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HANDY MAC: Don’t rush to brush

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Prepare properly and make sure you have all the right tools for the job when you begin painting

With warm weather approaching it is time to refresh your mind on how to tackle all painting jobs. Like everything else you are going to do around your home, ensuring a good result means you must get the preparation right.

It is no good putting gold on your walls if the surface underneath is suspect or loose, and you will never get anything right without the correct tools for preparation and painting.

Over the next few weeks let’s try getting set up for painting. Firstly, ensure you have the best tools you can afford and avoid gimmicks. Let’s start with your brushes – and this is where you want to spend money.

It is extremely tedious to spend half your time trying to get brush hairs out of wet paint. Brushes range in width from 12mm to 150mm. Obviously the thinner the brush the more detailed work you can do with it. With paint technology continually changing it is not easy to define what type of bristle to use, but in basic terms natural bristles or animal hair are best for acrylic paints while synthetic bristles are probably best for gloss-type paints.

Always check with your supplier which brush he recommends for the job you plan to do and obtain your paint from a specialist paint supplier, not a supermarket. Having bought expensive brushes, make sure you look after them properly.

Clean them with the recommended cleaning agent, and be careful where you clean them. Dangerous chemicals can end up in the sewerage system or soak into the ground and contaminate precious underground water reserves.

Q and A

A loose wire in a fitting can result in light bulbs blowing. Picture: Carolyn Christine

Marcus is trying to deal with cracks.

 I’m sure this must be a common question: what is the best way to seal external wall cracks? Polyfilla does not do a permanent job. I’m in Phoenix, where the ground is hard clay. 

I think your problem is more than likely related to the ground conditions. Hard clay never remains hard and moves when conditions change, for example when the ground gets wet. Treating the cracks is relatively easy, but stopping them coming back is a bigger problem.

There are different types of Polyfilla, internal and external, but both are solid and will fall out if there is still movement around the crack. My advice is to rake open all the cracks and seal them with a flexible acrylic sealer which will absorb movement. The next stage is to see if the cracks are still moving. Take a few pieces of 3mm glass and super-glue them over the cracks, then monitor them over a change of seasons, one of which must be a rainy season.

Any movement will crack the glass. If there is no movement, you are good to go and can paint over the flexible filler. If the glass cracks you have to address the underlying cause. The cracks can be repaired locally by bridging with concrete lintels, or you could underpin (add extra support under the foundations). 

This becomes expensive. If you are not getting serious damage I would live with the problem and renew the flexible filler when necessary. 

Jonathan has two questions which have stumped me so I am asking readers for replies over the next week.

The light bulb in my kitchen went ‘phut’ and the filament is black as opposed to just splitting. The replacement would not work. Could it be related to why the filament of the old bulb turned black, and is this a potential fire hazard? In addition, this light bulb did not last as long as the previous one. What could the cause be, and how do I safely sort the matter ? Here’s my second question: I have a Betamax video machine which I haven’t used since 2010/2011, when it worked perfectly. On Friday evening I tried to power up the video machine but had no joy. Surely it should still work if it was stored safely during the time it wasn’t used? Please advise what I should do. Also, what are the safety aspects in this regard (switching on something which hasn’t been used in a while). Could a build up of dust over time cause problems such as a fire?

My quick answers are: a loose wire in the kitchen light fitting. As to the VCR, electronic circuity does break down over time. I treat everything as a potential fire risk.

Feedback #1

It is imperative that we look after the health and safety of our workforces. Picture: Adam Birkett

No one wants to see the standards of building raised more than I do, but this must be done with proper training of our workforces, with the work monitored by qualified professionals such as architects and engineers.

However, this would not put more money into the pockets of the government for a service that already not functioning efficiently. I’ve been answering questions about the protector of the building consumer, the National Home Builders Registration Council which, if the proposals in the Housing Consumer Protection Bill are enacted, will get even greater powers.

The council’s mandate is being extended to include not only new building projects, but also additions, alterations, renovations and repair work of any kind that needs approved plans. This means you will spend around 1% more for every bit of building you do, for what I believe is little return.

Truly, I would rather work with a contractor who is a member of a recognised building association and is both registered and compliant.

Feedback #2

I appeal to all parties involved in all facets of our industry to look after our workforces. In the early days of this column, I was attacked for informing clients about what is required of their contractor in terms of health and safety.

Feedback today reflects on yet another waste of time and money, with government intervention increasing the cost of building. We have great legislation, but we seem incapable of enforcing. We now live in a society where everyone is turning a blind eye to the law, but we scream when we are personally affected. 

Once we had excellent training facilities for the building industry, now we’re a country with no money for training. If all the available money was spent on training and enforcement by competent officials, we might not have the situation we saw recently, when 10 workers died after the bakkie in which they and 13 others were travelling overturned. It would also help if clients did not allow the use of under-paid labour on contracts.


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