Like most Kenyans, James Matheka dreamt of building his own home. In 2009, he bought a piece of land in Ruiru, off Thika Road for Sh400,000 thinking that it was a first step towards saying goodbye to landlords and the nagging agents.
“I had saved for about seven years. I was looking forward to settling down with my children and grandchildren after retiring,” said the 68-year-old father of five.
Mr Matheka started building his dream home through a hired contractor. Because of his tight schedule coupled with the fact that he was working abroad, he did not have time to come back home to supervise the construction.
“In 2013, I had to come back home. My term of service in Germany as a medical statistician had come to an end,’’ he said.
Unfortunately, his new house which he had spent about Sh3.5 million constructing had cracks especially on the walls. To make it worse, the electrical cables were too close to wet areas near the water tanks, leading to electrical faults.
The contractor had also used substandard building materials. Mr Matheka was told that the contractor used less cement during construction so that he could sell the rest and pocket a few coins.
But Mr Matheka is just one victim whose home-ownership dream was shattered due to mistakes made while building.
Cases of poor design, use of sub-standard materials, construction projects ending into disputes due to poor documentation are some of the common mistakes first home owners make.
What mistakes should one avoid when building a home?
To answer this question, BDLife spoke to Lee Karuri, chairman of Longonot Gate Development and Maranga Njoroge, a managing partner at Wanda Synergy Architects.
Proper drawing and planning
According to Mr Karuri, most new owners are not conversant with the technical needs for building a house.
They therefore get designs mostly from non-qualified people whose cost is cheap.
They don’t use architects and engineers, ending up with rooms that are oversize or undersize. “You end up with long corridors that are narrow or narrow staircases,” he said.
Mr Karuri said that to avoid such mistakes, one should compare prices with at least three architects.
A well laid-out foundation is most critical and anyone intending to put up a home should consider this. He said people tend to build shallow foundations to save on money and this later leads to a weak house that develops cracks on the floors and walls.
In most instances, most home owners do not use approved anti-termite treatment for foundations and opt for the cheap ones sold estate hardware shops.
“This leads to termites growing in numbers and finding their way later into houses and destroying doors, wardrobes and the ceiling,’’ he said.
He also adds that during construction, the wet plaster on walls needs to be watered daily for about 21 days to be of good quality.
Use dry timber
Always use wood that is fully dry. Timber that is not fully dry from hardware yards used for door frames and ceilings end up bending later when dry.
No toilet under staircase
Mr Njoroge on the other hand said that it’s not proper to subject your visitors to sit on the throne under a staircase. He said this place is often cramped up and can cause claustrophobia.
“Give your visitors a treat, make the common guest toilet a heaven to relieve natural pressures,” he said.
Spread out the building
A well spread-out building is a very critical factor anyone planning to build a home should consider.
He said there are some houses in the posh estates in the city that are so massive and one can just tell their interior experience is not nice.
He notes that some of them are so dark inside, that if Jason Statham and Liam Neeson were left there during a blackout, they would have to hold hands because they are scared of the darkness.
Finally, he said that assuming you are rich and money is not a problem, what makes a house classy is not its size, but how it makes you feel when you see it but most importantly, how it makes you feel when you are inside.
The number one element that causes a positive response in a user of a building is lighting, followed by thermal comfort. Good lighting boosts moods.
“Natural lighting must be explored to the fullest, meaning that it’s almost impossible to have a nice house without large windows,” he said.