Here in South Africa the lack of proper governance and the use of unregistered contractors without proper professional supervision will lead to similar failures which may not be investigated as vigorously.

Cape Town -

Recently I was bemoaning the fact I had been left in Cape Town, while my better half was enjoying my Clanwilliam stoep and supervising the building of our new fence. Well, at least I was not sitting in 45° heat surrounded by mountain fires, watching labourers who cannot work because the fence poles are too hot to handle.

About the fence – I mentioned how important it was to employ a local contractor with local knowledge. Our builder is still attacking the rock with jack hammers, but because he saw the site and was aware of the conditions, it is his problem, not mine.

As to the hot weather, it costs you next to nothing to provide building workers at your home with ice-cold water, and if you offer before they ask, you will soon become a favoured client, and those little favours we all ask for will be done with a smile.

Listening to the radio in the car the other afternoon, I caught the tail-end of a story on the increasing costs of dumping tickets for municipal dumping sites, where your building rubble is supposed to go to. Ensure that your builder is using the money you are paying him to remove building debris to the proper place and that he is not just dropping it off at the nearest vacant plot and adding to our environmental problems. This applies especially to asbestos products such as roof sheeting or guttering, which is supposed to be taken in sealed containers to Vissershok, where proper disposal permits are issued.

A tip to builders or anyone using them: rubble bins cost around R4 000 for a 10m3 bin. Most of these bins leave site half-full as nobody takes the time to ensure that they are filled properly, without any spreading or levelling, so that you are paying R2 000 to have air removed from your site.

My company is sharing a building yard with another contractor at the moment and they handle the removal of rubble. We both dump the rubble into a concrete bin, which is emptied once a week by an elderly gentleman with an even older truck, who has it down to a fine art. The rubble is first sorted and anything salvageable put to one side, and then the remaining rubble is carefully packed on to the truck. I doubt if we see him more than once a week; at our old premises, we would quite happily order rubble bin after rubble bin. We are now showing a massive saving.

Depending on what you are building, it is not always necessary to have all the rubble removed from the site. Old broken bricks make good filling under floors, as long as they are well broken up and compacted properly, and then covered with a good layer of well-compacted sand.

With the increasing price of bricks, it is almost becoming cost-effective to hire a labourer to clean off the old bricks for re-use. Obviously you need to check that they are still hard and solid.

We as a company are tendering on more and more underpinning work, and there certainly seems to be an increase in subsidence at homes. This impression is backed up by the fact that more readers are asking for advice on this, and wanting me to recommend structural engineers. Building standards are falling and, as the city spreads out, we are building on ground that is not the best for supporting foundations. A bit of money spent on putting some basic reinforcement into your foundations and some welded mesh into your surface beds will save you trouble further down the line.

Before moving off rubble, can I appeal to builders and clients to ensure that any piles of rubble or new sand left on site be covered with a tarpaulin or at least well watered to ensure that the south-easter does not deposit half the pile on your neighbour’s front lawn.


I like to consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but I have not been able to fathom why my electricity consumption has decreased over the past six weeks, because nothing has really changed in the house. It then dawned on me that on Christmas Eve my youngest son departed on a yacht to the Bahamas, so obviously one’s electricity usage is pro rata to the number of people in the home. Perhaps we should focus on who is using electricity, and not on what.

Obviously you can’t throw out the children, but how about making each member of the household responsible for their usage? Make them aware of what they are doing. We tend to forget that a TV left on or a cellphone being over-charged is costing us money. This can be extended to water usage too.

Of course my phone bill is also greatly reduced and by a far wider margin. Talking about phone bills, a while ago I decided I would start paying a little more than necessary every month, rounding up to the nearest R50, and this month’s phone bill shows they owe me money.

* Keep your questions or comments coming to [email protected] or SMS only to 082 446 3859. - Weekend Argus