House Your Folks In Shaggz : Conversation On Building An Affordable House

EN: Hi dear! I was amazed by your sharing of the house build with a budget of 450, I want to build one with the same budget though 3bedroom, could you share more info on the cost cutting items, I would really appreciate, my no is 07xxxxxxx, we could chat on whatsapp

Arch Susan: You realise that was a house in shaggz without any services, no toilet inside, just rooms. Where is your land? Maybe we could start from there.

450k will honestly not be enough for a 3 bedroom house because that translates to 5 rooms….3 bedrooms, sitting room and kitchen. It’s like saying 1 room will cost you 90k, even labour for that one room will not be that cheap. However, you could try using containers, they’re sturdy and with a good design, you can build around it and do some really nice spaces.

EN: I want to use the bricks as opposed to container you use the ready made or  the stones, my budget is 500k, and does the total including the finishing

 Arch Susan: Do you already have the bricks on site? Bricks can be a tad expensive because of the amount of cement used but there are cost cutting measures you can do for foundations

EN: No I don’t have, just an idea thinking it would be cheaper than buying the one stones, what are the cost cutting measures on foundation?

 Arch Susan: For a small house, arranging stones on a stable ground. A foundation for a brick house would be cheaper than for a stone house because of the expected weight it is to bear. Where is your land? Location?

EN:  Aww..the land is in kiambu, on a flat ground,is there a site or this is your project?

Arch Susan: Then bricks in Kiambu would be too expensive when Juja is just nearby and stones are readily available

EN: True

 Arch Susan: Unfortunately, all my projects around the city are big, these small ones are usually bonus projects for some of my clients or some fundis who want to do a something in shaggz.

I could guide you if you’re serious, but I have never done a small project so close to Nairobi so I don’t know whether the county will charge you for approvals etc

Oh, and am a registered architect so I’ll usually design and supervise but not necessarily be involved in the sourcing of materials, as that is mostly done by either the contractor or the client.

EN:  Wow!!! I really would appreciate your input,I seriously want to put up a house for my folks but on a tightest budget. What would greatly determine my budget? Is it design, materials or labour…am glad I know you so I can even do referral for bigger projects

and let me ask you is it possible to do a house and finish the interior partitioning slowly ,e.g do cardboard(not sure this is what is used) then later do a wall and am serious, I want to start in March so that by August its ready.

Arch Susan Well, design will affect everything because for instance, the length of your standard mabati is 3meters. If the design is in such a way that you require 3.4meters of mabati on the roof, it means you will use one mabati and cut another one to fill up the 0.4meters, therefore wasting mabati… you get me?

On partitioning the house, you can use gypsum boards, they’re as good as walls but they don’t agree with water so you should be careful about wetting them. Alternatively, you can do stone walling using machine cut stone and plaster it later, same cost.

EN:  Does the machine cut stones cost the same

Arch Susan: And if you have the 500k, it should take you 1 month to finish a bungalow, 6 months is for a maisonette.

Machine cut are slightly expensive than hand dressed stone but because they are regular, you use very little mortar and even less plaster.

EN:!!! cant believe the wealth of info? Do you think the 500 is possible, is gypsum the one also used for roofing like the ceiling? though I don’t intend to do proper finishing now

 Arch Susan 500k, maybe a 2 bedroom house with the option of extending.

Yes, gypsum is the one used to do ceilings

The worst thing is for someone to make you believe the 500k will be enough then you’re left with an incomplete house

EN: yeah btw extending is an option

true tht’s why am hesitant

Arch Susan: You can do a 2 bedroom, with the option of adding 1 more bedroom without interfering with the design of the house, that too is possible

EN: so do I need to knw first the cost of materials ,

I just need a simple design, though a nice one, any ideas of any that would be budget friendly?, someone told me to do away with a lot of corners

 Arch SusanYeah, corners mean cutting the mabati and wood for the roof

Layouts you can get even from the internet, but like I said, good design is about getting the right measurements, right size of windows, right size of spaces etc to ensure that you get value for money, plus when constructing, one must make sure that the measurements are observed to get the right thing.

EN: ok, hope you dont mind me askin for your input from time…thanks soooo much Suzy, God bless you

Arch Susan: No problem, happy to be of assistance

EN: Can you send me pics of the 450 one, the steps n the finished look

 Arch Susan: The very complete house that is painted has the owner and family standing infront of it so I’ll not send you that one.

EN: wow! this is enough, I like it, wish I could do a complete replica

Arch Susan: for the one I showed you the foundation

EN: wait, this is not made of stones like blocks…the the previous one. The one with 7steps

 Arch Susan: The previous one is made of hardcore put in between wire mesh. Then plastered and painted.

Check step 4 and 5

EN: Then painting takes the look like stones or?

Arch Susan: yeah

EN: it also looks spacious,,,,it doesnt take in too much cement?

Arch Susan: but that area hardore is just there, so you cannot compare with red soil Kiambu

EN: but hardcore should be way cheaper than stones given they are left overs kwa quarry or?

is the last one of the same? hardcore

 Arch Susan: Mmmmm, kinda…

No, the last one is of Compressed soil block, like Makiga

EN:ohhhh…wah now confusion galore..theres also soil blocks…which is which now? I just want a cheaper option,you seem t hav explored all…pls advise

 Arch Susan: Soil blocks require you to have enough soil, in places where they build with burnt bricks, they already have enough soil so it made more sense to build with soil blocks. But like I was saying, Kiambu is so close to Juja, stones would definitely be cheaper.

Sometimes, trying so much to do the cheapest option will result to you spending more money…….ever heard of the saying..”Penny wise pound foolish”? where you save on little little things only to spend so much on the bigger things.

BTW, walling is like 30% of the total construction of a house. Even if you sought to save on walling material, there is still 70% of the house to think of.

EN: roofing, finishing foundation? cool info

 Arch Susan: : Yes. You ca save on the wall but using cheap material then when finishing you have to spend more, even more than you would have used had you done a proper wall



  • Robert
    January 7, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Nice read.

  • Burt
    January 8, 2017 at 10:51 am

    I admire your patience and humility, Arch. Susan. I wouldn’t answer four such questions without blowing a fuse

  • Mike Mboti
    June 12, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Good job , here. I need to do a house in shags soon for my folks can we have a chat? Mike.
    Kindly let me know

  • Imran Islim
    June 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for your comment. For security reasons we removed your phone number and we saved it offline. We’ll send you an email and we can take it up from there see how we can help.


  • Peter
    April 27, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Hi Susan. Very good information you have given above. Could you kindly email me the photos of low cost houses process to finish with the budget. Hope I’m not asking for too much.
    Thanks in advance

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