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Tuesday 30th August 2016
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The price of spending a penny.

Posted by Nick Abbot on July 30, 2014 at 18:10PM


I am having building work done. Building work costs £83 million, regardless of what it is that is being built. In my case, it is more that things are being un-built: doors coming off, walls knocked down, that sort of thing.

Having something un-built costs the same as having something built. To calculate the precise amount that a building project will cost, you simply pluck a large number out of the air and multiply it by your birth date and then add whatever amount you could possibly borrow if your life, and the lives of everyone you know, depended on it.

To save costs, I have given up doing anything for the rest of my life and am sourcing the materials myself. This involves spending every waking hour pouring over catalogues that weigh about the same as Waterloo station. The endless possibilities for the bathrooms alone are enough to stupefy the most ardent shopper.

In order to make life extra specially difficult for the amateur, nothing that these catalogues advertise come with the things that make them work. For instance, if you would like a toilet in your home, you must select one of the sixty-three thousand pans that all look exactly the same but are somehow different. The charge for such a seemingly banal item will be about a week's wages.

However, it does not end there because toilets do not come with seats. They are extra. They are £100 extra, if you can believe that. They also do not come with cisterns. When you buy a cistern, it will not come with the button that makes the water flush out and the whole thing will need a scaffold to go in the wall to hold the thing up. That's extra too. Without exaggeration, it is rather hard to get a fully functioning, wall hung, non prison issue toilet for less than £600. There's nothing bog standard about that.

If you want a sink to go with your shiny new loo, you simply select the one you want and sit back and enjoy a job well done. Just kidding, you will also need a tap, which is not included, despite most sinks being useless without one.

Still, that's the last thing you will need...apart from a waste – the thing that stops the water from draining out, and a trap to stop the smell from coming in. At no time does any retailer tell you all this. They simply assume you are an expert, or they just enjoy the looks on people's faces when they find out that whatever they thought something would cost is about half what the final bill will be. It appears to be a trade secret that nothing you buy comes fully functioning and will need 63 other things that you must also buy in order to make it work.

And they will not include VAT. Absolutely nothing that you buy concerning building is priced including VAT. This is because the building trade is embarrassed that everything costs so blooming much, that they leave out the tax to make it appear not quite so extortionate.

Of the work itself, nothing at all will go smothly. Imagine everything that can go wrong, and then despair because your imagination is not even remotely up to the task. Tolkien did not have a sufficient imagination. There will be rot and several types of damp, some of it rising. There will be listing and sagging and things that need underpinning. The house that you bought thinking it was a beacon of solidity will be found to be as stable and well made as the estate agent's sign that drew you to it in the first place. And nothing gets done without creating a bit of a mess.

If you are having walls taken down and wires chased in, there will be some dust. And by “some dust” I mean approximately the amount that exists in the Sahara. It is the type of dust that gets into and on everything you have ever owned and some of the things you have not even bought yet. It is the type of dust that seems impervious to washing. In ten years time I expect to still be shaking the stuff out of my hair and vestments. But at least I will have at least one sink and one toilet to enjoy in my new home. I just won't have any money to buy food to cook in my refurbished kitchen. I think I shall develop a taste for building detritus, of which there is an abundance. How does rubble in a dust sauce sound?