A guide to house building in South Africa

A guide to house building in South Africa

Blog: 21 Things I’ve learnt building in Zululami

,,,.and the first time in KZN

  1. What I’m asked most is what the building costs are coming in at. It’s a bit like asking how long is a piece of string (all dependent on your finishes and structure). I have heard, however, that the best price you can expect for a basic build is coming in around R19 000 per square (a dramatic rise in cost in the last year) – cost to owner (contractors are obviously needing to make a profit). If you are building yourself (with appointed subcontractors, project manager etc.) you can do it cheaper, but it’s hard work and entails lots of shopping around. Remember also that administrative costs are not included in working out building costs.
  2. Before you’ve even started your foundations, expect the admin fees to come to AT LEAST R400 000 (350+m2 house). This includes architect, structural engineer, land surveryor, submission fees, council fees, NHBRC enrollment, landscaping plan, levy stabilisation, building deposit, temporary water/electricity connection, signage and shade cloth fence. That excludes bond registration fees if you’re taking out a loan.
  3. Building from Johannesburg is possible, IF you have a good builder and you communicate regularly with many, many photos too.
  4. The Labour department has made a number of visits to the estate over the months. Make sure your safety file (and those of your contractors) are up to date if you want to avoid fines or being shut down all together. Naturally, you also have to abide by all the laws.
  5. The Kwadukuza council office is relatively well run. Our plans took around three months to get passed (including some holiday time). But that’s with very clean plans and no concession requests.
  6. The NHBRC office in Durban was a different story. Firstly, don’t try and phone. Going in person is best and it usually takes a few goes to get all documentation processed.
  7. The Kwadukuza water department charges three times more for an electrical connection than Cape Town or Johannesburg – R25 000!
  8. Make friends with Paul (estate manager), Maril (building manager) and Rose (security).They are pleasant and there to do their job – it will only be of benefit to you to treat them well.
  9. Building noise over the weekend and public holidays is becoming an issue with many complaints coming in. You are allowed to build on Saturdays (till 3), but cannot use any power tools. No deliveries on a Saturday either.
  10. Whatever you paid for steel four years ago, triple it. And concrete slabs and roofs require a LOT of steel.
  11. Apply for your bond early. We’ve built many times, and it’s never taken so long or required so much paperwork. Clearly banks are getting cold feet with new builds.
  12. Rockfields Hardware delivers for free if a registered customer.
  13. The electricity and water account comes to around R1000 per month during build (has to be set up as a debit order), so factor that into budget. Naturally there is also the R1000 builders and R2100 residential levies.
  14. The flood damage (although ours was minor) was paid by the in-house insurance. No hassles, and we received the full amount.
  15. Do not scrimp on the foundation piles or any structural element that might be advised by your engineer. The flood proved how tricky sandy sites can be. We got lucky and have very good sub soil conditions (Berea red), but I know some sites are pure sand.
  16. Aluminium roof sheets are necessary if your site is less than 500m from the ocean. Otherwise get nothing less than AZ200 for coastal condition.
  17. Similarly, any steel used on site (other than that going into the concrete) has to be hot galvanized (the cold method is not good enough).
  18. You can add Penetron to your concrete mix to make it more waterproof. Having dealt with leaking concrete slabs many times (I see the clubhouse picked up a few leaks too!) it’s a no brainer.
  19. Don’t build single skin walls without outside wall protection from the wind first. I’ve taken the risk before. This time it didn’t pay off!
  20. The T-junction onto Salt Rock road is to be avoided at all costs from 11am onwards. Can’t wait for that new highway on ramp!
  21. Despite the costs, administrative hassles, it’s always worth it in the end. I still believe you can build for cheaper than what you would spend buying the same house in a year or two.

I’ve started posting some recommendations of contacts and contractors on my Instagram page (sabauhaus), but will provide more details in the weeks to come on this site.

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