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Mysteries of the Irish house


Taps (faucets)

The taps in the bathroom are separate, hot on left, cold on the right. Warm water is difficult. It would be easy to send them through the same tap. They do that in the kitchen. Why not in the bathroom?

There used to be a reason for this type of arrangement, because it prevented backflow from the hot-water apparatus into the municipal pipes. This is not necessary with modern plumbing hardware.

Some defend this kind of outfitting with a "why-don't-you-just" logic, which presumes that if you can make it work it's as good as it needs to be. Fill the sink, they say, if you need warm water. Of course, that implies the need to keep the bowl of the sink abnormally clean — an extra amount of work* (if you even still have the plug.)

And, yes, if you normally wash your hands after using the toilet, the sink becomes quickly too soiled to use as a washing/shaving basin.

I did a bit of work in Irish houses for several years, while people were still building. In the normal modern residence, (as of 2011,) the taps in the bathroom are still separated cold and hot, even though the kitchen fittings mix the two inputs.

The practice of installing such fixtures is illogical and apparently based only upon tradition.


Light-switches

• The lightswitches are "on" when the button is pressed bottom-side in.

• If a set of two light-switches are placed on a panel outside a room, the switch furthest from the room usually works for that room's light.

• A lightswitch outside of a bathroom seems like a bad idea. Sure, it's easier — for everybody, including the mischievous.


Doors

• Door handles are rather sharp levers, which can easily stick into the pocket of a hoodie or catch in one's folded cuff. They look good, and they open a door with an easy downstroke. But they are hazardous to clothing.

• Internal doors are still built with skeleton-key locks.


The American-Irish comedian Des Bishop did a bit about the immersion, in which he theatricalized the anxiety of leaving the device turned on.

However dire the consequences, this worry is deeply ingrained in the Irish psyche, and the Bishop routine is famous in Ireland. It's a cliche, really, a worn-out cultural touchstone. It's probably also the reason most people visit this page.

Shower

It seems that few Irish houses have a good shower. Of the older houses, none were fitted with anything like a normal water heater. The Irish counterpart is the old "immersion," and these are common. An immersion is an electric water heater without thermostat. You have to switch it on a before you use it — and remember to turn it off afterwards. One common alternative is the wall-mounted electric on-demand unit. It's loud, sometimes hard to adjust, and often fluctuates in temperature.


Skirting (baseboards)

The skirting* at the base of a wall in the Irish house is normally applied as part of the general construction before the flooring surface is placed.

In some cultures, a principal function of skirting is to close the little gap where the flooring doesn't reach the wall. A great craftsman can trim the flooring material so that the difference is negligible — but nobody can prevent it.

In most new Irish houses, the skirting is installed flat upon the concrete base-floor — apparently just because there's supposed to be skirting along the bottom of the wall. Then comes the flooring, and the gap that the skirting (baseboard) is supposed to cover.

Now there are two options. You can live with the uneven gap between the skirting and flooring (and slowly fill it with dust and other crap) or you can place another molded wooden strip along the edge. This wooden strip, or "beading," performs the function for which in other cultures the skirting is intended.


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* I've only ever lived with one Irish man who did housework. He turned out to be a prick. I've liked every other one of my Irish housemates — but the men generally do not do housework.

  ↑ Return to "extra work" ...


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* A "skirtin' ladder" is one of the implements in an array of made-up devices used in the harrassment of naive workers on an Irish construction site.

The purpose of the game is to get somebody to go request an item with a name that sounds plausible but that is ridiculous once you know that it's a joke — and, preferably, an "item" that the supervisor or toolshed attendant will recognize as a prank.

The skirtin' ladder, a bucket of steam, a "long stand" ...

  • Return to "skirting" ...