By Leonard Gildarie
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 [email protected] or call me on 225-8491 and 225-8482.
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