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HANDY MAC: Best for your budget

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When making home improvements yourself, ensure intended savings don’t turn into massive unforeseen expenses

Before jumping into a home improvement
project, ask yourself these questions:

How much will this cost, and how much
value will this add to my home? For those answers, you
will need to talk to a contractor regarding costs, and an
estate agent to find out if it is worthwhile forking out a
huge sum of money to upgrade your home if you won’t
get it back on resale.


During a renovation you will be inconvenienced. There is no way around this. Consider how
you will manage without the facilities in the room being
renovated, the time of year and how uncomfortable
you may be during construction. Consider moving
out during renovation if you can. If not, plan ahead to
ensure the discomfort is minimal.


During the planning, interview many
contractors and ask for costs. Check out their communication style. Does it work well with your communication
style, or will you find yourself getting irritated by it? If
so, maybe this contractor is not for you. Also ask about
insurance and get as many references as you can. Most
importantly: Ensure all contractors are accredited.


If you have your home’s original plans, plus
plans that include home improvements and additions
over the years, offer them to the contractor. This can
really simplify the job.


Before starting any work that will
impact your finances, ensure you have a contract in


Ask for itemised billing as opposed to a lump
sum fee. This way you can keep a handle on how your
money is being spent.


Never pay in full or upfront. Any contractor
who requires this is probably scamming you.


Be realistic about how much you can do yourself
and when you need to call in professionals. Many a
DIY job has required extra money to sort out what you
further broke.

Q and A

You will need a deep, clean surface for the new grout to bond to. Picture: Pedro Sandrini

Elizabeth wants to re-grout:
Q: My engineer husband has nicknamed me “scope creep” as no
sooner has he completed a domestic
project than I come along and suggest
some “minor” changes here and there.
My query relates to the colour of
our tile grouting: I originally selected
light grey, but now that the bathroom
is completed, I would rather have beige.
What is the best, cheapest, easiest and
most durable solution?
A: I tend to see some similarity
here to the relationship between
myself and Mrs Mac.
Re-grouting needs to be done
properly. I have written about this
Warning – this is a labour-intensive process which could lead to
loss of leisure or drinking time, not
to mention hours of cleaning.
The overseas market seems to
have a tool for everything, including
re-grouting, but I would simply use
an old screwdriver. A power grinder
will take less time than doing the job
by hand – I would suggest a small
cordless power tool, like a Dremel.
Obviously, the first thing to do
is to remove the existing grout.
are not talking about scraping bits
out – we are talking about getting
all the grout out. The wall needs to
resemble a newly tiled surface where
there is nothing between the tiles.
You need a deep, clean surface for
the new grout to bond to. A quick
scratch and a bit of new grout is going
to look worse than what you have at
the moment.
Always start in the middle of the
joint and work towards the tile edges,
being careful not to chip the edges
of the tile.
Once all the grout is out, wipe
down the walls to remove any dust
or dirt on the tiles – you don’t want
dirty old grout mixed in with the
A word of warning before starting your re-grouting: If you are not
dealing with a glazed tile, ensure that
you seal the tile first. Porous tiles will
absorb the new grout and leave a
terrible result.
Rodney from Rodney Beck
Construction has sent me
these tips on ceiling insulation:
Compare the “R” values for
products of a similar thickness.
This is its resistance to heat
flow. The higher the R-value,
the better it is at insulating and
improving energy efficiency.
The blanket type of insulation
is relatively simple to lay when
done simultaneously with the
installation of a new ceiling.
But it is difficult to achieve
100% coverage due to
obstructions in the roof space.
Retrofitting it is difficult as you
have to work in a limited space
and in and around things like
pipes and wires.
Cellulose insulation is pumped
into the space and, therefore,
requires little to no walking
within the roof space. It’s
perfect for roofs with a low
pitch and it gets into every
nook and cranny.
Recessed down lighters
generate heat. Don’t forget to
protect the insulation.
*Please keep your questions
or comments coming to or
SMS only to 0824463859.

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