If you are using a gas heater, make sure the gas bottle is properly connected and that no gas is leaking.

Cape Town - Please remember to stay safe when it gets as cold as it has been over the past few days.

Don’t overload your electricity circuits. Too many adapters, extension leads and multi-plugs in one socket will lead to overheating and short-circuits, which in turn will lead to fires. Switch appliances off when you leave the room. If you are using extension leads, unroll them completely.

If you are using a gas heater, make sure the gas bottle is properly connected and that no gas is leaking. Test the joints with a bit of soapy water. Also check that your hoses are not perished. Don’t leave open fires unattended, always have a screen in place and ensure that the fire is out before you go to bed.

Lastly, make sure your electric blanket is functioning properly and that the covering over the wires is not wearing thin. Don’t leave it on and unattended. My company is repairing two houses at the moment where fires were started by faulty electric blankets.

Questions and answers

Frans from Hermanus offers this: Brown stains caused by wellpoint water can be removed by an oxalic acid solution. Brush on one cup in five litres of lukewarm water, and hose down with clean water.

Les asks: We have installed gas and wish to close up the chimney. What material should we use to cover the hole, which is some 20cm by 20cm?

Answer: I assume that you are talking about the top of the chimney flue that protrudes above the roof. Is it necessary to do anything? Presumably the chimney was fitted with a cowl that did not let any rain into the flue itself. If this is so, let sleeping dogs lie. And it provides additional ventilation for the fumes to escape from your gas fire.

Hopefully the gas heater you have fitted does have mechanical ventilation in the form of an extractor fan, which is now venting through the back of the chimney. Make sure you have a compliance certificate for the whole gas installation.

If you just want to close off the vent, you need something that is not going to require maintenance as you don’t want to be climbing up on your roof regularly to service the covering. I’d suggest a small concrete or cement paving slab over the vent, and an exterior quality floor tile on top of the slab.

The slab would need to be bedded in cement mortar, and the tile fixed with a tile adhesive.

Fred writes: I am the chairman of a body corporate consisting of 36 flat owners. Could you recommend a reliable and capable company able to supply and fit a 3m by 5m wooden window on the fifth floor of our block to replace an existing window? I have tried numerous companies and they just don’t seem interested.

Answer: I remain continually surprised at how difficult it is for the man in the street to get quotations. Cape Town is full of contractors sitting around crying into their beers that there is no work, but will they get off their backsides to go and look for it and provide quotes timeously?

No, they will not – that is too much like hard work.

However yours is a slightly different problem. To start with, many contractors shy away from body corporate work, because the chances of getting 36 flat owners to agree and appoint a contractor are well nigh impossible. So why waste your time quoting?

There is also the fear that the managing agents will appoint one of their own panel contractors anyway, regardless of the price.

Also you have a unique once-off problem, that is probably going to involve at least three contractors: someone to install the window, a joiner to make the window, and probably a scaffolding contractor.

The cost of these three items alone will make the cost of a once-off window replacement extremely high.

But there will be a contractor out there who hopefully will seize the opportunity to make some money, so I challenge the industry to contact me, so that I can forward your details to Fred.

A damsel in distress needs help: A few years ago we installed a film on all our north-facing windows, in order to prevent the sun from fading furniture and carpets,

Our house is now on the market and, trying to see the house from a buyer’s point of view, we felt that the film made the rooms look so gloomy. So we easily removed the film – you just loosened a small corner and then peeled it off in a complete sheet.

There is just one problem: there is a sticky residue on the glass, which is proving virtually impossible to remove. Normal household cleaners just made a terrible whitish smear.

Surely there is some solvent we can use?

Answer: As far as I can ascertain there is no easy solution. You are going to need to set time aside, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.

You need a spray bottle with a soft soapy solution made from something like Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. You’ll also need a very sharp flat paint scraper fitted with the equivalent of a razor blade.

Spray on the water/shampoo mix and scrape in one direction, wiping the blade clean after each stroke. Never turn the blade over and ensure the window glass is wet at all times to avoid scratching it.

A large glazing contractor told me thinners or methylated spirits can also be used as a softener, but you still need to keep the window wet, to avoid scratching. - Weekend Argus

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