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Q&A with Handy Mac: Light, warmth and extra room

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Q&A with Handy Mac: Light, warmth and extra room

Sue is looking for warmth and light. Q: I am a keen reader of your weekly column in Weekend Argus HOME. We have a lovely, warm north-facing house, but we have a huge beautiful tree outside our bedroom window.

I don’t want to cut down the tree,
but I would like more light and warmth in the room. A big rectangular skylight would warm the room and give more light. Warmth is
the big issue. What do you think?
A: This is a major subject. Skylights range from solar tubes through roof lights to roof windows, which can be controlled manually with rods or electronically with remote controls. The type of roof and its covering
will also determine which is the best method to use.
Size is relevant to how much light and heat is allowed
in. I would choose one of a size that fits between the existing roof trusses because you don’t want to have to reinforce the structure of your roof. I am not sure if you need council permission as you will be changing the thermal values of your roof.
If you have an old asbestos roof, you are going to have to spend extra money having the hole cut by an approved asbestos removal contractor.
The amount of light or heat allowed to enter can also be controlled by the type and thickness of glass used. For me the most important part is to have some kind of black-out curtain fitted under the window.
I wake up the minute sunlight starts
peeking into the room so I need darkness. I don’t often mention suppliers but after years of use I am quite happy to recommend Tony Sandell Roof Windows. Please Google them.

Lynn wants to build. Q: We live in Plumstead on an
average 500m² plot and we need an extra room.
The simplest solution would be to build on a room, with no plumbing, just electricity. We would appreciate advice regarding costs.
If we have sufficient funds available for something
slightly more elaborate, perhaps we could even contemplate a room in the roof. We have no clue as we have never done anything like this
before. Do we need plans (I’m sure we do)? Do we need an architect? How do we find a good builder?
We really
would appreciate your guidance.
A: In my opinion, the only way to build is the proper way. There are no short-cuts.
Your initial kickoff point is to establish if you have enough space on the stand to add on to your home.
A room in the roof will usually overcome this problem, but depending on the design of the house, could be a lot more expensive. Try inviting your local building inspector around for a cup of tea and get his opinion about whether what you want to do is legal.
He may also advise on who is reliable in the area when it comes to drawing up plans. Or you could go straight to an architect. Please visit my Facebook page referenced below as I have an architect listed there.
Regarding costs, most builders are reluctant to quote unless you have a plan to give them, as every builder will interpret your verbal explanation differently. Even a rough sketch from an architect will suffice.
You don’t need full plans to get a good basic idea of the costs. I recommend you use a member of the Master Builders Association (MBA) as you will have the backing of a big organisation if something goes wrong with your builder.
All members of the MBA are
registered with the Building Industry Bargaining Council, which is our local legal body controlling the employment of labour.
Whichever way you choose to go, please sign a contract with your builder.
Anna has a similar question
I live in Noordhoek. I want to add a porch and three windows which will entail breaking outside walls. Please will you advise how
I start. Do I get plans passed via an architect or do I first look for a builder?
A: The notes above will also
cover this scenario.
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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