't contain any water, so I cut it. Panic isn't something I do very often, I can think of twice and this was one of them. With water pissing everywhere I I hammered the end flat, folded it over and hammered it again until no water came out - apparently that was the correct fix (according to a plumber).

        Electricity doesn't leak out all over the floor at least, just to the nearest earth point which could be your light switch ;)

  4. Semtex451 Silver badge
    Coat

    Is it time to rename the column Dabbsy's Blog?

    1. Oengus Silver badge
      Joke

      Based on the tiling story I would have thought Dabbsy's Bog would be appropriate...

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Based on the tiling story I would have thought Dabbsy's Bog would be appropriate...

        Not only the tiling story; several previous ones have also referred to lavatorial action of one form or another.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Based on the tiling story I would have thought Dabbsy's Bog would be appropriate...

          Only several? You must be new here! :-)

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Based on the tiling story I would have thought Dabbsy's Bog would be appropriate...

            Only several? You must be new here! :-)

            Hanging out on this, predominantly British, forum I seem to have absorbed your tendency for understatement a bit.

      2. Fungus Bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        I can think of nothing more inappropriate than Dabbsy's Bog

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Which is why it would be a good title?

      3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Based on the tiling story I would have thought Dabbsy's Bog would be appropriate...

        Something for the U-bend, sir?

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Dabbsy Blather

      Is it time to rename the column Dabbsy's Blog?

      By the amount of innuendo, Dabbsy's Bog might be more appropriate.

      Edit: Darn, Ninja'd by Oengus - should hit refresh more often - but my broadband is so slow last few days.

      1. batfink Silver badge

        Re: Dabbsy Blather

        You should get someone in to look at that...

        1. Uk_Gadget

          Re: Dabbsy Blather

          But who?

          1. Aussie Doc
            Coat

            Re: Dabbsy Blather

            It doesn't matter, really. They can't get there until next Wednesday.

            Maybe.

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The system is designed around failure and blame

    The house I moved into a couple of years ago was around 3 years old. One of the toilets didn't flush. A strange patch of water would accumulate periodically on the bathroom floor. A couple of pipes to the boiler were leaking, the hob ignition was wired to the electric oven circuit and the oven to the hob supply. The TV aerial was lashed to a rafter with gaffer tape, pointing in the wrong direction, and part of the guttering leaked as it had been cut too short, but left in place anyway. I recently wanted to get the unvented hot water system checked over and several people offered to do it despite not having the legally-required certificate.

    When my elderly parents moved into their last house, the electric sparks (and I don't mean the former electrician, though he deserved it) could be seen through the plaster on the walls if you leaned on them.

    Some tradesmen are very competent, but a lot of them are significantly worse than a patient amateur. You don't typically get to find that out until it's too late. It's worse with software - most of the stuff that comes embedded in your typical electronics device is way below the quality you could produce yourself. Everything - whether it's building a house or manufacturing products - is acquired at the lowest price and outsourced as far as possible to avoid responsibility.

    The insurance thing is exactly the same - pushing the problem to someone else. If there isn't a tradesman or ""engineer" involved, there's no-one to sue (though, good luck getting any money from any of the people who've offered to tarmac my drive) so you simply don't get the money.

    1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

      Re: The system is designed around failure and blame

      Upvoted for the inverted commas.

    2. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: The system is designed around failure and blame

      One of our neighbours a good few years ago was having the bathroom done. When they opened the pipe box from the loo, they found the original plumber had supported the waste pipe on a small stack of lego bricks, rather then fitting a proper support.

      On the one hand, proof that Lego definitely is an underrated building tool, however on the other hand it didn't give us much confidence with the quality of the rest of the plumbing...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The system is designed around failure and blame

        I expect the kids appropriated the bricks PDQ. The last time I removed a bath panel I found a spirit level imprisoned behind it. Sometime plumbers do leave something useful behind.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Sometime plumbers do leave something useful behind.

          When I redid the upstairs bathroom I walled-up a contour gauge.

          I love tools and use any excuse to buy new ones, but that one just annoyed the living piss out of me. The very definition of Unfit for Purpose made manifest.

          I had great fun imagining the thing wailing "for the love of God, Montressor"* as I screwed in the last piece of wallboard and muttered "Yes, for the love of god".

          * - I was *not* channeling Vincent Price. I was channeling William Stendahl .

        2. irrelevant

          Re: The system is designed around failure and blame

          I'll never forget the time I was stood on a step ladder running a cable to a terminal at a clients. Pushed up a false ceiling tile which promptly pivoted on my hands, and a large and heavy hammer dropped to the floor about three inches in front of my eyes..

          I was luckier than the time I was wiring up a socket and the Financial Director of the client decided to help by replacing the very old and very heavy ceiling tiles that I'd moved, and dropped one on my head. That time involved a trip to Casualty and three stitches..

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The system is designed around failure and blame

          A few houses ago we had some work done on roofing or guttering or something. The guys had to come back with a ladder to retrieve an electric drill they'd left on the roof. The same house had a kitchen fitted by the kitchen fitter becoming-ex-boyfriend of my sister-in-law. He left an electic jigsaw on top of a wall cupboard. I still have it - when became ex I had no contact for returning it.

      2. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: The system is designed around failure and blame

        Every single bloody time I have had to do work on the plumbing in this house the relevant lockshield valve or those turn handle valve job has failed open. Meaning I have to somehow stop the water flow entirely so I can replace the valve before I start what I needed to do. Every single time. NONE of the valves work except for those I have replaced. I'm a decent compression joint plumber with all the practice I've had. It isn't actually that hard.

        I have some kit now, a rubber bung on some string for stopping the flow from a header tank without emptying it. Very useful that is. A pipe wrench of course, a tap wrench too, big black job with multiple sized nut options. Good for enclosed spaces like under the bathroom sink. All the bathroom taps have flexible connectors now, Replacing Byzantine assemblies of bent and joined copper. They come with their own lockshield valves too. They're a godsend, wish I'd noticed them long ago.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: The system is designed around failure and blame

          And that is why I won't work on plumbing anymore. Certainly not on the ~50 year old house I am in currently. Go to fix something that should be easy, and three more things break trying to get the prep work done to fix it.

          My house has suffered at least one poorly done re-model of the two or three I suspect have been done to it since it was built- the first two might have been a single project to add a room onto the back of the house and enclose the porch to make a second room. I don't know, there's no paperwork on any of it.

          The poorly done remodel was the kitchen- whoever did that one kept most of the original base cabinets, ripped the countertop off them, and installed a granite countertop and some really badly done drawers. They also removed the wall cabinets, lowered the ceiling about a foot and put in 'can' lights. They reinstalled the wall cabinets and put some ill-fitting door fronts on the lot.

          I have a few major things I want to do to the place, and gutting the kitchen and re-building it properly is one of them, along with re-doing the main bathroom and the floors. (and catching up on some 20 odd years of maintenance and upgrades...)

          1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

            Re: The system is designed around failure and blame

            Plumbing is witchcraft...

  6. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
    Windows

    Look in the mirror

    Reg readers - this is kind-of what your friends&family see when they plead with you to help them fix their 'puter problems. You're the IT guy, right? Never mind you haven't used windoze since '95 ....

  7. big_D Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I go bang!

    Even professionals don't get it right every time.

    I was in my office in Germany, standing next to the window and stumbled, I reached out and put my hand in the electrical socket - the German sockets have the positive and negative buried out of the way and the earthing prongs stick out of the socket, great for earthing things or clamping the earthing strap to, before working on electronics...

    Only the electrician must have been in a hurry and on the one plug where I stuck my hand, he had managed to connect the earth to the positive phase and the positive phase to the earth. I couldn't use my arm for nearly an hour and hurt like hell! The engineers in the production area wouldn't believe me, until they came over with a tester... Followed by quickly turning off the power and righting the electrician's wrongs.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: I go bang!

      "

      ... he had managed to connect the earth to the positive phase and the positive phase to the earth.

      "

      Probably because there are so few DC mains supplies that he was unfamiliar with the system.

      1. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: I go bang!

        Germany is 230v AC the same as the rest of Europe and the UK.

        Swapping positive/negative for an AC system may not cause many issues. But mixing up live and earth? Oh dear!

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: I go bang!

          For swapping positive/negative for an AC system one mostly needs to be very quick and persistent!

          1. The Dark Side Of The Mind (TDSOTM)

            Re: I go bang!

            Like 50 times per second... and for a loooong while.

        2. MiguelC Silver badge

          Re: I go bang!

          My wife killed a Hoover changing the wall plug our dog had chewed. "No need for you to look into it", she said, "I can do it, I'm not dumb" (or something), she said...

          After plugging it out and sorting the main circuit breaker I had to explain why there were different color wires in it and why you shouldn't mix the up.

          1. stiine Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: I go bang!

            If it were I, I would have given her another blank plug and handed her the screwdriver.

          2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: I go bang!

            I applaud your wife for having a go, but for beginners in all fields it's useful to have a quick 'QA' check before potentially burning down the house :)

      2. Mr Sceptical
        Alert

        Re: I go bang!

        "unfamiliar with the system."

        Wut - this is possibly the most basic thing you can learn about electrical wiring!

        Even being colourblind wouldn't be an excuse as the earth cables are stripey green/yellow wheras live and neutral are solids.

        Should have got the sparky back in to test the earth prong with his tongue (or other sensitive protuberence).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I go bang!

          Even being colourblind wouldn't be an excuse as the earth cables are stripey green/yellow wheras live and neutral are solids.

          Errr....but earth is like soil, sort of a brown colour....and those stripes on the other wire...so much brighter than any others...looks so alive...

          Back in a mo...just want to go and check where that burning smell's coming from....

          1. Julian Bradfield

            Re: I go bang!

            My heating system needs a six-way connection from controller/boiler to valves etc., all told. When I needed to replace a valve, I spent two hours very carefully tracing the cables, checking, double-checking, and re-checking. Glad I did, as the installer had used two standard 3-core mains cables, and was using the second earth wire to carry the (mains live) signal from the hot water thermostat to the controller. That cable has a big red flag on it now.

          2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: I go bang!

            I moved into rented cottage with the soon to ex, but at the time soon to be Mrs Oncoming Scorn & discovered that our safe family rental location had indeed mixed up Live & Neutral on the fridge freezer.

            I discovered this on moving in as the cable clamp had broken\individual wires visible outside the plug.

        2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: I go bang!

          "

          Even being colourblind wouldn't be an excuse as the earth cables are stripey green/yellow wheras live and neutral are solids.

          "

          But the OP did not mention live & neutral. He stated that his mains wiring had a positive and earth. Therefore he has a DC mains supply which is why I said that it was unusual.

          1. Dave K Silver badge

            Re: I go bang!

            The term "Positive" is sometimes used interchangeably (and admittedly erroneously) to mean "Live".

            It's far more likely that this was the mistake of the op, rather than some sort of incredibly rare high-voltage DC system with funny cable colours.

          2. big_D Silver badge

            Re: I go bang!

            No, I said the electrician mixed up positive/live and earth, I never mentioned neutral, because that was correctly connected and not mixed up.

            Sorry if the using positive instead of live confused you.

            1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: I go bang!

              "

              No, I said the electrician mixed up positive/live and earth, I never mentioned neutral, because that was correctly connected and not mixed up.

              "

              I did not say that you *had* mentioned neutral.

              "

              Sorry if the using positive instead of live confused you.

              "

              Using the wrong term will often confuse people, though I guessed what you meant so was merely being sarcastic. Glad you found that the North pole had been wired incorrectly.

        3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: I go bang!

          "Even being colourblind wouldn't be an excuse as the earth cables are stripey green/yellow wheras live and neutral are solids."

          I don't keep up with fashion, but I'm pretty sure that the colours of live, neutral and earth have changed several times in the last 50 years. The "50 years" is relevant because you can't (usually) tell *when* something was wired just by looking at it. Also, if you have enough experience to do *that*, you probably also have enough experience to know that you can't trust the f@!"£$ing moron who wired it, so the colours are not something you should stake your life on.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: I go bang!

            In the US, at least, single phase (110VAC) residential wiring is: live aka "hot" is black, neutral is white, and earth is green or bare copper, and has been for for at least 60 years.

            220VAC circuits has the second phase line be blue OR red.

            It can get... creative when you start factoring in three-way/four-way switches and only have three-wire cabling to work with...

            1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

              Re: I go bang!

              In the US, you have to be creative to understand that so called thee ways switches are in fact two ways: the common switches to terminal A or terminal B (three ways meaning 3 wires).

              Now I am wondering what is a 4 ways switch like...

              1. Ian Johnston

                Re: I go bang!

                Now I am wondering what is a 4 ways switch like...

                They are what you use when you want more than two switches controlling a light. Three way switch at each end (SPDT) and four way (DPDT wired as crossover) at each intermediate location.

                1. J. Cook Silver badge

                  Re: I go bang!

                  Here's an explainer link or sorts- as mentioned, adding 4 way switches gets complicated. :)

                  http://users.wfu.edu/matthews/courses/p230/switches/SwitchesTut.html

    2. Mr Sceptical

      Re: I go bang!

      I wonder how they managed to get the cicuit certified - you normally go round with a simple plug tester to confirm it's all wired correctly before handing over. Plus the liability is on the electrician should anything fatal happen. Good to hear you had no lasting effects!

      I had a near miss at a previous employer - some numpty had chopped the flex off where it emerged from a fused spur on the wall, but not bothered to either remove the fuse or disconnect it from the mains circuit. Luckily, I was wearing rubber gloves so only jumped a foot in the air rather than impersonate Frankenstein's monster...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I go bang!

        "wonder how they managed to get the cicuit certified"

        You may be making a false assumption here...

      2. EVP

        Re: I go bang!

        ”I wonder how they managed to get the cicuit certified - you normally go round with a simple plug tester to confirm it's all wired correctly before handing over. Plus the”

        I suppose that in many countries electrical installations are self-tested and self-signed by the electrician doing the work (or whoever is certified to do that his/her company), so

        1. The electrician was a lazy bastard and didn’t finish the installation in a proper way*,

        or

        2. his/her boss was a greedy bastard and didn’t let the electrician to finish the installation in a proper way*.

        If you follow the test procedure, you simply cannot fcuk up this badly. Test report was either made up, or more likely just missing.

        * == final tests dutifully done

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: I go bang!

      Something similar happened to me - but with a wall, not a socket.

      An uncle and his family would be moving shortly, and I was helping getting the target house ready by hanging the ceiling lights and such. In one of the rooms I had the odd sensation of feeling a bit of AC when touching a wall close to one of the wall sockets. Touching the (unpainted) radiator valve I could get one of those neon voltage probe screwdrivers to light up; the indication was strongest right where the conduit for the wiring would be, falling off when probing the wall a bit further away. On showing, my uncle agreed that this was Not At All Right, and allowed me to extricate the conduit from the freshly-plastered wall.

      It turned out to be a metal conduit (common for a house built in the 1950's), and the plasterers had clearly wielded their Hilti with great gusto but with less attention regarding not hitting the conduit, which was damaged over the entire length from socket to ceiling. And inside it the wiring had also been damaged; not enough to cause a hard short, but the leakage current could make a small bulb dimly glow when I tested some more (no GFCI back then)

    4. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: I go bang!

      How did that not trip a fuse?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: I go bang!

        [live and earth swapped at the socket] How did that not trip a fuse?

        As long as nothing gets plugged in and no-one touching those ground prongs, nobody would probably notice.

        If you do plug in a device you get several possibilities. Non-grounded devices like a lamp or a shaver would simply not work, being fed the voltage difference between neutral and ground, which might be a few volts at most. With a grounded device its chassis would become live (and it would still not work as per previous), but depending on what it's standing on, any connections to a correctly grounded device and/or someone actually being able to touch a bare part of its chassis this may or may not cause a short. Zapping a person would not blow a fuse anyway, only tripping a GFCI if those are installed.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: I go bang!

          Ok, so the ground prongs are live and you complete the circuit. Surely that would create a surge which should trip out something, what am I missing?

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Boffin

            what am I missing?

            Sufficient current to blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker, commonly 16A, occasionally 10A or in few cases even less but still not below 2A.

            With a non-grounded device the (now live) ground prongs in the socket weren't going to be part of the circuit anyway. Look up pictures of a Schuko socket and an Euro plug for enlightenment.

            Grounded devices would have their chassis become live, but internally this won't be connected to the proper live and neutral circuits anywhere, so on its own there won't be current flowing from that live chassis to (proper) ground. A PC with LRF[0] sitting on a wooden or vinyl-covered desk will not even cause sufficient leakage current to trip a GFCI if one is present. Touching that PC's metal chassis will cause a small current to flow, dependent on your skin resistance. This current can be anything between tens of microamps (some buzzing feeling in that particular limb) to tens of milliamps (hurts a lot, may even kill), but in any case not enough to blow even a 2A fuse.

            Only if you then have another device which is properly powered (not connected to the same faulty socket) and hence its chassis _is_ correctly grounded _and_ you have a cable between them that connects both chassis (via cable shielding) you now have a hard short between live and ground, and the fuse/breaker will blow/trip.

            [0] Little Rubber Feet, parts that support quite a lot of computing equipment.

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

              Re: what am I missing?

              Ok, thanks. so I get why it won't blow a fuse, but my house has a set of trip blocks that trigger the moment it detects an earth surge - surely building reg's require them these days?

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                trip blocks

                Those would be GFCI's, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, also called RCDs, Residual Current Detectors. Those do trip on 30mA leakage current, but that would happen only when something allowing that leakage current to start flowing from the faulty (live) ground pins to actual ground. Until that, the appliance would just sit there.

                And while private housing built over the past 40 years or so will have GFCIs installed, I'm not sure about offices and industrial buildings. Note also that big_D mentions his office being in Germany, where building codes may be different again.

                1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

                  Re: trip blocks

                  Thanks for taking the time to respond :)

  8. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
  9. Valerion

    I need an electrician

    But it's such a damn hassle.

    First, I need to find one that is competent. I don't even know how to do that - how do I know they are any good?

    Then, I need to get in contact. I hate phoning people, and they never answer the phone anyway, as they are always busy.

    After that, I want some idea of how much I will need to pay. Naturally, the sparky will not want to commit to a price based on my vague telephone description of "The lights in my lounge stopped working. I want to replace them but there might be a wiring issue, or it might be the switch". Do I need £100 or £1000 spare in my bank account in order to get this done? I have no clue.

    And after all that, we need to agree a time for them to come. This will involve either taking a day off work at the loss of precious annual leave - not always possible to arrange at short notice - or trying to work out a work-from-home day, which also isn't always possible depending on what project I'm working on at the time.

    So, the lights in my lounge have been broken for about 18 months now. I've learned to live with just lamps.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Re: I need an electrician

      I think there's a simple test for a competent electrician.

      Wire the lights to the door handle. If he dies on entering the room, then he wasn't competent. Thus you can harvest and sell his organs online in order to pay for a much more expensive electrician - who because you're paying £1,000 up-front for quick service will be much easier to book. Or you'll now have a full set of electricians tools in order to do the job yourself.

      Worst case scenario is you end up dead, or in prison. In which case you don't need to worry about your broken lights anymore.

      I'm not seeing any downsides here...

      1. Hero Protagonist
        Alert

        Re: I need an electrician

        If the OP was competent enough to wire up the door handle without electrocuting himself in the process, he wouldn’t need an electrician

        1. Ogi

          Re: I need an electrician

          > If the OP was competent enough to wire up the door handle without electrocuting himself in the process, he wouldn’t need an electrician.

          Unfortunately not true in the UK (at least in the last decade or so). You must have work done by a "certified electrician", even if you don't need them. Otherwise insurance companies will not insure your home. It would also complicate selling the house, because buyers nowadays want invoices and proof that any work on the property was certified, otherwise they use it as an excuse to push the price down.

          Case in point was my parents house. My father (and his father) were electrical engineers, specialists in power electronics. They traveled the world installing, wiring (and sometimes rewinding) MW class generators and industrial motors, while also wiring up kV power transformation and distribution systems, mostly for hydro power stations.

          Yet when it came to wiring up the new kitchen, my dad was forbidden from doing it, because he wasn't a "certified electrician". So we had to pay an electrician to wire up six spot lights, power sockets and the cooker to the mains. Needless to say my dad just followed the guy round telling him exactly how he wanted everything done, but it was still irritating having to pay someone to do a job you knew exactly how to do yourself.

          While on the other hand, at a previous rental I lived in, the "certified electrician", managed to miswire the live and earth, meaning all the copper pipes in the bathroom were live. I got electrocuted a few times before I stuck a voltmeter to the pipes, and showed a photo to the landlord with 70V shown on the voltmeter display.

          The only reason the full 240v didn't go through the pipes was because there most of it was still draining via a (rapidly corroding) earth spike, but it was enough to give me some nasty shocks when I would touch the taps.

          1. Alan Ferris

            Re: I need an electrician

            Either you're email address ends "@heaven" or you weren't electrocuted, although you might have been shocked.

            Electrocute = to kill by passing an electric current through a person

            1. Alister Silver badge

              Re: I need an electrician

              @Alan Ferris

              Sorry but it depends where in the world you are.

              In British English, Electrocution doesn't necessarily involve death. It just means to receive an electric shock.

          2. John Miles

            Re: You must have work done by a "certified electrician", even if you don't need them

            IEE wiring regulations Part P - however you can still do minor stuff yourself see FAQ (work in Kitchens is specifically excluded) or even do the lot and get it inspected (though will probably cost more than just getting an electrician).

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Mr Sceptical
      Thumb Up

      Re: I need an electrician

      To a degree, I'd say the older ones would be more likely to be competent as working with mains electricity is a bit like Russian roulette - you need to get it right all the time, as wrong might be the last thing you do.

      That said, what passed for H&S 40+ years ago, might not be considered safe now.

      Just look for someone NICEIC registered and has 18th Edition IET Wiring Regulations and Part P, should be as good as any other then.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: I need an electrician

        That said, what passed for H&S 40+ years ago, might not be considered safe now.

        indeed. My dear old Dad worked as a sparky, having done his apprenticeship in the 50s. Many's the time he's been to my house to help me with some wiring job or other, and every time I suggest that I should go and turn the supply off at the fuse board before he does something just gets me branded a a big jessie.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I need an electrician

          The old 'If I need the supply off then I'll just trip the breaker by shorting these wires with my pliers" school

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: I need an electrician

            I occasionally switch off a circuit by tripping[0] its[1] GFCI. Which you're supposed to test regularly anyway, so that can be ticked off too.

            [0] Using a Benning Duspol (or similar) you check between live and earth, then simultaneously push a button on both probes.

            [1] individual CFCI/CB combination unit per circuit

        2. Barry Rueger

          Re: I need an electrician

          I'm Canadian, so 120v is "normal" and 240v is "will kill you." Even though I’ve since worked with both, and understand that world+dog uses the latter these stories still terrify me.

          1. MiguelC Silver badge

            Re: I need an electrician

            It's not voltage that kills, it's current, so you can get killed as easily by a 120V circuit as any 220V/240V circuits.

            OK, 220V will draw twice the current through a same resistor than 120V, and that's what will kill you, but you'll die in the first split second that you come in contact with electricity. 220V may give you almost twice the current of 120V, but what really does it is time because once your skin starts to burn (and it's almost imediately) the electrical resistance of your skin drops so low that it doesn't really matter anymore what the voltage is.

            1. ma1010 Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: I need an electrician

              Yes, it's current that kills, but the higher the voltage, the more likely the voltage will overcome your body's resistance and push enough current through you to kill you. Nobody got electrocuted grabbing the terminals on a 12 V battery (unless the battery was hooked up to something with a much higher voltage). I've been shocked several times in my life by 120V and it was just unpleasant, but not fatal, AFAIK.

              What kills is the peak voltage. On a 120 VAC circuit, you've got about 170 V peak, and on a 240 you've got about 340 V peak - the latter being more likely to push enough current through you to kill.

              1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
                Pirate

                Re: I need an electrician

                > Nobody got electrocuted grabbing the terminals on a 12 V battery

                If your skin is well soaked with salt water, 12V can absolutely kill you.

                I seem to recall reading that one guy killed himself with a 6 V battery: he wanted to know what the resistance of the body (sans skin!) is, so put a needle into each of his hands. The plan was to measure resistance/current. The current killed him.

                Plenty of people got killed by 48 V or thereabouts (electric welder). I have seen some images, gruesome.

                1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

                  Re: I need an electrician

                  Correction: 6 V needs to be 9 V. Here is the story.

              2. 's water music Silver badge

                Re: I need an electrician

                ...but not fatal, AFAIK

                has your wife become cold and distant?

            2. Stoneshop Silver badge
              Pirate

              Re: I need an electrician

              Depends on what your path to neutral/ground is. Standing on a dry, wooden stepladder plus non-conducting footwear will keep you from being zapped, even though they may not be fully approved stuff.

              And my own skin resistance is high enough (when dry) that I barely notice a wire being live even when touching it directly. Not that I do so out of habit, but if simply touching 220V (back then, 230V now) would have killed me, as stated above, I'd be dead more than a hundred times over.

              Which I think I'm not.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: I need an electrician

                I remember as a child that my bedroom light wasn’t working. Thinking that I was quite grown up, I thought that I could do the job myself. I grabbed a stool, climbed up and reached into the shade to remove the lamp, only problem was, it was dark. Fingers went in, sparks came out, and I ended up on the floor. Turns out that my mum already knew about it and had taken it out! Standing on a wooden stool and falling to the floor may well have saved my life. I now have a little more respect for electricity. Plumbing however, remains the devil’s work.

            3. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
              Pirate

              Re: I need an electrician

              > ...but you'll die in the first split second that you come in contact with electricity.

              Sadly not. If you go into cardiac arrest than you die that way (already pretty unpleasant in my book).

              If not, you die a slow and terrible death with your muscles cramping until the point where you are unable to breath. That may take much longer than several minutes.

              1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

                Re: I need an electrician

                I vaguely remember being instructed that the most common cause of death-by-electrocution was from falling off the ladder...

          2. Alister Silver badge

            Re: I need an electrician

            240v is "will kill you."

            No it won't, not if you're a normal healthy adult. I've had a number of electric shocks over the years, from 240V and 415V, and I'm still here, it hasn't affected me at all...

            <twitch> <twitch> <twitch>

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: I need an electrician

        That said, what passed for H&S 40+ years ago, might not be considered safe now.

        My Dad was an apprentice sparks in the 50s, having left school at 14. Some of his stories suggest you might be right about that. His descriptions could be rather worrying. Like climbing all wooden ladders to re-do shop signs - where you had "the boy" in the middle of the road with his foot on the bottom to steady it a bit and one hand out holding up the traffic - while the ladder not only bent in different directions as you climbed up it, but the rungs bent as you put your feet on them. No metal reinforcement, so everything wobbled. A lot.

        We had this deathtrap of a 6' wooden step-ladder - entirely hinged on a dried up shrunken old wooden dowel - where about 2mm of it was still in contact with the hinge pieces. But would Dad replace it? "Nah - it's safer than what I used in the good old days. Look! The rungs don't even bend!"

        "Well only because you fitted those metal bits to stop them Dad... How the hell did you make 60?"

        Still my great uncle took 2 sets of shorter wooden steps, nailed a plank across and fitted them with wheels. He used that to paint, with a roller on a long pole, and used that long pole to sort of punt this contraption round the room. But his excuse was polio, so he could barely walk. He never fell off that. Though did end up in a ditch getting a tow from a van to the pub, because his electric wheelchair wasn't fast enough...

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Though did end up in a ditch

          I wondered when we could have the opportunity to start talking about Brexit.

      3. Medical Cynic

        Re: I need an electrician

        It's the same in aviation: There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots - but there are no old, bold pilots. With the possible exclusion of captain Eric [Winkle] Brown RN, who died in his 90s. Link to wikipedia article.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: I need an electrician

      But it's such a damn hassle

      Try doing a complete renovation on a 1920's house that's 150 miles away. Fortunately, we managed to find a general builder/handyman that's quite happy to act as an on-site project manager (and to not be paid as a project manager - but we are planning to give him a damn good review for acting as a prime contractor) as well as doing all the other non-really-specialised stuff.

      The kitchen gets fitted on Monday - then it's just snagging and a few other bits and it can go back on the rental market..

    4. Bowlers

      Re: I need an electrician

      A guy who lived across the road should have employed a qualified electrician but decided to do it himself. The mini cannabis farm he built in his roof space burnt his and his neighbors houses down. The kicker was it wasn't his house and it wasn't insured.

      Was an interesting evening watching the fire brigade earn their money.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: I need an electrician

        Was an interesting evening watching the fire brigade earn their money, while getting stoned*.

        FTFY.

        * Yes they were in all probability wearing full BA kit at the time inside the house.

        1. MiguelC Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: fire fighters getting stonned

          link here

      2. whitepines Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: I need an electrician

        The landlord seems to have received an expensive lesson on property insurance (see icon).

        'round these parts the tenants have to provide proof of full liability insurance (which would in theory pay out in this case), and oftentimes the landlord has to provide proof of property insurance too.

        Wonder what the plod thought of his illicit weed farm and wanton property damage?

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: I need an electrician

          'round these parts the tenants have to provide proof of full liability insurance (which would in theory pay out in this case.)

          Not sure where you are, but most insurance policies have a "you're screwed" clause to the effect that if you're doing something illegal and damages the property, they don't pay.

          1. whitepines Silver badge

            Re: I need an electrician

            Yes, there's that, but then the insurance company goes after you directly if I've heard correctly. Never been involved in anything wantonly criminal so wouldn't know.

  10. Kevin Johnston

    It could be worse

    We bought a house a few years ago and it quickly became obvious that the person who had been doing the work was amazing. There was not a single job he had done which didn't have some oddity attached to it. From carefully fitted lighting in the loft with a wander lead to plug in to provide power, said wander lead being just long enough to reach the hatch and not a socket in sight in the loft, through to two pairs of downlights fitted into the ceiling of the conservatory where the switches work in opposite directions. Oh yes, and the five small windows in the same conservatory where the handles on #1,2,3 and 5 open clockwise and #4 opens anti-clockwise.

    After discussions with various neighbours it all became clear when they mentioned that the previous owner was a builder. Explains why he was so keen to complete on the sale.

  11. Chris Miller

    Lord Finchley

    Lord Finchley tried to mend the Electric Light

    Himself. It struck him dead: And serve him right!

    It is the business of the wealthy man

    To give employment to the artisan.

    Hilaire Belloc

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re : Lord Finchley

      Once again Dr Jones

      We see there is nothing you can posses

      That I cannot take away.

      - Herr Belloq

  12. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Devil

    Just the tip

    ...passively and totally non-intrusively slipping heated box cutters between unnecessarily glued components is enough to invalidate a warranty and legally permit the Devil to claim your soul and sell your children into slavery.

    So that's what it takes to get rid of them. Thanks for the tip! As for the bit about the house, I am having one built and am only planning on doing some of the interior painting. I worked as a painter as a way to pay for college, but even being competent in this area I would prefer to have someone else do most of the work. As for plumbing, electric, gas... I know my limits and they come down to being able to research builders and contractors and the patience to read all of the paperwork.

  13. baud Bronze badge

    > Good job we did as it turned out whoever had redesigned the kitchen before us must have been hurried, confused or high on drugs

    Knowing a little of the building industry in France, it could all three, plus a liberal helping of alcohol.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Just for your information: alcohol is a drug and medically speaking a harder drug than heroin, despite it being legal for adults in most locations.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Technically speaking, alcohol is a food.

  14. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Just sayin'...

    Have you tried phoning a solar panel specialist? Seems the most obvious first place to try.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Just sayin'...

      I wondered that also. At one point, he mentions photoelectric cells in the panel which says: "electrician". I would think a specialist would be able to figure what's wrong and who needs to do the repair if it's beyond their skills.

  15. AndrueC Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I try to avoid DIY as well. But one day I got fed up of the drain pipe falling off the bottom of the sink. So I fixed it.

    ..and to be fair it hasn't fallen off since. I'm getting the whole kitchen replaced in a month or so but I won't be home to hear the laughing from the installers when they get around to dismantling that.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      The previous owners of this house apparently had a toolkit consisting of a hammer and a roll of duct tape. You can do a lot with a hammer and duct tape. Who could have guessed that duct tape used in place of a proper joining fitting between a bathtub and the household drain pipes could last for decades before failing and flooding the garage?

      Your local hardware store will probably sell you a small bottle of purple liquid for about the cost of a cup of machine coffee that will permanently glue PVC piping together. OTOH odd though your setup looks, there's a lot to be said for if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

      1. whitepines Silver badge
        Boffin

        Gluing with just the purple liquid will give a brittle non-permanent seal that will fail at the least opportune time.

        Purple liquid is primer. Clear nasty smelling gunk is the actual glue. Use purple then clear and you can take a hammer to the pipes and the joint will still be fine even with the pipes in pieces.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        that will permanently glue PVC piping together.

        As said, the purple liquid is the primer, the actual glue is a clear gel.

        Also, the drain that AndrueC fixed is PE, and PVC glue will hardly help there.

        1. whitepines Silver badge
          Angel

          Re: that will permanently glue PVC piping together.

          Also, the drain that AndrueC fixed is PE, and PVC glue will hardly help there.

          That's what I get for not looking closely at the photos. If it's PE and cracked / damaged, time to get a plumber in. All it's going to take is a downstream obstruction and you'll have an unpleasant fountain out of the definitely not liquid tight join.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: that will permanently glue PVC piping together.

            If it's PE and cracked / damaged,

            Doesn't look damaged, but it's friction fit with a nut pressing down on a tapered seal. If the pipe end that sits inside the joint hasn't gone in far enough (cut too short/the other part sits too low) the seal will have insufficient friction against the pipe and will come loose if you dare to even look at it.

            Properly installed they tend to hold up well, although the entire assembly is still somewhat flexible. This can be an advantage, but it also allows the joint to work itself loose over time unless restrained.

            In this case the joint was not properly installed.

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: that will permanently glue PVC piping together.

          ‘Plumbing Goop’ works on damn near any kind of plastic. That and self vulcanizing ‘Rescue Tape’ are my favourites for DIY jobs...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      So I fixed it.

      Judging by the knots, you were neither a sailor nor a boy scout :-)

  16. Oengus Silver badge

    Impossible task

    I was tiling that effing bathroom for months. And it looked shit when I'd finished.

    At least you eventually got the tiling done. Here in Oz I tried (about every week) for over 6 months to get a tiler to come out to quote to repair some tiling issues in my bathroom. Numerous tilers responded with dates and times for appointments but none ever showed up. After 6+ months I decided the only way the job was going to get done was if I did it myself. I managed to find an evening class on tiling (taught by a retired tiler - I even offered him money to do the job) and learned the basics. I then spent several weekends replacing the tiles that had come loose. In the end it looked pretty good.

    Elapsed time - over 12 months.

    I have examples of people trying for extended periods to get painters, plasterers and concreters to "small" jobs. Plumbers and electricians will come to do "emergency" fixes where they can charge extortionate rates e.g. an electrician charging $300 plus $150 callout to replace the "master fuse" on the switchboard (not an ordinary fuse) that took all of 5 minutes to do. Tradies here only want to work for the big building companies on new places or on their own projects.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Impossible task

      I know a plumber socially, all he does in London is taps. Fitting new taps, fixing leaky taps (normally by fitting a new tap). He says its brilliant, £75/hr for a callout that takes max 20 minutes, he can do them all day long and never has to deal with a blocked toilet.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Impossible task

        For a highly dense population centre, that sounds like a good business model. Very highly specialised, fast response for a good ob and probably still cheaper than the big chain plumbers/home repair businesses.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Impossible task

      Clearly not just an Oz problem. My late mother, a few years back now, wanted her garden wall rebuilt. Not a big job, maybe 10ft or so. Called various builders.

      They came, they left. Did they send a quote? Did they fuck. Not a difficult of big job. But they couldn't be arsed.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Impossible task

      We were on holiday in Curacao about ten years back. Had a good meal at a small restaurant, and my GF mentioned to the owner that it would quite likely improve business having it easily recognisable as a restaurant from the road. "Yes", the owner sighed, "I've tried to get a mural made, but either they come and say they will do one, or they don't, but that's as far as any of them have gotten.".

      "Oh, it's my business at home, and for the cost of materials, another such a meal and a little money I'll put one up. Because I think it's a pity that you can hardly see this being a restaurant."

      So a few days later: this

  17. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    I was tiling that effing bathroom for months

    Which is why my favourite DIY tool is my credit card..

    Yes, it probably invalidates[1] my RealMan status but I really, really can't be bothered. Especially when there are deserving people out there who need my money and can do a far, far better job than I could ever do.

    Apart from computery stuff of course. No-one else is touching that. It's MINE!

    [1] Not that it was valid before.. And since I've been happily married for 30+ years it's not like I need it validated.

    1. whitepines Silver badge
      Happy

      Apart from computery stuff of course. No-one else is touching that. It's MINE!

      You're on the opposite side of the fence there -- you can do a far, far better job than the plumber, gardener, BT tech, or CEO can. Or even CIO, if $EMPLOYER is TSB...

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Oh really?

      Especially when there are deserving people out there who need my money and can do a far, far better job than I could ever do.

      So far I've only had four jobs done by others: replacing the central heating unit[0], changing two windows to double glazing, insulating the roof including removing two skylights and replacing three more, and putting up two dozen solar panels. All the other construction work I've been doing myself, with my GF doing tiling and painting and other such finishing jobs, plus helping with the ones where you need more than two hands, such as putting the bathtub in.

      And one of the reasons for doing it myself is that most jobs are somewhat iintertwined, so you can't easily have a particular one done by, for instance, a plumber doing all the plumbing in a couple of days while having full access to wherever he needs to get at.

      [0] in January. You really want to get that done in just one day, or less if possible. And it required moving the gas line as well.

    3. J. Cook Silver badge

      A Credit Card is the Most powerful tool in the bag, actually. :)

      In my case, it's to do stuff that I either don't have the expertise *to* do properly (roofing!), or jobs that I don't *want* to do (anything involving plumbing in a 50+ year old house)

      I'm "competent enough" with electrical to replace switches, outlets, and fixtures. If it's inside the main fusebox to the house, or deals with more than one phase, then I dig out the credit card and call a sparky.

  18. batfink Silver badge

    Steps for working with electricity in the home

    Step 1: Turn off the power on that circuit

    Step 2: Check that the power to that circuit is actually off (plug something into it, try to switch the light on etc)

    Step 3: Treat the bloody wires as if they're live anyway as you're working

    Yes, have been burnt (literally) at Step 3. Some (other) Rank Amateur had done the wiring in the attic and got it wrong.

    Well, TBF I assume it was a Rank Amateur. For all I know, it may have been a Highly Qualified Professional.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

      One of my earlier DIY disasters went like this:

      I was fitting a coat hanger to the entrance wall. I measured everything carefully, marked the holes. Double checked they were level then got my drill ready. Luckily there was a power socket in the hall conveniently close to where I wanted to put the hanger. So I drilled the first hole. It wasn't easy because this was a 1970s terrace and had concrete walls. None of yer modern plasterboard+cardboard rubbish. Then I moved onto the second hole. Started drilling and there was a bang and the drill stopped. Then I realised that the conveniently placed power socket was right below where the second hole needed to be drilled.

      It took me two hours (!) to chip out enough concrete to expose enough of the wires to clean the mess up to allow me to replace the fuse in the consumer unit. Two weeks later it took my Dad a day (!!) to chip out enough of the wall to allow him to insert a junction box and repair the wiring. I sold that house 20 years ago and no doubt by now someone has unscrewed the front plate of that box and been puzzled as to why it was there..

      1. druck Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

        Check for sockets and pipework on both sides of the wall, in a line vertically or horizontally for where you want to drill, as that is how they tend to run. Although at some point I fully expect to find some diagonal wiring/pipework that someone thought was a good idea.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

      Remember the old Trade Test film: SIDE

      Switch off

      Isolate

      Discharge

      Earth

      That last step was good for detecting when the first two hadn't worked as you expected...

    3. Jon 37

      Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

      No, that's dangerous. The right approach is:

      Step 0: Turn on the light or plug a lamp into the socket you're changing, and check it comes on.

      Step 0.5: Check your electrician's screwdriver works (light comes on when you touch it to something live).

      Step 1: Turn off the power to that circuit.

      Step 2: Check that the light actually went off.

      Step 2.5: When you open a case, check with your electrician's screwdriver that nothing's live.

      Step 3: As far as possible, treat the bloody wires as if they're live anyway as you're working

      That way, problems such as "the neutral is missing" or "the bulb blew" get spotted at step 0, so you know there's no way to reliably check if power is off. And problems where "the breakers are labelled wrong" get spotted by step 2. If you have a combination of those errors, and you skipped step 0, you won't realise the power is still on.

      1. whitepines Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

        Years of working with high voltage systems (not 'yer wimpy 240V) have taught me the final lesson:

        After you think it's off, you think any capacitors are discharged, you think there is no way the wires are still live -- Earth them. All of them. Better a pretty blue flash than pretty blue flashing lights...

        Icon 'cause somehow a skeleton seems appropriate here.

      2. stiine Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

        Also, as someone who once grounded a flyback transformer with his forearm -- always work with your left hand in your back pants pocket and under no circumstances remove it.

        1. Kevin Johnston

          Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

          Did my apprenticeship in Radar and while on systems test I was working on a chassis with a CRT. Got past this bit where I was checking the various voltages (including the HT) and at the next section I was wondering why my elbow was tingling, could be I was leaning on the HT cap which very very fortunately was low current

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

        I also like to test the all important light-up screwdriver if I can, before I trust it on an actual test of a wire.

        But then paranoia is definitely your friend when dealing with stuff that can actually kill you.

        1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

          Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

          I don't recall seeing any professional electrician using a "light up screwdriver".

          I am told that a good quality "wand" is far more accurate for detecting live wires.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

            Light up screwdrivers can be lethal; they've been banned everywhere I worked in the last thirty years. Too easy for a bad build to short those wires on the neon past the 'safety' resistor.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

              Light up screwdrivers can be lethal; they've been banned everywhere I worked in the last thirty years.

              Workplace rules, I take it?

              I've got two made by PB Swiss and VDE certified. With those I can't see a way for the limiting resistor to get bypassed by the leads on the neon bulb, but it's certainly possible with those hardware chain store cheapies. There are also the annoyingly similar low-voltage ones for use with car electrics. Those are fitted with a filament bulb, a pigtail ground lead and no limiting resistor at all (whose value would be too low to do anything regarding human bodies and mains voltage)

      4. handle handle

        Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

        Step 2.1:. Restore power and verify light comes back on. Now you know your test equip (light bulb) is functioning properly.

        Step 2.2:. Turn off power.

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

      Been there. Turned off mains. Took cover off light switch in hall. Touched it with a tester. Still live.

      Turned out previous owner had installed his mother in upstairs flat and connected the light above the stairs of her flat to the switch downstairs. In what subsequently became my flat. But he forgot to revert it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Steps for working with electricity in the home

        After making sure I've isolated the wiring I *always* use a multi-meter to test.

  19. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    only because he had some ladders!

    I see we've hired the same guy!

    Give me Buttle, I mean Tuttle any day!

  20. tiggity Silver badge

    Its phenomenal to see how quickly (and importantly how well) an expert tiler can do the job.

    Pick one who is a real specialist & only does tiling (i.e. not a mix of other plumbing / building work)

    Unless you regard your free time as essentially worthless, worth paying the pro tiler and saving yourself many hours of grief & you get a better result than you would have managed

    Some DIY jobs are time / cost effective & have no safety / certification issues, but most do not (agree on insurance hassles - we get electricians to install new ("wired in") lighting just so it can be certified & insurance happy as doing lighting yourself and then paying electrician to certify the install not worth it as certification cost almost as much as whole cost if sparky does the whole job them self.

    1. whitepines Silver badge
      Unhappy

      as doing lighting yourself and then paying electrician to certify the install not worth it as certification cost almost as much as whole cost if sparky does the whole job them self.

      Not if the install is completely bodged and other items anywhere close to the new wiring damaged by careless contractors. We just had one in our building, *smoking* in the doorway while putting up (bodged) exterior lighting with the door open -- that was popular with the non-smoking staff, to say the least.

  21. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    All we know is hate and machinery

    Motto of The Hammerites.

  22. Stork Silver badge

    Did you ask the electrician?

    He seemed clued up, and if it was not him for the panels, he would know who.

    We are blessed with a great electrician/TV guy. He comes Saturday if guests can't watch that championship game...

    If we could get a plumber who was worth having we would be happy; we are on number eight in eleven years and we are singing the U2 song about not finding what we are looking for.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We were having a "knock through" undone ( not sure who thinks a lounge/diner is a good idea ) and after half an hour or so the builder came to suggest that we might like him to replace the noticeably bowed wooden plank currently supporting the wall/ceiling/floor above the gap with something a little more substantial.

  24. SonofRojBlake

    I was a disappointment to my ex's father

    I moved into her house, and insisted on having a shower installed (she had only a bath). I paid. This also required the bathroom to be tiled more extensively, for which I also paid - fair enough, I wanted the shower. Her dad said "why didn't you do it yourself". My response ("I didn't do a degree in chemical engineering so that I could tile my own bathroom") did not impress him.

  25. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

    "Me, I tried wallpapering a room once and it ended up looking like bubblewrap."

    I'm flabbergasted that I have got this far down the comments and no one has mentioned that bubblewrap was designed to be wallpaper! https://www.thepackagingcompany.us/knowledge-sharing/bubble-wrap-short-history/

  26. Aussie Doc
    Flame

    In my part of Outback Oz all the tradies are certified.

    But only by mental health professionals!!!

    Some of the obvious risks they put themselves at scare the bejeebus out of me.

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