Step By Step Guide to Building a House in Kenya

building a house.Building a home  is everybody’s dream. Unfortunately, many people have had their dream shattered by players in the construction industry. Do you remember the Syokimau, Kiamaiko, and Eastleigh demolitions.

The mental anguish, financial loss, and emotional distress occasioned on home owners in the recent past can be attributed to unscrupulous characters in the construction industry. It is obvious that nowadays one needs to exercise extreme caution, and be keen on the procedure followed in the acquisition and development of land.

It is important that you gather as much information as possible in order to avoid huge losses during land acquisition or construction.

In this post, we will take you through a few steps you can take to safeguard your money from unscrupulous characters in the real estate sector. From the time you identify a suitable property, up to the time of purchase and development, you need to be on high alert to avoid high losses to unscrupulous dealers.

1. Feasibility Study.

What is a feasibility study? It’s the controlled process of identifying a problem and strength in a business venture (read land). In building and construction, a feasibility study is crucial for a number of reasons as follows;

It gives you brief historical background information on the land in question. In the case of Syiokimau, a historical background check would have indicated that it was airport land. More information could have been obtained from the commissioner of lands as well as the Kenya airports authority.

Emergence of conflicting information means that the land should not be bought. It must be understood that it has become increasingly challenging for investors to identify genuine land as a result of the never ending corruption at the ministry of lands and local authorities.

Viability of the project is also verified at this stage.

Any land indicated on a colonial map, as public or set aside for the purpose of the road construction, or expansion of public utilities, should not be sold or bought.

A feasibility study will also enable you to know the type of soil on the plot in question. Some soil types are expensive to build on. For instance, black Cotton soil is expensive and challenging to build on, and as such, it is advisable to seek help from a qualified and experienced person preferably a structural engineer to help you determine how best to tackle the foundation of the house .

It must be noted that it is possible to build on any type of soil. If the proposed location is rocky and you are planning to have basement or any underground structure, like a water tank, septic tank, or a pit latrine then you must factor in breaking of the rock, which is very costly.

A feasibility study will also enable you know the requirements or building by-laws governing the area. Local authorities have zones, where land is allocated for specific types of buildings, for instance industrial, and residential zones. Some areas have controlled developments, where you are restricted by being expected to adhere to a specific layout plan according to the type of building you are putting up.

A feasibility study will give you an overview of the amenities around, the location, availability and cost of materials and charges of labor.

It enables you to know the size of the plot, as well as the level of the ground (is the ground flat or steep?).

It also enables you to assess the availability of a local authority sewer line. You are able to know the distance of the plot from the nearest manhole to which you can have your sewer line connected. You also need to understand the invert level of the local authority manhole in relation to the invert level of the connecting inspection chamber.

An accurate feasibility study will address all issues and concerns regarding the property in question.

2. Preliminary Design.

Following purchase of the land, the next thing to do is to sketch a rough design of your ideal or dream home. You can check on the internet for samples of design that suite your lifestyle and budget. The sketch should present a rough idea of the house, as well as the number and function of rooms. This is important as it helps you articulate the dream on paper.

3. Architectural Design Stage.

At this stage, you take the preliminary design to a skilled qualified architect who has the necessary skills and training in planning, design and supervision of construction projects. The architect will help you put the rough sketches or idea into an organized format, and in manner that is beautiful and functional.

Care should be taken to ensure that the architect does not completely change the preliminary design. At the end of the day, the final design should fit your lifestyle and budget. The design of the house should ensure that the house is stable and safe to the occupants. You should take charge of the design process of your house, because it has a direct bearing on the cost, aesthetics and function.

How to avoid mistakes in architectural design.

Get a skilled and experienced architect.

First and foremost, the most important thing you need to do is identify a skilled and trained architect or draftsman. Ask your friends, or relatives who have experience in building recommend a good architect. Request the architect to present a portfolio of previous projects in order to get an overview of his architectural skills.

The architect should;

  1. Have good communication skills, and must also be a good listener.
  2. Have an excellent sense of design, and good technical abilities.
  3. He must be a team player.
  4. Can visualize the end product, and is passionate about his work.

Know your Budget.

How much are you willing to spend on the proposed project? Money is one of the most important factors to consider prior to and as the design is being developed.

What’s the function of the house?

Make sure you know the size and number of rooms you want. Let the architect advice, but be the one who makes the final decision. To know the right dimensions of the rooms, buy a measuring tape and take measurements of an existing house. Benchmark the measurements of your house to those of the existing house.

Most people don’t understand measurement units, so you need to make an effort to understand the units. When the architect tells you a room measures 10feet by 10feet, you should be able to know what it means on the ground. The architect can make things easier by explaining and illustrating physically on the ground by use of a measuring tape.

You need to understand the capacity oBuilding under constructionf the house, and whether it has a functional space. It also needs to be physically appealing.

Know the details of design

Ask questions about each and every detail on the drawing plans. You should also be keen and have an interest in interpretation of the design plan. Check the size of the windows, the height of the house, the size of rooms, and the appearance of the roof. Remember that it is cheaper and easier to change the design on paper than on the ground.

This is a very important point. You could request for a pictorial view of the house, to get a glance of how the external finish, especially the roof will look like.

The final design should have the following.

  1. Layout plan: This is the actual plan showing the arrangement and relationship of rooms. It shows the size of the rooms, doors, windows, and type of material to be used. The layout plan is what is used for setting out a building.
  2. Elevations: This is basically the view of the four sides of the building. They give you the idea of how the house will look at the end.
  3. Cross-sections: These are drawings bearing details of the house, from the foundation, headroom, up to the roof.
  4. Site plan: It is a reduced plan of the entire plot, with all the proposed structures .The site plan essentially explains the arrangement of the structures on the plot, and includes the main house, drainage system, driveway, landscape, the external underground tank, as well as the distance between the structures.
  5. Block plan: This is basically a selected section of the main survey plan. It shows the proposed plot and its neighboring plot, together with the adjacent ro road. It also shows their plot number and dimensions.
  6. Foundation plan: This is a drawing showing the foundation areas to be excavated, such as the trench, and column bases. Not all walls originate from the foundation base. Some like washroom walls, which are not load bearing, can originate from the ground slab. A foundation plan is not a must, especially for small projects like a bungalow.
  7. Title block: Here, details of the project, developer, and architect are written and displayed.

Engineering Design

A bungalow or one storey building does not require much engineering, although it is still necessary to consult an engineer whenever you are faced with a challenge. For any building with more than one storey, it is important to consult an engineer. The structural engineer should be qualified and experienced in analyzing, designing and planning of structural details.

The design should consider safety, function and comfort of the occupants. The design should not interfere with or affect the aesthetic appeal of the building. The engineering drawings should include;

  1. Foundation plan-Drawing showing the dimensions of size of trench, and column bases.
  2. Ground slab plan-Shows the thickness of ground slab, size of reinforcement eg Brc
  3. Columns and wall details-Drawing specifications, size of steel, walling
  4. Upper floor details-Has slab thicknesses, steel specifications, beam details.
  5. Ring beam details-Show details of beam on the last floor.

Generally the engineer specifies the class of concrete to be used in each area. At this point if the above drawings are in order, then they can be taken to the local authority for approval. All the print outs must have the stamp and registration number of a registered architect for architectural drawings, and of a registered engineer for structural designs.

Service Engineers.

Service engineers are the electrical engineer and the water engineer. They are responsible for design, installation, and operation and monitoring of electrical, drainage and plumbing systems in a building. Service engineers are ideal for big and complex buildings. For small buildings, a trained, experienced and licensed electrician, and a plumber can handle the design and installation of these service facilities.

The design can also be printed, and used as reference guide on the ground.

On the ground the piping is done on the ground slab, and the rest of the piping is done as construction progresses.

4. Costs and Estimates of the Proposed Project.

This is also a very important stage in construction. After the architect and structural engineer have done their design, according to the specification shown on the print out, the costing and estimates of the complete project can be done. This is done by a quantity Surveyor.

The quantity surveyor is the most qualified to do the costing of the entire project. A quantity Surveyor is a construction professional educated, trained and skilled in managing costs associated with building.

Other duties of a quantity surveyor are;

  • Preparing Bills of quantities (BQ). This is a tender document which contains measured quantities from the architectural, structural drawings. The contractor does the pricing against these measurements. This document is used as a reference point until the construction project is completed. It serves as a guide on the type of material, the size of work done and the cost of doing the unit job. BQ is important for valuation and cost control of projects.


  • He prepares, and negotiates costs for tenders and contracts.

  • He calculates the costs of variations; additional work, omissions, and subtractions of work.

  • He is also responsible for valuing of the work done and prepares interim certificates for payments.

  • He manages the project costs and makes sure that the project does not exceed the budget. He also makes sure that work is done according to schedule.

For small or medium sized projects, the developer can request the competing contractors to present their quotation for the proposed job. The quotation can be inform of a list showing the materials and labor, used in the various stages of construction. These are summed up at end to get the total cost of completing the project.

NOTE. It is important for the developer to have a rough idea of how much the project will cost. He can obtain an estimate by researching the average cost of constructing a house of the same size in that area. This can be done through wide consultations with relatives who have building experience.

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52 Commentsto Step By Step Guide to Building a House in Kenya

  1. oriyo victor says:

    Not yet but working on it.

  2. Anthony Kiarie Joh says:

    Hi, am planing to build a flat for sale.A 5 storey building will cost me how much? Thank you.

    • oriyo victor says:

      Hallo Anthony.
      To answer that question,at least i will need some few details from you,for me to give you a rough estimates based on cost per square meter.How many units are you planning to construct?Whats the area of one unit?How many bedroom will the units have?Otherwise,the best thing is get the drawings of the project done and have the estimates calculated from the drawings.

  3. Edith says:

    Hi Anthony,am looking at putting up a 20 roomed guest house in the coast,am out of the country and on limited budget,what is your advise on how to ensure quality and reduce theft.
    Thanks much

    • oriyo victor says:

      Hi Edith.
      Thanks for your question.To ensure quality make sure you use professionals from start to finish.
      To reduce theft,Get Contractor of good intergry,do proper accounting of materials bought and used on a daily basis,and be alert when buying materials,some hardware and timber yards owners will steal from you.

  4. brit says:

    I want to build a 3 bedroomed house master ensuite and a common washroom on an eighth in rongai, what is the approx cost

    • oriyo victor says:

      Although so many factors are to be considered,A Standard 3bedroom,with 2baths can cost around kshs.3.5m.It is important that you get a qualified person to get the estimates from your designed plans.

  5. phineas says:

    hi Victor. am in the same are giving the right information.Congrats

  6. felista says:

    hi victor
    am looking to construct a 4bedroom all ensuite on a 40by 80….open space and huge windows is the ideaa…roughly how much do i need?

    • oriyo victor says:

      Hi Felista,
      A 4bedroom all en-suite house will cost anything,from 3.5m to 5m depending on size and materials/finishes used.Engage us to do draft for you and then we cost it based on the plan.

  7. waswa says:

    Hi, am looking at buying an 8th plot in Western province to build a 3 bedroom house master ensuite, will it be around 3 M cost of plot inclusive?

  8. zuberi musa says:

    hi planing to build a 3 bedroom bungalow using fired vihiga county.I have bought the bricks and some materials.i want to do it in phases as I look for should I go about it.thx

  9. Esther murugi says:

    Hi…how much would a one bedroom cost being constructed reserves. ?thika outside town center. Thanks

  10. Dr Josphat Njogu says:

    Thank you for ya incisive and thoroughbred professionalism. Advise on building a 4brm bungalow in Nyeri all factors at constant. If possible email me your feeds.

  11. […] are advised to keep tabs on the project by frequently visiting the construction site to assess the project. “People are very good while making a prototype but poor in the real product so don’t be […]

  12. […] This is magnified to its extreme when the purchase is made off-plan, because many people can’t interpret the drawings or even visualise how a non existing house will look like be when finished. This article is about […]

  13. Josiah says:

    Hi Victor, can you email me your details too.

  14. Nicholas says:

    Hi Victor,please advice on this.Am intending to put up a 6 bed roomed house bungalow in meru,the size of the shamba in quite enough so tell me on how to go about it.Please i will value your feedback.

    • oriyo victor says:

      Hi Nicholas.
      Thank you for the inquiry.Well briefly the first thing to do is
      1.Know your budget.How much are you will to spend on the house project.
      2.Have a rough idea of the sizes of rooms in mind.
      3.Get services of qualified architect/designer to get you a draft,based on number of rooms.Go through the draft if you like what you see,then engage him to complete the designs and pass it through the necessary legal approval.The architect can can also design and draw the electrical,plumbing and drainage system
      Get the BQs done i.e get estimates of the project,before starting work.
      Get a services of a qualified contractor to build for you.

  15. naumie says:

    how much will cost to build 7 one bedroomed houses and one three bedroom houses all joined together as apartments on ground floor…

  16. Duncan says:

    Fantastic writeup Victor. You have really demystified house construction. Thank you.

  17. Fred Onyango says:

    I am in the process of advising an architect here in the USA to design a five bedroom house to be built in Onjiko, near Ahero (Kisumu County). Unfortunately the architect I am using is obviously not familiar with all the requirements of building concrete homes in Kenya. I do not want to engage two Architects so I would like any and/or all the information I need to pass on to my Architect here in the USA so that the designed plan will meet all of the Kenyan building codes and standards. What in your estimation are the major design facts I need to concern myself with ??

  18. Njeri munga says:

    Tell me cost of 5 bedroom mansion on 50/100 please

  19. […] machine cut stones, to avoid rain water seeping through the stones from outside. Sometimes the architect or the consultants can design a wall of a different thickness, like 100 mm (4 inch) stones for […]

  20. […] hopes to build a dream house in their lifetime. Without proper planning and consultation,building a house can be a horrendous […]

  21. Lyn says:

    Good afternoon Victor

    Very nice and informative piece of work.
    Your advice pliz….
    I’ve been given a project proposal estimates by some foreign donors to analyse.
    The estimator put around figure of a million for 100.00MS Library hall to be constructed in a village in Laikipia county.
    I think the quite high.What do u think?
    Would u kindly assist me with the current building rates so I can compare with his provisions for my complete analysis.

    Thanks and God bless you.

    • oriyo victor says:

      Hi Lyn,Thank you for visiting the ujenzi today blog and for the encouragement.Based on the details provided it looks like the guy has given you a rate kshs.10,000 per square metre.I feel its a reasonable rate.A more accurate method would be to get the actual cost from the building plans.

      • irene says:

        Hi, I was wondering how much it will cost to build a 4200sqft villa in Watamu, Mombasa. Am looking to build a traditional Swahili home type with a bit of modern amenities.. am in an engineering company so I got a design and calculations sorted for me….and can you recommend a reliable construction company I can work with.

        • oriyo victor says:

          Hi Irene.
          Thanks for visiting the ujenzi today blog.
          The cost of building your villa will vary but we are looking at 12m upwards.The best way Irene is for you to get a quote based on the working plans.With the working plans,we are able to give you an accurate estimate in the right order/stages of construction. eg the cost of
          Ring beam,
          Roof etc.

  22. antony says:

    how much can a 4 bedroom maisonette cost in joska

  23. antony says:

    how would that cost compare with that of a 4 bedroom bungalow

  24. beth says:

    Hey vic ,i would love to know the cost of a 2bedroom kitchen and living room at the riftvalley molo.most architect dont think i can do it since after i tell them am a househelp.thy tell me its a dream that will never come true.but i dnt thinkso.cox being a househelp doesnt mean a person is inability to accomplish anything.consindering that an year am able to save around doesnt matter how long i need to save to give my mum her own house but am willing to do it to prove to others househelp can and thy are also human and thy can do as same as the others already bought so the cheapest cost if u dnt mind

  25. Nayma says:

    Hi… trying to save money to buy land n my construction idea is to build ground n first floor apartment two bedroomed for 10 k pleaseeee Advice on cost,design e.t.c

  26. kevin says:

    Planning to start foundation of 3 Bedroom House of 78 square ft in plot 40*80 in Ruai. How much be the cost estimation starting foundation only.

  27. gabriel says:

    Hi I’m planning to build a 3bedroom house with master bedroom kindly assist how much it can cost

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