Please note that these are not urban myths, I worked with one and am related to the other person these things happened to.
The overflow pipe that did.
A former colleague of mine discovered a potential disaster caused by an affliction suffered by some Dublin area plumbers. His toilet cistern design has a hole in the side near the top and a copper pipe emerges from this and disappears into the floor where it joins the main drain. Should the cistern begin to overfill, this pipe carrys the water out of harms way. Well that's the theory.
Presumably in order to save money, the plumber (or person or persons unknown) had simply sealed the pipe under the floorboards. No doubt they hoped that if it was ever discovered, they would be long gone. Any overflow would now simply fill this pipe and then begin pouring out of the top of the cistern.
My careful friend had checked his toilets to ensure that the overflow worked and discovered the problem. Some threats to the builder involving the mention of several popular TV and radio consumer affairs shows resulted in a far more expensive system being installed. This was one of the newer systems where the overflow discharges into the toilet bowl.
What to do: Like my friend, check your cisterns for overflow by taking the lid off the cistern and pushing the ballcock under water. The water level will rise and the cistern will start filling. Now one of four things will happen.
(1) As the water rises, the cistern will begin discharging into the bowl. Congratulations, you own an up to date, working toilet.
(2) The water will reach the level of the overflow pipe and will stop rising. A strategically placed comrade reports water flowing into the drain. Congratulations, you have a working overflow.
(3) The water reaches the level of the pipe, holds for a few seconds and starts rising again. Hard luck you have the problem described above. Have frank exchange of views with the builder / plumber.
(4) The water will reach the level of the overflow pipe and will stop rising. A strategically placed comrade reports NO water flowing into the drain. The overflow is filling your ceiling space with water. The plumber did not seal the redundant pipe. Have a calm, measured conversation with your solicitor.
The shower that didn't.
No construction people to blame this time. A relative of mine purchased a second hand house and had it properly inspected by a surveyor or engineer before taking possession. It was a four bedroom bungalow with a main bathroom and en-suite off the master bed.
On his first morning in the new house he rose anticipating the pleasure of having a shower without having to go into the hall or fight for the bathroom with his wife and three daughters.
After several seconds of twiddling the taps without producing one drop of water, he gave up, called his favourite plumber and went to work. He spoke to the plumber later that day to discover that the en-suite shower was (and I quote) "an ornament". In other words the taps and shower head were simply glued to the wall with no connection anywhere to plumbing.
What to do: Remember that surveyors / engineers do not do things like switch on lights and turn on taps. They are concerned about the structure of the building. My relative had turned on taps to check water pressure etc. but had not touched the shower.
This was resolved due to the fact that the house was advertised as having an en-suite with shower. Solicitors letters flew between auctioneer, buyers and sellers. The sellers had to reimburse a portion of the house price.
My friend from the first story was assisting his brother (I think) in the installation of a shower mixer unit in the main bathroom. It was only when they had broken into the wall that they discovered that rather than the usual 4 or 5 inches, the wall was only two inches thick, exactly the depth of the mixer unit.
They believe that the builder had done this in order to maximise the floor area of the bathroom. The only solution was to cut a hole in the plaster board at the back of the wall into the bedroom beyond. The mixer unit was then installed and luckily the back of it finished flush with the wall in the bedroom. They then had to paper over the hole.
Needless to say, bathroom noises can be heard very clearly in that bedroom.
What to do: Nothing really, except check the wall before you do a job like that above. Unless the builder has actually compromised the structure of the building, no harm is done.
The Modern Archelogical Find.
A friend and former colleague was digging a hole for a shrub against the back wall of his garden. While digging he encountered a plank about a foot wide and six feet long buried under his soil. When he had excavated enough soil to remove it (big job). he discovered that there was a void beneath it and it was standing on several concrete blocks that were laid flat. He speculated that it must have been a platform that the builders had used to stand on while constructing the back wall. The plank would have eventually rotted and the resulting mini cave in would probably have done for the expensive shrubs. Builders in Ireland are reknowned for taking a simplistic approach to garden preparation "flatten the rubbish and lay topsoil on top". This seemed to be a particularly bad example.
Well that's it. Hope our experiences were some help. Add an entry to the guestbook if you have any comments.