12 cheap building materials perfect for a small home

Aqeelah Bawa-Osman Aqeelah Bawa-Osman
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Just the idea of building a house from scratch can be rather daunting, especially when you consider how the cost of building materials will influence your budget, layout and design. But, with help from homify, we look at low-cost building materials in relation to a smaller home. Whether you're looking for rustic, modern, country or contemporary architecture ideas that include cheap building decor or affordable materials, these 12 houses (and low-cost construction ideas) are sure to guide that construction project. Let's be inspired by these fantastic tips and tricks, as well as our updated list of materials that can be used to build a low-cost house. 

​1. Prefab materials

Prefabricated materials and houses are fast becoming an alternative to traditional homes for their use of cheap building materials that impact on the overall building cost. This innovative construction technique is easy, fast and simple to construct—all you need is a decent plot of land.

2. Concrete slabs

CASA TRANSPORTABLE ÁPH80, ÁBATON Arquitectura ÁBATON Arquitectura Country style house
ÁBATON Arquitectura


ÁBATON Arquitectura

Concrete sheets are another one of those low-cost building materials that add a modern effect to the exterior, and can even be left bare for a contemporary design.

​3. Stone textures

Stone cladding, one of the best low-cost construction materials, is light and fascinating, requiring far less work than regular stone, making it a cheap building option as well.

4. Old shipping containers

Speaking of low-cost materials and construction techniques, if you'd like to find out how to lower the cost of building materials entirely, then a shipping container house can be a very cost-effective, creative and eye-catching option.

Bonus tip for containers

Aiding in the reputation and potential of old shipping containers being turned into low-cost housing is the fact that they’re so easy to use and construct. With the right professionals (South Africa is quite filled with housing experts like Architects, Interior Designers, etc.) on board (constructing a lost-cost container house is above many people’s DIY skills), you can build, edit, stack, and edit some more until you end up with the low-cost container house of your dreams. 

5. Reclaimed timber

Choose cheap materials such as reclaimed timber for that rustic cabin-like exterior. 

Bonus tip for timber

50m2 Sugar Gum Cladded home with decking - work in progress., Greenpods Greenpods Scandinavian style houses Wood Wood effect

50m2 Sugar Gum Cladded home with decking—work in progress.


It’s not just that timber looks good and helps to ensure a charming, rustic-like style. By weight comparison, timber is much stronger than other construction materials. The strength/weight ratio of laminated timber, for instance, is greater than either steel or aluminium. And remember that timber is also one of the lightest construction materials available. Thus, due to timber’s low density in relation to high strength, buildings crafted from timber can weight as little as one eighth of a similar building made from other heavier building materials (like brick and concrete). 

6. Corrugated metal

Corrugated metal doesn't need to be used for just the roof, it has an industrial style, allowing cheap building materials to look even more sleek and sophisticated.

7. Bamboo

Bamboo has been used as a cheap building material for many years. Although it is a natural material that lasts long, it even fits in with a modern setting, making it one of the most preferred materials used to build a house.

8. Industrial iron

Iron girders are gaining in popularity, it's one of those durable and cheap materials.

9. Traditional red brick

For another low-cost house construction idea, red bricks are an age-old structural choice for homes that have been proven to stand the test of time. Plus, we can’t deny that it looks good, too! 

10. Thatch roof

A thatch roof doesn't need to be just for a home in the Netherlands, it's another cheap building roof material to consider.

11. Natural stone

Instead of building a stone home from scratch, build it into a pocket of natural stone so you’re only paying for the excavation work.

12. Fresh concrete

Our final option on our list of materials that can be used to build a low-cost house is the much-loved concrete. This material is sturdy, cheap, and definitely chic enough for a sophisticated home that adores a bit of charm. 

These 9 spectacular South African family homes can inspire you even more! 

Which example and materials inspire you the most for a low-cost house?

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