The gods tend to work against contractors at this time of year and so, by default, against the client.

Cape Town -The aim of this column is to foster a better understanding between client and contractor, and to offer advice on day-to-day problems that we all face.

During the past week I have visited two residences that fall into the category where the developer/ builder obviously decided, “Let’s build as many as we can, as quickly as we can, as cheaply as we can.” Some of the things I have seen make the blood boil. Where was the architect or clerk of works? The things people are getting away with are criminal, and the average home-buyer just does not have the knowledge to spot where things are going wrong.

What worries me also is that, in most instances, the wounded client will look for the cheapest price again to fix a problem that really does need an expensive and thorough repair. When will we learn that “goedkoop is duurkoop”(buying cheap is buying dear)?

Not only are we looking for a cheap fix, but we are more and more willing to accept substandard work as, unfortunately, we no longer have the tradesmen to produce the goods. I wonder how well President Jacob Zuma’s new palace is being built. If I’ve heard right, the first contractor has already gone insolvent due to lack of payment from the government.

The best advice if you are buying something you are unfamiliar with, is to seek the advice of an expert. The one good thing I did notice at one residence was that the contractor had used a cheap exterior paint, so at least it is not high-quality paint that is peeling off.

And now, as summer temperatures rise and the south-easter howls, newly applied plaster is going to dry too quickly and will be full of hairline cracks, so try and keep it damp for as long as possible. And whatever you do, don’t paint it too quickly – make sure it has settled and dried evenly. Remember, new plaster equals cheap paint for the first painting; save the expensive top-of-the-range product for the first re-paint in four or five years’ time.

Questions and answers

I want to look at the roles and responsibilities of body corporates and managing agents, so Shirley Bailllie’s letter is a good starting point.

For many years I was an investor in property, mostly sectional title, and I usually bought with the intention of renovating. So I have had my bad (and good experiences) and things don’t seem to change. People are still being ripped off so that when one does get good service, one is grateful, when in fact good service should be the norm.

Regarding sectional title properties, I have published a manual called “Key-word Access to the Sectional Titles Act”. Through a comprehensive index, the manual makes it possible for any lay person to find exactly the aspect or clause/s in the act, or prescribed rules relating to their issue, in less than a minute.

My motivation in writing the manual was because I was always battling to find what I knew was in the act, which could take hours (and usually the moment of the meeting had passed). I am not a lawyer, but I am well versed in sectional title matters.

More information is available on my website

Dave has problem with his bathroom ceiling.

I have a bathroom ceiling which was repainted by plumbing contractors appointed by my bank’s insurance company. After two years the paint has started peeling off. The original paint is in a better condition than the new paint.

I’d be interested to know if you have reported back to your insurance company – and what their response was.

And finally a comment from Angela which may sum up our industry.

Your Handy Mac column should be compulsory reading for every building contractor and maintenance company in South Africa. I have called out painters, plumbers and builders who pride themselves on waterproofing, and even an architect, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d be better off consulting a tortoise to find the source of the damp in my kitchen wall.

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l Please keep your questions or comments coming to [email protected] or SMS 082 446 3859. - Weekend Argus