Pre-cut systems are the most basic prefabricated option available... but are they really a viable option?
We met with Indrek Kuldkepp, Owner and CEO of Avrame a-frame houses and we had a chat about pre-cut systems.
This interview is available on video as well...
I like to compare making a house with making a cake - Indrek says.
To make a good cake, you need a good recipe.
When building a house, the recipe is the project. A good project is a basic requirement for a good house.
Then you need ingredients:
- you need materials
- you need some tools
- you need some skills
- you need work time
...out of these four ingredients, the cake (house) is put together.
If we're talking about modular houses, then we are talking about a pre-baked cake: you just buy it in the shop and maybe add frosting and decoration. Most of it is done when you buy it.
If we are talking about element houses, then it's like buying a dough mix: the mix is done you do the baking.
With pre-cut, you just get ingredients in the right proportions and you are given a good recipe. This way, you don't need so much in terms of skills.
You just need a little bit more time but you save some money also.
The House Kit
Let's forget about the cake and let's talk about the house kit - Indrek continues.
The kit is much more compact than any other prefabricated option.
When shipping modular houses, you can put maybe 20 square meters of living space on one transport unit.
With elements houses, you can transport 30-40 square meters maximum. The actual size depends on architectural factor (explained in detail in this article).
When you ship a pre-cut house, you can fit onto a single truck all the materials for up to 100 square meters of living space!
That alone is amazing as it cuts transport costs by at least FOUR times!
Depending on the distance of the destination point, the savings on transport can easily amount to more than 10000 EUR.
We are right now processing orders for the kingdom of Tonga - says Indrek.
For many years I've been in a business with that element houses and I could never dream about locations like this... this kind of reach is possible only thanks to pre-cut.
A good pre-cut product can be sold worldwide with no problem at all. If the house you like is made with a pre-cut system, it does not matter much where it comes from.
What if you change your mind?
It is quite common that during construction some things have to be adjusted or adapted and one cannot follow 100% the original plan.
Poor planning is perhaps the biggest reason why things have to be changed but the reason can also be more grounded and not avoidable or foreseeable.
For example, local authorities can request a change or needs/circumstances can change in a way that requires changes to the floor plan of the house.
When building with modular or element systems, you are pretty much stuck with what you already bought.
Changing means tearing apart and rebuilding... and it is VERY expensive.
When you build using a pre-cut system, you have the highest flexibility for changes.
Planning and engineering design are the phases that take the most time in modular and element constructions.
Building with pre-cut cuts down design time dramatically (and design cost as well).
Financing the Construction
One of the biggest problems that come with prefab houses is that the construction process is so fast that banks cannot keep up with the payments.
Usually, banks finance the construction of a house in stages.
The first stage is building the foundation. At this stage, the bank would issue you some money based on the value of the land.
When the foundation is completed, the bank would re-evaluate the property and issue a second round of financing based on the current value.
This goes on as the house is built up.
The problem with prefab is that, once the house has been produced and it is delivered to the site, it is assembled in less than a week... so the property goes from having little value to having a massive value... in a very short time.
On top of that, most producers require advance payment for at least a percentage of the value of the goods shipped to the site.
This modus operandi put banks in a very difficult position and getting a mortgage for building a prefab home often requires quite a bit of negotiation.
If you build with pre-cut, you can stage the construction process as you want.
If you need to to keep up with the bank, you can make the construction process slower (on purpose!).
You can also order materials in stages, following the indications given by your bank.
If time is not an issue, you can build your house over a longer period of time (i.e. 2 years instead of 5 months) and this will help you cope with the financial side of the equation.
Build it Yourself
One advantage of pre-cut houses is that you can DIY the building process.
I don't even mean that you have to build the house alone with your two hands - says Indrek.
You can hire some help, maybe have some relatives helping.
Coming back to the cake analogy, if you are not really good at baking but you have a good recipe you can still pop out the very nice cake!
You can be the "manager" of the of the baking and find somebody that can actually do the job.
You can hire three or four people and they can build the house for you, following the plan and guidelines you have.
One reason why people are offer afraid of DIY is that they are afraid of making mistakes.
The house is something really important in life and you don't want to take risks when it comes to it.
Any mistake you make, you will have to pay for it for 30 years!
But mistakes can be avoided when one has a sound plan to follow.
Basically, if you put together a pre-cut system with a good set of instructions, you can build the house yourself.
What is important it's not just the materials and the single pieces cut to measure but also the instructions that come with the building kit.
The Philosophy behind Pre-cut
A lot of people cannot afford an expensive house. This does not mean they should give up on the dream of having a house of their own.
Pre-cut systems give them the opportunity to reduce costs by putting more of their time in.
My philosophy - says Indrek - has always been that house is a thing, much like a mobile phone or a shovel or a pen, that should work for you for the user ...not vice versa.
Today people build expensive houses which generate lots of monthly costs in mortgage rate, utilities, maintenance.
This way they create a kind of modern slavery for themselves!
They became slaves of their own house.
With my pre-cut system, I want to offer everyone the possibility of building a house he can truly afford.
I believe the philosophy behind pre-cut systems should be to make the house kit more affordable so that you don't have to work a lifetime to pay for the house.
One Last Recommendation
Do your planning - Indrek says looking into the camera.
Good planning of your house is the most important thing, time-wise and finance-wise.
Most problems are created from poor planning.
We're here to help you if you need advice on how to make a good planning for your new home.
If you want more information on pre-cut systems, Avrame or you have any other kind of question, feel free to reach out to us.