How to Build a House Cheaply

Etienne Caron

It's possible to build a house cheaply as long as you aren't placing a value on the time you spend doing it, because the key to building cheaply is doing most of the work yourself--which means spending at least 2 hours working per square foot.

Build a House Cheaply

In addition to saving a lot of money, you'll always have a wonderful feeling of self-accomplishment when you look at the house that you built with your own two hands. Read the steps below for some proven ways to reduce your building costs.


Allow an extra 15 percent in your budget for overruns and unanticipated expenses.

  1. Keep your house design simple. Design the house to use standard-sized building materials. A two-story house is cheaper to build than a one-story house that has the same living area.

  2. Choose inexpensive materials. Cover the roof with galvanized sheets. Use shelves instead of cabinets in the kitchen. Buy low-end windows and doors. Use pine or vinyl for the floors, rather than hardwood or carpet.

  3. Use recycled materials. Check eBay or your local classifieds. Visit local auctions and houses where people are remodeling.

  4. Eliminate unnecessary rooms and services. A cheap house will have only one bathroom, no garage and a wood stove for heat rather than a furnace.

  5. Buy the cheapest lumber you can find. Look for a local sawmill that sells native wood. If you have usable trees on your property, you can rent a portable sawmill to make your own lumber or hire someone to do it for you.

  6. Build the house close to the road on well-drained land. You want the shortest distance possible between the nearest utility pole and your house. If you are not able to build where you can get town water and sewer, well-drained land allows you to build the cheapest septic system possible.

  7. Build as much of the house yourself as you can. Do the carpentry and finish work on your own. Code may require you to have the septic system, wiring and lights professionally installed. You may also want to have professionals build your foundation and grade the lot.