The best treatment for a galvanised surface is to let it weather naturally for a year.

Cape Town -

Some home handyman questions and answers:

Des asks: I have square-tube galvanised steel fencing and a slider driveway gate that needs repainting. The current white paint coating is flaking off and I intend to repaint the same colour.

How do I prepare the fence and gate? What’s best way to remove the flaking paint without damaging the protective galvanising, and what type of paint would you recommend I use?

Answer: Damaging the galvanising isn’t a problem if it was done properly initially and you don’t attack it with an angle grinder.

You say the white paint coating is flaking off – are you sure it is paint and that it was not powder coated? This can be painted over, but a little more care is needed.

First you need to ascertain how the fence was painted initially. Peel off a piece of the white paint – if the fence was properly painted first time round, then there should be a yellow or greenish layer of primer.

If there is no sign of a primer, then it’s going to be a lot of hard work. At some stage all the paint is going to fail, so get it all off sooner rather than later. The best treatment for a galvanised surface is to let it weather naturally for a year.

Once you have removed all the loose paint, or all the paint you can, start by de-greasing the metal again with a galvanised iron cleaner. Remember the water test: if you pour water over the cleaned surface it should run evenly.

Now apply a galvanised iron primer (calcium plumbate); water-based primers are now available and easier to use. Once the primer is dry, apply a coat of universal undercoat, followed by a coat of gloss enamel. Remember to sand lightly between coats and ensure that the previous coat is dry before applying the next.

I have heard that painting your fence with roof paint will give a wonderful and lasting finish, but I don’t think you will get it in white.

Jay has a little problem:

I had a room installed in the roof in 2003. It leaks all over the place. Some of the leaks have been fixed, but one remains. I have now painted one interior wall four times but still it ends up looking like a relief map. I have called in four people in the construction business – not the bakkie brigade but all professionals. Each one has pointed to where they say the water is getting in; the repairs are done, the wall is scraped down and repainted, till lo and behold after the next winter rains, the wall looks like a relief map. I’d love a fifth opinion – hopefully the last!

I have included this question because it raises an interesting point: how do we define a professional and how do we define “the bakkie brigade”, and which is the better option? In the 20 months I have been writing this column, I don’t think I’ve had a go at the “bakkie brigade”. Within their ranks there is a wealth of knowledge, unfortunately not well marketed or always reliable and usually unregistered, but not to be ignored. Compare this to the “professionals”, four of whom have given Jay advice, but failed to solve the problem and probably cost a pretty penny.

Many so-called experts tend to be full of their own importance. Over the years I have learnt to say, “Sorry not my field, please look for someone with more knowledge.” There is nothing worse than giving bad advice and expecting to be paid for it.

Tracing and fixing leaks is not an easy task, and I am dealing with two of these cases at the moment.

A friend called to say a contractor had been round to quote on repairing a leak and she was not happy with the quote. She said he had stated in his quote he thought the leak was caused by “X”, but could not be certain and therefore more work might need to be done afterwards.

At least he is being honest. Leak detection and repair is often a matter of trial and error, so I would appeal to clients and contractors to be aware of this upfront and discuss the matter thoroughly before commencing with the work.

The second case involves contractors getting involved with each other’s work. I have always made it a rule that if asked to comment on another contractor’s work, I will ring him, partly because it is good manners and the same might happen to you, and because it is a good idea to find out a little bit about the client. For every bad contractor there is an equally bad client lurking around the corner.

Also, never get involved in work that somebody else has guaranteed, until the guarantee has expired.

Finally, back to Jay’s problem. An awful lot can happen in nine years as regards roofs and leaks, but I have a suspicion that everybody has been missing the wood for the trees. For a whole wall to be affected, the chances of it being caused by a roof leak are small. If the problem arose only after the room was added, then everybody will assume it is a roof problem. In fact, the construction could have caused other cracking to develop, so I will try to arrange a visit and report back. - Weekend Argus