Despite the fact that you have employed a contractor to take care of the construction of your dream home, it is still necessary that you keep a tab on the materials being used to build it. Once the finishing touches are given, it’s almost close to impossible to know what went into building the structure of your property till a decade or so.
My point is—you need not actively involve yourself in the construction of your holiday home. Having said that however, be present during the procurement of the materials and at a couple of stages of construction. Since the huge chunk of material procurement will happen before the start of construction, it’s a wise decision to be there on ground zero. Trust me, it’s worth every minute to ensure peace of mind later.
So here are some areas you should look at:
1. TMT reinforcement bars: Steel is the most important component in the construction of your house, so it goes without saying that one must always use premium quality TMT reinforcement bars. Why? There will be a lot of local companies that manufacture steel rebars. Most of these companies use scrap iron, re-melt them and add chemicals to prepare the bars. These rebars invariably will have high levels of impurities like sulphur and phosphorous which decrease the strength of steel in extreme hot and cold conditions. The ductility and tensibility is thus affected. Although local rebars come with a cheaper price tag, in the long run it’s a losing cause. So while the contractor is procuring rebars, ensure that he is buying the best quality TMT reinforcement bars. Another thing, unlike in the past where rebars were sold on weight, today premium TMT reinforcement bars are priced on single piece. These rebars are 12 meters in length and thus based on the quantitative analysis given by your civil engineer, you can minimize wastage.
2. Portland Cement: Your contractor must have procured the best quality cement, but that does not mean you are getting the best out of it. The strength of the cement diminishes with time. So if the cement bags are a couple of months old it is actually no point using them at all. Many people are not aware of the age of a cement bag and calculate its shelf-life from its purchase date. Actually the batch no. and date of manufacture is printed on each bag and this is which actually matter. Although it will not be possible to check every bag stored, but a random check of a couple of bags from time to time should suffice. Plus (and most importantly) for all legal purposes when the contractor raises a bill on the cement purchased, make sure the bill clearly states the batch No.
4. Shallow foundation depth: I’m assuming that your holiday home will be two or at the most three stories, so shallow foundation should suffice unless the soil test report says otherwise. Based on the height of the building, the civil engineer would have told you the depth of the foundation. Excavation is a strenuous process, so the contractor might use some short cuts to complete his work fast and save some money. For instance, if the given depth of a column is 6 feet, he may dig just 5 feet and you are charged for the 6 feet as in the civil report. The saddest part is once the column is above ground you will never know. The best way forward, even if you are not present on the site, is to ask the contractor to click a photograph with a labor clearly holding the measuring tape showing the dimensions. Also, if the width of the column is say, 6 feet, then insist that the excavated width is at least 6.5 feet so that when the steel net is placed below, it doesn’t touch the pit walls and when the concrete is poured, there is a layer of not less than 1 inch between the steel netting and the pit walls.
5. Stone chips: Based on local availability, there are two types of stone chips that are used for construction – the smooth stone chips (the ones we ideally find in river beds, etc.) and the more rough chips that are broken from boulders. Ideally, the rougher version is best suited because rough stone chips bind better with mortar and thus you will get better strength. So if both types of stone chips are available near the place where you are constructing your home, go for boulder-broken rough chips. The cost of the smoother version is considerably less, so the contractor may try to pass it on saying it’s of better quality. But insist that he uses the rougher version.
I think the five tips mentioned above is a good start. In the next article I will tell you how to store your materials to not only get the best out of them, but also how storing them properly can cut down on the time wasted by the workforce.