Every year many visitors come to Eleuthera and fall in love with the island and at some point wonder about building their dream home here. Now having been a builder in the US for over 30 years there are similarities and also differences. Actually there is a great deal that is different here even if you are building with wood or block.
After purchasing your land the next step is to find a contractor. There are many around or I should say there are many that say they are contractors but spending your time finding a qualified and reputable one will save you countless hours of future headache. My best advice is much like in the US, ask around, talk to others that have built homes here and get their opinions of how it went, what contractor they used and the entire process. Choosing a contractor that can provide you a home at the costs he quotes and is professional will more than make up for any additional cost you think you would be incurring. Price is naturally a consideration but if it is your only one you will most likely regret it many times over.
Building a home here is a rather in depth process and you must use a Bahamian architect or draftsman for your plans. These plans then need to be approved by the local planning board who will issue you a building permit number much like in other places. Once approved the process can start with site clearing, construction, getting electricity and water to the site. This is where your contractor can be a major help in expediting these steps. Naturally there are costs involved but doing it yourself can sometimes be a real headache.
Some of the construction aspects are similar to what happens in the US but block construction is done on a totally different system which is very labor intensive and the easiest way I might explain it is as a post and beam home but made with block. The block acts as the walls but they have no structural support. They are of sorts filler. Posts are poured at various places and theses extend up to what is called the belt, which is also poured concrete. The posts and the belt are the structure in the building much like in a post and beam home. It is how they have built here for ages and overall Bahamians aren’t quick t adopt new techniques of construction, believe me, I’ve tried.
In wooden construction the technique is basically the same except there are many more metal straps that are used to keep all the pieces and parts held firmly together in the event of a hurricane. In this fashion, every piece from the foundation/slab to the roof rafters are attached together to form a whole unit and making it hard for roofs to lift off or walls come off foundations in the event of a hurricane. If done correctly it makes a perfectly solid, strong lasting home. I should add that all lumber should be pressure treated to resist termites and even block homes get termites as they have wood components.
Now as to finishes- It’s important to remember that the sun, salt air or salt itself depending on your proximity to the ocean can take a quick toll on your new home. Choose windows, doors, siding and trims that will take the environment here or you be replacing them long before you planned. If this is going to be your vacation home, do you really want to spend your time here, painting and repairing things?
The process from start to finish can go on for some time when you’re building a home in Eleuthera but it’s important to keep the end result in mind. Things generally take longer to accomplish here as most things have to be shipped in which can lead to delays if proper planning hasn’t been accounted for. Also keep in mind that if you stick to your original plan you should stay on budget but if you start making changes in styles or materials, the costs can add up rather quickly.
Presently building materials are duty free until next June 2017 but as a general rule adding shipping, custom duties, VAT, delivery will add to the cost of your project. The exemption has been in effect for two years and was created to stimulate the economy. It will not last and the costs will rise again to between 7-45+% depending on what materials you use. It is not a cheap place to build so please don’t assume it is and if you get a price for construction that seems lower than what you would pay in the US or other places, well I would definitely pass as you’ll probably have more problems than you could have ever envisioned!
Building a home in Eleuthera can be challenging but when it’s all said and done and you’re here enjoying the island life, well it will have all been worth it.