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. I will write another article soon about ways you save more money, so keep an eye out for that!
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!