With the prices of timber going up since the ban on logging in Kenya, constructing a house or a building has become more expensive.
Developers are now forced to incur additional costs when using timber with some opting to hire when doing formwork for beams or slabs.
Ephantus King’ori, the director of Abib Jaus Construction Company, a firm based in Nairobi, explains that the nationwide ban on logging by the government dealt a huge blow to builders as the prices are prohibitive, increasing by about 36 percent.
“Nowadays to get timber is very hard. Saw millers are unable to meet demand from builders, carpenters and block-board manufacturers. Sometimes, we are forced to get timber from Congo,” he says.
To cut costs, some developers are using light gauge steel trusses and flat slabs.
For construction, timber is used at the foundation stage to act as a trapper for concrete and also for roofing.
“It is now more economical to use steel structures during construction to cut costs. They are readily available and one is advised to use the right gauge,” he says.
On his part, Felix Onyango of Dominion Valuers, a real estate firm, says constructors can incorporate steel structures as a way of minimising costs or as alternatives to timber in construction. He says that during roofing, one can use light gauge steel truss instead of timber trusses or purlins as well as integrating the use of more steel in the construction of scaffoldings— a temporary structure on the outside of a building, made of wooden planks and metal poles, used by workmen while building.
Mr Onyango explains that a steel truss is made from steel coils coated with a protective alloy of aluminium that forms a protective barrier against corrosion. It also uses zinc for safeguarding the edges and scratches and silicon as a binding agent.
“Use metal to build instead of timber. During installation or roofing, the material is cut to size then delivered to site in neat packs. Truss is screw-fastened using self-tapping screws and a screw gun,” he says. The real estate expert explains that one can even avoid using timber when building ceilings, windows and floors.
For floor finishes, use granite or ceramic tiles instead of wood blocks or timber laminate strips while in ceilings incorporate the use of PVC T&G instead of timber T&G boards.
For windows, he explains that a developer can opt for steel or aluminium casements or UPVC casements instead of timber casements.
“These should help provide some level of savings and alternatives to timber in construction,” says Mr Onyango.