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5 differences between kitset and prefab homes

Looking to build a new home but confused by all the industry jargon? Prefabricated homes, which can also be known as transportable, prebuilt or modular homes, is a type of home that is built off-site in a factory before being delivered to your site completely built. Genius Homes specialise in prefabricated homes and deliver these throughout the South Island.     Kitset homes is a style of build that is completed on-site where your pre-chosen materials are packaged together as a ‘kit’ and delivered, ready for your builder to put together. 

Both prefab and kitset are increasingly popular methods for builds in New Zealand, as they offer convenience and affordability when compared to a traditional build. In this blog, we explore the core differences between kitset and prefab houses to help you make a well-informed decision for your next project. 

1. Building process 

Prefabricated homes are built in controlled factory conditions by a team experienced in the specific designs and with more sophisticated equipment, therefore the project is streamlined and efficient. The external construction and internal fit-out are both completed prior to delivery, including the installation of the kitchen and bathroom, painted walls and flooring added, as well as plumbing and electrical fittings ready to be hooked up on-site. The prefab home is then transported to its final location by truck, set onto the foundations and connected to the utilities, meaning it becomes a permanent, fixed structure. Material wastage is significantly reduced during construction due to the streamlined process, making it a more environmentally-friendly build process. To learn more about the prefab building process with Genius Homes, check out our website.

For a kitset home, after you’ve chosen your design and materials, ‘kits’ of materials will be delivered to your site for the build, in stages. These come unassembled or flat-packed, and the build process needs to be undertaken by a qualified professional. Kitsets can come as a labour-only job for the builder, making the process only marginally easier than a traditional build for you as you’re still finding a builder, project managing and coordinating subtrades. Kitset providers also often have builders available that you can opt to use, or they also have kitset house and land packages that provide a full solution. 

2. Location

For a kitset home, the materials are delivered in set stages and the construction is completed on-site. This includes all building, electrical and plumbing work, as well as all the finishing work, such as painting, plastering and flooring. 

Prefab homes are built in a purpose-designed, weather-proof factory and then delivered to the site nearly complete. This streamlines the construction process and reduces potential project delays. It’s also safer for workers, as the tasks completed at heights are minimised and is better for the materials, as the framing isn't exposed to the elements.

An off-site build minimises the disruptions to your site, so you can relax in peace as you won’t have various tradies and supply deliveries coming and going throughout the construction process. This also makes the process more environmentally friendly, as less of the site is disturbed during the construction stage. Therefore the land tends to recover a lot quicker and you can enjoy that 'settled in' feeling sooner.

While a typical site visit isn’t possible with a prefab build, you’re always welcome to come to the Genius Homes Timaru-based factory and view your home as it progresses through the construction stages. We’ll also send out updates to owners so that you can keep up to date with every step of the process.​

Lake Ohau - New home 2021 - Mountain view

3. Cost

Both the kitset and prefab methods offer cost savings compared to building a home from scratch, as they utilise off-site, controlled build environments and systemised construction processes. However as a prefab home is built entirely in a controlled setting, and the kitset materials are only prepared partially in one, the expenses can be more tightly managed with a prefab build. With disruptions minimised on a prefab build, potential project delays can be avoided. This helps minimise overrun costs that can hit your pocket hard, especially if you temporarily rent a place to live while waiting for your new home to be finished.

While the cost of transporting a finished prefab home to the site is typically more than delivering unassembled kitset materials due to the logistics and time involved, it’s important that you’re comparing them accurately and considering the bigger picture. Kitset quotes can exclude key services, such as the foundation, electrical, landscaping etc, and if you’re looking at the materials only it will not include the labour. Prefab homes have more inclusions than a kitset but there will still be additional costs, such as the building consent, transport and service connections. Genius Homes will make you aware of these costs upfront before you confirm your build. Read our other blog for more details regarding how much it costs to build a home.

According to Westpac’s Senior Manager of Credit Strategy and Policy Heiko Jonkers, “on average, purchasing a prefabricated house can potentially save you 15%”. He says the reason for the cost savings is down to the “factory production line techniques”, as opposed to “taking the materials to a client’s home and building them one by one”. Jonkers confirms there are also “labour savings from the builders working at the factory, instead of having to commute to each off-site location. And material savings from cutting timber efficiently in the factory”.

4. Time 

With the controlled building environment of a prefab home limiting the chance of any timeframe hold-ups, such as bad weather, delayed material deliveries or subcontractor schedule clashes, these can typically be constructed faster than kitset and other traditional builds. The handover date is known from the beginning of the project and is much easier to adhere to. According to PrefabNZ “60% of construction time can be reduced by the off-site construction”. To see how long it takes to build a prefab with Genius Homes, check out our other blog

With both the kitset and prefabricated home building methods utilising off-site construction methods, they’re both recognised as being more efficient to complete compared to a traditional build. However as kitset homes also undertake a substantial portion of the build on-site, these still tend to take longer than a prefab home to build. These time-saving advantages have been recognised by Housing New Zealand, who believe that these modern methods of construction will be key to their plans to “build more quality homes at scale and at pace”. Housing New Zealand confirmed to Build Magazine that they have been embracing the new techniques “we have been working on reducing construction programmes by up to half when delivering medium or high-density off-site manufacturing”, which is “especially important at a time when there is an urgent need for housing”. 

Recent changes to the Building Act also aim to streamline, and therefore speed up, the prefab home building process nationwide, helping to address the housing shortage. Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa said “we are making progress in tackling the long-term challenge of housing including making high-quality, large-scale manufacturing of prefab houses a reality. Prefabrication and off-site manufacturing are the future of construction as they help produce high-quality buildings more quickly than traditional building approaches”. These changes remove some of the red tape for New Zealand prefab manufacturers who can prove their systems and processes are compliant, for example by reducing the number of building inspections required in the factory and removing the need for two separate consents for each location that the build would be in.

5. Design

When it comes to the design of your homes, both kitset and prefab homes typically have a range of floor plans and designs to choose from, with selected fittings and finishing options. With a prefab home, you can be assured in the knowledge that your build will be finished to the same high standards as the company's showhome, as it is built in a controlled environment and carefully inspected before leaving the factory. 

Genius Homes specialise in prefab homes and have over 50 different designs to choose between. From compact self-contained units to generous 5-bedroom homes and all the farm accommodation, holiday houses and family homes in between, we have a prefab option to fit your needs. Download our latest product catalogue to explore our full range of prefabricated homes available, or use our Dream Home Finder online tool to find the perfect design for your needs. 

Every household is unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all design solution, therefore buying a home off the plans can be nerve-wracking. With both kitset and prefab homes, typically there is some level of flexibility available when it comes to making desired changes to the plan you choose. Genius Homes are happy to customise and upgrade our prefab designs to ensure that you're not making any compromises on your ideal home - just reach out to the team today to discuss your plans and preferences.

As outlined above, the prefab method of building provides several benefits above both traditional and kitset building methods, including the time taken and costs incurred. Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa recently confirmed “in some countries, nearly 80% of newly built homes are prefabricated off-site, in New Zealand, it’s about 10%. However, this number continues to increase with the advantages of the off-site design and construction process becoming more well-recognised throughout the country. If you’re interested in learning more about prefabricated homes and if they’re the right fit for you, contact the Genius Homes team for a chat.

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