Frugal home building ideas are increasing in popularity, due to economic and ecological concerns. A back to basics approach to homebuilding, which stresses sturdy construction and energy efficiency has now come into play. Today’s homes are smaller, and more energy efficient. While large homes of more than 5000 square feet were in demand in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a learner and more ecologically concerned public considers it garish in the 21st century. As huge homes stand empty and unmarketable, the demand for small efficient homes is on the rise. Even luxury homes are falling well below 5000 feet, simply because it is ecologically wasteful.
Small homes are much less expensive to build, and to heat and cool. Homes as small as 750 square feet are becoming popular in all price ranges, and 1200 square feet is considered large enough for most families. Homes of over 2000 square feet are considered too large and are rapidly dropping in popularity.
One of the most economical and easy home building ideas has really gained steam nationwide. It seems that shipping containers coming from Eastern countries are numerous, and it is cheaper for them to build new ones than it is to ship them back. While the trade deficit is not good for our nation’s economy, the used shipping containers can be good for your economy. They are extremely inexpensive, around $2000 each, and very well insulated. Used shipping containers alone, without additional insulation, offer an R-value of around 20, which is not bad. The coating used, inside and out on the containers provides the fabulous R- value. More insulation and then siding can be applied to the exterior, or if you prefer a little insulation could be applied under dry wall or paneling on the inside, however neither is absolutely necessary. A good plan is to save up to apply siding at a later time, rather than get a loan.
Used shipping containers are very durable and despite their heavy weight can be stacked high, one on top of another, or placed side by side. Most shipping containers are either 8’ x 40’, or 8’ x 20’ but some are wider, or irregular in size. Two used shipping containers can be placed 10 to 16 feet apart on a foundation. Add a floor and two walls between them and cover the whole thing with a roof, to create a 1040 – 1280 square foot home for an amazingly low price.
Some people believe that insulated concrete is more expensive than traditional construction, but if you consider the energy efficiency, it is quite economical, especially if you choose shotcrete over polyurethane or polystyrene panels. This is an amazingly simple process. Just build panels out of insulating foam panels, covered with wire mesh, build your home over the panels and hire someone to spray it with concrete. Another idea is insulated concrete forms. These concrete forms are also economical. While insulated concrete panels may cost a little more they are a great value, save considerably on onsite labor and provide great insulation. A concrete panel technically requires no dry wall or exterior siding. When used this way they are extremely economical.
One of the greatest ways to save is to hire the contractor to build a shell, and then finish it yourself. A shell generally includes the framing, roof and exterior siding, as well as windows and doors, but check the fine print of your package. Some of the less expensive deals on shells and kits, do not include anything except the walls. Be sure you know what each package includes, when comparing prices. Some packages include interior drywall and insulation while others do not. Most shells do not include a foundation, so you will either have to hire a separate contractor for that, or pay extra to the company building the shell. You will also have to hire an electrician and a plumber. Many people choose to do their own dry wall, painting, as well as floor covering and cabinet installation, for a savings of up to 50 percent.
There are many smaller ways to save on a home, including keeping the plumbing simple and buying less expensive floor coverings and fixtures. For more frugal home building ideas download our free 98 page planning guide, and enjoy the other articles on this site.
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