How to Build a Surprisingly Cheap Home

strange_house fishermanscottageBuilding a home can be one of the most rewarding experiences ever, it can make you feel safe, accomplished and it can give you a sense of stability, all key aspects of a happy life. On the other hand a house can be also your biggest nightmare. Building a new house has become insanely expensive, the maintenance and running cost, over the building’s lifetime, can exceed the cost of constructing it, causing more and more people to get into massive debt for 20-30 years just so they can have a roof over their heads and money to pay the bills. And mortgages are one of the most effective ways to keep you from being free. As long as you have a mortgage you are less likely to take chances, go for your dream or stand up for justice and instead you become more inclined to accept compromises in your life, your career and even compromise on your values, using the same old excuse:”We all have to pay the bills”.

Before reading further stop for a second and imagine a different life: a life where you still have a home and access to the comforts of modern life, but without a big mortgage on your back. Would that make you feel happy, safe, free, optimistic about the future and relieve you of stress? If you like this picture than you might want to read this article until the end. If you prefer to trade 30 years of your life for a big and expensive house you can close this page now, as from here onwards I will not mention any must have, state of the art, super expensive devices or home decoration tips.

In this article we will list the principles for building a cheap home, regardless of the method used to build them, and after that we will give you some examples of DIY homes that use eco-friendly materials and that can be built for under 10$ /sqm.

The 5 Commandments For Building A Dirt Cheap Home

  1. Location Location Location. We all know that in real estate location is key. But location has also a big impact on the cost of building your home. Not only because of the plot price, but also because the location will have an impact on the available resources in the area, the cost of connecting to utilities, the cost of heating and cooling, the cost of labor and the cost of transport. So make sure you keep in mind all of these costs when choosing where you build your home. For more informations on how to pick the best spot for your new home you can check out this article: Click Here For The Article.
  2. Start small and build as you go along. I can’t stress this enough, building small is the easiest way to reduce the cost of your home: less sqm = less cost for building maintenance and taxes, regardless of how you build your home. I know you are going to say that small is not practical, that you need a big kitchen, a dining room, a living room, 2 guest rooms, a separate room for everyone in the family, a storage room and all this things that add up. But the fact is you do not need all of this things:if you need a storage room you probably accumulated too much junk that should be recycled or donated to someone less fortunate, a guest room will be used maybe 2-3 times a year, so instead of building one, why not use some smart furniture and transform any room into a guest room when needed. Need inspiration on how to do it: watch the example of this one room New York apartment that transform into a multi purpose flat Video HERE . And if you really need a big home, consider modular buildings, so that you can start small and build a house according to your budget. Once you have more resources or need more room you can simply add an appendix to the existing construction.
  3. Use local or recycled materials. In Japan most of the homes are demolished after 20 years, so if you live there recycled materials for building homes are unlimited. But even if you live in another country chances are that many people are throwing away materials that can be used for building a new home. The list includes plastic bottles, pallets, old tires, sandbags, old roof tiles, steel and even old bricks. If you live in a country like Sweden that recycles all its waste, than the next option is to look around the area for natural materials that can be used as building blocks: straw bales, earth, stones or small diameter wood. Further down you will find details about all these materials
  4. Use passive design strategies. Solar energy is free, so proper siting of the house is crucial to benefit from the micro climate of your location. Make sure the longest axis of your home is facing south, to maximize heat gains and access to natural light during winter. Place more windows on this side and fewer on North, East and West. In the summer you should protect these south facing windows with a roof overhang sized for you location, or by using shutters and blinds. For cooling make sure that you design your home to maximize air flow on the predominant wind direction. Meaning that the fresh air entering the house should have a clear pathway to circulate in all the building from one side to the other, depending on your predominant wind direction. More information in This Article.
  5. Keep it simple and natural. A marble floor could look nice, but could be also very slippery, cold and expensive. Instead an Earthen Floors can last indefinitely and do not require any covering. Link to Video on How to Build and Earth Floor. New technologies like radiant floor heating can definitely improve the comfort and the efficiency of our homes, on the other hand having too much technology will skyrocket the price and the maintenance costs, so before investing in some fancy gadget ask if it is really needed, is there a natural alternative to it, and how much will it cost to maintain it.

Now let’s have a look on how people all over the world apply these principles when they are building their new homes, to give you some much needed inspiration for your future project.

Please consult a professional before undertaking any building project and make sure you follow local and national laws and regulations.

Earth Homes

Houses have been built from earth for ages, and the most famous building material: the brick is also derived from clay. Since pretty much anywhere in the world you can find earth this could be the first option for building your next affordable home. There are many techniques for building earth homes and in this article you can find 4 examples of people who used earth as the main building. Earth homes are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, because the earth acts like a thermal mass, storing heat when the sun is at its peak and slowly releasing it during the night.

Sandbags and Earthbags

Pictures here

This is a technique derived from the military, where they would use sandbags to constructed temporary shelters. Besides the bags you will need also some wood frames for the windows, doors, and the roof. Another option is to use wood for the main structure of the house and use the bags to fill in the space between the poles with earth bags. You can find more informations in the links: How to build an earthbag home Video. How to build a sandbag home Article.


Plastic Bottles

Another option that is gaining in popularity, especially in Africa and South America, is using plastic bottles filled with earth. Since we throw away so much plastic, this is a resource that is free and widely available, so it makes sense to turn this waste into something useful. This method requires a lot of man hours but if you are short on resources and have many friends it can be a great option for your first home. More detailed informations can be found in the Article or in the Video.

Using Old Tires

Pictures here.

Since we all have to change our tires at least every second year, using old ones to build a new home could make sense. And there are people all over the world applying the same technique for building a cheap, durable and sustainable home. The technique used is similar to the two upper mentioned, and it consists of filling old tires with earth or sand. You can find more details in the Article or the video below.

Hobbit Homes

If you watched Lord of The Rings or the Hobbit, you remember the lovely houses from the Shire. Well hobbit homes are no longer just SF and people have started building hobbit homes not just because of the low cost of construction, maintenance and energy bills but also because they look cool. The house below was built for less than 5000 dollars, without any previous experience in construction works. Another example is this House built by an english farmer for less than 250 Dollars. To lower the cost they have used also an innovative technique for building the roof: How to build a Reciprocal Frame Roof

Wood Homes

This is one of my favorite building techniques because it reminds me of my childhood days when I was helping my grandfather with this kind of constructions. Wood has also been a building material for northern and mountain areas for thousands of years, so if you would like to built a home in a remote area, this could be the best option for you. However if you choose this techniques make a commitment to plant at least 10 trees for each one you cut, and leave the world a better place than how you find it. You can find more details about how to build a wood home in this Video.

Wood Straw Bale House

Using wood for the main frame of the house and making the walls out of Straw Bale is also a sustainable and cheap way to build a home. However you have to be careful with fire in these kind of constructions, as hey is extremely flammable. Special additives and plaster can be used to reduce this risk,  nevertheless please consult a specialist before using this technique.

Using Pallets

If you don’t want to cut trees, another option is to use old pallets for building a home, and many architects have implemented this building material into their designs. Depending of the cost of the pallets and the size of the house, these homes could be built for less than 10 000 Dollars. More details about how to do it yourself in the Video

Container homes

Using old shipping containers for building homes has skyrocketed in popularity in the last years, and architects are coming up every year with great designs for these kind of homes. Since they are modular constructions, you can always start small, with 2-3 containers, and add pieces as you go along. The cost of an old container can range between 3000 and 5000 Dollars, however these homes will need a lot of insulation since they can get pretty uncomfortable during extremely hot or cold days. More details about how to do it yourself in the Video.

Tiny Mobile Homes

Many people in the United States have chosen to downsize and live in a tiny mobile home, as in most states these homes do not require a building permit, plus if you feel like moving you can easily take your home with you. There are many different ways to build a tiny home, so let your imagination run wild on these projects. For inspiration you can check the Pictures or the video below. The home was built for 23 000 Dollars and it took only 4 months to construct.

Which project inspires you the most? Have you built a house using recycled or natural materials? Share your project and your thoughts in the comments section below.

The choice is always yours.

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