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  • Writer's pictureAtiqah Nadiah Zailani

Ringgits & Cents: Costing for the Meraki Project [Updated Dec 2019]

How much building a house (and an eventual farm-slash-orchard) is costing the wallet.

budget and calculator

As per last year, I am conducting an end-year review of the finances for the Meraki Tiny House project, and updating the post to capture the ongoing work and accrued expenses.

It’s been 2 years since the house was built, and within this year alone, there were several major developments that you will see reflected in the costing:

  • the slope underneath the house was reworked into a working area, with a retaining wall, floors, staircases and a storeroom,

  • the living room, kitchen and bathroom were furnished to a functional level,

  • the house was broken into, leading to damages that had to be fixed and increased security measures.

The house is close to my definition of completion, but I am unfortunately still missing a toilet. Tell you more about the adventures of procuring a toilet in a later post, but for now, let’s get on with this budget update.

Note: Items with a noticeable difference since the last costing in December 2018 are marked in blue in the costing table, and updated remarks are marked as such. Given the project is ongoing, the costs below are not final and will continue to be updated as I slowly but surely go through the project.



Before deciding to embark on this major do-it-yourself project, I decided to test out whether the house and the lifestyle I was designing was something that I seriously wanted to do. I spent a day learning about organic gardening, then took a step further by spending a week on a permaculture farm, learning about the sheer amount of work it took to maintain a food-producing farm. Prior to the build, I was meant to undergo a builder basic workshop to learn the basic skills required for my project, but I unfortunately could not find the time. I did manage to scrape through the build, but I would've liked to be better prepared.

If your own project is also something very new to you, definitely take the time to learn and experience more about it before taking the plunge.


The land I ended up buying is a Malay Reserve Land in the outskirts of town. It is also a shared land title, which means there are risks linked to ownership, hence why the price was what it was. For land that is not reserved, closer to town and equipped with individual land titles, you would expect to pay a whole lot more.

The rainy season sent a lot of water streaming down the hill, so I had to modify the land a bit more to allow for drainage away from the house structure.


The biggest costs were, quite rightfully, the steel and timber that formed the bones and flesh of the house. The all-glass walls and folding doors were very expensive and completely unnecessary (also not particularly secure either...), but I insisted on splurging on them anyway because I really wanted them. Hey, my house, my choice.


The build was done with a mixture of volunteers and specialists - the latter particularly for the more complicated or high-risk things like waterworks, or obvious things that you really don't want to mess up with noob hands, like paint and finishing. The house was treated with anti-termite spray that should be good for the next 3 years.

Update: Am facing issues with abnormal dirt and mold accumulation on the steel beams caused by the frequent cooling and heating of the beams depending on the weather (thankfully, the rest of the house does not have this issue, only the steel beams due to their properties). Hired someone to help clean the steel beams, however this doesn't solve the issue, so am still looking for ways to overcome this!


The first three items are self-explanatory, while the remaining are costs associated with the group build of around 30 volunteers over the course of 2 weekends and 1 additional day.


If you read the post on the things I'd do differently with the house build, you would know that a major problem I face is the monkeys with whom I share the location with. To be fair, I am the human intruding on their habitat, so I fully expect them to be annoyed with me and to exact revenge, or at least claim their share of the property. However, I did not expect them to destroy parts of the house, and that led to some pretty expensive replacements of damaged property!

Update: This year, the house was broken into by a local group of mischief makers, resulting in damages and loss of property, including toolboxes, electrical appliances, tri-fold mattresses, and believe it or not, a box of mosquito coils! The biggest loss was the solar battery, which crippled my solar system and caused the house to be without power for a few weeks. Fixing the damages and restoring the lost items amounted to $2,000.


It was an unexpected long and uphill climb, but I finally managed to install solar power in the house! The above is the breakdown of the components involved.


Update: The rainwater harvesting system is connected to the house plumbing, and I can now take showers and use the kitchen sink. I recently purchased a rainwater first-flush diverter, which basically diverts the first few litres of rainfall (which are presumably full of dirt from the roof) away, before allowing the water to flow into the water tank. I have yet to install it however.


I've started to slowly (and I mean, very slowly) furnish the place, now that the place has electricity, starting with lights and fans. This is just the beginning, though, so expect the figures in this category to balloon up soon.

Update: I've added cabinets and sinks to both the kitchen and bathroom to make them more functional, and a select few electrical appliances. I also DIY-ed a couch for the living room, and purchased a few stools to hang out on the balcony on. The biggest (and most expensive) item, however, is the wardrobe that also acts as a staircase leading up to the loft, which is now equipped with a mattress, pillows, fan and a long table to work on.


Also another slow and steady category. In fact, this will probably take up the rest of my life as I've got 40,000 sq ft to work with, and I'll probably pull this category out of here into its own separate tracker, as it shouldn't really be lumped in with the house budget.

On a side note, am constantly accepting plant donations if you are so inclined!

Update: This year, I commissioned earthworks for the area underneath the house, with vague ideas of making that space a workshop and storage area. This meant building a retaining wall to divert heavy rainwater, plus a proper floor, stairs and storage room, hence the high price tag. Aside from generous donations of plants, I have also purchased several fruit trees to kickstart my budding orchard and am looking to expand on this a lot more in 2020.


As mentioned above, the house was broken into, and necessitated the use of security systems. I opted for a home security company rather than a DIY solution, for several reasons, and have so far been relatively happy with it (save for connectivity issues in the beginning). The house is now equipped with metal grills, an alarm and CCTV, and there have been no more uninvited humans since then, and hopefully it will stay that way!


Installing the security system caused a new group of expenses, ie the monthly bills! In contrast to the one-time expenses listed above, this category is ongoing and will have to continue to be paid for things to function well. In addition, I am also currently looking into obtaining home insurance, but have yet to finalise it.


Update: The pending list is looking shorter, which is good. Of the four remaining, only the top two are priorities, while the last two can pretty much wait until I'm settled in there full-time. Regardless, I aim to fully complete the interior of the house in the coming year, and then turn my attention to the land surrounding the house. We'll see how this goes!


INITIAL PROJECT BUDGET: RM 250,000 (which I blew)



  • Land ~ RM 93,000

  • House ~ RM 156,000

  • Energy & Water ~ RM 20,000

  • Furnishings ~ RM 14,000

  • Misc ~ RM 2,000


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