When did you last check your burglar alarm?

Cape Town - We have been talking for some time now about trying to get things finished before the builders’ holidays start.

My advice is: don’t accept something that you don’t really want, just because you have run out of time, or the supplier has no stock.

If it is a critical item, such as a toilet pan, you don’t have a choice, but if it is something that you can live without until the New Year, then wait.

It’s far better to go without for a couple of weeks, than spend the next 10 years regretting a hasty decision. If you decide to change something later, it is going to cost you a small fortune, because contractors make money out of changes or alterations.

Are you ready for your holidays?

Those of us lucky enough to get away for a bit of a break during the Christmas holidays are already in festive mode and it is so easy to forget to check things around the house before you leave.

If it gets left to the last minute you are not going to be able to get anybody to help you to sort it out and then you’re going to spend the whole holiday worrying about what was not fixed. Here’s a holiday check list:

* When did you last check your burglar alarm? Many people use their alarms only when they go away, which in itself is dangerous from an insurance point of view. Test the alarm, but don’t forget to phone your response service first, as they might arrive guns blazing. Assuming the system works, have you checked the battery power level or does the battery need replacing?

* Also, notify the alarm company that you are going to be away.

* The police have a register in their offices, where you can record when you will be away and, if they have the time and vehicles, they will drive past your house to confirm that all is okay.

* Check that you have the right insurance in place to cover any eventuality.

Tip of the week: A new roof in summer costs less. Right through the summer season roofing contractors are scratching for work, so it is going to cost you a lot less now to have that irritating leak fixed than in winter, when everybody wakes up and wants their roofs done.

Questions and answers

Reinette asks: Could you give me the name of a filter for a well point to stop walls getting very yellow, and second, could you tell me how to get rid of said yellow? We live in Pinelands and our walls are all the colour of turmeric. We need to repaint in any case but want to solve the problem first.

Answer: This is a summer question – once the weather starts to clear we switch on our boreholes and a week later we have lovely yellow-brown walls.

Rule number one: before putting in a borehole, check your neighbours’ walls.

Chances are that if their walls are stained, yours will follow suit. Try and obtain a sample of the underground water and have it tested for iron content, which is what causes the staining.

Once it comes out of the sprinkler it starts to oxidise and then stain.

There are many devices on the market that claim to clean and filter the water, and there are some good old-fashioned remedies that work too. Spray the water into a large tank (spray it in, don’t just let it run in) to start the oxidisation process. In theory the iron content should sink to the bottom.

After 24 hours, syphon the water through a filter into a second tank, and pump it into your garden from there. Remember to clean out the sludge in the bottom of the first tank regularly.

You can buy devices to help too, but as this is not really my field, I would prefer that you search on the internet and do your own investigation into what works.

You will battle to get rid of the stains on your wall, so your first coat of paint needs to have good obliteration properties. I would recommend masonry paint, a good-quality undercoat or even traffic paint.

Trevor asks: I am a qualified plumber who did my course at Westlake, and I have a small firm. I used to renew my plumbing licence every year until 2007 when I was told by the department that this was no longer necessary.

My firm belongs to the Building Industry Bargaining Council and I have my “letter of good standing”. Do I need to be licensed anywhere else?

Answer: I have included this question as it is nice to see that some people want to abide by the rules, and that if they are not sure, they are prepared to ask. Unfortunately I am not sure of the answer. I’d suggest you contact the Institute of Plumbing South Africa, the controlling body. (See www.iopsa.org.za) If I were using a plumber or electrician I hadn’t used before, I would call this organisation to see if they were properly registered in terms of the applicable act. If you want a builder, contact the Master Builders Association.

* Check that you are using properly registered and compliant contractors. - Weekend Argus

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