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HANDY MAC: Be safe, not sorry

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Homes and buildings where work is underway are more vulnerable to fires and damage

We have just seen what happened when Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire. The cause is still being investigated, but buildings being altered or repaired are always at a bigger risk of fire and damage than those that are not.

When looking at things to take note of when work is being done at your home, begin by putting the right insurance in place. Inform your insurance company or broker that you are having work done at your home, however small the job might be. Some polices do not cover certain events if you are having work done.

Having checked your own, make sure your contractor has adequate insurance in place in case anything goes wrong during the work. It is something we seldom think about, but I see an awful lot of fires and damage caused by negligent contractors.

Having checked the correct insurance is in place, there is no harm in keeping a careful eye on proceedings. For instance, has all structural work, especially anything involving demolitions, been signed off by a qualified engineer? Are your plumber and electrician licensed?

If there is any work being undertaken that involves heat or a naked flame, such as torch-on waterproofing, ensure the contractor has a fire extinguisher next to the work area and that it has a stamp saying it has been serviced and is in working order. You also need to make sure it is the correct type of extinguisher for the work being undertaken.

Q and A

The following question has come in via SMS:

Q: I have two wooden display units. They have lost their shine and they are dull in colour. A yellow powder falls from parts of the wood. What can I use or do to restore these wooden items? They are Indian wood pieces with designs on them.

A: The fact that yellow powder is being seen worries me. It is almost certainly a sign the units have boring beetles in them. If you see white, non-clumpy powder on or near wood, the infestation is probably active.

However, yellow clumpy powder can be a sign of an old infestation, as are emergence holes in the wood. Before even thinking about restoring the furniture, the units should be placed in quarantine to ensure other items are not affected, and then treated for beetle.

If you suspect furniture has wood-boring beetles in it, put it in quarantine to stop spreading. Picture: Supplied

As you will see if you Google how to kill wood borers, there are many ways to do this, some easier than others. For restoration, once you have eliminated the beetles, you can try the following: 

  • Mix together equal parts turpentine, lemon oil and white vinegar. You can determine the total amount you need to mix based on the size of the furniture you wish to treat.
  • Stir the solution well with a spoon to combine the ingredients.
  • Dip a sponge into the solution, squeeze out the excess and apply a coat to a small section of the stained wood.
  • Rub the solution in thoroughly, focusing on a specific area. After about 30 seconds of massaging the solution into the finish, use a soft cloth to wipe and buff the area dry. 
  • After you’ve treated and dried the entire piece, you can apply a coat of furniture polish. Follow the specific directions on the can you’re using.

Tip of the week
Fancy doing a bit of DIY?

Dipping scissors in boiling water can make cutting fabric easier. Picture: Supplied

Here are top tips:

1 Should you paint the walls or lay the new floor first? The consensus seems to be to paint the walls first to avoid possible spills on the new floor covering.

2 If you are going to be using the same paint brush for more work the following day, don’t waste your time washing or cleaning it, simply wrap it tightly in cling wrap and it will stay moist.

3 Don’t forget talcum powder is great for stopping squeaky hinges or floor boards – sprinkle it on, then brush in.

4 Use baby oil to clean your hands after painting.

5 If you are using a strongsmelling paint add a few drops of vanilla essence to the paint. 

6 Mrs Mac and I spent a fair amount of money on a special “underfelt” to put beneath our rugs to prevent slipping, but I have discovered double-sided tape will do the same job.

7 If you dip scissors in boiling water it will make cutting fabric a lot easier.

8 To catch paint spills when painting out of a can, glue a paper plate to the bottom of the can.

9 Strong coffee or shoe polish are perfect for covering up a raw scratch on a piece of dark wood furniture

10 If you want to make sure your screws never come undone when hanging something new add a drop of clear nail varnish to the hole just before you finish tightening.

11 To make nails enter wood smoothly, rub the tips with a little soap before hammering in.

12 Above all else, know when it’s time to call in the professionals. Otherwise you might waste a lot of time, effort and money trying to tackle something you simply won’t be able to master.

*If you have a question for Don, please send it to or SMS only to 0824463859.


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