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Cape Town - I am managing a job in Tokai and had asked the ceiling contractors if they could start a week early so we could catch up on the programme that had been delayed by a steel shortage towards the end of last year.

I came back from Clanwilliam early, not really believing that anybody would pitch up to work during the holidays. I was pleasantly surprised to arrive on site at 8am on Monday to find the team waiting for me to open. The first award of the year goes to Scheltema.

Second, I arrived home from golf on Saturday to find a van from a drain-cleaning company parked outside. We had had a minor problem before we left on holiday, but I thought that my plumber had sorted it. Obviously not, as my wife found out on the first flush after I had left to play golf.

She googled drain cleaning and called a company that arrived on time, greeted her by name, and proceeded with the work.

By the time I got home, they were finishing off; and this included a deep clean of the bathroom. They explained to me what they had done. By that time I was expecting a massive bill, especially as it was a Saturday. But no, it was all done for less than R700. The second award of the year goes to The Drain Surgeon.

Questions and answers

Jane writes: With the bank’s encouragement I bought an apartment to let, but am now tied up by the Consumer Protection Act. Ordinary owners of apartments need to understand what their rights are. Under the rental act, the tenant has all the rights in the world, and the landlord/owner all the woes. The Consumer Protection Act penalises the owner/landlord.

Could you kindly write an article to help me and other buy-to-let fools?

Also, many holidaymakers are caught by holiday rental scams. Many young people who sign their first rental contracts are caught by “rental agents” who disappear with their deposits.

An investigative article about letting agents would be welcomed.

Apologies to Jane whose two questions are outside my sphere of knowledge, but I will investigate and report back. Meanwhile, I’d be glad of any relevant feedback from readers.

Jessame writes: My 1974 home has wooden windows and doors – meranti, I think. I decided to catch up with some overdue maintenance and, with some help, started sanding the wood down on the north-facing windows. Using the electric sander I noticed that some of the putty had cracked and was loose enough to be dislodged. This has obviously been a problem for a while as there are water stains on the wood on the inside – so the rain must have been blown in and worked its way through.

What is involved in redoing the putty? Must each pane of glass come out to be resealed? Must putty be used on both sides of the glass or can I use a silicone sealant on the inside?

What can I do to remove the water stains on the inside of the frames? Is this a DIY job or should I rather get a handyman?

Answer: Once putty has started to break down, especially if there are signs of water penetration, then it is time to replace it completely. Trying to patch and fill small areas is only a temporary solution, as the old remaining areas will also start to wear down.

I believe in using a silicone or a similar product on the internal face. Depending on the severity of the internal staining, it should come off with a light sanding, but then you are going to have to restain or varnish.

On whether it is a DIY job, the answer is yes if you have a lot of time. There is a knack to applying putty – first in getting it properly workable, and then applying it. Practice makes perfect, and this is the sort of job that can make you say, after the first couple of panes, “I should have employed somebody to do this”. And you are going to break a good number of panes.

Jessame has another problem: I have noticed that when there’s a paint or similar job, on occasion the men have arrived with the product “already mixed” in some dubious-looking container. There is then no way of my knowing that they are using the particular product they spoke about when quoting for the job… A few years ago, when I had the barge boards done with new gutters, the quote was for an undercoat and two top coats. The men had finished the first coat and were about to start putting up the gutters when I stopped them and phoned the salesman. They reluctantly sloshed on a second coat with much grumbling.

It is also difficult to keep track of how many (or few) coats they apply, particularly when there are a few men in the team.

Old painter’s trick: always insist – and make sure you have it in writing – that all paint to be used is to be delivered to the site in new, sealed containers that clearly show the make and product type. This is important with a product like Rubbol, which is expensive. As regards the number of coats, architects in the old days insisted that each coat be tinted a slightly different shade, but this is not always possible on small domestic jobs. The solution is to insist that you be informed when each coat has been completed so that you can inspect it. Each coat must be dry, before the next is applied.

Andy writes: Later this year, I intend commissioning a builder to build a retirement home on my plot in a country village.

Are there any courses in Cape Town (after-hours or weekends) that I could attend to help me manage the project, and keep the builder on the straight and narrow?

To the best of my knowledge, no, but maybe a reader has heard of something. If you are building a home from scratch, I would be tempted to leave the management of the project to your professional team of architect, engineer and quantity surveyor. - Weekend Argus

* Please keep your questions or comments coming to [email protected] or SMS only to 082 446 3859.