Mar 06 2023

What is a kitset home?

What is a kitset home?

When many people think of building a home cheaply they think of kitset homes. With the very kiwi do-it-yourself mindset, kitset homes are a popular option around New Zealand. This can be especially true if a few of your mates are tradies and you see a chance to get mate's rates for key aspects of the build.


However, the regulations and terminology surrounding kitsets have evolved over time. With other innovative construction methods vying for the spotlight, it can be difficult to know where to start, or whether a kitset home is even the best option for you. In this article, we explain: 

If you’re considering a kitset home, here’s everything you need to know. 


Kitset homes NZ 


In New Zealand, kitsets are commonly considered a do-it-yourself way to build a house and save money. However, to ensure all newly built houses are safe, healthy, comfortable, and durable, it is recommended that each house is built by a qualified builder. 


The term ‘kitset’ refers to the individual components, such as the walls, roof, windows, and doors, which are prefabricated in a factory. This is a form of offsite manufacturing (OSM), which aims to increase efficiency and prevent unforeseen construction delays. The separate components are then delivered to the building site and put together by the builder.  


The two types of kitsets are: 

  • Flat-packs that require on-site assembly.

  • Preassembled components that are ready to install on-site. 

While kitset homes come with the necessary components, it is up to you to manage the entire building and compliance process. This takes time which means that while many builds can be cheaper in dollar terms they instead need payment in labour - often called ‘sweat equity’.


Expanding on what we’ve already touched upon, a kitset home can come in as simple form as semi-constructed frames all the way up to complete pods that need to be attached together. The latter is typically called modular homes and requires the least amount of labour on site (apart from a prefab home, which doesn’t even need attaching to other pods).

So rather than being a defined term for a particular type of construction method it’s better described as an umbrella term for a range of off-site/on-site hybrid construction methods.


Building a kitset home


Assembling a kitset home is typically considered a "labour-only" job for builders, as the components arrive at the location pre-cut and ready to assemble. While they do require minimal on-site construction there should be minimal cutting etc involved. However, it still requires a competent builder to assemble these components correctly and ensure that the home is compliant with the relevant standards. 

The kitset home construction timeline

  1. Select a house plan. 

  2. Confirm specifications with the kitset supplier.

  3. Individual components will then be manufactured in the factory.

  4. The pieces are delivered to the building site.

  5. The builder assembles the pieces according to the instructions. 

Since the amount of onsite construction is less than for a conventional build, contractors can usually work more efficiently. This means the overall labour cost is also lower, making kitsets a more affordable solution

Kitset building standards


In New Zealand, kitset homes must adhere to the same building standards and regulations as traditional site-built homes. For this reason, a licensed building practitioner is recommended to help ensure you meet all regulations.


The NZ Building Code covers eight core categories, including general provisions, stability, protection from fire, access, moisture, the safety of users, services and facilities, and energy efficiency. These regulations help to ensure that all new homes are safe, comfortable, and built to last. 


Tips for building a kitset home


Before building a kitset house, there are a few crucial things to be wary of. See our top tips below to avoid common pitfalls. 

  1. Confirm all details of the build before ordering the kit. 

    Everything has to be finalised before the house plan gets to the factory, so you need to have a clear idea of all the details before you start. For example, the lighting and wiring layout is difficult to alter at a later date, so make sure you know where every power point and light switch should be placed. In most cases, making changes as an afterthought is expensive, if not impossible. 

  2. Check what is included in the kit prior to purchasing.

    Before investing in a kitset, or any off-site build, you must check that everything is included. For example, if the kitset does not include the foundation then you will need to ensure this is done before the project start date., You will also need to arrange engineers, designers, plumbers, roofers, electricians, drain layers, and bricklayers and a mistiming with any of the start dates for any element of the build could result in lengthy and costly delays. 

  3. Confirm any plans with your builder.

    Before ordering a kitset home, speak with your builder about the plans, building method, and schedule. Kitset homes often require certain processes that builders are not familiar with, so it pays to check with them first. You can find a local New Zealand Certified Builder here. You may benefit from hiring a project manager if you’re unable to oversee the build yourself.


Kitsets vs other construction methods


In this section, we outline the key differences between kitset homes and other popular ways to build a house. To determine which solution is most practical and affordable for your needs, read all about on-site construction, prefab homes, and modular homes: 


Kitsets vs conventional on-site builds

Onsite construction is the most common method of building homes, simply because it is the one people are most familiar with. However, an onsite build project isn’t devoid of issues and can experience weather delays, expensive labour, and travel costs. There is increased foot traffic, with multiple deliveries and trades needing to visit the site. This can cause localised disruption. With much of the work happening on site, there is increased noise, waste and logistics all of which can overwhelm the first-time home builder.

On the other hand, with a kitset home, a portion of the labour is completed in a controlled factory and the onsite assembly is usually much more efficient. This reduces labour costs, waste and disruption and helps to speed up the process. 

Kitsets vs prefab homes

A prefab or modular home is built entirely in a factory and then transported to the final location on a flatbed truck. It is then fixed to the foundations and connected to site services, with only a few short weeks of site work to complete. This is a far more efficient and affordable solution than a kitset, as labour and travel costs are much lower. 

Compared to a kitset, which still requires a substantial amount of site work, a prefab is mostly complete before it leaves the factory. This way, weather conditions and location-based challenges are no longer an issue. The only big logistical challenge is getting the part or fully-built house to the site, which is something that the construction company will manage.

Kitsets vs modular homes

A modular home is a type of prefab, with the main difference being that there are multiple sections, or modules, to deliver. There are usually two or three modules which are then connected onsite and secured. Not only is the construction of a modular home more efficient than kitsets but they also provide less hassle. 

Affordable homes in NZ

If you're on the hunt for a new home that is affordable, hassle-free, and built with premium materials, a transportable prefab, or modular home is an excellent choice. With Manor Build's wide range of designs, customisation options, and fast construction times, you'll have the keys to your dream home in no time.

With our streamlined and controlled factory construction, our homes can be constructed in a matter of months, making it one of the fastest ways to build a home. This rapid turnaround time reduces the stress of building and also helps to save you money. 

Benefits of transportable prefab houses

Do you think a prefab home might be right for you? Check out these key advantages of this method before getting started: 

  • Faster build times

  • Fewer delays

  • No hidden costs

  • Longevity

  • Reliable quality

Find the right house plan for your needs in our online catalogue. From one-bedroom units to spacious family homes, you’re sure to find the ideal layout for you. 

Or, if you want to know more about innovative construction methods, read our comparison of transportable homes and prefab homes at the link below.  


Discover the difference between transportable and prefab homes



Tags: Housing Market Trends