It is common these days for individuals to employ a do-it-yourself approach in the construction of personal houses, especially when bulk money is not available to complete the project in a swoop – By Ranti Adedeji
One major advantage building your own house has over buying existing one is that you can afford to build at your own pace. Whereas, if you are making a purchase you need to provide the whole amount in bulk before the house can become yours. Another interesting aspect is that you can employ a do-it-yourself approach in the construction of your house, even though you need to create enough time and have eyes for minute details to be able to do this effectively. In this article, I will highlight various stages in which you can divide your project into based on the availability of funds.
To start with, it is expected that you already have a plot of land ready, at least 36 metres by 18 metres (length by breadth) and assumed that your architect has delivered your tastefully designed and approved building plan to you. In addition, you also need to get some quantities of sharp sand, granite or gravel, cement, profiles, pegs, lines and nails. The quantities of these building materials depend on the size of your proposed building. All the artisans you engage on the project would give you the quantities of materials required to take-off; and, since you are directly involved, you can reduce them, where necessary, in order to cut-down initial cost.
Stage 1-The foundation The most important aspect of any building is the foundation, so you need an experienced bricklayer to handle it, but if you are in doubt pay a professional to supervise it. Constructing the foundation starts with the setting-out, which marks-out what your architect has skillfully put on paper, and it is most likely that it would look like a match box in shape. He starts by measuring the airspaces around the building, which is normally 3 metres on both sides of the building and from the back; then he measures the length and breadth of the building in order to position the building at the centre of the land. He then uses his iron square to check if what he has done is square; otherwise, the setting-out will cause great havoc in the construction processes. For instance, most of the materials you are going to use will usually have two straight edges fixed at right angles, and will not fall in place where the setting-out is not square, and will result in wastage due to a lot of cutting. Once the setting-out is successfully carried-out and the dimensions are marked on the profiles with nails, it is closely followed by the digging of the foundation trench and pouring of concrete blinding. Averagely, on a firm ground, the depth of the foundation should not be less than 675 millimetres; this will accommodate the concrete blinding, which is between 150mm and 225mm; and the first layers of blocks. Following sequentially is the setting of blocks from the top of the concrete blinding to a height of 900 millimetres, which is four layers of blocks. Once the block-setting is completed, you will need laterite to fill the sides as well as the entire area of the foundation. You can decide to buy laterite or dig your soak-away and septic tanks; and if you like, dig a well and use the dug-out laterite to fill the foundation in preparation for the damp proof course, dpc, (nicknamed German floor). The foundation is terminated at the casting of your German floor; then you can heave a sigh of relieve for the completion of the first stage of your project.
Stage 2-Block and concrete works The next stage is the block and concrete works in your project. On the concrete floor, solid blocks are used to demarcate various areas, like bedrooms, living-rooms, kitchen and bathrooms as laid-down in your building plan leaving out the openings especially doors and archways. The first four layers will take the building to a height of 900 millimetres under the window; another height of 1200 millimetres, five layers of blocks, will get to the top of the doors and windows. Then, from here, you need a height of 675 millimetres which is another three layers of blocks to take the building to the roof level, while the openings are bridged with concrete which has iron rods embedded in it and called lintel. Before you move to the next stage, which is the roofing and ceiling, remember to cut 10 millimetres iron rods of about 2 metres each and plant them in mass concrete at 3 metres intervals from the last three layers of the block works. These curved steel ropes (or use belt-like flat irons) will fasten the hardwood members to the block works in order to prevent the whole roof from being blown off, in case of rainstorm.
Stage 3-Roof and Ceiling The roof is another very important part of the building and your architect must have considered a lot of factors in his design concept. These include aesthetics, durability, availability and cost-effectiveness of the materials. All the hardwood roof members are normally sawn into sizes and they are popularly referred to as 2 by 2, 2 by 3, 2 by 4, 1 by 12 or 3 by 4 (measured in inches and feet). Similarly, any choice of your roofing and ceiling materials especially aluminum of various designs and colours; asbestos roofing sheet and 4 by 4 for ceiling, but you can opt for Plaster of Paris (P.O.P). Your carpenter should be able to calculate the number of hardwood you need depending on the shape and height of the roof, then you can go to the saw-mill with him to buy.
Stage 4-Electrical and Plumbing works The electrical and plumbing rough works, which is the next stage in your project, may not be as complex as they are in larger buildings but you have to ensure that quality materials and standard jobs are not compromised. This is because the money you think of saving now, may not be sufficient for the loss in repairs, maintenance or complete overhauling resulting there from. The main work here involves the installation of pipes and “fishing” of electrical cables. Most of the pipes would be embedded in the walls while some would “fly” through the ceiling. So, you have to ensure that they are properly connected and deeply lodged in walls; otherwise the walls would be difficult to plaster. Installation of electrical and plumbing fixtures should wait until you have done the plastering.
Stage 5-Plastering Plastering appears to be a very simple task in building a house, but it is very delicate. Plastering is actually meant to cover all rough works in the building, among other objectives, but if not properly carried-out, the angles and curves would end-up to disfigure the building. Before mixing the soft sand and cement in appropriate ratio, make sure that the soft sand is sieved to remove silt, otherwise, the walls would have so much blisters on it. Apart from this, you may have to add some quantities of sharp sand in order to improve the texture of the mortar.
Stage 6-Doors and Windows You may have to carry-out the installations of door and window frames simultaneously with the plastering. Other items like burglary proofs and railings should also be installed along while plastering is going. Always crosscheck to see that archways, curves, angles as well as sides of doors and windows are properly done and you have even surfaces both for the interior and exterior walls.
Stage 7-Floor and wall finishings One simple way of finishing your floor is by screeding, that is, you mix sharp sand with cement and spread evenly on the dpc; the ultimate, when you eventually pack-in, is to use carpets and rugs. However, floor tiles are now in vogue as a result of its durability and ease of maintenance. If you opt for tiling, both on the floors and walls, it can start immediately after plastering. Tiles are made in various sizes and packed in crates or cartons. Apart from locally-made high quality tiles, good numbers are imported from Spain, Italy and North Korea; but no matter how expensive and colourful the tiles are, the beauty is in the proper laying. One common check for good laying is uniformity of lines, both horizontally and vertically; but much more importantly, you have to verify that there is enough sand and cement underlay in order to prevent sudden removal or cracks. No tile would be scored high if you have uneven surface, which can cause home accident.
Stage 8-Kitchen cabinets and wardrobes Once you have completed the floor finishing, it is time to start the installation of kitchen cabinets and wardrobes. You have two options for this; either you buy the materials and a furniture maker builds them right on your site or you can buy them ready-made from a furniture shop. Although, it is cheaper if they are built on site, but you have to look-out for good workmanship with good materials. In case you are buying the cabinets and wardrobes, or better still, if you can afford to import them, you have to know the measurement of the kitchen space as well as the wardrobes, otherwise, you may end-up breaking or building new walls for them to fit-in properly.
Stage 9-External works Having gone this far in your project, the next stage is to embark on fencing the land and other external works like the construction of soak-away and septic tanks; manholes, cesspools; drainage; landscape with interlocking concrete, mass concrete or greenery. Although, it possible to have fenced the land when it was bought, but it is time to complete it with plastering and install metal spikes or barbed wire on it in order to ward-off any intrusion. You may also have to hang some flood-lights on the fence, to illuminate the compound. In addition, you have to construct the soak-away and septic tanks, with blocks and concrete, and link the drainage line in the premises with manholes, while you also build open gutters to collect waste water from your compound into the cesspool, normally built outside and linked with public drainage. Thereafter, you move-on to finish the remaining open space with inter-locking paving concrete or mass concrete; better still, you may decide to plant flowers and grass round the house.
Stage 10-Painting The construction of the building is often concluded with the painting; and the guiding principle here is quality materials and good workmanship, as a lot of fake and sub-standard materials could mar the beauty of your building and lead to extra cost in re-painting within a short period. It is not funny to say that some of these workmen who branded themselves as painters are not trained; therefore, they cannot give you a perfect job. You have to ensure that you supervise them properly especially where they need to mix paints with water or thinner. They may want to take undue advantage by exceeding the required quantity, which always result in poor quality job. You have to make sure that all the iron works are first coated with anti-rust before the real paint; while all uneven surfaces are leveled with putty before the final painting.
Do you need any clarification on your project?
Contact Ranti Adedeji on 0813-784-3401; 0802-367-3113