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Q&A with Handy Mac: Built on the cheap

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Q&A with Handy Mac: Built on the cheap

Gillian has a question:
We bought a holiday house in Betty’s Bay which appears to have been built on the cheap.
The biggest issue we have discovered is the bathroom. It appears to have drywall walls, with the plumbing and gas pipes running between them. It appears to be painted in semi-gloss. There are no wall tiles and I do not think it is a damp-resistant drywall.

The shower was installed in the corner, on a cement or concrete base, but there is no additional protection for the walls, apart from the paint, no tiles or other means of sealing against water (as far as I can tell).

The shower walls have now (unsurprisingly) begun to crack, especially in a corner.

I think the only reason it has not completely disintegrated is because we are only there for the occasional weekend so it gets a chance to dry out.

Obviously, we need to have it fixed, but what type of contractor are we looking for? We are not really looking for a shower or bathroom person, as it is the underlying structure that is an issue (although renovating would be nice at some stage).

Would a regular builder be suitable or someone who specialises in damp? Please advise, and what exactly should we ask them to quote for?

A: I am assuming the shower is on the ground floor, but on internal walls you refer to two skins of drywall. I also guess the ground floor would be flooded if the shower was on a first floor.

Personally, I hate bathrooms constructed out of drywalling, with tiles on timber floors, but I can’t help being a traditionalist. If the drywalling has begun to crack it will be coming to the end of its life.

Yes, it is drying out between visits, but water getting into the cracks will be slowly eating away at the board and it will disintegrate.

From what you describe it is a typical holiday house that was never properly finished. The choice is yours about how you want to proceed, but I would suggest that if you can, bite the bullet now and get it re-done. It is easy for me to spend other people’s money, but I also hate throwing good money after bad.

There is a chance if the board is still solid and not too badly cracked you could possibly work over what you have.

To do this you would need to get the paint off, waterproof with Cemflex or something similar and then tile over the waterproofing. Any small general builder should be able to handle this type of work.

However, for the cost of a few square metres of new water-resistant drywalling I would redo the boarding as well.

I am assuming the rest of the bathroom is okay. Again, this is work for a small general contractor, but ensure they are careful with the plumbing and gas pipes.
You need to get a quotation for stripping out, replacing boards as necessary, waterproofing and tiling, together with making good all other finishes.

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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