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How to build a house without spending much

Know the basics of construction, opt for cheap and durable materials and do some bargaining too

— Photo: M. Karunakaran

AT HOME: Keep a tab on the construction work and your budget too.

The cost of construction of a house without much decoration used to be in the range of Rs. 30,000 a square (floor area of 10'x10') a decade ago. It has risen exponentially since then. But many contractors seem to quote much more than the actual.

A builder, who does not want to be identified, says that most people do not find time to go into the nitty-gritty of house construction. They let the contractor or architect fix the cost of the building materials such as sand, cement, bricks, painting, electrical, water and sanitary works/fittings. They want a decent house and they do not mind spending more money.

But people with less disposable incomes too are forced to bear the high cost of sites and construction. Poorer sections cannot afford even a small house on rent in most areas. They buy a site 20 or 25 km away from the city and build houses. They cannot afford to hire the services of an architect.

Help from KARNIK

Coming to their rescue is the Karnataka Rajya Nirmana Kendra (KARNIK) which has been engaged in low cost housing. The Deputy Director, M. Bhaskar, said it had built houses for the poor across the State.

Cement blended with fly ash is cheap and the building is durable as it contains lime and calcium. He said that the cost could be brought down by using blocks made of stabilised mud, boulders, concrete, fly ash, lime and concrete, laterite and hurdi blocks and rat trap bonds and ferrocement slabs for walling. The blocks produced using alumina waste and iron ore filings and bamboo composite walls are also economical.

For roofing, Mangalore tiles over ferrocement trusses, funicular shell with precast beams, ferrocement channels, filler slab, jack arch, concrete blocks over partially precast beams, L panel roofing, MCR files over precast beams, bamboo composite roofing sheet, self-compacting concrete, high volume flyash-based concrete and ribbed roof slab could be used.

Ferrocement products such as cots, chairs, tables, kitchen platforms, wardrobes, energy meter boxes, school benches, garden benches, book shelves, drains and water tanks are cheaper. RCC door and window frames, FRP door frames, bison panel shutters, ferrocement shutters, FRP shutters, coir shutters and pre-fabricated ferrocement structures are available with the Kendra.

C. Venkatesh Chettiyar, a mason in Kurubarahalli who has built around 60 structures including houses, says that normally contractors and masons-turned-contractors quote exorbitant rates.

The rates will come down only if the owner bargains. The so-called contractors, acquainted with the market in building materials, get a handsome commission.

Huge savings

He says a contractor had quoted Rs.70,000 for laying the foundation and construction of compound wall for a 60'x60' site in Nagarbhavi II Stage. But it was built at exactly half the rate, much to the surprise of other contractors and masons in the area. Adhering to vaasthu rules and finishing the work in time were also important.

A. Arul Das of Mathikere, who has 16 years of experience in construction and has built more than 50 houses, says a simple house can be built for Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 65,000 per square including material charges.

For that price one could get the main vascal and frame of puja room in teakwood, furnish kitchen with granite slabs, do the flooring with gray mosaic, fix glazed tiles for the kitchen, bathroom and toilets, go for ordinary locks and fittings and build a sump and a 750-litre overhead Sintex tank.

The building will have a six-course foundation.

Right quantity

Mr. Arul Das says using only the required quantity of steel, sand and cement is another important aspect of cost control. Use of less or more material than required is bad for the life of the building.

The cost will come down if the owner himself pays wages to the labourers.

The contention of Mr. Arul Das and Mr. Venkatesh is supported by the former Chief Engineer of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, S. Parthasarathy, a structural engineer.

Mr. Das also says that the construction of the first floor along with the ground floor will turn out to be profitable for the owners.

The cost could be reduced by at least 10 per cent, if there is a clear understanding between the mason and the owner.

There is no need for a permanent contractor or an engineer if the owner can pay attention to all aspects of construction, he says.


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