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HANDY MAC: Avoid (d)rain disaster

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Keep up your maintenance and don’t be caught short by water creating leaks and blockages

Wow did it rain in Cape Town last weekend. I can’t remember when I last saw rain fall continuously like it did, hour after hour. The dams will be replenished but I expect 90% of the water will have been lost.

So, how many of you were caught out, having decided that you would leave the repair of that little leak that appeared at the end of winter until just before next winter? (By which time it would be much worse.) I think we were lucky the wind was not as strong as it could have been or the city would have had a lot more damage.

I have a client who ended up with a flooded bedroom, not because anything leaked, but because the drain on the stoep outside the room had not been cleaned out and was blocked by leaves.

This meant the balcony flooded and overflowed through the sliding doors into the bedroom. We should all check that our drainage points are clear of debris, and that water is flowing away freely, on a monthly basis. Weather patterns are clearly changing and it does not rain only in winter, so stay on top of your maintenance.

Q and A

Often it is better to have only one contractor to complete all your renovations. Picture: Supplied

Priya is renovating her flat:

Q:I have begun renovating my flat and this has been the most challenging chapter in my life in a while. I have seen numerous contractors – interested and uninterested – in the past six months.

The biggest change to my flat is to make it open plan. I have obtained permission from the body corporate, but finding someone with the skills to execute the task is proving a nightmare.

I have acquired the plans from the engineer, but cannot secure a knowledgeable contractor to install the I-beam as per the engineer’s drawings. I seem to get only contractors with differing opinions. Please can you assist me with recommendations.

A: Priya is in Durban, so I can’t pop in to give her a hand, but can offer a few tips. In general, contractors are a little nervous to work in flats because one is continually faced with restrictions from the body corporate around working hours, noise and use of lifts.

Also, if you are looking for a contractor to do just the beam you won’t get many takers. There is not a lot of money to be made in a couple of days of installing a beam and it can take longer than planned.

Please send me the plan so I can get a better idea. If you have had a plan drawn up by an engineer, I cannot understand why no one wants to tackle the job. 

You could ask the engineer to draw up a method statement explaining how the builder should undertake the work in stages. Contact the KwaZulu-Natal Master Builders Association at 031 266 7070 and ask them for recommendations. I would also look at approaching contractors to do the entire renovation for you. This means you don’t end up having to co-ordinate all the different trades that will be involved.

Begin by making a list of everything you intend doing so when you see the contractors they understand you know what you want and then I am sure you will get a better response. Nothing puts a builder off more than a potential client who appears not to know what they really want.


Bob fixes up old appliances. Picture: Felipe Belluco

It is always great to receive thank yous for the advice I offer and there were a couple of really nice ones this week.

Hopefully, Bob has made a few new friends – I have had two inquiries for his phone number following his admission that his passion is for restoring outdated appliances, such as video machines and wireless sets.

I have a mental picture of him down in his amazing basement, hunched over some old resistors and valves, bringing a tired machine back to life.

Tip of the week

Handy Mac’s ‘Prototype A’ shopping bag. Picture: Supplied

If there is one thing I really love doing it’s going shopping – but I hate carrier bags.

Mrs Mac and I have diligently stopped using plastic but even the new eco-friendly bags don’t hold their shape and, unless you pack everything carefully, you always end up getting something squashed – usually the bread – or the wine topples over and damages something else.

I was taking a load of paperwork to a site the other day and put it all in an empty cardboard box, which reams of printing paper came in, but without the tops these boxes are flimsy and not easy to carry.

I had an empty eco-bag in my office and the box fit snugly in the bag. I am proud to show you a world first – my semirigid shopping bag, Handy Mac Prototype A.

Mrs Mac says it is too bulky and, of course, she is right, so I will need to get my head around a solid interior that can be collapsed until it needs to be used. I wonder if my old friend Bob has any ideas?


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