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HANDY MAC: Going back to basics

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A visit from an ‘officer’ means new demands for domestic chores, including the swimming pool

Our younger son is home with his fiancée for a few weeks’ leave, and has taken over the role of dishing out jobs from Mrs Mac.

As an officer on a super yacht, he is fastidious about ensuring all is shipshape, so I have been receiving instructions on everything from the odd blade of grass in the brick paving to a few particles of sand in the swimming pool. There is never any rest for this columnist.

Talking about pools, I want to say yet again that I believe that the answer to a sparkling pool is not spending a fortune on chemicals, but rather a weekly backwash.

You obviously have to balance this with wastage of water, but it can be done with careful planning or collecting your backwash water in a drum and letting it settle. Mike Hendrikse from HouseCheck has sent me the following, and I firmly believe that here we have another great piece of legislation.

“On Wednesday the president signed the Property Practitioners Bill into law. This has far-reaching implications for property sellers, buyers and estate agents, who are now referred to as property practitioners. “Home buyers get much more effective consumer protection.

“(The act) provides buyers with free redress to an ombudsman, with the powers of a magistrate, if the buyer believes the true condition of the property has not been accurately disclosed upfront. “Currently the only redress a buyer has is expensive high court litigation which results in most cases being dropped.” I recommend that everyone about to enter the property market, either as a seller or buyer, ensures they are up to speed.

Q and A

Heat loss through windows can be a problem. Picture: Kira Auf Der Heide

Paul needs advice on temperature control.

Q: I have a query about insulation with a flat/slightly pitched roof. My house is extremely cold, but after getting someone to take a look at insulation, they said we would probably need to take the roof off or try something with the ceiling. I have been in the house only a few months, and have no idea about the temperature in summer, but suspect it may be very hot.

Winter was freezing. What options are out there? Someone mentioned blowing balls into the ceiling to provide insulation. Of course, I am not convinced that doing something with the roof is the only answer.

Typically, in South Africa we have not been very good with insulation. No double glazing, draughts coming between doors and so on. Even if I manage to insulate the roof, I am not convinced that will be an absolute solution.

A: Paul raises an interesting point when he asks if doing something to the roof/ceiling is all that is necessary. Regular readers will remember the last time we discussed this, I suggested a visit to www. is worth the time.

I have just browsed through their publication again and note that the roof/ceiling is only responsible for controlling between 25% and 45% of heat gain or loss, so where is the other 55% being lost?

The answer is doors, windows, floors and even walls. Apart from controlling draughts through doors or windows, your roof/ceiling is the easiest place to retrofit some form of insulation.

At one stage I was sceptical about the regulations being introduced by the City of Cape Town to control the energy values of housing, but with energy costs continuing to rise, early prevention is the way to go.

However this is possible only with new builds, so the building cost rises but energy bills will drop. Low-pitched roofs are a problem to retrofit with any product, but the spraying of cellulose fibre is proving successful.

Fitting a second ceiling under the existing one can also work, especially with the new generation of polystyrenes, but you will lose ceiling height, which could mean you are illegal. It all comes down to where you live. We have never had any roofing insulation in our home and have never felt the need.

If you are thinking of moving, check the temperatures of the area you are moving to and what insulation your prospective house is fitted with. 


Bob is back. You just can’t keep this man down.

“Hey Don. Thanks for mentioning me in the dispatches last week. I don’t understand why so few guys send in hints about DIY. I’m in my 85th year and am daily discovering new ideas in all fields. Here’s one.

Most of us are nervous when it comes to cutting glass, and find those puny little glass cutters from the hardware store difficult to use. The best and most successful way is to use a standard angle grinder. Just scribe the glass with the weight of the grinder. Thick glass, like mirrors, needs a little pressure. Use a thin steel blade and when cutting thick glass, place layers of wet newspaper under the glass as heavy gauge glass can get very hot.

The sudden temperature change between the hot glass and the wet newspaper will part the glass as you are cutting. Try it out and practice on a piece of discarded glass. You’ll be amazed how easy it is.”

I would be interested to get some kind of feedback on how many of the younger generation out there try to do a few things themselves, or do they just rely on calling in the professionals?

Tip of the week

Use rollers to apply paint to large areas. Picture: Supplied

Hopefully last week’s column got you geared up to tackle some painting around your home and, having gone through which brushes you need, let’s have a look at more tools.

You will need a few rollers. These have been traditionally used for applying paint to large areas but, like brushes, changes to paint types and technology have meant they now have many different uses. In general the longer the pile on the roller. the more textured the finish will be.

Another tool I would like to mention is a sponge brush. These are so cheap they can almost be thrown away after use. The restoration of the trolley has also required the use of sandpaper, and we have found that a Bulldog Foamblock has been a great tool. They come in different grits.

For those who don’t know, the lower the number on the sandpaper sheet the coarser the grit. If you are going to use a power sander, practise on some old pieces first.

Power tools tend to have minds of their own if you don’t know how to control them, and the last thing you need is to take a huge chunk out of your favourite piece because the machine was too powerful.


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