Building Your Home

May 9, 2011 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Guyanese Literature 

February 2, 2011

Building your home? Think again!

By Leonard Gildarie

I managed to move into my new home at La Parfaite Harmonie, West Bank Demerara, in late November after three months of hectic building.

It was a grand experience. My first ever home, built the way it was envisioned. But it was not the first time I was involved in building.

In 2005-2006, I oversaw the construction of my parents’ home in Grove, on the East Bank of Demerara. That was a rude experience. It became painfully evident that there was a difference between columns and beams and rafters with introduction to words and terms like cantilever and curb walls.

Sad to say, while the house is a quite a good-looking one by local standards, much more work could have been done in the finishing touches.

Then some family of mine wanted help to build their home in Diamond. That went rather well, except that the money ran out.

But the three forays in construction have led to a number of revelations that clearly underlined the fact that there are problems within the housing industry, and deep-seated ones that will take more than some regulatory change to fix.

While more and more Guyanese are getting a piece of land, the problems are numerous…with excited potential homeowners getting screwed by contractors; loans being badly spent; and approved building plans being adjusted at will, causing time and cost overruns.

A walk through many of the housing schemes across the country will see many homes unfinished…many because banks have refused to disburse monies because contractors have strayed from the building plans.

In many instances, persons would tell of horror stories of contractors who because of the current sloth in the judicial system care not of the suffering of their victims.

Many are now refusing to allow their contractors to purchase for them. A smart move. There are accusations of contractors over-estimating the lumber needed and after being entrusted by the unsuspecting family, would strike a deal or collecting less from the sawmill and even having the bills adjusted to the reflect a higher figure.

Many contractors would wait until the structure is up, send home their laborers and then literally blackmail their employer to either pay up more or the job will be left undone.

On another side, the process to apply to the banks and other lending institutions has proven quite a humbug for many. Many are unaware that there is a percentage to be paid for legal fees once the loan has been approved and is being processed in the court…this could be a hefty sum for some.

Issues of actually planning the layout of homes are problems for many. There are many cases of a flight of stairs falling wrong in the kitchen or living room, taking up precious space.

Many persons, instead of building a home to suit their needs, build because their neighbors or somebody has a stylish home and it looks… well…kinda good.

It was only during this week, that the Housing Ministry expressed alarm over numerous complaints that home-owners are being systematically fleeced by contractors who are comforted in knowing that there are more jobs available because of the housing boom. While there are no official estimations at the moment, it will have to be in the millions of dollars that would be lost by home builders because of opportunity lost and other factors.

It is clear, the Ministry is saying, that the traditional verbal agreement will not work anymore.

While contractors were blamed the majority of times, it was acknowledged that some home builders were unscrupulous too, finding faults at the end of the job to not pay or even add some extra work.

The Ministry is now planning to introduce a licensing system to legalize contractors, even posting them on a website and allowing persons to comment on their performance.

Also, the Ministry announced, a draft document of what home builders and contractors should agree will shortly be posted onto their website.

It is a good move but it may also be wise to review what would happen at the judicial level if the matter ever reached that far. It is no secret that current sloth of civil matters being heard has frustrated many.

Building a home, in my humble view, calls for intense planning.

Where does one put the bedrooms? Or how big should the porch be? How far away from the fence should the home be? Where will the car be parked?

All pertinent points.

How high should I build? What does the law say on how far should I be from my neighbor’s fence?

The challenges for a any home builder are numerous but not insurmountable.

Over the next few weeks, Kaieteur News will attempt to get a handle on the housing sector, which government says is among the fastest growing in the country…just take a look at the frenetic pace of construction in some schemes or visit the hardware stores.

You can also email any questions or raise issues at gildarie@yahoo.com.

February 26, 2011

Building your home? Think again! (Part 2)

So you have piece of land…

I was not surprised at the number of emails and calls we received last week following our announcement to do a series of articles on the problems encountered by persons when building homes.

Even the banks called. Clearly, there are worries.

It has been known for sometime now that all is not well in the housing sector.

Too many home builders have been complaining of problems with contractors, quality of work and unfinished structures.

But searching questions must be asked. Like what went wrong? Was there proper planning in the initial stages? Was a critical expense not taken into account?

So you have a piece of land from government and or you have purchased it from a private individual, what is the next step?

Speaking from experience and with talks from at least one banker, planning your home is probably the most important aspect of building process.

Building a new home begins long before the foundation is poured.

NDC

It would be an advisable to talk to a local Neighborhood Democratic Council (NDC) or if you are in town, to the Town Council to learn about building codes and regulations.

Not only are costs for processing building plans in the city more expensive, but there are different requirements that have to be met.

Issues will have to be taken into account like how far away from the neighbor’s fence one can build.

Now, I was always under the impression that building your yard above the street level is good.

Keep that thought.

Normally, the main public road rarely floods. Assuming that side roads are lower than the main public road, then it is logical to strike some balance and think of raising your home and land to be above the level of the main public road. Remember what happened a few months back when water from the Demerara River was sheeting across sections of a East Bank Demerara roadway because of a spring tide?

Now, your budget may be tight but it would be ill-advised when pouring the foundation to not at least raise the structure so that the first floor will comply.

Budget

Begin now to think about how much you can afford to spend and how much building your new home is likely to cost.

This will have to go hand-in-hand with the size and style of home that you want.

Factors to take into account when determining size had direct relations to budget and long term needs.

Now, if you plan on opening a shop, for heaven’s sake don’t make a mistake and build too close to the front fence. Many homebuilders end up having nowhere to park or unload groceries. Secondly, your backyard may not need to be big. The point is optimal use must be made of your land.

Throwing your home back in the land also helps in creating an illusion of space, instead of cramped-up look.

But I have digressed a bit.

It would be a wise idea to sit with someone who has had experiences in building. Maybe a contractor or a friend or family who would have built a home.

It may not be a bad idea to visit a bank or the New Building Society for advice.

Chances are you will need a mortgage. It’s not too early to find out what size loan you qualify for. Also, knowing the approximate costs will help you modify your building plans to meet your budget.

At the back of every home builder’s mind is how to build the best home at the cheapest cost without sacrificing quality, comfort and beauty.

Collect estimates

Before you get far in the planning process, start collecting estimates. These early estimates will be approximate, but they can help you make important building decisions. Once you know the likely costs, you can modify your plans to meet your budget.
Triangles, trapezoids, and other complex shapes are difficult and expensive to build. To save costs, choose square or rectangular floor plans. Avoid cathedral ceilings and complicated roof-lines.

While you can postpone frills like fancy doorknobs, it doesn’t pay to scrimp when it comes to features that can’t be easily changed.

Now one of the biggest problem that will be addressed in another article, is choosing your building material. Currently, wood and the concrete blocks are the most popular but a number of developers are also toying with prefab buildings that can lower costs.

You don’t need to be a construction expert to take on some jobs yourself. Perhaps you can take care of finishing details such as painting and landscaping. Also, consider postponing some parts of the project. Leave the garage unfinished and tackle those spaces at a later date. These all lower costs.

Meet with builders who construct houses that are similar in size, quality, and features to the home you want. Builders will tell you how much they usually charge for home construction. They can also give you a ballpark idea of what your dream home might cost. However, it is important to know exactly what is included in the price. If you ask, some builders will provide you a list showing the materials they will use (estimate).

The most expensive areas in a home are usually the bathrooms and the kitchen. When using other homes to calculate an estimate, be sure the home has a similar style and features of the home you plan to build.

Shapes

When designing a home, it’s best to work with even numbers. Have your home size rounded up or down to increments of two feet. This reduces wasted materials.

Homes that have a rectangular or box shape cost less to build. Having more angles and corners in the shape of your home can increase the amount of labor and materials needed to build a home.

Preparing a site for construction can have a big impact on the cost of a home. Building on a flat lot will usually cost less. If you have to haul in lots of dirt, do a lot of grading, or clear trees, then site preparations can become more expensive.

Usually the finished cost of a home is more then the original bid price. Cost overruns occur from overspending the allowances, making changes, and encountering unforeseen problems. Proper planning can greatly reduce cost overruns. In general, it is a good idea to allow an additional 10% to cover unexpected costs.

Usually the cost of building a home increases around 3% to 6% per year. If it will be several years before you begin construction, remember to include inflation into the cost estimate for your home. When using other homes to compare prices, try to use homes that have been built within the last six months.

After collecting the estimates; determining the size of your home, it may be a good idea to now start your budget.

Next week, we will examine the financing options and choosing your contractor, among other things.

On some of the problems

I managed to move into my new home at La Parfaite Harmonie, West Bank Demerara, in late November after three months of hectic building.

It was a grand experience. My first ever home, built the way it was envisioned. But it was not the first time I was involved in building.

In 2005-2006, I oversaw the construction of my parents’ home in Grove, on the East Bank of Demerara. That was a rude experience. It became painfully evident that there was a difference between columns and beams and rafters with introduction to words and terms like cantilever and curb walls.

Sad to say, while the house is a quite a good-looking one by any local standards, I did not because of ignorance paid much attention to the finishing work…much more work could have been done.

Then some family of mine wanted help to build their home in Diamond. That went rather well after the first contractor was fired within one week after the start of work because of drinking and fundamental issues.

But the three forays in construction have led to a number of revelations that clearly underlined the fact that there are problems within the housing industry, and deep-seated ones that will take more than some regulatory change to fix.

While more and more Guyanese are getting a piece of land, the problems are numerous…with excited potential homeowners getting screwed by contractors; loans being badly spent; and approved building plans being adjusted at will, causing time and cost overruns.

One banker recently told me that it contractors and the Registry remain one of the biggest challenges of the mortgage sector.

A walk through many of the housing schemes across the country will see many homes unfinished…many because banks have refused to disburse monies because contractors have strayed from the building plans or budget was exceeded.

In many instances, persons would tell of horror stories of contractors who because of the current sloth in the judicial system care not of the suffering of their victims.

Many are now refusing to allow their contractors to purchase for them. A smart move. There are accusations of contractors over-estimating the lumber needed and after being entrusted by the unsuspecting family, would strike a deal or collecting less from the sawmill and even having the bills adjusted to the reflect a higher figure.

Many contractors would wait until the structure is up, send home their laborers and then literally blackmail their employer to either pay up more or the job will be left undone.

On another side, the process to apply to the banks and other lending institutions has proven quite a humbug for many. Many are unaware that there is a percentage to be paid for legal fees once the loan has been approved and is being processed in the court…this could be a hefty sum that comes out of the pocket for some.

Issues of actually planning the layout of homes are problems for many. There are cases of a flight of stairs falling wrong in the kitchen or living room, taking up precious space.

Many persons, instead of building a home to suit their needs, build because their neighbors or somebody has a stylish home and it looks… well…kinda good.

It was only during this week, that the Housing Ministry expressed alarm over numerous complaints that home-owners are being systematically fleeced by contractors who are comforted in knowing that there are more jobs available because of the housing boom. While there are no official estimations at the moment, it will have to be in the millions of dollars that would be lost by home builders because of opportunity lost and other factors.

It is clear, the Ministry is saying, that the traditional verbal agreement will not work anymore.

While contractors were blamed the majority of times, it was acknowledged that some home builders were unscrupulous too, finding faults at the end of the job to not pay or even add some extra work.

The Ministry is now planning to introduce a licensing system to legalize contractors, even posting them on a website and allowing persons to comment on their performance.

Also, the Ministry announced, a draft document of what home builders and contractors should agree will shortly be posted onto their website.

It is a good move but it may also be wise to review what would happen at the judicial level if the matter ever reached that far. It is no secret that current sloth of civil matters being heard has frustrated many.

Building a home, in my humble view, calls for intense planning.

Where does one put the bedrooms? Or how big should the porch be? How far away from the fence should the home be? Where will the car be parked?

All pertinent points.

How high should I build? What does the law say on how far should I be from my neighbor’s fence?

The challenges for any home builder are numerous but not insurmountable.

Over the next few weeks, Kaieteur News will attempt to get a handle on the housing sector, which government says is among the fastest growing in the country…just take a look at the frenetic pace of construction in some schemes or visit the hardware stores and see the crowds.

You can also email any questions or raise issues at gildarie@yahoo.com.

March 5, 2011

Building your home? Think again!  (Part 3)

Investigate your potential contractor…

Last week, we dealt extensively on some of the factors to be taken into account in the planning stages of your home.

We received several emails and one stuck out like a sore thumb.

According to one home builder, she wanted to respond to the point that advice could initially be sought from the local NDCs and Town Council in the initial stages of planning.

The woman claimed that at the NDC level, even requesting some information on building codes and other pertinent data, is a hassle with bribes demanded. She claimed that even after information to process a house plan is given, sometimes the wrong advice is deliberately given and then more time is wasted in correcting it.

To fast-track the building plan, a “raise” has to be paid to do so.

Now, I really don’t doubt that happening, but I do believe that it is a matter of choice to offer “raises”. I am not aware that building plans taking more a month and can understand the anxiety involved in the speedy processing of the building plan. It is an age-old problem but I would have raised hell…it is the duty of the NDC and Town Council to assist.

But it is a pertinent point that needs some more discussion in another article.

Last week, we examined the factors that should be considered in the planning stages.

To recap, for those now joining us for the first time, issues like getting estimates from different contractors, shapes, transportations costs, type of building materials, and doing some of the jobs yourself can and will impact on the final costs of your home.

While it is not done much on homes in Guyana, in the US and other territories, it is the norm to estimate how much a home or structure will cost based on the size or square feet. For example, one square foot, with bathtub, the cost will be between $5,000 to $6,000, hypothetically speaking.

What happens in Guyana? A family wants to build a home and they call in a contractor and a price is haggled without any basis or explanation given on how that price is arrived at. In many cases, a home builder thinks he or she has a good deal. Maybe. But local architects are now arguing that this traditional and “cultural” way of doing business to negotiate “ain’t” advisable.

For one, a contractor may give an estimate that looks “cheap” but he ends up “busting” on the work in the crucial stages. That is why it is advisable to seek several estimates. It is the belief of some that some contractors deliberately give a low estimate to get the job. There is a percentage that does it because of ignorance. But enough of contractors’ bashing for the time.

Last week, we spoke of using a neighbor or friend’s home who has built to estimate your costs; factoring in important costs like transportation and about 10% for unexpected expenses.

The commercial banks and the New Building Society have an estimates form that could be used as a guide when building. It includes the crucial stages of foundation, walls, roofing, plumbing and electrical and painting, among other things.

It may be a wise idea to grab hold of a copy of that form.

Sit down with your contractor and family and work the budget.

Now, I do believe that probably one of the most crucial parts of building is choosing your contractor.

It is simple…research him. Ask his neighbors (some will find this outlandish but it is your money).

Find out what homes he has built. Visit them. Talk to the owners about the experiences that they had with the contractor. Check his quality. There are numerous cases of contractors leaving a job before completing it. These are important pointers.

Another crucial factor to take into account is that fact that many contractors are “yes” persons.
You would want one that can offer advice also.

Now, what I am about to suggest may not find favor with many but I do believe and quite a few housing officials including Minister Irfaan Ali will concur.

It is simple. While in the past contractors were hired on the basis on a handshake, a so-called gentleman’s agreement, let us change the process.

The fact that there is no formal agreement on the table leaves especially the home builder exposed.

While one can argue that the home is being built in stages and thus the potential losses can be limited, again it must be stressed that the investment to build a home strikes close to the heart.

It should therefore be viewed in the light that it is a strictly business transaction that should be protected as such.

With more houselots soon to be given out on the East Bank Demerara and the rising costs of building material, now is the time to build for those with houselots.

Next week, we will looking at how to apply for a mortgage.

In the meantime, you can email any questions or send comments on how we can improve on the articles to gildarie@yahoo.com.

Building your home? Think again!  (Part Four)

Applying for your mortgage

Welcome again. Last week, in the third of a series of articles on building your home, we spoke of the need to investigate contractors.

Needless to say, while it seemed initially like an outlandish thing, it was a suggestion that evoked much amusement, with one woman saying she likes the part of going to his (the contractor’s) neighbours and asking them about him.

Well as funny as it may sound, again I insist that it needs to be done…it is a major investment that will either have you paying back for years to come or represents monies that a family would have been scrimping and saving for years.

This week, we are at the part of preparing to apply for a mortgage.

Building a home, especially with a mortgage, calls for much planning. Continuously, a home builder and his/her family have to be shopping around for the best prices for materials and fixtures, deciding colours and a host of other critical issues that need addressing.

While for some, money is no object, for the majority of the working class, every dollar counts.

The rule of thumb is that the banks or the New Building Society will be requiring that you come up with a percentage of your total budget.

While for some, it may be cash, a relative may donate blocks, cement, steel or paint. The point is, the bank has to be satisfied that you are contributing. There are a number of ways other than cash that you can manage this.

You would need, among other things, a transport or title to the land, a building plan that has been approved by the NDC or Town Council, estimates for the materials, proof of income (whether from an employer or your own business), proof of your contribution, ID and photographs, and more than likely, images of the land.

Now, if you are a houselot allottee and have been given a letter from the Ministry of Housing, some of the banks and NBS say that they are willing to accept these, and have measures to expedite the processing of the Transports with the Ministry.

The point is, don’t waste time on waiting for the Transport. Start the mortgage application.

The estimates for the proposed building…we spoke of this last week at some length.

If you are working with a company, a letter addressed to the bank or NBS will suffice, outlining your years of service, position and salary details. If you own a business, then the banks will be requiring accounts of your business along with registration and other documents verifying this is true.

Most of the mortgage institutions will charge a processing fee which is as much as $5,000.

I would advise that some monies, for legal fees, be set aside. This is payable once the mortgage is approved. This fee for up to $8M can range up to $100,000.

Because of the current housing boom, applications are taking up to two months to be approved, depending on the institution.

A few bankers have complained that the delay is with the Registry and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission. I must stress that there have been numerous letters in the papers, including from some lawyers, on this matter. I will attempt this week to solicit a comment on the situation from both departments.

Now, while the mortgage is being processed, there are a number of things that can be done. If you were allocated a piece of land from the Ministry of Housing, more than likely it may be filled with heavy overgrowth like the dreaded “Auntie Desmond”. It may be a good idea to start cleaning the land.

Start the application for a temporary electricity meter as well as for a water connection.

GWI has been insisting that there must be constant occupation of the land before service connection is made. But this does not stop you from putting in the application.

You would need sand, stone and other materials delivered to the worksite. It may be good to find a Canter or a sand truck and have them on speed dial.

While building in Parfait Harmonie, I learnt that a number of block makers operated there.

Some of the block makers now rent pumps and heavy equipment, and stock pipes, cement and steel.

For me, it saved the worry of arranging transportation, buying and then ensuring that the materials are delivered. In most major housing schemes, several of these hardware store-like operations have sprung up, while providing the key services of transportation.

They make their money on the transportation. It worked for me. I called in the evenings, placed an order for sand and stone and it was delivered next morning. They would bring the blocks and unpack them too.

Now, one of the biggest problems in the housing areas over recent years is security. Government has been receiving a constant stream of these complaints. It is a major challenge, with many home builders claiming that they have lost steel, cement, tools and other materials that severely delayed works.

It would be wise to start thinking of how to secure the worksite during the construction phase. In many cases, workers would sleep at the sites, incurring an additional cost for some. A storeroom may be a good idea. Another measure that may work is not buying materials in large quantities. Of course, this means incurring more transportation cost.

Next week, we will examine the issue of poor quality of blocks, the right kind of cement and other irritations.

Enjoy the weekend and don’t forget to send any comments to gildarie@yahoo.com or call 611-3674.

Building your home? Think again!  (Part Five)

Concrete blocks, BM and running feet….

Welcome again. Last week we spoke at length of the requirements of applying for a mortgage and utilising the transportation from hardware stores within your community to cut costs.

As usual, we received several mails on the article with some people asking for copies of the past ones. No problem, just send us your email address and we can forward them.

This week, I want to touch on a crucial issue. It is my view that even if you spend millions more than your neighbour, a clumsy contractor can make your home look…well…not so neat.

But there are several other niggling irritants that would affect the quality of your home. And when I say quality, for the layman I mean it can affect how strong or resilient your home is to the elements. Your home is bombarded by rain, sun, floods, termites and energetic children, among other things.

There are quite a number of block-makers around the country. Although a labour-intensive job, it does not demand much input, except cement, water and sand, and maybe sifting, for the more honest of block-makers. Because of the high housing demand, blocks are always in short supply.

Herein lies the problem. If you order, let us say around 1,000 concrete blocks today, more than likely you will get it within two days. What you may not know is that concrete blocks are more than likely made when you order them. There is a “curing” period which means that after being taken from the moulds, it should have some heat, more than likely from the sun, for a few days.

It would be advisable to ensure that your block-maker does so. I admit it may be hard to determine this.

Blocks that are not “cured” properly can crumble and cause cracks eventually to your walls. It is something to watch out for. If you see a contractor using a trowel or blade to cut a concrete block…that is a good sign that you have good quality.

I think that someone may have to request of the Guyana National Bureau of Standards to regulate block-makers to ensure that quality is of an acceptable standard. I don’t think it is being done at the moment. I may be wrong. It is also a fact that quite a few blocks may crumble while being transported or unpacked. The costs, around $80 on the average for one block, all add up and will affect your budget.

Now, a big, big problem is lumber in Guyana. The top grades are being exported. More than likely a lumber yard that you will be using will be dealing with second or third grade.

I have been told that today the greenheart (a lovely wood which can last years in water), is not like 50 years back. I’m sure the persons who told me this can provide irrefutable evidence.

There was a time that greenheart was the choice wood for homes. That was until concrete blocks became popular and a hungry overseas market caused local prices of wood to rise. It is a fact that the cost for building a home with wood is going to be much more expensive than one made of concrete blocks.

Another problem, in addition to rising cost of wood, is the many unscrupulous lumber yards.

A whole racket is being run there. It is unbelievable that the authorities have not managed to clampdown on the touting, especially in the Lombard Street area, that has caused many to lose their precious dollars.

In addition to being given lengths with cracks and knots, a home owner choosing lumber must beware also of receiving short lengths.

I believe that the owners and operators of some lumber yards are the slickest of business people. With a straight face, they can measure your lumber and more than likely it will be short after you take it to the worksite.

Now there is something called board measurement (BM) and running length. If your contractor is not with you while purchasing your lumber, demand that you are getting what you order. More than likely it is BM, which speaks of the square feet of the lumber instead of running feet which mainly has to do with the length. Some lumber yards deliberately give you running feet instead of BM. What happens is that you will end up with less lumber and the lumber yard folks will be smiling all the way to the bank because they shafted you.

I suggest here that you walk with your contractor. There are contractors who will be upset. No sweat. I do believe that there are honest ones. But if you are one of the many homebuilders who, because of budget constraints, don’t have money to throw away, take your contractor or someone who is familiar with BM or running feet. Trust me, you will not regret it.

I remember a friend relating an experience he had on Lombard Street. He was in a bind and his contractor was awaiting a few rafters and other pieces.

He was approached by several very enthusiastic persons on arriving at the Lombard Street lumber yard. When asked what he needed, he gave one of the more trustworthy looking ones his list. My friend was taken to one lumber yard where the man went into the office and came out saying that they have only one of the required pieces. My friend was assured that another lumber yard had that wood. He collected those on a horse cart and he and the man, whom he later learnt is a tout, went to the other lumber yard. To make a long story short, my friend was abandoned by the tout who had collected his commission. My friend then had to incur more transportation cost by going to another one. By then he was way over the budgeted amount for the wood.

It is the same thing with other items like windows, ceilings, door locks and roofing material. While some may not have many choices because of budget constraints, a few hundred dollars more for a better quality may not hurt. If you are building your doors, allow for a few weeks to have them done properly.

Next week, we will speak more of quality and tips on protecting your windows and doors.

So long and don’t forget to write us at gildarie@yahoo.com or call me on 225-8491 and 225-8482.

Building your home? Think again!  (Part Six)

Protecting your doors & windows…

The phones were ringing off the hooks like crazy and my inbox was clogged up over the past few days.

Last week we examined the need to ensure that your materials for the home are of good quality. Wood and concrete blocks especially, when being procured, must be given deserved attention, as they can affect both your pocket and the strength of your home if they are of poor quality.

Last week, in making a point that concrete blocks should be cured properly by the makers before being sold, I neglected to mention that it is the custom to wet them after being removed from the mould to ensure strength.  One person even asked if it is our intention to produce a brochure on building a home because of the many pitfalls in an industry which is one of the fastest growing in Guyana.

To answer the question on the brochure…no, we are a newspaper that saw a critical issue that needed some attention. Judging from the responses, via emails and phone calls, it can be concluded that it was indeed a critical issue.

I thought it would be a good idea this week to address some of the issues raised by a number of callers and from emails.

One person asked about the next International Building Expo. Officials of the Ministry of Housing have indicated that it will be held between July and August.

That show, in my opinion, is an excellent initiative for families planning to build a home. The varieties of products on display last year were dizzying, a clear indication that the expo was long overdue.

This year again, I would strongly recommend a visit to the event to compare cement prices; learn valuable tips and examine the different roofing materials, paints and even the remarkable trowel tex – an application that replaces paint and is a beautiful finish. There were the banks present at the expo and even Courts did not miss out.

I think also the Housing Ministry could consider taking the venture to Berbice and Essequibo.

About two decades ago, louvres and wood windows were the options available. Now, a few builders have introduced the attractive metal awnings and sash windows.

Last year, during the housing expo at the National Stadium, I saw a pair of beautiful wooden windows on display by Guyana Furniture Manufacturing. It was love at first sight.

I ordered and paid for two…waited for three weeks for them to be made…and then had them installed. It was a nervous few hours, because my contractor had never worked with a type like that before. We had some hard work applying the sanding sealer to protect it against moisture and then paint-brushing the walnut stain and clear coat. For me, it is the showpiece of my humble abode. Thanks to that expo.

Another writer also raised the issue of termites in homes. While this should not be, the reality is that wood materials used for roofing are, almost in 99% of the cases, not treated.

Forestry experts are recommending that for wood to become stronger, it should be stored for a few months in the shade and away from moisture.

According to one reader who emailed us from New York, many contractors/builders in Guyana do not dispose of wood scraps and ends properly.  They would compact it into the foundation as filler. This is literally food for the dreaded wood ants and other termites.

The problem is that many homebuilders do not have the luxury of time. For those with advances on mortgages, it is a race against time to buy the materials in a hurry and transport it to the worksite for use.

In many cases, workmen just leave them in the rain and sun for several days. Not recommended, especially for wallboards. After awhile, when the wood dries, it will shrink and leave embarrassing spaces. It has to be stored properly.

Shopping for lumber is a major headache. In addition to worrying about being robbed of the quantity, the age of the wood is critical. Many lumber yards, and I make no apologies for this, will try to pass off young lumber.

You can tell that the lumber is good by the colour…the darker the older…the older the better.

Forestry officials also noted that while termites attack lumber at some time, the proper storage of the material away from moisture, in a cool place, will help to strengthen it.

One of the biggest problems for homebuilders also is that while a floor plan has been approved by the local NDC or Town Council, it will not show the designs on the windows or in a particular area. In most cases, a family or homebuilder will deal with these as the home progresses.

Not a good idea. Adjustments can be costly, affect your pocket and cut into your schedule. Before building, there should be a clear idea of what the designs are.

Now, I have seen many homes with doors and windows that are fitted without any kind of protection from the elements.

What do I mean by protection? It is simple. The roof must be wide enough to lessen the beating from rains or sun. Or alternatively, in the case of the windows, a small ledge or lip could be built around it. Many homeowners will complain of rain flashing in through the windows. After awhile the exposure could damage the frame of the window, making it “tight”.

Now I know that a few window makers will be unhappy over this. It is my assertion that the quality of windows could do with some improvements.

Regarding your doors; be it in front, side or back, a shed is the best place for protection. Remember, 90% of homes will be using wooden doors. Many will only paint or varnish them. It does not help when rain and sun continue their merciless attack on the door, day in and out.

In my case, my front door leads to a covered porch, with the back one leading to a shed.

And as we are on the topic of protection, I would recommend using the sanding sealer on all wooden doors or windows. This lacquer-like material when sanded, seals the pores of the wood so that moisture (water) cannot penetrate easily and cause damage. Throw in two coats of lacquer on the door or window and you are good to go.

Next week, we will take a look at what happens when the bank calls and says that your mortgage is ready. In the meantime, you can drop suggestions, questions or even request past articles if you have missed them to gildarie@yahoo.com.  You can also call 225-8491.

Building your home? Think again!  (Part Seven)

So, your loan has been approved!!!

In a recent email to this column, an individual interested in building a home, asked if I knew any money lender. Sorry, I don’t. But the last time I heard, a number of them are operating on America and Longden Streets, in the city.
Last week, we examined a number of issues, including strategically placing your doors and windows away from the elements.

This week, in response to more information on mortgages and the building processes, we are publishing a copy of the New Building Society (NBS) Summary of Estimates. This form is a valuable tool, similar to ones used by commercial banks, to assess the application. It can help weed out the possibilities of a ‘Smart Alec’ attempting to inflate prices.

NBS and the commercial banks are very much aware of prices for the critical items, like cement, steel, sand, and roofing materials. Although, you may get away with a few hundred dollars here and there, my simple advice is not to do it. It can affect your processing time, also, since the mortgage folks may call you and ask you to do the estimates all over again.

However, it can and should be used by the home builder to also track the progress of the structure and costs at the various stages.

Keep records

That reminds me. It would be a good idea to invest in a journal…even a notebook will do, or for the more modern of us, a PC or Laptop could work.

I am especially directing these articles to the folks who will be drawing down on their first mortgage. If you will be working on a tight budget every cent counts, and costs can escalate if instead of buying that toilet bowl, you decide to buy a Jacuzzi…stick to the plan.

You need to keep a detailed record of every dollar that is spent, since the bank or NBS would only be releasing what has been approved.

In other words, if you have budgeted $1M for the foundation, according to the Summary of Estimates which you would have submitted at the application stage, strive to ensure that this will suffice.

It cannot be emphasized more, the need to stick to a budget. Every section of the building, from foundation to painting, will cost you. That is why, in the initial stages, you have to sit down with your contractor or somebody knowledgeable to work out those estimates. Every pin (read nail) that is to be bought will have to be included in the summary form.

Even extending your home by 12 inches will impact on the costs.

Approval

Last week I indicated that we will be delving into the scenarios that will play out when you have applied for your mortgage and it has been approved.

The applicant will be required to sign an acceptance form which in the case of NBS is then dispatched to the society’s lawyers, along with the Original Transport, Certificate of Title or Lease. At this point, the applicant is expected to pay the legal fees.

For NBS, for up to $4M, the legal costs will be just over $45,000 while it can reach over $90,000 for an $8M mortgage.

Upon the payment of these fees, the lawyers prepare the mortgage documents which will be signed by the applicants. These documents, which basically prevent the landowner from selling it without permission from the bank, are then filed at either the Deeds or Lands Registry. This process can take a few weeks.

In the case of Transport matters, these have to be advertised in the Official Gazette, where a mandatory two weeks claims and objections period becomes necessary.

Regarding Certificates of Title, the lawyers for the banks or NBS will uplift these when they are ready and forward them to mortgage departments. Within days, the applicant is informed and the funds are made available for disbursement.

Tranches

If you are applying for a mortgage, none of the banks will disburse the entire amount that has been approved. For example, for an $8M mortgage, the monies could be released in $1.5M tranches, starting with the foundation. And then these tranches are only disbursed once the banks or NBS are satisfied that you have completed those phases according to your estimates. Not building to the estimates can, and will, cause the release of monies to be delayed.

One more thing. You will be required to take out insurance for the property. This can average around $40,000 annually for a mortgage of $8M.

I don’t want to make this particular piece too long since we are printing the Summary of Estimates, a form that many will be seeing for the first time. It is a valuable guide.

If you have been reading the past articles, you would know immediately what the next step is once you collect that first tranche. The work now begins.

Next week, we will be looking at some challenges at the foundation stage.

Remember, you can contact me via email at gildarie@yahoo.com or call 225-8491.

Building your home? Think again!  (Part Eight)

Pay rapt attention and double-check

Over the last few weeks, we have covered quite extensively a number of problematic areas for homebuilders, including dealing with the contractors and the need to shop wisely.

While the articles were targeted mainly at those who have applied or were granted mortgages, we have been receiving quite a number of calls and emails, both locally and from overseas raising several issues, from returning home to wondering about the new remigrant scheme that government is planning at Providence, East Bank Demerara.

Last week, we published a copy of the Summary of Estimates form from the New Building Society (NBS), one of the country’s main mortgage lending facilities.

As we draw to a close in the series, I would like to repeat the recurring message which has been consistent throughout…plan, plan, plan. Building a home is a major, lifelong dream for many. Go on the internet; talk to friends; drive in strange neighborhoods to see the different designs and use of products.

The internet is a wealth of information, but it is advisable to use the data in a local context. What do I mean by that? While a particular style of home in the US may look tempting, the reality is that it just may not be practical here, where it is mostly hot throughout the year. Have you ever visited a home that is hot and stuffy? Maybe the living room is located away from the wind and the bedrooms are blocking the air from flowing.

The practice by many lazy contractors is to totally seal the entire home, with windows being the only source of air. With only a fraction of the population being able to afford air conditioning or central air, there is definitely a problem.

The point is that you have to build practically.That will not only save you money in maintenance costs, but make your family comfortable.

While building my home at La Parfaite Harmonie, we were caught between choosing a plywood ceiling or the PVC ones by King Panel. We opted for the latter because while it was more expensive initially, in the long run the costs of the plywood would have been more. The plywood would have to be mounted and prepared for painting and probably more painting in years to come. The King Panel PVC on the other hand is easy to work with, very attractive and boasts of a lifetime of 30 years.

Recently, I received a call from Diamond, East Bank Demerara. The male caller expressed frustration that his home was besieged by little “water” frogs. Nobody seems to have the answers to this pesky problem. I would love for someone to come up with a solution. It seems as if the problem with the frogs is a very prevalent one, especially for the new housing schemes.

If you have a family and are planning to have them around a long time and you are building a “flat” house, it may be a good thing to plan to go up another storey. A good foundation of steel is necessary.

I have seen many families cramped in because of the space problem. In cases like this, where the foundation is set for a single storey without the use of steel, the only way to build is out and not up, unless you take down the entire structure and start from scratch. It could be a problem in later years.

Again, I will repeat, if you can afford it, build your foundation floor about five concrete blocks above road level. It will help in case of flood.

Now, that brings me to another issue that has been the subject of many reports, especially in the newspapers.

Over the past decade or so, government has granted plots of lands to developers who capitalised on a ready, hungry market for homes.

While there have been a number of these successful schemes, on the East Bank Demerara and in other areas, there have been complaints of a few developers taking the money and not delivering.

For heaven’s sake, research these people. While government would have done due diligence, it is your money that could be held up. Find out how long your house will take to be completed. Ensure that the contract gives you protection in case you want your money back.

But that is only one part of the problem. In many cases, the developers would want to cut costs, especially if they are building several of the same type of homes along a stretch. If you have paid your money, visit the site of the homes. You would want to check on how the foundations are being built.

The reason for this is that many homeowners in these private schemes have complained of foundation problems with cracks in the walls and around the windows, evident within a few months. Many homeowners have now reportedly been forced to conduct repairs and other adjustments after moving in. Then the use of cheap materials may be another area to look out for.

The whole point of these articles is that if you are building, pay attention; learn; observe; double-check the people who are working for you; shop around. Until next week.

Remember, you can contact me via email at gildarie@yahoo.com or call 225-8491.

Building your home? Think again!  (Part Nine)

Some shocking things you may need to know …

This week, based on questions asked by our readers, we will specifically be dealing with wiring your home.

This is a critical element if you are building now as there are new regulations regarding how electrical wires are to be installed. Additionally, and in my view just as important, is the fact that many mistakes are made by home builders in this aspect.

It is true that many would want to cut corners and save money by using electricians who are generally unaware of the new codes introduced by the government. On the other hand, it is a fact also that some electricians, in addition to being eager to grab the job, fail to tell home owners of the potential pitfalls and dangers.

Officials of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) have been complaining that many homes, and we are speaking particularly of the older ones, have wiring that are outdated and in some cases more than a few decades old.

In addition to the potential of causing fires, it could lead to irritating problems such as low voltage and even damage to valuable appliances. It should be a priority for a general inspection to be done. The folks down at GPL have been saying that if there are sparks on the power line leading to your building, it could be a fault in the home. Another warning signal is if a particular fuse is blown time and again…it is more likely an indication that something is bridging or wrong within the home.

Temporary meters

If you are starting to build and your contractor indicates that he will be needing power, it would be a good idea to apply for a temporary meter. This allows for electrical saws and other equipment to be used while building.

Based on what your contractor tells you, it will basically consist of a main switch, an electrical outlet or two, a light socket and wires to allow GPL to connect power.

These will have to be installed on a board at least three feet square and erected on support that is around 1.8 meters in height.

Before we get to the process, there is a major issue that needs addressing.

There are numerous persons operating as electricians. However, it would be pointless to wire your home if you can’t get a permit from the Government Electrical Inspections department.

This permit is taken to GPL which uses it as a basis for hooking up power after the application and other processes would have been completed.

Many of these electricians are not certified. While they are knowledgeable, officials are now arguing many of them are not familiar with new regulations which government is working to implement. These include the use of conduits or PVC piping to place the conductor wires in the walls and a number of tests that are in keeping with new standards.

There is training underway by government for electricians to be made aware of the new national electrical code. Many home owners will relate experiences to you of failing to get a permit because the electrician is not certified.

I guess I’ve strayed a bit…back to the essentials.

So you need a temporary meter. Your contractor can build and supply you with the circuit board or you could purchase them yourselves and have it built.

This circuit board is then taken by the electrician to the Government Inspections department in Kingston where a certificate is issued, once the required standards are met.

This certificate, along with your land documents and identification, is then used to apply for power at GPL.

GPL is only issuing prepaid meters for the temporary boards. The board has to be placed in a conspicuous area, visible from the road. This connection could take up to two weeks as GPL has to ensure there are poles and connections in the area near the building site.

A temporary meter can cost you up to $35,000, inclusive of the permit and cost of materials.

Chipped walls

If you are building a concrete home, it would be a good idea for the electrician and contractor to work along since walls may have to be chipped for conduits, outlets and switches to be installed. Many people wait until the walls are plastered before calling in the electricians. I have found that that when a plastered wall would have been chipped, it is difficult to repair it.

Some folks prefer the switches and points in their home to be installed “in” the walls while others prefer them “on” the walls.

New regulations are called for electrical wires or conductors, as they are officially referred to, to be placed in the PVC pipes or conduits. The conduits are to protect the wires.

It is a known fact that the wires, if not handled properly when being installed, can be damaged.

Authorities are saying that the new codes stipulate how many of the cables are to be placed in the conduit at any point in time. There are no objections now to wires being installed in plain view on a wooden wall.

Now, your electrician should ask you about the equipment in the home. The reason for this are that the breakers, electrical switches which cut power to a particular outlet if there are faults detected, have to be of a certain capacity to handle the load of a particular equipment.

When planning where your outlets and lights are, think deeply. I would recommend a few on the outside to cater for a possible water pump or music or tools. These must be protected from the elements.

Children-proof

On the inside, plan the placements of your outlets carefully. While the regulations will be specific as to how high the outlets should be, if you have children, think about installing protection caps that any decent electrical store should have in stock.

I recently realised that maybe a few more outlets should have been installed in my home.

The installation of water heaters and other heavy duty equipment should be done with the help of a certified electrician, because of the complexities involved.

Now, after your house would have been wired, it has to be inspected by the government electrical inspectors (not GPL) who, once satisfied, will issue a certificate. This inspection is a resistance test and not inspection of actual wiring.

So it is your responsibility to ensure that the wiring is done according to standards. After the certificate from the inspector, you can now take that with your land documents and ID to GPL to have power to the building.

There are some persons out there who have gotten GPL contract workers and others to illegally transfer the temporary meter to the home. Not a good idea. In all likelihood, the seal at the bottom of the meter will have to be broken, which obviously is tampering.

All it takes is $3,200 to have the power to the building. In any case, GPL is now issuing prepaid meters for the temporary circuits. Remember, we all want to cut costs, but it will be quite expensive if GPL finds out.

Building your home? Think again!  (Part 10)

What can six million dollars do?

As expected, our article last Sunday elicited a number of criticisms, especially from electrical contractors, some of whom claimed that it was an unfair attack and only a minor fraction of those operating in the industry have not “righted” themselves.

The harsh reality is that the housing industry, which is one of the most vibrant and the fastest growing, is in sore need of more monitoring. Just listen to the complaints of persons who are now building and some contractors who claimed that they were the victims.

From the point of licensing of contractors, both building and electrical, to ensuring that hardware stores supply quality materials, to even having the local NDCs enforce laws that require neighbours to weed their yards, the situation is crying for attention.

Next door to where I live in La Parfaite Harmonie, West Bank Demerara, there are two empty lots. Someone came a few months ago and cleared one plot. The bushes have started growing back at a rapid rate. It is almost ironic how fast, because our flower plants are taking a beating for some odd reason and are withering.

On the other side of the land, we have never seen anybody visiting. The bushes are now towering above the fence. Last week, we saw a giant salamander sliding from that lot, heading to our yard. I am not going to talk about the mosquitoes which the bushes help to harbour.

In every new housing scheme, home owners will be complaining about this. The Housing Ministry is moving to repossess some of the lands which are being illegally sold and not being built on. Recently, the Housing Minister said that they are considering buying equipment to help clear these bushy lands. The costs will be borne by the land owner.

With quite a number of these housing schemes in boom across the country, the monitoring is a challenge. The point is that Guyana can ill-afford not to do anything. And the challenges are enormous. So to the few electrical “contractors” who are not licensed, my humble suggestion is to probably approach the Prime Minister’s office in Kingston, as there are reportedly classes being offered to fix this problem.

This week, as we move closer to regrettably bringing the curtains down on what has been an enlightening experience for me, especially, there is a need to address two questions raised recently.

One was by a fellow journalist and the other in an email to us.

The journalist wanted to know what kind of a home six million dollars ($6M) can build.

That question had me taken aback for awhile. In a nutshell, the answer is simple, you can with prudent management make it go a long way. As a matter of fact, people by their very nature will make do with what they have, and things will work out once there is a steady income. For some it may take longer, naturally.

That $6M sum is a quite a hefty one for many. It would be a tight finish for a two-storey home, complete with toilet and kitchen fixtures, plumbing and painting. If you are including a ceiling, electricity, concrete yard and fencing, yes it would be tight.

The question has raised a very relevant issue. If you are a struggling working class person with limited financing, it would be a good idea to build simple and then improve on it. It is like taking your own sweet time “pimping” your car with a new paint job, then a DVD screen and music set.

Your home, as we have been stressing over the last nine articles, is a huge investment. Invariably, a new homeowner will regret something. It is normal.

The experts have advised that you can cut your costs by reducing the amount of money spent on fixtures. These include expensive door locks, faucets and lights. These can be upgraded later. It would be more difficult, I must admit, to put a plywood ceiling and then look to upgrade to PVC later on. It can be costly.

In the area of lighting, it may be a good idea, if you are cash-strapped, to run the wires and install the basic lights. The chandeliers and other wall lights will come at a later time.

If you are building a two-storey home, and again the cash is tight, maybe you can leave the downstairs open until the money starts coming in again.

The actual structure can run up to over $3M, minus the downstairs being enclosed. It is “smaller” things that tend to cost the money. For example, a ceiling, electricity, windows, doors, cupboards (maybe), sink (kitchen and bathroom), faucets, gutters, pipes and its connections, and door locks.

The money will go up if you want the aluminum sash windows and the more expensive arch ones.

Concentrate, as they say, on finishing the upstairs then you can fix the bottom. It is a good idea to move in quickly as costs tend to mount the longer one takes. This is especially if you are living far away and have to travel to the building site.

In short, if you are building and have to make hard choices to ensure the money suffices, cut the expensive stuff out. These include maybe going to louvres, instead of the more expensive aluminum frame ones.

Recently, one houselot applicant who was successful in her bid, wanted to know how to buy a home that was on the market, not far away.

Well, the banks are not too enthusiastic about using an empty lot as collateral. So we can strike that possibility out. The requirements for a mortgage for a property are almost the same as if one is building a home from scratch.

You would need photos of the building, showing front and side views with the lot number clearly visible. This is the main difference from a mortgage that has to do with constructing a new building, in which the bank would require a photograph of the land in question with the lot number visible.

The bank or lending institution would also be requiring a copy of the transport, title or lease; dimensions of the land and building; a copy of the agreement of sale; proof of the source of income; passport size photos of the applicant and copies of ID cards.

The process for a mortgage to buy a property, can take up to six weeks, banking officials say.

The lesson for this article, folks, is to think smart. Your home is not running away. It will be there for years to come. Every month, every year, a little can be done.

As they say, “wan wan dutty build dam”.

Enjoy the weekend and don’t forget you write gildarie@yahoo.com or call me at 225-8491.

Building your home? Think again!  (Final Part)

Doing some things yourself…

This week, as we bring the curtain down on what has been an enlightening experience for the past 12 weeks or so, the news is good.

Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali, is quoted on the government TV channel last week as saying that his officials are making heartening progress to ensure that both home builders and contractors are protected more. This will entail, among other things, the introduction of a standard contract, something that was notably missing between the two parties, where the option was to go for a more informal arrangement. Eventually, there will be a licensing system for contractors.

Judging from the number of complaints via letters and email, this was a sore issue which led to many homes being stalled while in construction.

We have been receiving mail from Holland, the British Virgin Islands, the US, Canada and several Caribbean islands.

From a newspaper perspective, the good news is that Guyanese living abroad want to return home and are reading the news online.

As we wrap up the articles, there are a few things that need to be examined, based on queries.

Sand-filling

One landowner asked whether it is a good idea to build up your land before or after construction and whether it would be better to use sand or dirt.

Regarding both questions, I think it is a matter of choice. While building, my contractor cleared the area for the foundation, ensuring that he had enough maneuverability for his wheelbarrows and camp. He told me it would be pointless to waste $20,000 to clear the land and level it as it still has to be filled.

Now, that particular scenario will in all likelihood be different from yours. You may not want to concrete your yard. I did. Another reason I waited to sand fill the yard was because cash was not readily available for that part, yet. I had to concentrate on the actual structure.

On the other hand, because sand takes some time to settle – it has to be soaked – it may have been a good idea to fill the yard while building. Watch out, though, for those pieces of wood which may be left and which can help attract those fearsome wood-ants.

Bottomline on this issue – it is a choice that you have to make based on money and other issues.

Regarding the sand and dirt issue, this too is a matter of choice. If you are pouring concrete on the entire yard, sand is better. However, many folks like to plant too. It may be a good idea to mix them, placing the dirt where the garden is supposed to be.

One warning that I think is pertinent here is ensuring that the perimeters are blocked around if you are raising the level of the yard. If your neighbours’ land is going to be lower than yours, you have to either build a concrete fence or build a curb wall (kind of) around the fence area to keep the sand or dirt in. My contractor did not do such a good job on a section and we were forced to do repairs recently after part of the drain collapsed because the sand was washing over to the adjacent lot.

Self-help

Another land-owner wanted to know whether it may be a wise idea to do a lot of “self help”. I presume she meant having the contractor do the harder part and maybe some of the smaller things can be handled later by family members.

This is a good question. If you have a flat house, and some time to play around, yes you can do some of the painting yourself. We did a lot of work on our home. Stuff like staining the doors and internal painting was not done by the contractor.

For some people, plumbing is easy, and with care could be handled by the home owners. Fence painting, landscaping and leveling of the yard can wait if you are tight on cash.

So yes, there are a number of things that you can handle by yourself. But be careful, it can cost you if you end up buying wrong pipe fittings or messing up the works.

What you should note

Over the past few weeks, several critical issues were raised.

In my mind, the most pertinent one is ensuring that you have a very clear idea what it is that you are building. This has to be conveyed clearly to your architect who will be drawing your plan. Your plan in all likelihood will not include arches and other little details that can cost you extra money – money you may not have.

You have to select your contractor. Investigate him or her. Check out a few of the homes that he/she would have built. Talk to the owners and neighbours.

Start also to shop around at the hardware stores. You may see the different tiles or faucets that you may want to use.

Ensure that your contractor or a contractor gives you a detailed estimate of the materials needed. On your own, you have to also factor in the cost of things like sink, toilet bowl, wiring and lighting, grills and paint, as each will add up to your final cost.

Ensure that you get a contract or legal agreement with your builder. It will protect both of you. The Ministry of Housing said that they are putting up a specimen on their website, but I can’t imagine it being difficult for a good lawyer’s office to prepare one.
The size of the home, where windows and doors fall, and the location of the bedrooms are all linked to your budget.

At the back of your mind, always keep in thought that the investment to build your home is a large one that you will have to literally live in for the rest of your life.

We spoke extensively on how to get your plan approved and applying in a timely manner to GPL and GWI for power and water. We also examined the very real possibility of managing your budget and ensuring that you put aside around 10-15% more for incidental expenses to cater for price increase and emergencies.

I would also like to remind you to constantly check with your contractor and the building site to ensure that it is being built according to specifications. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is your money.

Check around for hardware stores in your area. In many cases, they provide transportation and this can help you save money.

Very critical is ensuring that you shop for materials yourself or have someone trustworthy to do this. There have been many complaints of some contractors colluding with sawmills and hardware suppliers to doctor the bills. He can over-order, deliberately receive short materials, and a host of other scams that can cost you dearly.

Watch the measurements when you are buying at the sawmill. There are scams of deliberately shorting you or giving you running feet instead of board measurement (BM).

We also spoke of tips to protect your doors and windows by placing them away from the rains and sun, and using special materials and even a shed to protect them.

The Housing Expo started by the Housing Ministry last year is a place to go to. The shopping options, tips, and options are tantalizing.

We examined how to apply for a mortgage and what happens when you receive it. These tips include the need to keep records and not to stray from the budget.

Again, I would like to encourage landowners and others to use the internet. The search engine ‘Google’ is very helpful in this regard. There is a variety of advice that can be had for painting tips, from how to choose the right colour to intricate interior decorating.

We also spoke of the need to ensure your wiring is done by licensed contractors and what is required by government as far this issue is concerned.

I will be the first to admit that the articles would naturally have missed quite a number of critical issues that could have been elaborated on more. However, it must also be stressed that building a home should not be limited to what the contractors say. The designs and options for different materials, along with the possibilities offered by the internet are exciting, and can allow a landowner to build something really eye-catching and satisfying, while not costing an arm and a leg.

So folks, thank you for the many calls and encouragement. And thanks for reading.

Kaieteur News, because of recent increases in the number of requests, will be placing the articles online at its website.

You can email me at gildarie@yahoo.com or call at 2258491.

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