Your choice of construction method will affect almost every aspect of your project. Derek Dawson of Scandia Hus answers some common questions on kit homes, explaining how they can be the ‘ultimate solution’ for a self-build
WHAT IS A KIT HOME?
Kit homes are pre-fabricated properties manufactured offsite and then assembled insitu. Individual components are measured and cut in a factory, eliminating a significant amount of time that would be required if this was done onsite. The degree to which the house is constructed prior to delivery is dependent on the chosen supplier and build route.
Typically constructed from timber, kit homes generally consist of a frame made of truss-graded timber studwork with OSB (Oriented Strand Board) fixed to the exterior side. This is known as an ‘open panel’, it becomes ‘closed’ once insulation and plasterboard have been installed. A breathable membrane is usually factory-fitted to the outside of each panel which acts as a waterproof barrier; this will then be covered by external cladding (brickwork, stone, weatherboarding, tiling, or render).
WHY BUILD A KIT HOME?
Building a kit home is rapidly increasing in popularity, because the offsite nature of the process provides numerous efficiencies in time and cost, and the resulting property tends to be of superior quality. With pre-fabricated kit homes, precision-made components are created to exacting standards under strict factory-controlled conditions and then erected on the building plot by experienced teams. This process ensures high quality is consistently maintained, with less scope for human error.
Once onsite, the property is erected quickly, allowing a rapid overall build process. The ability to construct the home in all weathers, unlike other systems, means there are fewer chances of unexpected and costly delays onsite. A structural shell is usually up within a few weeks, even in wet conditions. As timeframes are unaffected by weather disruption, the duration of the build as well as the costs can be better predicted.
Building with a timber kit also provides a greater degree of cost certainty because the frame, along with the design work, delivery and assembly are calculated and charged as a package. This allows the client to know in advance the exact cost of the supplied and installed superstructure.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A KIT HOME PACKAGE?
Another attraction of kit homes is that you’re able to tailor the build package to suit your own requirements. Many suppliers offer a full ‘turnkey’ package which can take the project from design through planning, construction and to completion, or alternatively, clients can simply purchase the supply and installation of the structural frame. Depending on the needs of the self-builder any number of elements can be included or excluded, as it is a completely flexible build system.
HOW DO KIT HOMES DIFFER FROM MASONRY-BUILT PROPERTIES?
In simple terms, the brick and block of a typical masonry house is replaced with a timber frame structure. The outside of the frame can then be clad in brick, block and render, stone, tiles or timber boarding according to the client’s design, enabling the appearance to be anything from a traditional cottage look to a contemporary chalet style.
Once the home has been completed, it could therefore be difficult to distinguish from the exterior whether the structure has been created using brick and block or a timber frame kit. Inside, however, it would be more obvious in terms of energy efficiency; timber frame systems are far superior, producing airtight homes with low running costs.
DO I HAVE TO CHOOSE A STANDARD DESIGN?
In the past, suppliers sold kit houses from standard plans and styles, however, with personalised plans and bespoke builds in demand more recently, companies have responded by offering tailored designs and in-house teams working with clients to meet their unique brief.
A kit home can now meet the needs of almost any self-builder, with each property custom-made to suit the individual in terms of layout, style, budget and plot restrictions. It is also possible to employ an architect to draw up plans and simply have the kit company produce the structure.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BUILD?
Depending on the size and complexity of the design, as well as the build route employed (i.e. a turnkey package from a main contractor, or self-project managed), a kit home can take as little as six months to become a reality.
On average, however, most properties are completed within 12 months of breaking ground.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The total cost will depend on a variety of factors, including site conditions, size, design and finish specification, as well as the chosen level of input. Guide cost forecasts can be made using a kit home supplier’s per square metre/
WHAT ARE THE ENERGY EFFICIENCY CREDENTIALS?
Building using a timber frame kit has high eco-credentials generally; not only is timber a sustainable material, but it also helps to create an airtight structure. Combining the timber frame with triple-glazed windows and high levels of insulation produces a thermally efficient home with low fuel consumption. Such kit homes pair perfectly with renewable technologies such as heat pumps and solar panels.
Derek Dawson is managing director of Scandia Hus