There is no unique and enjoyable language I have heard like that of mjengo people. The talk and language ease your muscle strain and makes you forget the China loan that as rumored could have enslaved.
“My fundi tells me that we need to buy “mukwa” and “fisher board “. What could he be referring to?” My client asked me. I get asked these questions often by first time home builders who are going it alone in the construction of their projects.
In addition, there is also another group of clients who do not get satisfied with the explanations of their fundi and Google has failed to educate them. Therefore, they seek these answers from those they deem to be the custodians of this information.
Today let us discuss the construction site lingo that one is likely to encounter in a construction site in Kenya. This language is mostly not documented, unlike the technical terms.
Kabiru ya wembe
During my attachment at a construction site in Runda, I was told a mason that his wall was not plumb. He looked at me strangely and he told me “Hii ukuta iko na kabiru ya wembe” literally meaning “this wall has the plumpness of a razor blade.” I did not understand, so it was my turn to look at him strangely.
He went ahead to demonstrate using a plumb bob and I saw what he meant. The plumb bob is used to measure the verticality of a masonry wall and what the mason was telling me is that the wall was so vertical that only a razor blade can get between the plumb bob and the wall.
Their sense of humor is simply out of this world.
At the foundation level, the terms and phrases that you will likely hear include: chimba mtaro which means “digging trenches” mostly for the strip footing. In a strip footing foundation, the trenches are done then some concrete of about 2 inches deep is poured to protect the steel reinforcement (chuma) from getting in direct contact with the soil. After the steel reinforcement is laid as per the requirements, concrete Koroga is then poured to complete the strip footing.
Then the foundation walling will also require to have the “kabiru ya wembe”. Well compacted hardcore filling is done in the spaces enclosed by the foundation walling, then a 2-inch thick quarry dust (vumbi ya kware) blinding is applied. At this stage, termite control dawa ya mchwa is also applied. A damp proof membrane (karatasi ya polythene) is then laid on the treated quarry dust blinding.
At the slab level, the phrases and terms you will encounter among others include the following; Weka shutter meaning the installing of the formwork that would hold the concrete when it is being poured, Koroga which means the whole process of mixing and pouring concrete.
The walling that comes up after the slab is done will also attract its own terms. For example, applying mortar on the blocks for bonding (funga joints) is also done.
Mukwa is simply hooped iron. It is laid on alternate courses of a masonry wall that is less than 200mm thick. Weka key refers to the decorative process of using steel rebar to accentuate the vertical or horizontal joints of a masonry wall.
Weka niro is a phrase that is used and it refers to the using of neat cement on floors or walls.
Finally, at the roof level, you will likely hear phrases or terms like “fisher board” this is actually fascia board which is normally installed at the edge of the roof.
Kofia is another term and it is used to refer to the coping that comes on top of the parapet wall or to terminate a free-standing wall.
I have not exhausted all the phrases or terms used but armed with this knowledge, you can always add onto it.
In the comment section, feel free to share what you have heard in construction sites and we can try shedding some light on the real meaning.