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In the past week Don MacAlister visited three people who contacted him through the column.

Hans wants to buy a house and asked me to look at the cracks. 

I did so and advised him to consult an engineer, which he has since done. During my visit I bumped into friends from HouseCheck, and I want to remind you that you should always have your prospective new home checked by a professional inspector before purchasing.

This is over and above your normal beetle, electrical and plumbing certificates. A deep and thorough inspection of what you are buying from the roof downwards is needed. 
Eventually it will become law here. In the US, Canada, UK and Australia a sale will not go through unless the home has been certified. 

Have a look at the website Readers in the Joburg area can call Steve Jones on 060 343 3817 or see

It is important to take the emotion out of buying a property. We fall in love with a house and may be blind to its shortcomings.

Vanessa wants to do some alterations and is not sure if she needs plans. 

I had a look at what is involved and have supplied the name of an architect. She also wants to enclose a balcony and the comments from a range of contractors who specialise in this go from, “Oh, you don’t need a plan” to “Yes we can do the plan for you. It will cost about R10 000”.

When planning an alteration, please make sure you use the correct professionals for the different phases to ensure you are not paying too much.

Peta contacted me a while ago about a leaking roof. 

When I popped in to have a look I was horrified to find that someone had advised her to paint over her fibre-cement roof tiles with eco-rubber.
Then, when she had other roofing contractors around to quote again because solution one had not worked, none of them actually got inside the roof to inspect where the water was entering. Instead they assumed they knew what the problem was and quoted on an assumption.
Yes, some roofing problems are obvious from the outside, but any roofing expert who does not take the trouble to look inside the roof space is going to give you a quote that will be hit and miss. 
When an estimator comes to your home, insist they do a thorough investigation of the roof, inside and out.

Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:
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