John Gillis
John Gillis

One Day Off in 60 Years

We talk to John Gillis of Ideal Glass & Mirror, a long-standing member of SAGGA and firm believer in the benefits of belonging. Says John, “Although quite pricey for us, the advantage of SAGGA membership is worth its weight in gold should a dispute ever arise with a customer. It’s good to know there is an expert on tap to provide objective advice if problems cannot be sorted directly. It also helps to keep everybody on their toes when it comes to upholding standards. We make no allowances for shoddy work.”

John has been in the glass and mirror business for 12 years and claims that retirement is not on the cards for him. “I want to die here at my desk, a good place to go”, he jokes. Albeit he and his crew no longer work nights or weekends, and only cover the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg, extending to Florida in the West, Bedfordview in the East and up to Centurion, John says that dealing with people is the best part of his job.

“I have been in retail talking one-to-one with customers all my working life. Covid and load-shedding has led to some grumpy clients but, on the whole, people are still the best part of my day.”

Measure, measure, measure

As the sole owner of his company, John has no small experience in supplying and installing mirrors safely from one residential home to large commercial builds and multi-residential estates. His first rule of thumb is going out to site to measure on the ground. John comments, “You’d be surprised how some contractors and, dare I say, architects, are a bit iffy on taking measurements. When my crew undertakes this task we immediately get off on the right foot.’

John’s team has been with him from the beginning, so these seven people are well-versed in the art of measuring, cutting, finishing and installing mirrors safely. He explains that the very first step is using the correct silicone to attach the mirror. “We only use Mirrorfix or else you find that the mirror does not adhere correctly. Poor quality silicone also eventually results in the mirrors delaminating, evidenced by those tell-tale brown spots appearing on the surface.”

Safe installation

Installation is also important as his team applies double-sided safety tape to the back of the mirror which keeps it in place while the silicone dries, usually within 24 hours. For larger mirrors or those installed along passages or bathrooms, for example, John recommends attaching safety tape along the entire back of the mirror, bar the edges which are kept bare to apply the silicone.

Dimensions are capped at 2440 x 3210 (jumbo), although the standard size is 1830 x 2314 for large mirrors. Although 4mm can be used, 5mm is a better bet for larger mirrors. Mirrors can be installed side by side with a seam that’s barely visible between them, with polished edges or beveled, in a silver, grey or bronze finish. John has noticed increasing requests from architects and designers for the cottage pane ‘look’ reflecting the latest trend for cottage pane finishes for windows, doors and shower panels.

Mirrors can also be attached for indoor or outdoor applications including onto brick walls where a large amount of double-sided safety is placed at the back for the mirror to arrive at a plumb surface. When it comes to ovals or round, the maximum dimension is 2 metres in diameter.

Back on the job

When asked about his most ‘stand-out’ moment, John tells us about a hair-raising experience in his previous retail shop in Florida which was stormed early one Saturday morning before staff had arrived for the day. John was shot in the back of the neck but fortunately the bullet narrowly missed hitting anything serious. Says John, “This was the day before Nelson Mandela’s release. I watched it from my hospital bed, was back at work Monday and played my usual round of bowls that weekend. That Saturday was the only day I ever had off due to illness in my 61-year working life.”

We think John may just be serious about literally ‘dying on the job.’