The future of timber-made ceilings and wall partitioning may be doomed with emerging locally processed gypsum boards revolutionising how ceilings are made.
Gypsum has fashionably stepped to the fore, pushing the creative envelope for builders, interior designers and homeowners due to its light weight, flexibility and malleability. It also blends well with any colour.
Peter Kariuki, the director of Archbill Consultants, an architectural and quantity surveying company, says that the gypsum board’s attractiveness had helped redefine the building space. Kenyans are using it in almost every space from the ceiling to making inbuilt home theatre units.
“You can accommodate different types of roofs as it is light weight and flexible and allows you room for creativity. We have used it to partition our offices as well as build the reception desk,” he says.
“Using gypsum is the fastest way to set up an office compared to stone walling that would take several weeks,’’ he adds.
Unlike veneer boards, soft boards, ply boards as well as T and G timber-made wall-partitions and ceilings that are combustible, gypsum boards are fire-resistant and soundproof.
They are also easily installed as one needs to pin metallic railings before sliding in the gypsum boards.
Cost of gypsum
Mr Kariuki added that gypsum’s popularity emanates from its green concept as it is locally sourced from mines in Kitui and Northern Kenya and ferried to factories for processing.
Gypsum prices range from Sh900 ex-factory for a nine millimetre-thick board measuring eight by four feet to Sh1,100 ex-factory for a 12mm thick board with extra expenses spent on buying railings. The cost of installing a ceiling starts at Sh2,000 per square metre.
Some of the gypsum board manufacturers in Kenya include Erdemann Gypsum Company which owns a mine in Kitui and a factory in Athi River, Shazaad and Deco Dura Creations.
As demand rises, more companies have since been licensed to import and sell gypsum locally but greater emphasis is being placed on local processing to generate revenue, create new jobs as well as enhance technology transfer.
Christine Awandu, a director at Colour Designs, a company that has installed gypsum in many Kenyan homes says gypsum has become the ‘in-thing’ in interior décor jobs.
“I listen to a client explain the kind of finish they want from wall partitioning and ceilings designs then I execute it using gypsum,” she says.
Mr Kariuki, who is also the Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya chairman says imports of finished gypsum products should be banned to promote local mining of gypsum.
Test for quality
For now, high timber prices and shortage of quality wood have given gypsum a somewhat free reign in the market.
Of the available alternatives, TnG, uPVC, Copper and vinyl, gypsum is the most favoured due to its cost and availability. It also allows users to plaster, sandpaper, paint it to a wall-like finish.
To ensue quality, Patricia Kimanthi, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs)’s corporate communications manager says they test gypsum for flexural strength, nail pull resistance, dimensions, and calcium sulphate.
Kebs says it uses the American Society of Testings and materials as well as European Standards Specifications for gypsum boards, binders and platers.
“We also test for fire resistance and sound proofing capacity. We have ensured that both locally processed as well as imported boards are subjected to the same testing rules,” she says.