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Our First Off Grid Building: The Budget Wendy House


Our plan for the first building we’ll erect to live in while we develop our off grid home. We’re going with a budget wood wendy house that will later become the shed, once we’ve built the main house. Here are the details…


We’ve just bought a piece of land and we are going to erect a small 3m by 6m wood wendy house on it. The wendy house will serve as our initial accommodation while we develop the rest of the land and build our main house. Here’s what we plan to do to the wendy house.

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The Budget Wendy

During our recent camping trip on our land, we met Werner who showed us a “budget wendy”.

The budget wendy is a wood house which is premade in panels that are then transported by truck and erected in one day on your property. It’s “budget” because it is literally just the wood panels and nothing else.

Bear in mind, we are out in the sticks, so a building that can be erected in one day is a huge bonus. We don’t have ablutions or accommodation for a building team to stay on site.

Werner says the budget 3m by 6m wendy house will be around R14,000.00. This is far better than any quote I’ve seen for something of this size! I’ve contacted a bunch of places in Cape Town and surrounds for quotes but of the few who replied, their prices were surprisingly high. Try R30,000.00 for a 3m by 3m shed, for example.

Other Options

I looked into many other options for a quick first build. Our budget is so small it’s silly, but that’s the choice we made when we bought the property with our savings instead of loaning money from the bank.

Shipping containers are very popular, but they are extremely costly to transport, especially to the middle of nowhere on a bad, narrow road. Then they take a LOT of work to make comfortable. Or you can buy a container that’s already converted for you. Take a look at Tiny Home Africa‘s beautiful offerings, starting at R200,000.00.

Modular homes and prefab homes are available in South Africa, but again tend to have a price tag way above our meager budget. Take a look at this article by Eco Pack to get an idea of what’s out there. Totally stunning, but prices start at R300,000.00. Wolf Pack living pods, based in Cape Town, also caught my eye but again unfortunately were out of budget.

A caravan or camper home would be cool, but wow those have become super expensive too. Ideally, you’d also need to build a little roof for it to sit under to extend it’s lifespan and make it more comfortable to live in (a bit of shade and weather protection). I spent time looking for second hand ones, but at the end of the day I couldn’t find anything suitable. They were either too difficult to transport (very far away, expired license, derelict) or in the price range of R30,000 or more. And that’s before the cost of getting it to our land, making any needed adjustments to make it livable and building a little roof to go over it. At that cost, I feel like we could rather build a small permanent structure. Surely!

I found TONS of companies offering wendy houses for various amounts of money, but when digging deeper so many of them started to look dodgy that I worried about finding any safe options.

You would absolutely need to physically meet with them, and see their warehouse. If they can’t meet that, walk away swiftly.

So by the time Werner said he could organize us a wendy like the one I was staring at in front of me, in Suurbraak on our hard-to-access piece of land, for a mere R14,000.00 I was jumping for joy!

Example of budget wendy house

Step 1: Foundation

Typically, these types of wendy houses don’t need much in terms of a foundation. Some people just level the area and pop a few bricks on the ground for it to sit on.

Because we’re positioned close to the river and in the valley below the mountain of many waterfalls, I think it’d be best to erect the wendy on stilts. I like the idea of being off the ground in case of a major flooding event in the future. The ground may get completely water logged, or even turn into a shallow river.

We agreed on about knee height off the ground.

Werner said he’d need to sink about 20 or so thick treated timber poles into the ground with cement to form a solid base for the wendy to be attached to. That sounds sturdy!

To dig the post holes in the clay heavy soil will require the use of a machine called an auger. It looks like an oversized drill and makes short work of an otherwise labour intensive job.

He’d also add steel cables, bolting the entire structure into the ground to ensure wind survival (apparently he’s seen some wendys end up in a neighbour’s yard in Suurbraak’s heavy winds).

Auger to dig post holes
An auger is used to dig post holes

Insulation & Cladding

The wendy comes unlined on the inside, so we’d need to add insulation – I want to go with Isotherm 145mm. It’s eco friendly (made with recycled plastic), dust & allergy free and has a 30 year manufacturer’s guarantee.

The 145mm has an R-value of 3.77 which is perfect for the Western Cape.

If you want to know more about insulation and R-value, read our INSULATION ARTICLE HERE.

Insulating walls of building
Example of insulation being installed in walls

Isotherm 145mm comes in at around R69 per m2 from Roof Insulations. But I haven’t done a lot of shopping around yet so I’m not sure if that’s a good price. On top of that, we’ll need sisilation, and I like FR405 because it’s fire retardant.

We’ll then need to clad the inner walls once we’ve laid the insulation. For this, I’m thinking a mix of shutterply (where we want to put up shelving) and rhinoboard.


Finally, we’ll need to upgrade the roof. The budget wendy comes with a very thin corrugated iron sheeting (I think Werner said 0.23mm) and he recommended something thicker.

I’ve previously done a bit of research into Zincalume – it’s pretty awesome stuff. BlueScope in South Africa is the pioneer in introducing aluminium/zinc alloy-coated technology. Zincalume steel now has more than 40 years of proven field performance around the world.

I’d like to go with the 0.53mm corrugated Zincalume AZ200 coastal coating. That should give us a good longevity.

Zincalume roof

To read up more on Zinc cladding, these two articles are a good start: