Building a House Save Money - Tips for Owner Builders

When building a house save money by following our real-life cost slashing strategies and cheats. Owner building? You can save money building your house just like we are!

We are now a couple of months into our build and have shared many tips already. Here's more...

Tip # 8: Engineer Your Own Solutions

Another way to save money building your house is to engineer your own solutions to building challenges.

For example, after we’d got our steel uprights firmly in the ground and laid the strip foundations for our strawbale walls, it was time to leave the relative safety of the ground.

I’m not that comfortable away from good old terra firma, but work on the roof beckoned and as there are only two of us on this build, we had to find a way to get up there with the birds safely!

We solved that one by making our own set of scaffolds. I was pretty shaky at first but am now leaping up the (home-made) ladder.

DIY Scaffold

Meg Up Our DIY Scaffold

They are about 4 metres high. We’ve been able to extend the reach even further to reach the top of our roof by putting a platform and ladder on top.

Another big issue was how the hell do we lift the roof trusses? They are pretty heavy. We seriously needed a “Sky-Hook” about 6 metres high. After a bit of trial and error (and a few tears on my part) we found a solution.

We bolted two lengths of c-section steel together stiffened with screwed in light timber and braced with timber legs. A second hand chain block was hooked on the top (make sure you get one with a long chain or you won’t be able to reach it from the ground).

The chain block is heavy so raising it presented a few problems.

Fixing chain block to DIY skyhook lifting device

Graeme Fixing the Chain Block to the Sky Hook

We found it easiest and safest to rest the "skyhook" half way up on a scaffold before we fixed the chain block, then lift it the rest of the way using a wire rope rachet.

Raising the

Raising the Sky Hook

A rope is used to safeguard against the Sky Hook from falling during the lift. Once it is in position we clamp its props to star pickets temporarily embedded in the ground to firmly secure it in place so it can’t shift during the lift.

Using our DIY

Our DIY "Sky Hook" Lifting Device in Use

Tip # 9: Double-Use Materials

When building a house save money by planning to double-use materials wherever you can.

Sometimes you have to buy new materials, like when you need a set of uniform, straight timber to make your scaffolding or forms for setting out foundations. In these situations consider what else you could do with the materials after the job is over.

Graeme selected structural grade 2 by 4 inch seasoned pine for both jobs. It’s lightweight and perfect for all of these functions. Once we’ve finished with it in that role, we can recycle the material back into the project by using it in the structure of the building!

Tip # 10: Use “Soft Technology” Solutions

Though it would be lovely to have a crane to lift heavy stuff up to the roof, or bring in a big concrete mixer truck and get our floor completed by a professional team in a couple of days, these conveniences add considerably to costs.

While it’s important to weigh up the relative value of cost saving to time saving, you can often save money building your house by using more primitive but equally effective “soft technology” options.

For example, with a good supply of sturdy ropes, clamps and lightweight ladders, we are making good progress putting on our roof sheets ourselves, saving thousands.

We clamp rope onto the sheet and use it to both pull the sheet onto the roof, and help hold the clamped sheet in place until it is safely screwed on.

Roofing your building

Graeme screwing in our roof sheets.

A cheap cement mixer and a couple of good wheelbarrows is all we’ll need to lay our floor ourselves, saving about $7000 (Australian).

Tip # 11: Do What You Can When You Can

When there’s a hold-up building a house save money by not sitting on your hands waiting. Look for something you CAN do now and get on with it.

Time is money… Every week we save on the build is one week less we have to pay rent! So when the truck that was bringing in the first load of sand for our floor slab got bogged in our new driveway, we had to change our plans until the weather got drier.

Instead of laying the floor slab next like we originally planned, we started straight away on building the roof of our structure.

Tip # 12: Be Tidy and Organized

This is a BIGGIE! Have a place for everything and everything in its place so anything you are after is easy to find. Otherwise you might find yourself going out and buying something e.g. nails, glue or what have you, only to discover a week later that you already had it in your jumble of a shed!

Untidiness can be very expensive in not just materials, but also in time and fuel for the mad dash to the hardware store.


We’ve almost finished the roof, which is great as it’ll give us a cool shady environment for doing the floor and other building work.

In the process of actually building a house save money ideas just keep popping up at each stage of the journey. We'll share them all with you as we go - so watch this space!