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Low cost house building ideas? Answered

Hi Forum. My wife and I have just purchased a piece of land. It was a stretch but the plan is to check out of the rat race once and for all. What we are looking for is ideas, plans, resources, links etc for a DIY home that won't require a mortgage from hell. Any and all ideas greatly appreciated. Also interested in looking at prefab as an option.




There are some great ideas for building smaller homes without the help of contractors. All aspects of the construction are here at this site:

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7 years ago

If you're going back to the earth, go back to the earth. Try rammed earth or earth bag construction. It's labor intensive but materials can usually be found on site and you can start small and expand as the need arises. But most importantly it's inexpensive or as they say "dirt cheap". You might also consider cob and straw bales. Adobe is probably a bad idea for southern France.

Thanks! Are there any resources you are aware of that I could use to build my knowledge of the techniques?

I agree with the idea of avoiding the huge mortgage. I would recommend you look at slipform masonry, cordwood building, shipping container building and maybe grain silo houses. I would eventually love to do a huge underground house/bunker using shipping containers. They do not cost very much when bought used but they require preparation like anything else and they can come in an insulated variety.

Good Luck


7 years ago

I read an article in the Arizona Republic which detailed many American companies doing contemporary PreFab designs.

I posted the links as another forum post "MODpreFAB", maybe some of these will be useful for your search.  The website busyboo had posts with European companies.

I've passed 2 site offices for sale, cheap, ugly, but they'll go on the back of a truck and can be modified.


Have you thought of building an Earthship?

Early ones were ugly, but more recent versions are quite attractive.

Lot of stuff on low-cost building/houses starting from carving out a cave, sand-filled soda cans or bottles, cement/adobe "organic" structures, tent yurts, trailer/mobile homes, bungalows, cottages, summer homes...really depends on cost, manpower to build and aquire materials, and the building codes that are enforced. Just pick some keywords from above and you will find a few instructables on them. But it sounds like you need a chateau or something. Good luck.

Used wooden pallets! They'll make a heck of a building material for the walls, maybe floors, cielings, etc...Let your mind go into overdrive. The pallets are basically modular sections. They can be insulated easily. Both electrical and communications can be easily installed in them. Interior and exterior finishing materials can be easily affixed to them. If you have good 'kung fu' , you could source all the used pallets you'll need for just cents on the dollar. Cheers


7 years ago

Small House Movement is an interesting possibility.  The NY Times carried an article discussing some of these homes that are less than ~1000 sq ft. and cost less than $100,000.

Check out "The Not So Big House" or "The Big Book of Small House Designs" (the later's Amazon.com page has other good related suggestions).

Also, Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian homes are nice and affordable plans.  The link discusses Usonian homes and suggests the small house movement shares the same ideals.

I knew someone that built his own small home using Insulating Concrete Forms.  These are essentially foam blocks that fit together like legos. Concrete is then poured into the middle spaces - creating foam & concrete walls.  Very good insulation value and can be cheap work.

Finally, I lived in Vermont for a while and modular homes were very common.  Housing developments were typically not commercially feasible in Vermont, so modular was a popular choice.  Cost was less, and construction was better than homes built on-site.  However the pre-fab stigma did lower the resale value.

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. A lot will depend on where your land is (weather, geography, &c). What works in the Desert Southwest of the US might not work in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Hi. Thanks very much for your reply. It's in the south of France. Faces South west. Close to Bordeaux.