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HANDY MAC: Of cement and rugby

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The teamwork and preparation that went into the Bok victory is just as important in a building project

After our magnificent Rugby World Cup victory I am sure my readers had a tear to shed. But what has rugby got to do with building or DIY? To me it’s like cement – something to hold everything together.

For a few weeks we will be a different country, approach everything differently, regard one other anew and act together. Isn’t it amazing what team effort can do?

I am seeing this on my current site, where I am enjoying bringing a contract together. From the client to the architect, engineer, quantity surveyor, carpenters, painters, plasterers, electricians, plumbers and general labourers, we are all getting our hands dirty trying to restore a heritage building.

There is no pecking order, just respect for those doing their job to the best of their abilities – as it is with the Springboks. But the real lesson to be learnt from the rugby victory is that it is all about planning and proper preparation, which is a constant theme with me.

Our rugby team was all but written off last year but, thanks to careful planning and preparation, the coach Rassie Erasmus was able to bring everything together.

It was a slow process, but worth it in the end. I am using this as an example to show that sometimes we rush into a project without having the necessary information in place. We need to tell ourselves or our clients what they want “by tomorrow” cannot be done. Proper channels and procedures must to be followed to avoid disaster.

Q and A

Beware of water getting under tiles as it could cause them to lift. Picture: Supplied

Jackie has a floor tiling problem. 

Q; My home was built eight years ago and has ceramic tiles on a double garage floor. After the heavy rainstorm in Cape Town in June, moisture from a neighbour’s property seeped in, causing paint to bubble just above the join of the floor and a wall.

About 10 days later some of the floor’s ceramic tiles began to buckle and lift. I contacted a builder who, on inspection, advised the neighbour had not maintained his gutters annually. After consulting with my neighbour, he has since cleaned his garage gutters.

I contacted my insurer and an assessor advised me expansion joints should have been built into the flooring, so my claim would not be honoured. This has since been confirmed.

I have had two building contractors/handymen inspect the damage and their suggestions of removing tiles and inserting rubber flooring in the gaps, replacing the tiles and using a silicone plaster to allow for expansion or replacing the tiles with a new epoxy-based floor have been helpful but leaving me a choice I am unqualified to make. Please advise me; I am concerned should I decide to sell my home the damaged floor will affect its value.

A: There are many questions to be answered, but I have never been a fan of tiled garage floors. Once water creeps under tiles and the temperature on top rises, tiles will pop, especially if they were laid incorrectly.

This would have happened with or without expansion joints. The theory around expansion joints and tiling could fill a column on its own. The type of tile can also affect the reaction to water. Some tiles absorb water and swell/expand – this is where expansion joints come into play. I don’t like the idea of having a mixed finish, rubber in place of missing tiles, for as you drive over the soft finish of the rubber, the tiles’ edges chip away and the tiles loosen.

I am unsure what silicone plaster does – and so is Google. The best method is to lift the remaining tiles, have the old tile adhesive removed, the floor levelled and then either painted or epoxied. If you choose to go the epoxy route, use a specialist, I have seen many such floors fail after being applied by “painters”. 


Cute squirrels can prove to be a pest in the garden. Picture: Supplied

Thanks to all those who sent stories around getting rid of pests. Our friend Trish Chalmers, in the US, took the trouble to write: Mom and dad planted tomatoes one year and as soon as the first was perfect for harvesting, they went to pick them, only to find a local squirrel had taken a big bite.

A friend heard about the problem and loaned mom a BB gun. But when it came down to firing at the squirrel, she could not pull the trigger. She handed the gun to dad but he melted too. Must be those big sad eyes and cute bushy tail.

Tip of the week

The secret to painting is the preparation. Picture: Malte Lu

Let’s get back to painting, having had a break last week. We have got you with brush or roller in hand and a ladder to climb but it is going to be a while before we let you loose with either.

The secret to painting is the preparation. I am full time on a site where we are redecorating a section of the house. I was frustrated at the pace of my own painters but they are old hands who produce a top-class finish.

They assured me the job would be finished as per the programme and did meet the deadline. This section took six days – four spent on preparation and priming. So how do you prepare?

First, you need to ensure you have a firm base on which to apply new paint. Let’s begin by using a simple method to check on the old paintwork. Slowly rub the palm of a hand over the surface and listen for a change in sound.

After a few minutes you will pick up changes as your hand moves over a loose area. Also, look at your palm afterwards and if it is powdery you know you are dealing with a low-quality, failing paint. Anything loose or flaky needs to come off.

In my next column I will deal with how you go about removing all the nasties before the next step 


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