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HANDY MAC: Spring is in the air

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The change of seasons is the perfect time to dust off your tools and put together a plan for the jobs you need to do around the house

I must start with a bit of sad news this week – my long-time friend and the driving force behind Radiant Pools, Muneeb Cornelius, has died after a long illness.

Over the years, his advice helped many of us keep our pools in tip-top condition and he built pools for me and many of my business partners. His wife, Faheema, told me this week the family intends keeping the company going.

To bring readers up to speed, as I realise it appears I am always a little late with the news, I write the column the weekend before it is published in the newspaper.

For the first time in a while, the southeaster is blowing strongly over the southern suburbs and, by the time you read this, the first day of spring will only be a week away, so it’s time to start dusting off the cobwebs and thinking about getting active and working around the house.

To ensure you enjoy it, you must plan properly. Never undertake a project you don’t have the expertise or confidence to tackle. Sometimes it can be cheaper in the long run to employ an expert. However, once you do commit, don’t just rush in – make sure you write a detailed plan first.

Go through the list a few times, lay out everything you need and check the tools are in working order. If in doubt, sit down and think about the task at hand. I find a nice single malt helps this process – and there is always tomorrow.

Q and A

Mike is battling with loose plaster.

You must get the preparation work right to get rid of spalling. Picture: Supplied

Q: My house is about 50 years old and I am having a big problem with spalling. We open the cracks, remove loose pieces and replaster. It lasts a few months and then breaks through again. Can you please give me advice on how to deal with the problem? For those of you who might not know what spalling is: it is sometimes incorrectly called spaulding or spalding and is the result of water entering brick, concrete or natural stone. It forces the surface to peel, pop out or flake off. It’s also known as flaking, especially in limestone.

A: If I look at Mike’s e-mail address, and the lush vegetation in the photo, I would guess he lives close to the sea in a sub-tropical region of the country. This means the air will be moist, with a high salt content. The photo also suggests the structure is built around steel reinforcing. This is not a great combination. 

Moisture will always attack steel and rust develops, causing spalling. I am not sure about the size or scope of the damage, but it is like having an operation to remove something nasty – you have to ensure everything nasty is cut out and removed. If you are just doing it in patches, the chances are it will keep happening. I don’t believe just plastering with sand and cement is going to work. My advice is to attempt to do the entire structure.

This will involve hacking off every bit of loose plaster and repairing it with something more than sand and cement. If there is rusted steel rebar, this needs to be cleaned right down to solid steel and treated with a rust neutraliser. Once you have a solid base, you can start building up the structure with specially manufactured materials.

Once you have everything built up to the correct shape and size, you need to prevent further damage. This will entail painting with a good outdoor acrylic paint, which will seal the structure and prevent further ingress of water. However, once again, unless you get the basic preparation correct you are wasting your time and money – every bit of suspect material must be removed. Work on the same principle as a dentist doing a filling.

Tip of the week

Replace broken drill bits. Picture: Supplied

As we get stuck into spring DIY, we need to make sure we have the correct tools for the tasks our partners are going to sneak into the job jar. You can’t do it with old or broken tools, so let’s go through the tool box and make sure everything is clean, oiled and in working order.

The thinner the drill bit, the easier it is to break, so for any bit of 3mm or less, buy a few spares. There is little worse than being halfway through a job only to break a bit and not being able to carry on. Please buy decent quality, expensive tools. It is tempting to buy an electric planer for R300 from the supermarket, but it’s not going to get the job done.

Avoid buying tools that tell you they have five different uses – nine times out of 10 they fall to pieces after the first use. If you have the space, a workbench with a vice is a great thing to have. Obviously, you will need a toolbox to store your tools. Remember to always use the appropriate safety equipment with your tools.


Bob, my longest-serving
correspondent, offers these
tips for hydrogen peroxide:
I read with interest Mrs
Mac’s hints for hydrogen
peroxide a few weeks ago and
would like to add this.

At about R20 a bottle,
it’s a cheap cure for many
ailments. For nicks, cuts and
abrasions, dab on the wound
to stop bleeding. A while later,
dab again.

The wound will fizz
furiously. This indicates the
extraction of pus and infection.

Years ago, I damaged
a finger to the extent that
it started to rot. Over 18
months, I made many visits
to a specialist doctor to
stop it going gangrenous. I
was hospitalised for tissue
extraction, to no avail.

Then a miracle happened.
I visited a woman who
embarrassingly detected
the smell. She pulled off my
bandage, poured hydrogen
peroxide into a tumbler and
rammed my finger into it.

Three weeks later, I presented
the “specialist” with a finger
well on its path to recovery
It’s also an excellent
deodorising mouthwash. 


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