Know these facts about building materials before any purchase

Wednesday March 18 2020

Building material used in the new housing construction technology by the National Housing Corporation in Changamwe, Mombasa County. PHOTO| FILE


Before starting any construction work, one of the considerations to make is the choice of raw materials. Raw materials could be natural or man-made.

According to Titus Mugambi of Build Draw Designs Limited, a construction company based in Kiambu Town, the choice of raw materials depends on various factors. These include location, availability, cost and durability. He notes that market trends are gradually becoming another factor to consider.

He offers some pointers on some of the common raw materials used in the building industry.


These are either manually or machine cut. According to Mr Mugambi, machine cut stones are well shaped and have an even surface. They also save on labour cost and mortar since they don’t have uneven gaps.

Manually cut stones, on the other hand, are strong, and therefore suitable for foundations.


According to Pauline Mburu of Talite Suppliers, a company that supplies sand, and which is based in Thika, sand is mixed with cement or lime to make mortar for masonry work and plaster.

There are different types of sand, so it is important to understand the type to use and for what.

For instance, coarse sand is best for building stable structures because it does not expand, while brick sand is best when constructing the floor of the swimming pool as it is soft and finer in texture. You will know that sand has good texture if it does not stick when picked and rubbed on the palms.


Tiles are becoming a popular choice for residential and commercial buildings. However, they are among the raw materials that one has to be careful when buying.

Esther Wambui of RAK Ceramics Kenya Ltd says that tiles come in different sizes, shapes, textures and colours.

“They could be porcelain, ceramic, faux wood, or granite. Notably, tiles used in spaces such as the living area might not be suitable for the bathroom due to texture. It is, therefore, important that when buying them, you are keen to ensure that you don’t end up with tiles that won’t meet your needs,” she adds.

Wood (timber)

This is one of the oldest raw materials used in the construction industry due to its versatility.

According to Ms Stella Wanjira of Salma Enterprises Limited, wood can be used in flooring, panelling, construction of roofs, ceiling, doors, exterior cladding and general finishing.

She further adds that wood can be hard or soft, with each variety being used for different purposes. “Wood, besides being a core construction item, is also used in making wood products such as decorative pieces and timber mouldings,” Ms Wanjira says.


Popularly known as kokoto, Mugambi describes this as an essential requirement in every construction. Ballast is used in the building of slab pavements, strong foundations, pillars, suspended floors, reinforcement columns and lintels. Ballast comes in different sizes and is used in different stages of construction.

“They occur naturally in different colours — grey, black, pale pink, even red. To make a building attractive, one can infuse the different colours,” she says.