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HANDY MAC: Fired up about laws

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The city council is tightening up more and more regarding compliance with regulations, so get your house in order

WARNING: When is a fire door not a fire door? This might appear to be a stupid question, but I learnt an awful lot this week about what is and isn’t legal concerning them.

Our municipality is starting to tighten up on fire regulations and prevention in both old and new buildings and you need to be aware your insurance company could reject your claim should you have a fire and are not compliant.

This column does not allow me the space to go into detail on the regulations but I can fill you in on the basics. Fire doors have a rating, which means they can withstand a fire for a certain time. The type of door to be used depends on its surroundings. In most domestic situations, a 30-minute door is specified, but this goes up to two hours and beyond in other situations.

So, when is a fire door not a fire door? When it is not sold to you with the correct frame. A door alone cannot be certified. Popping into your local hardware store and buying a half-hour fire door is not going to get you a certificate. In most cases, it must be supplied with a steel frame which must be built-in correctly.

Be warned, as I believe we are going to be forced to comply more and more, which is a good thing.

My thanks to Karina van Zyl of Allandel Fire Doors for taking the time to explain the regulations.

Q and A

Badly placed pipes can cause plumbing problems. Picture: Supplied

Jamiela has a plumbing problem. 

Q:We have bought a townhouse in Musgrave, Durban. It is a three-bedroomed duplex. After the sale was agreed, the owner mentioned she had a problem with the plumbing. The problem is with the toilets. When the family bathroom toilet is flushed, the waste ends up in the en-suite toilet. So, every time someone uses the family bathroom, the en-suite toilet needs to be flushed as well.

She actually had the family bathroom toilet raised a few centimetres so when there are guests visiting, the reverse doesn’t happen – waste going from the en-suite to the family toilet. Do you have any idea what the root cause of the problem is? And who should we contact to fix it?

A: Plumbing is not one of my strong suits, as modern technology has made most of my study notes (from 40 years ago) outdated. The basic principles have remained the same, but the methods of obtaining them have changed. I consulted my mate David, who comments as follows.

This sounds like a plumbing design problem. They should first try venting the toilet waste outlets and then, if possible, change the design of the pipework so the waste from each toilet flows away from the other. Water will always move to the point of least resistance, so it can be redirected using this principle. 

Without being there to see the problem I can’t give you any more advice, so you are going to have to call in a local plumber. To be sure you get an expert, I would suggest you contact the Institute of Plumbing SA at info@, which should be able to provide a list of the registered plumbers in your area. 

When you are buying a new home, the seller is supposed to provide you with a plumbing certificate. If you did not receive one, I would suggest you go back to the estate agent. Even with the laws relating to the sales of property, I would suggest anyone looking at moving checks the plumbing in their prospective purchase. Flush the toilets, turn on the taps, ask where the main stopcock is. Rather be safe than sorry. 

Tip of the week

A cordless drill is an essential tool. Picture: Supplied

Following on from last week, here are the final four tools you need for DIY jobs.

Cordless drill: A versatile and essential tool. It can be used for drilling holes into brickwork or driving in screws. You want one with lots of power. Make sure it has multiple speeds and is reversible. The latter will come in handy if you need to take out screws . I would also recommend you get a drill with two batteries – there is nothing worse than running out of power halfway through a job.

Saws: Mainly used for cutting wood but, some can be used on metal. The best saw to start with is a cross-cut saw. A good general-purpose handsaw, it is useful for trimming branches off your trees or cutting lumber.

Spirit level: Used for ensuring anything you fix is straight and level. They come in various lengths but for use around the home, one about 500mm long should be fine. You can download a cellphone app which will also do the trick.

Utility knife: A knife with a short blade designed to trim wood or cut cardboard. Be careful when using one because the blades are extremely sharp and it is easy to slice off the end of a finger. The blade usually retracts into the handle.


Recently I wrote I was going to try to get our local WhatsApp group of about 20 people to share their skills. Unfortunately, I only had one reply. However, Zaida had better luck with her group.

A comment on caring neighbours. We have a WhatsApp group where we indicate every week who locks up the childrens’ and dogs’ park in Queenspark Avenue every night. We all have keys.

At one stage, it was being abused. Now it is kept safe and clean. We all need to make a concerted effort to work within our neighbourhoods and communities.

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


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