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Ways to improve the skills of DIYers

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Don MacAlister wonders about creating a helpful network of DIY experts.

Clanwilliam – Do you ever walk past your air-conditioning unit, the outside part, and think about the water that is dripping out of the condensate pipe?

It is not a vast amount of liquid, but water is a valuable resource and we need to save every drop.

During a visit to a friend, I noticed that she had connected a length of hose to the pipe and was collecting the water for watering her garden. I must admit that until the other day I had forgotten about it, until I was filling up one of our dogs’ watering buckets. Now the bucket is placed under the pipe, and in the hot weather when our air-conditioner is on, the bucket receives a constant drip of water.

Questions and answers:

Mike has sent in the following proposal which I will expand on over the weeks ahead.

“Quite regularly I have had the opportunity to read your article on building projects, tools and DIY problems, and most of these problems I have encountered and had to solve over the last 50 years.

“Now, being a little past tackling major projects, I would like to meet you to discuss the possibility of you, through your column. encouraging the home renovation culture, and hopefully build a network of DIY advisers who can assist the homeowner in tackling their maintenance and renovation projects. I strongly believe in empowering people to help themselves, and undertake and save costs on projects which they believe are beyond their skills.

“With some guidance and the input from building supply companies, anyone with enough energy and some tools can undertake most renovations around their homes.

“There is not to my knowledge any organisation involved in the DIY renovation field and, if you are interested, I would like to be involved with you in assisting homeowners in their home improvement and renovation projects.”

I have met Mike, who has lent me a copy of his first book The DIY Home Renovation Manual, written by Michael Price and Rod Baker.

When I have a little more time in town, I intend spending a few hours with Mike and together we will come up with a plan for how we can present practical advice to you, which could lead to a lot more DIY advice in the column, and form the basis of another book. We will also discuss the possibility of presenting workshops and even forming an association offering guidance to those who cannot always afford a major contractor.

I would be most interested to hear from readers if there would be support for this kind of forum, and what form you would like it to take. I do believe that there are many people out there, probably retired with a great range of skills, who could be formed into a collective to offer help and advice.

I must caution that not everything can be carried out on a DIY basis, and must urge caution before you decide to attempt to rewire your distribution board or something similar, which could lead to injury.

C Spies has the following problem:

“My neighbour has laid down foundations for an outside room – at least 10m away from his own house. I first saw the foundations when I was doing DIY work near the boundary wall that I share with this neighbour, and I noticed that the foundation closest to my property was only 400mm away from the wall. I saw no drainage/waterpipes or electrical cabling leading to the intended outside room. If I’m not mistaken, these two things are needed for any building to be ‘legal’? The neighbour is also doing all the work himself, and this only makes me think that things might get worse as he is not a qualified builder or contractor.

“I asked the neighbour what his plans were, and that’s when he informed that he is planning on building an outside room, and that the completed structure was going to be 3 500mm high.

“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that a structure that is 3.5m high and less than 0.5m away from my boundary is going to completely destroy what little view and sense of space I currently have in and from my courtyard.”

“I would be very surprised (or maybe not) if the council have approved a plan, where a structure of such height is being built so close to the boundary of a neighbour’s property without first insisting that the owner obtains permission from the neighbour consenting to the structure being built. It certainly does not seem correct or legal.”

Answer: l I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your neighbour, but I would suggest that you invite him over for a cup of tea and ask to see his approved plan. If this fails, then your next port of call must be your local building inspector. He has the authority to stop any illegal building and insist that it is demolished or that proper plans are submitted.

Only once we start complaining and holding those in power responsible, are we going to start seeing service levels improved.

I can think of uses that don’t require power or plumbing, but these services are installed after the work has reached a certain stage.

* Keep your questions or comments coming to, or SMS only to 082 446 3859.

Weekend Argus


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