We are being asked regularly if we sell kit homes. For a kit home we would deliver one or more trucks or containers with building materials, a clear manual, and off you go. Like an IKEA-house.
No, we don’t deliver kit homes.
The Sears Catalog Home
But why not? Building a house is not rocket science. In the USA the Sears company has been delivering the Sears Catalog Home for years. Those were not garden sheds, those were full size houses for permanent living.
Sears Roebuck and Company between 1908 en 1940 sold about 70.000 kit homes. Hundreds of those kit homes still stand today, and some are even listed in the NRHP, de National Register of Historic Places. Here are some examples from the Sears catalogue: the Amsterdam, the Elsmore and the Hillrose.
So why don’t we do that? Building a house is simple, no? You pick up materials, and you put them together using screws and glue and nails, hammers. Should not be too difficult? It is!
Workmanship, Experience, Logistics
To put it politely, a little experience and workmanship do come in handy. Very handy actually. If you’re not a builder you might underestimate the importance of daily routine, which is exactly what is lacking in the average DIY-project. Also the logistics on a building site are very awkward to say the least. Just too many details. If you have decided to screw the terrace with stainless steel torx screws, it’s a little annoying to realize you only have your crosshead bits with you.
And it is equally annoying if your raingutters have 9 cm drains, but the downpipes in stock at the building shop are all 8 cm. Or you have rented a construction crane that runs at 380 Volts, but your mains are 230 or 115 Volts and also the plug doesn’t fit. All minor details, you can solve them, but you will waste valuable time, hours, days, or weeks in the end. And it is very frustrating. If you do not have a solid system to coordinate these simple things, your project will end in a mess.
A professional builder doesn’t have such problems. No surprises, he knows what he is doing, he has his logistics system in order.
With a kit comes a clear manual. Simple steps, photos, clear and precise texts. But we build to measure, not from a catalogue, so we would have to create a manual for each project.
IKEA no doubt has a professional department that does these manuals, but we have concluded that we do not have time for this. It is not cost-effective to write a manual for each individual project.
But we can provide you with something else: accompanied building. We can provide you with a foreman that can assist you with the entire assembly process. Our foreman knows exactly in which pack are the logs for the East facade, he knows how to glue the EPDM, he knows in which box the front door sealant was packed and he can instruct you on how to mount the gypsum on sliding anchors. You make sure you have labour capacity, we provide you with the know-how. This way, on the cost of a wind- and waterproof house you can save about 15 to 20 percent.
It will still not be a piece of cake. For the assembly of a house we calculate 150 mandays on average. So if you want to build yourself with our Accompanied Building assistance, you will need neighbors, friends and family. Lots of family.
The photos in this post are not related to the text at all. Before we actually place a house, we check the dimensions of the foundation, because we better be sure. We have never had a foundation that was wrong, but, you know, better be sure… We measure the exact places where pipes and drains come up throught the foundation and write the numbers on the concrete. Then we take photos, and back in the office we compare the photos with the drawings.