By Leonard Gildarie
Last week’s article on low-cost prefab homes saw a really weird thing happening. My phone was ringing off the hook and the emails jammed with people, from as far as St. Lucia, wanting to buy or find out more about the image of a model home that was published alongside the article.
I was at pains to point out that the housing columns which started way back in February were not designed to endorse any particular product or building designs. As a newspaper, we don’t sell properties or recommend a particular hardware store to shop. Rather, the articles were introduced to further educate Guyanese on one of the fastest growing sectors in the country.
There are many pitfalls.
From personal experiences, it was clear that many citizens allocated a piece of land were fumbling in the dark and wasting precious time and money, making costly mistakes along the way to completing their homes.
We have examined a variety of issues from how to apply for a mortgage to utilizing space to how not to get scammed by contractors.
Last week, I again spoke of the timeliness of the International Building Expo at the National Stadium, which is being held for the second year running. I also revealed a wish-list of what I would like to see at the show. Two of these included low-cost housing and pre-fabricated homes being introduced in a big way.
The photograph published was of a newly opened hardware company launching pinewood, used predominantly to frame homes in North America, into the local market. The wood was used to frame that model home which will be on display at the National Stadium.
A few days ago, Bulkan Timber Works Inc., which has quietly been manufacturing roof shingles, doors, windows and mouldings, from its Yarrowkabra factory for mainly overseas markets, announced that it now has the capacity to construct pre-fabricated homes for the local market.
For those who are unaware of what this is, it is simple. Prefab companies, based on the size of your home, would use lumber and other materials to design an entire wall and roof. All you have to do is lay the foundation.
In the case of Bulkan Timber, except for the electrical and internal fittings like plumbing, they will be manufacturing the entire structure. They have the shingles for the roof and a variety of wood for the sidewalls. They also make the doors, windows and flooring, and even have materials for the fence and decking for the yard. They say that the company can manufacture all the walls and roof within 18 days. Significant, if one takes into account that the average time to build a two-bedroom two-flat home would not be less than two months.
Because Bulkan is kiln-drying the woods to make it stronger and kill the termites, the cost of a wooden home will not immediately fall into the horizon of the low income folks. Rather, officials of the company said they are, for now, targeting the middle income families who have a little more money to spend. A 700-square foot home, inclusive of the shingle roof, two bedrooms and one bathroom, could go for $7M, which for the low income families will be too high. However Bulkan is looking at options to provide a lower cost home for those families.
Now, there are a couple of things that need to be said. As a Guyanese who loves all things local, I am sure that not many are aware of the beauty of wood, especially the types found right here. If treated correctly, stained and coated, it is unbelievable how attractive they are.
I hate seeing wooden walls being painted.
The other reporters present during the media tour at Bulkan’s, like myself, were awestruck.
More than 95% of Guyanese do not buy kiln-dried wood when building. Kilns are huge ovens that have hot air being blown for days around a batch of wood. But the kiln process has tremendous benefits. It automatically increases significantly the lifespan of a piece of wood by decades.
If you have seen a wooden bedroom wall recently built that has spaces, it is because the lumber has shrunk or moved. More than likely, the lumber has not been kiln dried. With hardwood hovering around a high $200 per BM, the cost for kiln-dried could very well end up leaving a hole in the pockets of consumers. The point is, Guyana would welcome any moves for prefab homes.
However, ultimately there would be a bigger impact for the consumers if this would not cost too much.
As mentioned in previous articles, the Housing Ministry has already built a few low cost “Core Homes” for poorer families that cost around $1.5M. The Ministry is now working on a $3M structure.
A number of companies at the expo have homes ranging from $2.5M to well past $20M.
I think this a positive move in the right direction.
This weekend’s Expo should also be a must for landowners who are about to build. It is an educational experience that can save you thousands of dollars.
We will be publishing photos and interviews of the expo during the next few days.
In the meantime, continue writing us on [email protected] or call me on 225-8491.
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