Make sure you build something befitting our beloved Madiba
This is the last column of the year – I’ll be back with you on January 11 to try to assist you with building-related problems for another year. I hope that your support continues to grow as it has this year, and that my in-box is never empty. Please let me have any themes or ideas that you would like to see next year – I have a couple of weeks to sit on the stoep, soak up the sun and spend a little time strategising about next year’s columns.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Master Builders Association’s Past Presidents lunch and, apart from catching up with old friends, it was interesting to listen to the current president’s speech. This is a summary of what he had to say and pretty much sums up the industry at the moment.
Membership of the association has stayed constant for the year, with defaulting members being replaced by new enthusiastic members. (I believe this shows that there is still a need for a formal body where contractors can meet, but also that you, the clients, have an avenue of recourse if you believe you have been unfairly treated by a member.)
The formal building industry together with the building-related unions have signed a three-year wage agreement; this was again handled at the Building Industry Bargaining Council. (Hopefully the industry will be free of strikes for three years; this is one of the reasons that I am continually pleading with you to use registered and compliant contractors as they are governed by this agreement and you know that you are employing contractors who are paying fair and reasonable wages.)
Unfortunately the association has experienced more liquidations or closures this year than in the past 10 years. This could be linked to the closure of two brickfields and the continual struggle of local suppliers and manufacturers to compete with prices from overseas suppliers.
However, building activity accelerated nicely in the fourth quarter, led by increased activity in the non-residential sector. The outlook however remains uncertain and the moderation in the work done by architects and quantity surveyors suggests that the recent acceleration may well slow down in coming quarters. On balance, general business conditions in the Western Cape seem to be improving, with main contractors now in a positive zone, although sub-contractors are still lagging behind.
I think my highlight of the year has been the relationship that I have developed with John Graham from HouseCheck. I am sure that his articles related to the purchase of a home have been both helpful and insightful.
My biggest disappointment of the year has been that I did not fully develop the relationship that I had intended with the city council. Yes, we did, over a couple of weeks, go through the role of the building inspector and how he should be assisting you, but I never developed the two-way relationship I’d hoped. I will try again in the new year. Frank has written in. A while ago we were discussing the re-fixing and cleaning of wall and floor tiles; he also comments on my notes on the insurance industry. Thank you for your weekly contributions from which I always pick up something.
It is gratifying to note your insurance angle, and having retired after decennia as claims manager followed by risk assessment I find your reporting fair and in the interest of your readers.
I should have let you know about an article I read on replacing tiles. It says that to remove tiles from a wall, you should heat the tiles with a heat gun and prise the tiles off with the heavy-duty metal scraper. Adhesive can be removed with a commercial adhesive remover. Don’t forget eye protection. I have tried this myself and can vouch that it works.
My problem is that I have to keep replacing tiles around my bath.
This is not an uncommon problem; the first thing to check is to see if the bath has been built in correctly and solidly. There must be absolutely no movement when the bath is filled or when you get in. The brickwork around the bath must be solid and well plastered, not just smoothed off. Because of the heat transfer from the water, which will cause some movement, the plaster needs to be thick and well-adhered.
Ensure you use the correct adhesive. Also, we tend to splash a fair amount of water around in the bath, so make sure all your joints are well sealed; moisture behind tiles is a killer.
In closing, many thanks for all your questions. I wish you a merry Christmas and a problem-free building experience in the new year.
Please keep your questions or comments coming to don@maca lister.co.za or sms only to 082 4463859 After building, my second passion is cooking so at this time of the year I get to give you one quick tip. If you want a really great Christmas turkey, baste it with mayonnaise and roast it in a brown paper bag.