When it comes to building your own home, often the most important factor is the budget. And it’s not surprising. The budget has to not only cover the build itself, but also land costs, planning applications and legal costs.

With the median build cost for a self build in the UK coming in at around £270k (according to a 2017 survey), it is no wonder that many self builders are keen to stick to tight budgets.

Here, we take a look at great projects where the homeowners have managed to keep their build costs to £150k or under (and importantly, explain how they did it).

(MORE: Tips on keeping your build costs below £150k)

1. £80k Starter Home

Phil Coe and partner Flo built their first home on a tight budget of £80k. The property was formerly an agricultural shed which belonged to Phil’s parents.

Timber clad self build built for £80k

Phil and Flo’s new home was a former agricultural shed in the back garden of Phil’s parents’ home

How they built to a budget:

  • Phil laid the new foundations, built the timber frame and installed the timber cladding himself
  • Phil and Flo opted for a polished concrete floor on the ground level rather than installing expensive tiles
Open plan kitchen and living area in self build

Phil also made the kitchen units and the island

2. Straw Bale Self Build for £67k

This two-bedroom home in Exmoor’s National Park was built for the impressive sum of £67,000.

Straw bale self build in Exmoor National Park

How they built to a budget:

  • This home was designed by the homeowners who also took on much of the labour
  • The 310 straw bales were purchased from a local farmer for £1,000
  • The couple opted for local materials and bought unpainted and unglazed windows to finish themselves on site
  • The property is off-grid as bringing electricity to site would have been too expensive
Living room of a budget straw bale self build

The windows were specified unglazed and unpainted to save on costs

3. A Tiny Home for £59,000

Anyone looking to take their first step on the housing ladder can take heart from this self build in Ayreshire, Scotland. It shows what can be done when building on a tiny scale — without sacrificing characterful features or living and storage requirements.

blue panelled self build with corrugated roof in scotland

The roof of this tiny timber home, which exceeds current regulations and is eligible for mortgage lending, is constructed from Prelaq Nova, a fully recyclable pre-painted steel that costs around £9/m²

The energy-efficient 40m² home was constructed on an existing plot for just £59,000. The sum includes the construction, delivery and erection of the house, including the foundations (2013 prices).

How they built to a budget:

  • Smaller footprint and dimensions helped to reduce all material costs
  • prefabricated structure that minimised time on site (just six weeks)
  • The property features multifunctional spaces: such as the porch which doubles as a storage area

4. £68,000 DIY ICF Self Build

First-time DIY self builder Richard Baldwin overcame a frustrating series of legal and planning hassles to create this efficient, stylish home near Chesterfield on a remarkable budget of just £68,000.

small red brick home self build with porch and dormer windows

The site was previously a garden belonging to the next-door neighbour,
which proved useful in the early stages for water and power supplies

How he built to a budget:

  • Took on as much of the build as he could with some friends, including pouring the concrete strip foundations to building the insulated concrete formwork (ICF) walls, external brickwork, fitting windows, internal carpentry, plumbing, joinery and decorating
  • Used off the rack B&Q units, eBay finds and upcycled carcasses to build the kitchen himself
  • Internally, Richard used a mix of astute shopping and design solutions to come up with a quality look that belies the budget

5. A Shipping Container Home for £135,000

This budget self build has been built using shipping containers

The design takes its cue from the surroundings, with the four 14m containers clad in a powder-coated grey metal mesh, with Corten (pre-weathered) steel to the lower sections of the building

Proving that you can create a striking home on a budget, architect Patrick Bradley used shipping containers as a cost-effective construction method, creating an award-winning home for himself on a modest budget of £135,000.

How he built to a budget:

  • Built to a modest footprint of 115m²
  • Used shipping containers which offered a ready made shell which was transformed into a home in just nine weeks
  • Found a main contractor who could take on all the work on site from roofing and glazing to opening up the containers, which kept costs down
Large expanses of glazing bring light into this open plan home

6. A Loch-Side Cabin for £142,000

A small budget home in Scotland sits within a woodland setting

After reading in Homebuilding & Renovating how Jennifer Higgins self built a home (see above) and then went on to set up The Wee House Company, Ewan Colville and Jennifer Gilmour contacted Jennifer about designing their own ‘wee house’ on a loch-side plot.

How the home was built to a budget:

  • A prefabricated kit (with custom elements) kept time on site and wastage to a minimum
An open plan kitchen living space in this budget self build in Scotland

7. An Oak Frame Bolthole for £150,000

An oak frame budget self build from Border Oak

These homeowners worked with Border Oak to come up with a cost-effective, modest design concept, utilising an exposed handmade oak frame, handmade clay tiles and bespoke fenestration

This traditional-style home sits within a historic Conservation Area in Herefordshire.

How they built to a budget:

  • The 88m² cottage was kept deliberately simple — a traditional rectangular ‘bay’ format with a single ridge line was utilised for the plans
  • Handmade softwood joinery with a painted finish was used as a cheaper alternative to oak
  • Internal divisions were minimised to reduce materials and labour costs, while a solid oak floor was used throughout the ground floor (meaning minimal waste and simplicity of fitting)
  • A large family bathroom was chosen instead of expensive en suites which kept plumbing and sanitaryware costs down
  • Dormer windows were only used on one elevation, with rooflights on the rear as they are less expensive
A stylish budget build features elements of exposed oak frame in the interiors

8. City Home Built for 90,000

contemporary white home with wooden features

Jason Thawley built a replacement two-bed house in Brighton on a tight budget of £90,000.

How he built to a budget:

  • Took on practical work himself
  • Working with a structural engineer friend, Jason designed a reinforced slab foundation for the site which he was able to build himself for just £5,000 (saving £15,000 on the estimate)
  • A closed-panel timber frame was used which was built quickly and offered a fixed cost of £35,000
  • The property was highly insulated which meant it could be heated with a woodburning stove, MVHR system, solar thermal panels and an electric tank, instead of a £9,000 underfloor heating and combi boiler option
  • Jason re-used any waste materials produced throughout the build
white and teal contemporary kitchen with triangular shaped island

The kitchen units are from IKEA but the triangular island was designed
and built by Jason using wood left over from the build

9. A £135,000 Oak Cottage

rectangular shaped self build home with central oak porch and light blue fixtures

These homeowners spent £135,000 up to the second-fix stage of this oak frame (provided by Border Oak) and render self build. A further £30,000 was spent on extras including internal fit-out, decorating, flooring, carpets, kitchen, bathrooms, landscaping and lighting

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) were chosen for this Herefordshire self build to ensure high levels of efficiency and low running costs long term.

How they built to a budget:

  • A simple design kept costs down
  • The home is just 130m² and has an open plan layout to cut the cost of internal walls, doors and skirting
  • Quality was paired with bargain finds. For example a quality deVol kitchen was paired with ex-display cooker and dishwasher
  • The owners took on what they could, including brickwork, exterior landscaping, painting and decorating
oak beamed living space with white and light green interiors

10. A Welsh Cottage for £150,000

A timber-clad home built on a budget by Welsh Oak Frame

The Williams family looked to Welsh Oak Frame to provide a family home within their budget of £150,000.

How they built to a budget:

  • A hybrid frame of softwood and oak was used, with oak chosen for the areas where it would have the most impact, such as the vaulted ceiling and living room
  • The exterior was finished in a softwood feather-edged weatherboarding which is the most cost-effective timber cladding option
  • DIY was used by the owners wherever possible and the favours of family in the trade called upon where needed
  • Using an oak frame supplier that was so close by saved on delivery costs
An L-shaped layout adds interest to an otherwise simple budget build in Wales

11. A Decade Long Self Build for £140,000 Budget

timber clad self build home in rural scotland

The owners of this Highlands budget self build took on most of the building work themselves, after earlier work to renovate and extend the original 200-year-old granite building was abandoned.

How they built to a budget:

  • David Barker and his wife Val took on 90 per cent of the build work themselves
  • Their budget was allocated to things they deemed most important, such as slate for the roof, then they shopped around for deals on things such as flooring
  • All five bathrooms were finished in the same materials to negotiate bulk deals
living room in self build with tiber beams and red settees and large wooden windows

12. Dramatic £145,000 Oak Barn

evening shot of self build barn with fir pit

Designing a simple external structure and taking on almost all of the labour helped keep costs down on this project, which now operates as a holiday let (cruckbarn.co.uk)

Even when working within a slim budget,  you don’t have to forgo a stand out feature, as this project demonstrates. For this simple cruck barn on the Herefordshire/Shropshire border, the drama comes from the vaulted oak structure and its wooded location.

How they built to a budget:

  • Homeowner John used his skills to save money on design and craftsmanship
  • He took a break after the dry shell stage before installing services to spread the costs over years rather than months
  • Going directly to suppliers – for things like the flagstones from a local quarry and sourcing oak logs from a neighbouring woodland owner – kept costs down
  • They stored ‘waste’ materials to re-use later rather than sending them to landfill
living room in barn self build with high timber frames

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