Built a flat-pack bookcase? How about taking on a flat-pack house?

Amazon has one for €6,500 that the seller says two of you can build in a day

Flat-pack house: how the Allwood Solvalla should turn out. Photograph: Amazon

Flat-pack house: how the Allwood Solvalla should turn out. Photograph: Amazon

 

If the idea of assembling an Ikea bookcase gives you a stress-induced headache, and the notion of one day finding yourself buying and installing your own kitchen units makes you wake screaming in the dead of night, you should probably look away now.

Amazon is selling flat-pack houses that, the seller suggests, will fit snugly in your back garden and can be assembled in no more than eight hours for less than €6,500.

Before the slum landlords of Ireland, who have always seemed happy to rent out garden sheds for a king’s ransom if they can get away with it, race to their computers, they should know that the price does not include luxuries such as running water, heat or light. And delivery to Ireland of the kit, which includes thousands of small parts and mountains of wood, is likely to prove problematic. As will our planning laws.

How could we sleep knowing  anything less than competent DIY handiwork could see the walls cave in or the roof disappear into the night sky with the slightest puff of wind?

But what troubles us most is the idea that anyone but a team of craftsmen could assemble a house in a weekend. At best it seems unlikely. At worst it seems reckless even to attempt it.

Allwood, the US company selling the 16sq m (172sq ft) flat-pack Solvalla studio, promises a “garden house kit made from high quality Nordic wood” plus “simple step-by-step directions” that anyone can follow. Anyone? Allwood clearly hasn’t seen us try to put together an Ikea child’s table and chair.

Although we were somewhat relieved to learn that the gable walls, roof and floor would at least come preassembled, we were distressed by the thought of the thousands of screws that would be needed to hold the whole thing together. And how could we sleep knowing that anything less than competent DIY handiwork could see the walls cave in on us or the roof disappear into the night sky with the slightest puff of wind?

Another issue we have is the absence of running water, electricity or insulation – although Allwood does reckon that, with some tweaks, its little houses could be suitable for year-round living in most climates.

It is not the only company in the flat-pack-house market: a quick trawl of eBay reveals a range of similar kits for about €5,000. The cheapest seller, who appears to be based in Hungary, is keen to ship our house to us from Hong Kong. And, no, we can’t see what could possibly go wrong with that plan, either.

At the higher end of the market are several sellers based in Ireland, but their substantially more complex kits will not be assembled by a DIY enthusiast, and take days rather than hours to put together.

Flat-pack house: one of Madi’s unfolding two-storey homes
Flat-pack house: one of Madi’s unfolding two-storey homes
Flat-pack house: a Plús Hús, designed in California by Minarc
Flat-pack house: a Plús Hús, designed in California by Minarc

Then there is Madi, an Italian company that sells two-storey, two-bedroom homes that even include a bathroom. Helpfully, it brings its own staff to unfold the house, which it promises they can erect in six hours. You will pay for the speed and convenience, however, with prices ranging from about €30,000 to more than €60,000 for an 84sq m (904sq ft) job.

In Florida, in the US, Cubicco sells places ranging from “micro-shelters” to complete homes with a couple of bedrooms, an office and a kitchen. They are ecofriendly and, handily enough for the area they are made in, are built to withstand a hurricane. Prices start at about €50,000, excluding construction.

Then there is Minarc, a California-based design company that bills its Plús Hús as a “simple, efficient, multi-purposable structure designed to let anyone add an affordable, environmentally responsible space to their property”. Buildable in a few days, it comes in three sizes, with the top of the range likely to set you back more than €50,000.

But you’ll need a decent-sized plot of land to accommodate it – and if you choose a less-than-robust make that all falls down with a puff of a wolf’s breath, don’t come running to us.

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