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Q&A with Handy Mac: Water and wood

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Q&A with Handy Mac: Water and wood

Q: I have been asked this question a few times: Can we flush toilets with sea water?

A: I don’t believe sea water would cause a major problem for plumbing in the short term as most modern toilets have plenty of plastic parts. The problem would arise in the sewerage system. When I posed the question on a Facebook page I received these replies:

The biggest issue is not the actual plumbing, but the sewerage plant. The bacteria and other organic materials used to break down sewage will not be able to survive in a sea water environment, hence flushing with sea water will cause problems.

Also, the (ageing) infrastructure will not be able to handle everyone flushing with sea water as it will damage the main sewers. Capetonians have been asked not to use sea water for this purpose.

Phyllis has a non-water related question:

Q: Help please. My daughter and son-in-law bought a house in the old part of Kommetjie. The house is non-standard construction – wood under an asbestos roof – and the home is surrounded by Milkwood trees.

They are unable to obtain insurance on the building unless the wood has been treated with SABS-approved “fire retardant”. They take transfer soon and need urgent help. Can you advise how one goes about effecting this? Can you recommend a company to carry out the job?   

A: As a company we have just been involved with intumescent (fire retardant) paint on one of our sites, and I have passed the names of the suppliers and applicators to Phyllis. This is not a case of getting the paint in your hands and doing it yourself as only approved applicators can issue the necessary certificates.

I do know that if you are building a new timber home it has to comply with stringent fire-resistant requirements, but I’m not sure how these can be applied to an older home.

Maybe the seller and estate agent should supply the necessary documentation so this could be a way out of the sale? I also suggest they contact different insurers to see if anybody would issue cover. Chatting to a claims manager I was told that some of the timber homes that burnt in the Knysna fires did not have any exclusions based on the correct treatment of the timber.

When you are buying a new home different from the norm it is very important to check what the insurance requirements would be. A thatched house comes with a much higher insurance premium, for example, and the last thing anybody needs is to be stuck with a purchase that you really want, only to find out you are going to have problems with the insurance.

*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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