Building on a Shoestring Budget -more

  • Creation Date: Friday, 14 June 2019

Most people's belts are so tight these days that one can almost not breathe.

The thought of building or renovating a home needs some serious thought and planning and if you are looking to build on a shoestring, then there are quite a few things to think about.

One of my favourite TV personality architects is a Brit by the name of Piers Taylor. He has the gift of being able to see the value and use of all sorts of unconventional building materials that can be incorporated into the construction of a house that can save you quite a lot of money.

It will, however, always come down to your willingness to take the time to look for alternatives to use in your home.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider.

Number 1.

Consider a simple design.

The shape and size of a building will always influence the cost. A rectangular shape will cost less than an L-shape, mainly because of the cost of the corner join in the roof structure. Even then, by separating the building elements, one can simplify the roof structure and save a bit. A monopitch roof is generally less expensive than a standard double pitched roof but it would need some architectural input to make it economical and look attractive.

One can look at designing spaces that open onto others to create expanded living when required, like between a lounge and a patio. Where possible, eliminate passages as you are paying for space that you only use for occasional access but if you make a necessary passage just slightly wider for example, then one can use a wall for a bookcase or for storage space.

If you think that there might be a requirement for expansion of your home at a later time to accommodate an expanding family for instance, then make sure that the current design allows for such an expansion.

Designing the building so that all the rainwater and waste drainage is to one side and close together will shorten the drainage distances and will save some money.
Consult your architect with some of these ideas and see how many ways a simple design can save you money.

Number 2.

Do you need a big house?

So often, one's thoughts are a whole lot bigger than the available budget. Consider the whole “small house” culture where clever and innovative interior design fits everything you really need into a much smaller space than you think possible. Some of that thinking can be included with your design.

The concept of doubling up on the use of the “spare” or “guest” room, for example, could be considered where a Murphy bed is set in a cupboard and the room is then used regularly as a study or playroom until you need it for a guest. This consideration would save on the cost of having to build an additional bedroom or a study which is a big saving.

A kitchen is another expensive item and usually way bigger than it really needs to be. If you are able to keep the space to what you actually require as opposed to what you would like, then there would be a significant saving for you. There are also serious savings to be made with the clever design and construction of the countertops, from reclaimed timber to cast concrete. Cupboard doors are also a major part of the cost and inserting open shelves instead of cupboard doors, particularly where they can't be seen by guests in your open plan lounge, for instance, will further save money.

When one considers the current low-end building cost of anywhere between R7000 and R10,000/sqm, saving just one square metre of space makes a big difference.

 If you are able to spend the time investigating the many options and innovations that will allow you to scale your accommodation requirement down and thereby the costs down as well, even if it is just by looking for ideas on the internet, then there is a fair saving to be made.

Number 3.

Consider different building construction methods.

There are a number of building methods available on the market these days. Not all of them will be available to you in the area that you wish to build but they are all worth considering. There is obviously the standard baked clay brick, cement block or cement maxi brick option which is most common but then there are also a variety of other building systems available which you would do well to investigate.

I have already posted articles on Structural Insulated Panel Systems (SIPS), Container houses, Timber frame and Light Steel frame and A-Frame or Open A-frame houses for you to check out. There are also a variety of polystyrene building blocks and panels as well as a few concrete panel systems to consider. Again, this is something your architect should be able to advise you on and assist you in making an informed choice. Any one of these building systems could potentially reduce the cost of the structure of your house.

Number 4.

Consider alternative materials and finishes.

The bulk of the money that you will be spending on your house will be spent on the finishes. It, therefore, goes without saying that this is also the area where you can potentially make the biggest saving. It is also the area where you will need to do the most research and spend the most time hunting for those bargains and innovative items. The clever use of inexpensive, odd items can also make the biggest difference to the interior of your house. It can replace something that could have been expensive and ordinary with something inexpensive and spectacular.

I have always said for instance that expensive tiles placed badly in a bathroom can look ordinary whereas reclaimed timber cladding or even metal roof sheets, a bunch of old faded mirrors or other materials on the walls, set properly, can look stunning. Polished cement floors with a few carpets instead of tiles or timber flooring could be investigated. I could go on.
It just needs some out of the box thinking and a bit of homework.

Number 5.

Consider things that you can do yourself.

There are unfortunately not too many items that everyone can do. The most obvious one is painting. Note, however, that you will still need to purchase all the materials yourself so the only thing that you will be saving on, is the labour cost.

If you are a home handyman (sorry, person) then there are a further few items that you can consider such as flat-pack cupboards for the bedrooms, building your own kitchen units, fixing wall tiles of splashbacks and wall cladding to the kitchen and bathrooms, curtain rails, etc.
The only drawback is that you may end up with a forever unfinished job.


There are ways to build on a shoestring budget but it will require a lot of investigation and effort on your part but in today's economic climate, it is often quite necessary if you are to have a home that you are able to live comfortably in.