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Q&A with Handy Mac: Beetles, floors and home insurance

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Q&A with Handy Mac: Beetles, floors and home insurance

Stan wants to change his floor finishes:

Q: We are thinking about replacing our kitchen and lounge floor tiles (they’re starting to sound hollow – lack of adhesive I guess) with either vinyl or something similarly easy to maintain.

Can one place vinyl on top of the floor tiles? (We live in an apartment block and breaking up the tiles will be disruptive to everyone).

Would you suggest something other than vinyl that is reasonably priced and will last?

Can you recommend a reliable firm to do the job?

A: It is great to see that you don’t want to disrupt the lives of others in your apartment block and I hope they would feel the same if the roles were reversed. Most blocks have a body corporate and the rules and regulations regarding noise and alterations should be listed there.

Vinyl seems to be the new “in” at the moment and up to a point I quite like it – it is certainly warmer and softer than tiles. I had never before considered the effect of carpeting on those with allergies – however fastidious we are with cleaning or however powerful the vacuum cleaner there will always an element of dust.

I would certainly not consider putting vinyl over tiles, especially if they are already starting to sound hollow. Get them lifted whatever your final decision on the floor surface. The other problem with going over an existing finish is that your floor levels change which means shaving off the bottom of doors, finding a solution where floor finishes change etc.

Another option is laminate or some type of timber flooring. I am a great fan of solid timber, but laminate does not really float my boat. The biggest problem with vinyl is that for it to look good the floor needs to be perfectly level which in itself can be an expensive exercise.

Easiest by far when lifting old tiles is to put new tiles down, but if you need a change then I would go for vinyl and pay a bit more. From a personal point of view, I wish vinyl flooring came in larger sheets. I am not a fan of multiple joints where a floor is going to be washed. A problem with one joint soon has a domino effect.

Once you decide what you want to put down, contact me and I will make some recommendations regarding contractors.

It’s a bad idea to put vinyl on top of existing tiles. Picture: Supplied

Vicky has sent me a real poser:

Q: I have a question about beetle certification. When selling a house, the seller is obliged to obtain a beetle certificate as well as an electrical certificate. The next time such a beetle certificate will be required will be when the new owner decides to sell the dwelling. However, if the seller remains the homeowner for 20 or more years (like I am), how does he/she know if beetle infestation has not taken place?

What should a responsible owner do to avoid beetle infestation while remaining in situ for many years? Should there be some regular fumigation of the roof spaces to destroy such vermin? How regularly? Is there a commercially available product that owners could use themselves? If not, who should do such fumigation? What about other insects or rodents?

A: Beetle infestation is not something I have seen often in roofs, although you do see it in floors and furniture. The rodent threat is much easier to deal with – you either see the droppings or hear the scratching around in the roof when it is quiet at night.

Modern timber used in roof construction is so well treated that the chances of beetle infestation are rare; obviously the older the house the more you need to check. I have a storage area in my roof, so I am always up there, but to be honest I have never thought to check. Thinking about it the base of my storage area is constructed from old floorboards which may well have come with some beetles. The tell-tale signs are small piles of wood dust or small pin-holes in the timber, so pop into your roof occasionally, maybe every six months and do a visual check. This also gives you a chance to look for leaks or storm damage.

I am not in favour of applying chemicals and if I was suspicious of the presence of nasties I would call in a professional pest control company. I am not even happy putting down rat poison myself.

James has a question on my favourite subject:

Q: I’d like to get my property in Claremont valued for insurance purposes – it’s currently insured by the bank for R1.8 million; this seems high, but maybe not. I’d rather be over-insured than under-insured. I’m sure many people are under-insured in SA. Would you approach a local builder for an estimate; or get a more accurate figure via a property valuer? If the latter, any recommendations would be welcome.

A: As my regular readers will know I have written and warned about this continually since the start of the column. James is right, many people are under-insured, ask the residents of Knysna. It is so easy to blame your insurers for this but it is not their responsibility – the final responsibility rests on your shoulders.

You need to be insured for what it would cost to re-build the house if you were to suffer a complete loss. This is not what it cost you to buy or what the market thinks it is worth, it is not what the municipality thinks it is worth nor the figure that the bank gave you a mortgage against.

You need to be insured not just for the cost of the bricks and mortar, but also for demolition costs, professional fees and all the add-ons around the home. Older houses with teak doors and windows need to be looked at in a different light, as if you want the same back you would faint to see the cost of a new teak window.

Who you should use to give you the correct figure is another tricky one as no one really specialises in this market. Builders don’t have the time or insurance to cover themselves if they make a mistake and you sue them. Probably the best route is to use a quantity surveyor or someone with knowledge of the insurance market, but this is going to cost. I have often thought of offering this sort of service in my retirement, but the cost of the necessary insurance is high and quite honestly people are loath to pay for this type of service, as they assume that disaster will never strike.

Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:

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