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HANDY MAC: Well-travelled tips

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A big thanks to my readers as the column celebrates its ninth anniversary

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the column and the time has certainly flown since my first attempt at writing back in September 2010, after I first tried early retirement.

I must thank Weekend Argus and, latterly, Independent HOME for giving me the platform to comment on an industry I have loved and been involved with for 49 years. The column has changed over time.

In the beginning, I was allowed only to talk about bricks and mortar but now have free rein to comment on all aspects of the industry and its relationship with all facets of South African life, while providing household tips.

It has moved from a Cape Town-only readership to being published in Joburg and KZN, as well as online. It is you, the readers, who keep the column going with your questions, which keep my ageing brain active.

To all of you a big thank you, from Bob who has been sending me SMSes for years, and my industry colleagues who are always willing to give of their knowledge, to Marion whom I visited last week to look at a damp problem and who has been following the column for over six years.

I have written the column in many far-away places – from Christchurch, New Zealand, where I went to advise after the earthquakes, from Russia and the US. Mrs Mac has been with me all the way and has provided many ideas over the years.

Heather, thanks for your support and I apologise if occasionally you are portrayed in the column as the pushy housewife whose sole function is to keep filling the job-jar.

Q and A 

Apply silicone sealant to combat fading grout in bathrooms. Picture: Supplied

Paul has a problem with the grout on his shower floor: 

Q: I always read your HOME column which I thoroughly enjoy. I have a problem with my shower floor corners, where the grout continuously fades. I have put grout mixed with a liquid latex-based additive over the existing grout and it just washes off.

The grout on the mosaic tiles does not come off. Can I apply a bath silicone sealant, which is mould resistant, 100% waterproof and permanently flexible, in the shower floor corners? I also experience a similar problem with some of the lower wall tiles in the shower, where the grout fades.

A: You are on the correct track. The grout in the corners is not adhering properly because there will always be some movement at any intersection between the vertical and horizontal interfaces of almost any material. Because of the slight movement and improper seal, the water pools and the grout fades.

This is especially noticeable in showers as they are rarely tiled correctly. There is not enough space here to go through the correct procedure, but I will do so in a future article. Because there is movement, the right material to use is a flexible sealant, but you need to ensure that you apply it properly.

This can be time consuming, but there are few things worse than badly applied silicone sealant. Not only does it not do the job, it looks terrible. Also, check with the manufacturer that the type of sealant you want to use will solve the problem.

The first thing to do is to scrape out the old grout so you form a channel for the silicone sealant – you want it to be flush with the surrounding surfaces. Tape up either side of the joint, so you form a straight line with the sealant. Apply the sealant in short lengths as you don’t want it to become unworkable.

Once the joint is full, put on a latex glove, dip your finger into soapy water, then run your finger down the joint to ensure a smooth finish and remove any silicone residue from the tape. Remove the tape, being careful not to pull any silicone with it, and repeat the smoothing process with the soapy water and glove.

Industry Feedback

Last week at the Master Builders Association’s AGM, outgoing president John Slingsby had this to say about the induction of new members: “Our association has, over the past year, introduced a strategy to attract membership… The screening process is thorough. Potential contractor members are interviewed on site… The site is inspected, quality of work assessed, labour interviewed and condition of company vehicles inspected. Our association’s code of conduct is amplified at these meetings. This is mainly to minimise any future complaints against contractors by consumers.”

 The new president is Roy Hendriks, who has 35 years in the industry. I have known Roy for well over 25 years and I know that our industry is in good hands. 

His address included this: “We are living in trying times of economic uncertainty and appeal to the government for a message of hope to be turned into reality. Together with our industry partners, we at the association need the government to know we are ready, willing and able to build this country into the magnificent, splendid South Africa we know it can be. I mean, literally build this country.

Spring tips

Begin clearing dead plants and shrubs from around the house. Picture: Bill Oxford

Mrs Mac complained she did not get a mention in last week’s column so, to ensure peace, I will report on her latest foray into home maintenance.

Like many of you, we have been battling with a build-up of mould in our shower. Mrs Mac is old school, so no magic mould remover in a plastic bottle for her. This means it’s back to her mom’s tried and trusted methods. She decanted undiluted bleach into a spray bottle, and liberally sprayed the walls.

A couple of hours later, she rinsed them with water and the mould had disappeared. For those of you lucky enough to have one, get your air conditioning system ready for the summer. Make sure it’s clean and test it to see if it’s working efficiently.

You also need to ensure your house is well-ventilated in summer by checking that all your doors and windows are in good condition. Clear dead plants and shrubs from around the house before the vegetation starts to grow.

Pay close attention to creepers and vines which can play havoc with plaster. It is also time to top-dress your lawn.

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


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