Simple Ways to Save Money Building Your House.

How to Build a Home book

As owner builders there are a lot of tricks we have picked up on how to save money building your house. For us it’s an essential part of budgeting for simple living.

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Here’s our story so far. We hope will help you fellow scroungers out there to cut the costs of building a house. Save money with our cheap home building tips!

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We’re building accommodation on our 5 acre block in the foothills of Perth, Western Australia. It will be a small part of a big workshop which we are building using non-load-bearing straw bale construction.

HOW TO SAVE MONEY BUILDING YOUR HOUSE We aspire to simple, sustainable living so we can leave the rat-race behind us! This has meant serious budgeting for simple living. Luckily we have discovered lots of ways to save money building your house.

Tip # 1. Owner Build It!

Save money building your house by doing as much as you can yourself.

If you aren’t tied to a 9 to 5 job, and are reasonably fit, owner building is a great way to save lots of money and restore your youthful figure at the same time!

We have figured that the two of us working together are saving about $400 a day (down to $300 when the new generator broke down putting the cement mixer out of action). And we’d need to be earning about $600 a day to have that amount of after-tax dosh to hand over! Not bad eh?

A big consideration is safety.

It was pretty precarious at times putting up the steel workshop upright beams ourselves. Graeme developed a bracing system that allowed us to fix 3 struts onto each beam before raising them, giving us a bit of extra security. I reckon hard hats and steel capped boots would be good insurance too.

Doing it ourselves meant we’ve had to invest in a second-hand cement mixer ($150) and trailer ($400), as well as a new generator, clamps, and some boxing timber to make up what we couldn’t scab from roadside rubbish collection suburbs. Graeme’s pretty handy so we already had a lot of the necessary tools.

An indispensable tool we made ourselves is the hose level. With it we’ve been able to level all our works to within a few millimeters of perfect over the whole site.

Save money building a house - props bracket for owner builders

Our DIY Props Bracket for Securing Upright Beams

Owner builders - raising a C section upright Owner building - A raised C section propped and ready for foundation

(L)Raising a steel C section;

(R) A Raised C section propped in place ready for cementing in

Tip # 2. Scab Resources.

Everything that gets thrown away is a waste of the Earth’s resources. So as good planetary stewards we’ve been scouring for free stuff that others are throwing away.

Roadside Rubbish

The best scavenging source we’ve come across is roadside rubbish collection. You can check on the websites of the local government councils near you for current collection suburbs, hook up your trailer and start hunting! We’ve found pallets, pvc pipe, steel rods, and timber, as well as a motley but functional assortment of steel to use as reinforcing for our concrete footings and workshop floor including… pool fencing, iron gates, bed frames and mesh.

Using scrap steel to reinforce footings.

Using scrap steel to reinforce footings

“Quokka” Newspaper

The “Quokka” comes out every Thursday and has a whole section of free stuff. It’s become a ritual for us now to go out early to the local café and have a cappuccino while searching for bargains and other stuff we need in the Quokka.

Lately we’ve been scoring free pavers to break up and use as rubble under our strip footings. This is saving us more dollars by reducing the amount of cement we need.

Tip # 3. Source from Backyards and Auctions

After buying a whole lot of c-section steel from someone’s backyard for half the price the shed company charged us, we’ve learnt a money-saving lesson. Not only that, but we’ve realized that the bloke who was selling bought his from an auction. How much more could we save if we got it from the auction direct? We’ll certainly be finding out when it’s time to build our proper house!

Tip # 4. Substitute Cheaper Materials

Figure what you could use to replace expensive bought materials. For example, an old bedframe picked up for free from the side of the road is just as effective a reinforcement for a concrete floor as reinforcing mesh.

Another tip we recently picked up for making concrete is to use gravel road-base in place of sand and blue metal to mix with cement. We’ve made good use of a pile leftover from making our driveway. It works out at about half the price, and dries a nice earthy color so we’ve ordered another truckload for our floor.

Tip # 5. Buy Second-Hand

With a bit of elbow-grease, we’ve been able to reveal the magnificent jarrah timber in some old windows we picked up at a salvage yard.

Secondhand tools and machinery - if looked after – can usually be sold for what you paid for it in the first place, once you’ve finished using it.

Tip # 6. DIY Delivery

If it is convenient to do your own deliveries of materials, it can save money building your house. It was going to cost us about $250 for each of the two deliveries for our workshop building kit components.

However, as we ordered it from a supplier on the route to our property, we’ve been saving money by ordering and picking up one batch at a time. Each batch supplies a stage of the building process – first uprights, then roof framing, then roofing iron.

Tip # 7. Milk Free Experts

We received a lot of free advice on putting up our workshop from the company selling the building kit. From showing us how the brackets went on to which way the uprights had to face, they’ve been a real help. And the best thing about it is that the help has been free!

We’ve also talked to other people who have built in strawbale, done a lot of searching on the net, and watched a few DVDs. Its also been well worth bending the ears of our local earthmoving contractors for valuable advice on site preparation.


Hope you got some tips you could use from all this on how to save money building your house. In a few days we’ll finish the strip foundations for our walls and be starting on pouring the floor. Next will be the roof, and after that the strawbale walls.

Graeme and Meg.

More tips here!