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Q&A with Handy Mac: Re-building after the fire

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Q&A with Handy Mac: Re-building after the fire

Gordon from Knysna needs some help. I find his story touching. 

Q: Hi Mac. I have a few questions
about my re-build. I’m 47 and after a rough divorce found myself living with my folks in a wooden house in Knysna Heights.
On the day of the fire I rushed home past burning bushes and trees to check if my folks (82 and 85) had evacuated. I found them
with the curtains drawn, watching cricket. They said: “Well, it was such lousy weather.” So we grabbed some stuff including
a few bottles of my dad’s home brew and we were out of there. We got their cars out but my beloved Golf had to stay. The house
burned to the ground – the highest things left standing were the flower pots. My parents were fully insured and have been paid out well.
By the good grace of this community and our friends, we have made it this far without too much turmoil. Therapy helps. I resigned from my job as site foreman as I wasn’t managing the usual challenges. My dad was going to leave the house to my sister and me in his
will. Now he is leaving us the plot! They are both happy that I build something there, and my sister sees herself having a holiday home.
The cabin I want to put up is 3.6m by 10m with a flat roof on a levelish plot. It will have a treated pine timber frame and be clad in
treated pine. I’ve got the materials at a cost of R50 000. It will be a really basic cabin, so basic I’m trying to get by without getting plans drawn. But the municipality doesn’t want to know. Does it come down to foundations, or size? Could I could put
the cabin on blocks or build two smaller ones? When I asked the municipality for advice I got chuckles and shakes of the head. Would I need plans if I put a container on the plot and converted that? Are plans from the internet passable? – Gordon

A: I have just phoned Gordon with the bad news. In normal circumstances no approved plan means you are not going to build a thing.But I appeal to the Knysna Municipality to try to help all its residents in these trying times. The municipality is going to be inundated
with new plans, which will take years to get through. So, to all my readers in Knysna, please offer whatever advice you can, stick together and pull each
other through.

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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