Common mistakes made on residential projects: Part I


There are a lot of challenges that some project owners face on their residential projects, from preconstruction phase through to the construction phase. It pains me to see projects failing due to things that could have easily been prevented or correctly resolved. Though not exhaustive, these are some of the things that might help the next person undertaking a construction project.

Investing in wrong consultants

This heading might stir debate from what it means to have invested in the wrong professional personnel to why should one even invest in some professionals in the first place. However, I will tell you this; for those that have ever invested in the wrong professionals, this realisation comes in much later, when the problems start to arise.


I am not saying that projects don’t have problems but it is how well they are managed that makes all the difference. You see, consultants play critical roles in the formation of a good and successful project.

They provide invaluable knowledge that one doesn’t easily come across. This being said, every professional in the construction industry has their field of practice. It would, therefore, be wise to understand what their roles and responsibilities are.

Lack of adequate skilled labour


Sales pitches are not hard to come by in this field. Service providers promise you castles in the air, only to give you clay houses. We live in a socio-economic environment that has bred shoddy contractors and builders who are in it for the money. And, in this case, it is hard earned money that is being spent. Choosing your contractor and builder should be taken very seriously. Sadly, word of mouth in some cases doesn’t cut it, as your standards are always different to the next person.

Also, do not always base your decision on the aesthetics of the product but also on how well it performs its intended purpose and through the test of time. One thing for certain is that the repercussions of poor workmanship are long-lasting, forever a pain in the neck and an eyesore to you and the community.

Changing designs on site

“You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site.” – Frank Lloyd Wright. He makes the case that it would be better to make changes before construction works start because not only is it materialistically costly to change on site but it often affects a lot of things that would need reworking. And, in most cases, a lot of things are well thought of, from spatial allocations, structural components, roofing, electrical works, plumbing, drainage, etc. It would be prudent that one tries to understand the drawings before construction starts.

There are a lot of ways that one can better understand drawings these days through different mediums and try to be more engaged by avoiding nagging.

I would say that some of the forgiving scenarios would be unforeseen environmental factors such as geological conditions like high water tables. That would call for appropriate drainage systems, water control measures and a new foundation design that need to be incorporated.

Always believing builders

This is definitely one of those that top the list. It is like trying to get brain surgery from a witchdoctor. We try to advocate for construction supervision by professions because we know that our country is short of adequately qualified tradesmen.

Think about it; in most cases, your typical builder would have been taught by someone that might have gotten used to constructing with clay bricks (nothing wrong there) but it is also the standard of practice and workmanship that concerns me.

The construction industry is a progressive trade. Construction methods and materials are always evolving. Most tradesmen will tell you something is impossible, expensive or those standards are just on paper because it is something that they are not comfortable with or have no experience in. One of the common phrases would be “Ife timatele ife [we do it this way]” or “Nzongothapo ndalama zimenezo [that’s would be costly]”.

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