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HANDY MAC: Backs to the wall

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Handy Mac has to think out of the (tool) box when repairing a washing machine and hanging pictures

A late start to writing the column today – spring has sprung and Mrs Mac is out of the starting blocks, despite a painful minor op. So, I have had a morning with my tools with a washing machine to repair and pictures to hang.

Our top-loader washing machine had stopped rotating, so I dismantled it and found that the cogs which lock into the spindle had finally worn away. Mrs Mac had collected some spare parts and we are back up-and-running. It was the first problem with the machine in 27 years. I mention it because I had to think out of the box.

Putting it back together, I had to hold one part upside down and pull another part of the way up without the cogs falling out. I was really battling until I remembered one of those quirky presents Mrs Mac bought me back in the day when we were into antiques. I finally found a use for a button hook.

The picture hanging posed another type of problem. The new pictures were easy. They are newly-framed psychedelic posters bought in Amsterdam last year, another addition to the iconic bathroom (our strange hobby). However, three other pictures then had to be rehung.

When we returned to Cape Town, we had all our art professionally hung, so changes are not easy. I hate leaving holes or nails visible in walls but, with a little thought, I managed to use the existing wall nails by moving the fittings on the frames and adjusting the string lengths. I wish other people would pay a little bit more attention to looking after their properties. Yes, our dams might be at 80% full, but that does not mean we must give up on saving water.

I am sure that, like Mrs Mac and I, most of you are still saving and keeping your bills down, which meant I was really annoyed the other day when I saw water running away from a leaking pipe in an upmarket shopping centre. Just an appeal to everyone – summer is coming, so let’s remember what it was like without water and keep saving.

Q and A

Heavy rains cause problems with reader’s veranda. Picture: Sourabh yadav/Pixabay

Suki has a roofing problem.

Q: I have a home with a front veranda. However, there are leaks. When there is a heavy downpour, the ceiling in the passage and at the entrance from the veranda leak. The water runs down the valley of the roof. To the right is a private lounge. The leak runs through to the lounge. I am busy improving my home, but need to remedy this first. Please advise on this.

A: Obviously, you are not going to get up on to the roof yourself, so you should call in a repair crew. Send me your address, so I can have a look on Google. Valleys are something that often get overlooked on roofs; like gutters they need to be regularly cleaned. Because they tend to be hidden, a leak is often caused by water overflowing on the edges of the valley because of blockages.

Depending on roofing and valley lining types, they can be repaired, but it must be done properly by inserting a sleeve. Simply sticking something over a hole is just going to cause further problems. Please remember, on any roofing repair never do anything that is going to impede the flow of water.

Vishnu wants to see clearly in the shower:

Q: The glass on my shower cubicle has hard water stains which are proving very hard to remove. I have tried various products and nothing seems to work. I have also tried suggestions from YouTube. Home concoctions like lemon juice and bicarb also do not work.

A: Every article I have looked at includes lemon or lime juice, baking soda and vinegar, which you don’t mention. Try this: Cover the whole area with lemon or lime juice; wipe the door with one you have cut in half. Warm some vinegar, the hotter the better. Wear rubber gloves. Dip a microfibre cloth or sponge into the vinegar and wipe down the door. Leave on the stains for 30 minutes. Rinse the sponge or cloth, wring it out and sprinkle it with a generous amount of baking soda. Scrub the door gently with it. Rinse off the door with bottled water. Repeat the baking soda scrub and rinse until all the limescale is gone.

Tip of the week

Essential tools for home work. Picture: Supplied

Following on from last week, here are the next three tools:


Used for loosening and removing nuts or bolts and for working on appliances that have threads. Your first purchase should be a shifting spanner, also known as an adjustable wrench or crescent wrench.

Socket set

Also used for removing nuts and bolts. Few of us get stuck into our car or other engines, but I do believe that it is a good idea to have a socket wrench. Its ratcheting mechanism allows one to tighten or loosen a nut without having to remove and refit the spanner after every turn.


Usually associated with electrical work. The three I use most are my long-nose, or needle-nose pliers which are good for any household project which requires you to cut, bend, grip or strip wire. To these add a pair of lineman, or combination, pliers. Finally, get a pair of side cutters, otherwise known as diagonal pliers.


A while ago I wrote about the NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council). Margaret has sent a follow-up question: Q: I plan to build a granny flat on my property. Is it required that the building contractor must be a member of NHBRC for granny flats? If so, where do I source this requirement so that I can discuss it with proposed contractor?

A: The NHBRC often shift the goalposts when it comes to solving a homeowner’s problems. To the best of my knowledge, an addition does not need to be registered with the NHBRC. However, if you are approaching your bank for a new bond to pay for the addition, they may insist that the addition is registered with and completed by a builder who is NHBRC registered.

*Please keep your questions or comments coming to or WhatsApp or SMS only to 082 446 3859


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