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The Writing Is On The Wall

When carrying out any renovation work, it is wise, and often obligatory, to inform the necessary authorities.

A building control inspector attended a house being renovated. An inspector called – sounds like the title to a play, to check the work to date.  A new, non-load-bearing wall, of little consequence, had just been constructed.

A range of specialist plaster boards is available: fire-resistant plaster-board, coloured pink; water-resistant plaster-board, coloured green; and ordinary plaster-board coloured Beige. Most builders at that time would have used ordinary cheaper plasterboard. Today it is important to consider sound transmission between rooms. Having learned of a then new, albeit more expensive, high-density sound-resistant plaster-board, coloured blue, called ‘Soundblock’, we affixed this more effective and expensive stuff, voluntarily.  Laudible?  No just laughable…

The local builder’s merchants had never stocked Soundblock, until our innovative order. Available only in thicknesses exceeding 12.5mm the additional density is the equivalent of double the thickness of ordinary board. The inspector measured the board and telephoned stating that an additional layer was required since it was only 9mm and not the 12.5mm thickness prescribed. It was explained to the inspector that there must be some mistake, since this material is not actually available in less than 12.5mm thick. The inspector insisted he had just measured it and assured me that it was only 9mm. Having previously suffered hot and cold dealings with this tempestuous inspector it was important not to ignite his relatively short fuse. Respectfully, it was stated, as one traversing a mine-field, that the builder’s merchant would be asked to confirm the thickness of the board delivered. Having troubled the merchant to needlessly rake over their records they eventually responded with what everyone but the inspector knew – the board was 12.5mm and it was not available in only 9mm.  Sorted!? Eh… No!

The inspector was telephoned echoing this affirmation. The inspector said – you guessed …No no no! The more the protestation; the more belligerent the inspector became, refusing to hear any explanation, he blurted rhetorically, “Are you trying to tell me how to do my Job?” Recognising this indignant and desperate demand as the precursor to an explosion, a subservient reply stated, “I would never do such a thing”. The inspector was advised the builder would re-measure the thickness of the board – frankly knowing the outcome.

“Do me a favour”, the builder was asked, stop what you are doing and go and measure the thickness of the plaster-board in question. “I don’t need to measure it”, protested the builder “it’s 12.5 mm.” Groans and eye-rolls followed… “You know that – and I know that, but we need to persuade the building inspector.” The builder was now beside himself with frustration, “I am telling you… it is 12.5mm”, he insisted. Having already spent longer arguing, than it would have taken to add the additional layer demanded, we were reduced to begging the builder, “Humour me – please… just measure the wall-board, will you?”

“I don’t need to measure it”, laughed the builder, assuredly. “It’s written all over the ‘bleep’ wall – 12.5mm!”

The wall board had not yet been plastered and the thickness of the board was manufactured with the thickness, written in ink, repeatedly, like wallpaper, in huge bold type, on each and every board, face outward, obviating the need to measure anything. It transpired the inspector had ignored the “writing on the wall” and measured the tapered edge thickness designed to hide any joint-tape under the plaster skim. A well deserved schadenfreude moment followed: telephoning the inspector, in such a way as to spoon-feed the least consumption of humble-pie (actually it was tempting to force-feed a double portion) without betraying a massive involuntary seraphic-grin connecting both ears!