It is natural for people to be curious (or anxious) about the cost involved in building their own home. Clients would often ask Brian how much a straw bale house would cost compared to, say, a brick veneer. Indeed, it was one of the questions he was asked the most!
The cost depends on a lot of factors, and you won’t get a really good idea until after your site is chosen and your design is complete.
However, it is a fair judgement that building your own house will cost a decent amount less than hiring others to build it for you. Being an owner builder means YOU are in charge of where your materials are sourced from, so you can shop around to find the best available price. It means YOU decide when you will work on the build, and you aren’t booking builders only for them to call off the work because it rains unexpectedly. And YOU decide on what finishings you want, and prioritise according to your budget.
If you decide you want the straw bale benefits, but don’t want to build it yourself, then you’re looking at a similar cost to a brick veneer. Builders cost money, and the fact is that there are not many builders in Australia who are willing to work on straw bale. If you’re in New South Wales, Viva is a straw bale house building company you could look into.
Why owner-build straw bale over other materials?
Straw bale construction is more owner builder friendly than other methods of building. It’s a more forgiving material to work with, and mistakes (if they occur) are easier to correct with render than with plaster. In fact, while render can be done with screeding if desired, we find that a lot of the charm of straw bale homes is in the imperfections. The undulating walls and textured finish are testament to a calmer way of living.
There are also savings to be made while living in a straw bale house, as the super insulated walls lower heating and cooling costs. Long term savings should not be underestimated.
As with most things, resourcefulness is key when building your own home on a budget. Compromise will also have an impact on how much your straw bale house costs. Settling for second hand doors may mean you can afford the flashy counter tops you have your eye on!
Now with all that said, you’re probably still thinking:
“But how much MIGHT a straw bale house cost?!”
To give you a very, very, VERY rough estimate- with decent soil and a timber floor, you would be looking at $1000 per square metre. This is for all new materials, but forgoing luxury finishings.
If you can also source second hand materials, you might be able to get that down to $600-$700 per square metre.
The truth is that nobody will be able to give you an accurate figure until after the soil test and the engineering is done. If you have to have concrete foundations, you’re looking at hefty losses. Massive roof spans, requiring more timber to support the load, will also set you back. Here is another article about ways you can save money when building a house on a budget.
All in all, building your own straw bale house costs a lot less than hiring somebody else to build you a house. A straw bale home will save you money on power bills for years to come, and is more sustainable to boot!
Are there any other questions about straw bale houses or the Anvil building method that you would like answers to? Let us know in the comments!
There is some great information in this article. Especially details such as the site costs to build.
I think that the biggest factor in saving costs is the ownerbuilders ability to run the job effectively, organise trades and know when each trade is need and what they are required to do.
I think that $1,000 a sqm is a very optimistic estimation. As a builder using subcontractors this would not cover materials and their wages. It would obviously require the ownerbuilder to stop all other work and focus on their build for 2 years.
if you have built your own place for this amount please let me know as I would be interested to pass on tips to the strawbale ownerbuilders who do our courses.
I’m happy to discuss any of this further if you like.
My wife and I built our house for $45,000. It is a 84 sqm house, that we finished in 2011. We built it with the intention to extend, when we built up more funds. We have since added on an open plan kitchen/lounge area for $15,000 (for the building without the kitchen fitout). This effectively makes it a 3 bedroom house for around $60,000. We did this while I was working full time, and Gabbi was working part time and studying at uni. We did most of our work on the weekends, with some holiday time. It was hard work, but it can definitely be done.
We did all the carpentry work ourselves, baling etc.The only subcontractors we hired were a plumber and an electrician. We ran one workshop where people helped with the rendering, but other than that we rendered ourselves. Where we saved most of our money was in our own labour, and resourcefulness. We sourced second hand materials wherever we could- sinks, doors, vanity, oven and hot plates, kitchen cabinets, windows, benchtops, wood heater, etc. We only paid $4 per straw bale, because they came with a bit of chicken manure that needed to be scraped off. I plan on writing an article soon on how and where to source great second hand material. There is plenty out there if you know where to look and can take time out of your day to take advantage of opportunities.
I guess the main factor in keeping costs down is flexibility. If you are willing to settle for things which aren’t EXACTLY what you had pictured, but are still perfectly good, then you can save a lot of money. As an example, the windows for our whole house cost $10 in total. We found some outside a nursery, and some came from homes which were being renovated. Obviously if you are looking for a luxury home, and budgeting is not as high a priority your vision, then this article is not so applicable to you.
Keep an eye out for our article on tips and hacks to save money when building a straw bale house!
I’d love to see some photos!!
I am too old to owner–build—can’t get up on ladders anymore etc.
What would it cost to have a builder do all the building? Looking for a 90sqm house in Tasmania
If you are looking to hire a builder, it would cost a similar amount to contracting a builder to construct the same size brick home. Sometimes it can cost more because most builders are uncomfortable with straw bale building methods.