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3 Effective Ways to Save Money When Building a House


For a long time, timber, bricks, blocks and quarry stones have been the most commonly used materials in the Building Construction Industry. With modern technology, other new types of materials for wall construction have been introduced and approved in the market. Let’s look at the 3 types of materials that are cost effective and much faster to use than the conventional brick and stone materials,when building a house


1. Expandable Polystyrene System.EPS


EPS is an industrial system of constructing a structural wall of reinforced concrete. This is a wall made of panels that consisting of polystyrene materials sandwiched by an electro welded, zinc coated square wire mesh, Which in turn are connected by 33 connectors per m2 realizing a three-dimensional hydrostatic reinforcement steel. Polystyrene is the white soft materials normally used to support or protect delicate consumer goods like television sets, radios etc when transporting.

The panels are assembled on site. Once the panels have been assembled and connected to the steel bars on the ground slab, in situ concrete is poured on it on the panels on both sides. Roof, stairs and slabs can be done with these materials.Building a house with EPS has been widely adopted in European /Western countries.

Advantages of EPS Panels.

  •  Speed of construction a 3 bedroom house can take 4 weeks to build to completion.
  •  Doesn’t need special equipment to use, and easy to work with during the erection phase.
  •  Good sound insulation.
  •  Good Fire and Heat Insulation.
  •  Long life and low maintenance.
  • Cost effective as compared to normal types of materials.
  •  Reduce the negative environmental impact. Reduce quarry activities, deforestation.

2. Hydraform Interlocking Blocks

Hydraform interlocking block is a walling material made of three inputs, namely soil, cement and sometimes sand. In Kenya it’s also known as MAKIGA interlocking blocks. This is a type of wall material that doesn’t use mortar to bond. It has grooves on all the four sides that lock into each other hence the name interlocking blocks. It can be used for storey building with reinforced columns used to handle the loads. Some of the main of the advantages of this material includes;

  •   Speedier construction,Building a house with Hydraform blocks is faster than normal building blocks.
  •  It’s very cost-effective. Save about 40% compared to normal quarry stones.
  •  It doesn’t require special skills to use hence semi-skilled workers can build the interlocking wall.

3.Pre-Cast Concrete Panels.

This wall material is made by casting concrete in a steel pallet in a factory and curing in a regulated curing chamber. These Pre concrete panels come in various sizes depending on the use. Some can be used for doing the slab work.Pre cast beams are also made to work with the panels.

Boleyn a Chinese company has built a Kshs.3billion factory in Kitengela for manufacturing Pre-cast Concrete panel and Expandable Polystyrene System panels.

Advantages of Pre-Cast Concrete Panels.

  •  It can cut the construction period and labor by up to 60%. This technology can be used for high-rise apartments, large-scale projects as well as stand-alone. With this material you can build a 2 bedroom house in 8 days
  • It has Superior strength durability.
  •  Provides excellent protection against explosion and severe weather effects.
  •  High-quality wool with a uniform consistency.
  •  It has very low maintenance.

The only downside of these panels is special means of transport required in transporting like the low loaders and crane for lifting and installing it on site. So a small project like a single bungalow may be expensive construct using these pre-cast panels.

Factors to Consider Before Buying Ceramic Tiles.


Ceramic tiles are the widely used floor finish because of their durability, moisture proof, easy to clean and maintain and availability of many unique and beautiful varieties of designs, sizes and colors.
We have Porcelain tiles, vitreous tiles and ceramic tiles in the market. In general they are all referred to as ceramic tiles.


Below are the  common types of Ceramic Tiles,

Ceramic tiles. The beauty of the traditional ceramic tiles is the wide variety of colors and patterns to choose from. They are commonly used in residential areas or where the traffic is not very heavy. It’s also from these ceramic tiles that we get tiles that have very good slip resistant surface, making them ideal for wet areas like bathrooms.

Vitreous tiles.Can be used to beautify a wall as A wall coverings. They are very colorful, aesthetically-pleasing to the eye. They are not commonly known but they are in market. They are harder than traditional ceramic tiles. It’s also ideal for heavy traffic and exposed areas.

Porcelain tile is both harder and denser than the other traditional ceramic tile products. Porcelain and traditional ceramic tiles are commonly used in both private and public buildings. You can always depend on ceramic tiles for long life span and unique visual appeal

 Factors to Consider Before Buying Ceramic Tiles.

Budget. How much are you willing to spend on the floor/wall finish? With the help of a skilled tiler you can take the square area of the surface and get the quantity of tiles, adhesive, edges, grout etc, which may be needed to successfully cover the area targeted. With these quantities you can visit different shops selling tiles and compare the prices and varieties on offer. You should buy what you like and can afford. Different ceramic tiles have different prices. Porcelain tiles are general more costly than traditional ceramic tiles.

Use of the Room. Wet rooms like bathroom, laundry, and kitchen require non slip tiles. Consider the traffic of the room, if the there is heavy traffic in the room then porcelain tiles are handy because they can endure heavy continuous traffic. Porcelain is strong and long lasting. It’s ideal for public places and residential house because it’s appealing.

Bonding Adhesive. This is a very important factor, because it is directly related to the workmanship and durability of the entire tile work. Some floor tiles especially ceramic tiles will bond well with ordinary cement. But for porcelain or vitreous tiles if you use ordinary cement, they will not bond well and may come off after a few months or years. Porcelain and vitreous tiles have special tile adhesive material that bond well with the tiles and floor surface. This tile adhesive is sold by the same outlets selling the tiles.

The pattern to use. Will the tiles be laid in a straight pattern or diagonal pattern? Diagonal pattern has a lot of wastage, because of the many cuttings. Diagonal pattern comes in handy when the shape of the room doesn’t have square i.e. when the corners of the room are not 90degrees.Diagonal pattern can be recommended for big and rectangles or square shaped rooms.

The spacing between the tiles. Will the surface have zero joints? Spacers are used to get specific joints of specific thickness. Spacers are cross- like plastics made of certain thickness. The spacers come in various sizes, 2mm and 3mm, 5mm thickness etc. They help in maintaining a certain uniform thickness throughout the tiled surface. It’s this space that is normally filled with grout. Grout is a cement based adhesive. It basically joins the tiles together. Grout is waterproof and also enhances the beauty of the tile finish.

Tiling Contractor. Hire a skilled person to fixing the tiles, he must be experienced and professional, he must get the job done right the first time. There is no need of spending a lot of time and money to buy the ceramic tiles and then you get unqualified tiler. Ask to see his previous work,and talk previous  clients ,to get a clear picture of his character and workmanship.

Foundations types and their Use

Foundation is the firm concrete base on which the entire building rest on. It’s the lowest and supportive layer of a structure (Wikipedia).

Factors to Consider before even starting the design of a house, you should consider the factors below;

  • Type of ground; is it a swampy or dry ground?
  • Type of soil; is it loose sandy, firm or deep black cotton?
  • The type of building; is it a low level house, or a multistory building?
  • The climate of an area, eg area prone to floods.

Picture of Strip foundation

It’s important that you involve the services of a qualified and experienced person to check the ground for you so as to determine the type of foundation you will put. Let’s look at the four types of foundation
Strip foundation-This is the most common type, it is mainly used where you have strong soil base and non-waterlogged areas. Most low level or buildings with few floors are constructed with this type of foundation. It supports line of loads either due to load bearing wall, or where a line of columns are so close that that individual column bases will impossible to have.
The depth and width of the foundation trench will depends on the structural engineers recommendation, the depth of your foundation could be from 600mm to 1200mm mostly for small scale buildings. The main reason for excavating foundation trench is to establish a firm ground level on which the concrete will settle on and distribute the loads of building evenly to the ground. The structural engineer will determine the thickness of concrete to be laid, otherwise, for low level house bungalow, 150mm (6 inches) of concrete thickness is accepted.
Pad foundation-This is where isolated columns are concreted from the foundation to carry a slab at the top of the ground. This is mostly used when you want to make use of under of a building as parking area est. These columns are thus isolated and their foundations are referred to as pad.
Raft foundation-This is where you have reinforced concrete spread on the entire area of the building, meaning the entire house rest on the reinforced raft concrete bed(foundation). It is mainly used in areas where the soil is sandy or loose, with low bearing capacity. You spend more on this than the other previous two most of the time. It is also recommended in waterlogged areas but with buildings of less storeys.This type of foundation allows the building to “float” on the ground, the load on the raft foundation is evenly spread on the entire foundation.
It has a ground beam which shuts out from the foundation base and is also attached to the ground floor slab to form a network of concrete embedded round the building space. The ground beam is usually from 600mm to 1200mm for low buildings.
Pile foundation.The most expensive and the strongest type of foundation, this requires specialist engineering to do. The soil are bored deep down the earth and filled with concrete to be able to support loads of multistory building on top. Most skyscrapers are constructed with this type OF foundation,a waterlogged area of high building may also require this.
It is the costliest hence it is used for high rise building, mostly Short pile can be typically 2-3m long and reinforced with steel, each pile is the connected with horizontal reinforced beam, where a suspended slab can be built on.
They transmit foundational loads through soil strata of low bearing capacity to deeper soil or rock strata of high load bearing capacity.


How to repair wood parquet floor.

Wood parquet floor, is a floor made of short strips of wood,the strips gives a beautifully pattern on the floor.The best strips of wood strips are one made of hardwood, common are mahogany wood parquet.

What can a cause wood parquet to come off?

1. Water/Moisture

Wood parquet worst enemy is water or moisture. If water or liquid spills on parquet and left on the surface and manages penetrate beneath the parquet, the wood may absorb water and warp, this will weaken the adhesive bond between the parquet and floor screed hence the strips may start to come off. In case the moisture was caused by a leaking plumbing or drainage pipe, and then the pipe has to be fixed first, before repairing the wood floor.

2. Poorly Done Floor screed.  Wood floor.

The adhesive is spread on floor screed and parquet strips lay on the adhesive. If the cement screed was not done well, the parquet won’t last long, it will come off. Some of floor screed defects are.

Poor cement sand ratio. When ratio is week, parquet strips won’t stick on floor screed, actually the floor screed will come off with parquet stuck to it.

Un even floor screed will show on the laid parquet, lifespan of the parquet on uneven floor is very short.

                                 Planning for the wood parquet repair.

  • If you are buying new parquet, then the parquet to be replaced should be of the same design and type as the old type. In the market the most common types are the three finger and five-finger wood parquet.
  • Buy the right adhesive, specifically manufactured for wood floor.
  • Get the right carpenter for the job.Qualified and experienced.

                            Steps to repairing wood parquet

 Step 1.Removing the damaged parquet.

Check out the floor for any movement or uneven surface. Carefully remove the damage parquet; if it’s a small area then care should be taken, while removing the parquet, because the same will be put back on the floor, if its big area then new one maybe bought.

Step 2.Leveling the screed.

Make sure the ground receiving the parquet if evenly leveled. If the cement screed has come off then it should be repaired with the right ratio of cement sand screed and left to dry before applying the adhesive.

Step 3.Clean the floor screed.

When the floor screed is completely dry, remove all dust or dirt on it, so that the glue can bond well with the cement screed.

Step 4.Re-installing the wood parquet.

After checking the existing pattern, spread the right amount of adhesive glue evenly on the floor. Lay the parquet, following the pattern. Try to reduce the gaps between strips as much as possible.

Step 5.Sanding and Sealing the wood floor.

Sanding is done 24hours after re-installing the wood parquet on floor. The first sanding, use the rough sand paper. Mix the wood waste from sanding with the parquet adhesive and fill the gaps between the strips, wait for around 30 minutes and sand it down. Use the smooth sand paper for the last sanding.

NB.It’s always advisable to sand the entire area; the new and old parquet should be sanded, for a uniform finish.

Step 6.Polishing the wood floor.

When the floor is dust free, apply first coat of the right vanish made for wood floor. Let it dry and apply another coat to give it the gloss required.








Factors to Consider when Fabricating Steel Windows.

Steel windows are common in many buildings. From experience  fabricating steel windows is  a bit  challenging. The welder if not managed well, can really disappoint very much. Be extra careful when choosing a welder for your windows. Check for reliability, honesty and competence. Below are some factors to consider when fabricating your windows.
Security aspect.
1. What is the size of the window? It should be stated clearly in the contract document.
2. What is the size/thickness of steel to be used for internal and external partitioning? Very important also.
3. What is the size of internal partitioning to be adopted?
The above questions are very important, because their specification determines the strength of window. You don’t want partitions that can allow a thief to enter with easy, windows should be securely built.
It should function properly.
The core function of the window is to let in light and allow movement of air in and out of the house.
Design the right size of window, small windows are not advisable, very big window sometimes also is a security threat.
Window should have small fixed ventilation at the top and center of the window; this is to allow air movement even when the window is closed.
The window should close tightly and not allow rain water into the house.
The entire window should not be twisted.
The window handle and window stay should function properly. The welder should have a sample of window handle and window stay to test each and every window, after they have been fixed on wall. It’s only then that he can get his last payment.
Use the right and strong hinge/bush, which can swing well. The wall pass (piece of metal welded on four corners of window, for anchoring window to the masonry wall) should be at least inches long, it should be made like a cross, so that the window is firmly fixed into the wall.
Fine workmanship.
Apart from security and lighting function, window should be design to please the eye.
The workmanship should be of high quality. The outer frame should be completely equal in measurements, with right angle corners. The internal partitions or grills also should have equal measurements, with right angle at each corner.
All steel joints should be welded properly, without leaving gaps. No spot welding for joints. Properly welded joint is neat and even add to the strength of window and increase the lifespan of the window.
The welder should grind and smoothen the entire window, and use metal filler to seal all holes or dents.
The contract should state who will shoulder the cost of transporting the finished windows from the workshop to the site?
All the factors above generally apply for steel doors, gate and other steel works.

9 Ways to Save Money When Building Your Dream House.

Everybody hopes to build a dream house in their lifetime. Without proper planning and consultation,building a house can be a horrendous experience. There are many factors to consider before and during the process of building your own home. Following the steps below, will help you save money.

1.Plan your budget.

This is the most important factor, it determines the kind of lifestyle you want, the location to buy land, the type of house to build.What size of rooms you want? How much are you willing to spend on building the house? Where will you get the money?How to save money?

Don’t start to build a house that will stall midway,due to lack of proper financial planning.

 2. Your Choice of Land.

Different location have different rules for construction, some are regulated by the local authorities,there is also zoning of areas to serve specific roles e.g industrial zones, residential zones, commercial zones, single dwellings,multi-dwelllings, some have controlled designs(bungalows only or maisonette only).

Type of ground also varies, is it a swampy or black cotton ground?Will you save money because,the ground is naturally able to support the building, or you must do special foundation for it, which definitely may be expensive to build on?

As we covered earlier in this blog on step by step building…its important to keenly scrutinize the land you are buying. There is a lot of fraud in land transactions. Use reputable land experts, to help you check the historical use of the land. Go over the transaction details line by line.

3.Visit homes/Check online for samples.

Many people are not able to visualize size or arrangement of rooms on a paper unless they see one physically. With many new developments coming up everyday, you can visit several homes to get a feel and be able to understand room sizes, window sizes, wall finishes and many more ideas, which can be implemented or modified to suit your life style. Lack of clear vision of size of rooms, can lead to a very big design that can poke holes into your pocket, or very small rooms that are not functional.

4. Seek expert advice.

There are several professionals involve in building a house. Use skilled and experienced consultants who can help you make your dream house to become a reality. This should be done within your budget expectations.

  • Architect: He should be able to visualize your dreams and put them on paper. He should give you both a beautiful house that is functional. It’s always cheaper to make changes on the drawings than to make changes when construction is under way.
  • Structural engineer: He should be skilled and give you drawings that have  been checked and stamped by a registered engineer. The structural safety of the house is paramount. He should be deeply involved in all structural areas, foundation, slab, beams, columns and the roof.
  • Services Engineers: They aid in designs of electrical, plumbing and drainage of the house. They should supervise the electrical, plumbing and drainage work.
  • Quantity Surveyor/Estimators: I can’t stress enough! Before breaking ground make sure you have the estimates for building the house. It should be done in stages, foundation stage, walling above slab, roofing stage etc. You must have the estimates before starting construction. Go through the estimates item by item and understand it completely. With estimates, you will know whether you have a design that fits your budget.

You must appoint one of the consultants, usually the architect to act as your project manager, and to supervise the contractor.

5.Hire The Right Builder.

How should you go about choosing a contractor? Building a house is an expensive venture, so u must choose a contractor who is as committed to realize your dreams as you.

The right contractor should be qualified and experienced in his line of trade. Wrong choice of a builder can cost money and  time, so you better be very careful. Before you hire a contractor, get a  list of reference and ask to see some of the work he  has done. Talk to his previous clients to know his weakness and strengths. Areas to check are honesty, competence, is he wasteful with materials? Can he meet deadlines?

Is he a good communicator, can you communicate easily with him at anytime during the construction period?Your friends or relatives who have built their homes can refer to you the contractors they used.The contractor should be   registered with relevant local authority.

6.Shop and Compare Contractors’ rates.

To save money,don’t settle for the first quote given to you; you should get as many quotes as possible, that way you will be  in good position to negotiate for a fair rate. Some times there may be up to four times difference in rates.NB as you compare the rates remember that the lowest rate may not be the best choice, you may end up with cheap substandard job. You have to balance between reasonable costs and best quality job.

Even for materials do the same. Shop and compare prices of the materials. You may get one hardware charging cement fairly but expensive in steel reinforcements.

 7.Secure your agreement.

In construction industry you have to be very careful. At every stage there is risk of loosing money to unscrupulous people posing as experts, builders or suppliers. Before hiring a builder or a consultant, please get everything in writing. If it’s the architect designing the house, have a formal agreement, showing exactly what he should produce at the end of the contract and what will be the payment agreed upon.

Never pay everything at once, breakdown the payment in to suitable installments. There has should be a down payment, payment during and after completion of the task. We have seen  many cases of people disappearing after being paid full amount before starting work.

8.Give  Labor only Contract.

Though very hectic and time-consuming, you can save money by sourcing and buying materials on your own and give the contractor labor based contract only. The contractor will still be required to help you decide on the quality and quantity of   materials to buy. The materials should be delivered on time, otherwise, the contractor may have idle workers on site and he may charge you for idle hours. So advance planning is very important. The client has to be ahead of the builder as far as procurement of materials is concerned. When you are buying materials you must consider the points below

  • Check contractor for wastage of materials.
  • You must secure the materials on site both night and day.
  • You must quantify materials delivered to site.

9. Stay focused and organized.

Make sure the construction is going on as outlined in the programme.Have a record of all transactions done since commencement of the project.There should be scheduled weekly or bi-weekly meetings with all consultants and the contractor.Communication between the client, builder and consultants should be open and clear. All instructions should be communicated on time.Team work, cooperation should be encouraged among all the players in the project.You are sure to save money with when you implement the points above.


Setting Out a Building

What is setting out? It is the process of developing the physical positions of corners and walls of a building, and it’s done by transferring dimensions from the layout plan to the ground.

Setting out is done when building a new house, or when renovating an already existing one, especially an extension. The process of Setting out is done by a contractor, and overseen by the lead project consultant engineer, architect or any other qualified member of the project team. Read More …

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. Read More …