I have a (new) Client whose house completely lacks water butts... there are a couple of them floating around loose behind the shed, and diverters on the down pipes, but nothing is connected. Shocking! Don't they know that rainwater is free?? And nicer for the plants than nasty chlorinated old tap water? (which is still better than letting them die of drought, of course.)
So I asked if their handyman could re-install them.
Normally I would just do the job myself, but in this case I have quite enough on my plate to get the (large) garden under control with just one morning a week in which to do it... so I thought I'd ask the owners if their handyman - who did a very average job on painting some metal gates - would kindly re-fit them.
This is what I found:
Let's start with what it's standing on. Instead of the usual green plastic base (which I left handily next to it, ready for use) he used a concrete slab - less than elegant, but I could let that pass if the butt were sitting centrally on the slab.
As you can see, it is not.
Secondly, can you see that wooden construction just immediately behind the butt? That's the pump cupboard, it needs to be accessed a couple of times a year, or more if there is a problem. The front panel is screwed on - it would be interesting to watch the pump engineer trying to squeeze his way in....
Thirdly, there is the matter of the wet patch underneath it. Is it leaking? Is that why it was disconnected in the first place?
Closer inspection reveals this unbelieveable bodge job:
Now, call me old fashioned, but I don't like to have water dripping onto plywood - it tends to delaminate and then fall apart. This would mean having to have a new cover built, which is an unnecessary expense, not to mention the general annoyance of having a permanent damp patch, moss growth, slipperyness of surrounding patio slabs, unsightliness of the damp patch, risk of dampness damaging the underlying patio, risk of constant dampness damaging the foundations, etc etc. You get the picture.
As you can see - right - the water butt is filled right up to the very lid!
Now, in case you are not totally familiar with the workings of rainwater diverters in down-pipes, this is the principle:
Water runs down the inside of the down-pipe, into a box (the diverter) which fills up, then the water tips over inot the inlet pipe. This pipe runs into the water butt and fills it. When the water butt is full, and the water reaches the level of the inlet pipe, it runs back up the pipe, back into the diverter box, and overflows back down the down-pipe. This is a little similar to the principle of a ball-cock in your cistern - for as long as the cistern is not full, the valve is open and more water trickles in. When the cistern is full, the valve shuts off and no more water enters.
Water butts diverters don't have valves - instead, they have to be installed at exactly the right height so that gravity can do all the work. As you can see from the water sheeting out of the top of this butt, the handyman has installed the butt way too low.
Yes, Fail Number Six, the tap is so low that you can't get the watering can underneath it.
And you can also see how far off-centre the whole wretched thing is, as well!
This sort of thing really makes me spit - how can any workman do such a bad job, and still sleep at night? And how can any so-called "handyman" be unaware of the basics of water butt installation? I would have thought that any handyman would have seen a dozen water butts in his first year, and this chap is an old boy, so I really think he should know better.
So what did I do? What could I do - I immediately de-installed the water butt: I pulled off the connector, removed the inlet pipe altogether, and blocked the hole in the diverter. Any small amount of water that drips out of the blocked hole will run harmlessly down the outside of the down-pipe and into the drain.
This meant it was "safe" while I gradually emptied the water butt so that it could then be properly re-installed, under my eagle eye. And next time, I will darn well do it myself!