Instructable: How to Build Dirt Cheap Houses

Adobe House in Thailand
Adobe House in Thailand

Ever wonder how to build a simple home for very little money, without going into debt? The key is to use low-cost, locally available natural materials such earth, small diameter wood and straw to keep expenses to a minimum. The real fun is incorporating all of these methods into an optimum, comfortable, affordable home.

Our earthbag projects have confirmed what I’ve known for a long time – that building at $10/sq.ft. (materials only) or thereabouts is possible. Other aspects of earthbag building — strength, durability, sustainability, etc. — are all important. But perhaps the most important point is affordability, because building at $10/sq. ft. makes housing affordable to virtually everyone on the planet. The last page of this Instructable includes a list of $10/sq. ft. projects built by others.

A big reason for the growing popularity of earthbag building is its low cost. You can build shelters for under $1,000. For $1,000-$5,000 you could have a nice, small home that would outlast most conventional wood-framed houses, and be quieter, non-toxic and more comfortable.

Are you on an extremely tight budget? (Ha, who isn’t nowadays.) Then I suggest building small using local natural materials, building in stages and adding on as you can afford it. For instance, build one roundhouse and live in it until you’ve saved enough to build another. You could join the roundhouses with arched or gabled covered walkways, vine covered pergolas, enclosed passageways or additions, or just leave them free standing. Extending rectilinear structures (adding one room at a time) would be even easier. Building a little at a time like this requires planning ahead for future doorways and other considerations, but it enables you to build debt free.

***Natural building – using locally available, minimally processed natural materials – is the logical solution. There is simply no other way to create affordable housing for all those in need.***

You can read the article for free: How to Build Dirt Cheap Houses

Note: This photo essay includes links and images of projects from around the world that have been built for extremely low cost.

4 thoughts on “Instructable: How to Build Dirt Cheap Houses”

  1. It would be great to be able to build your own dwelling at such a cheap price. Nevertheless, not all location permit the construction of your own properties. There are many steps and approval processes which you would have to go through before finally receiving the green light from the authorities to start building.

    • Yes, there are lots of steps and challenges to build your own house. But lots of people (millions?) have done so. It definitely helps to have some construction experience. You can also learn everything you need for free from the Internet and library books. Do-it-yourself is well worth the effort when you consider how much money you can save.

  2. How to build this houses in a very varm country? Will they goe very varm inside? Is a cuestion that a group of us want to know. Thank you

    • We live in a very hot climate and the roundhouse doesn’ get hot. You want to 1. shade the walls with wide roof overhangs and possibly vines, trees, etc. on the hottest side, 2. have lots of windows for maximum ventilation.


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