Just about everybody who builds a shed has the same thought at one point or another. “I should turn this into a living space!” The good news is that it’s absolutely possible. However, there is much more that goes into it than what may be readily apparent. In this article, we will go over everything you need to know about how to successfully convert an existing shed on your property or a new one that you just bought into a fully functional living space, complete with water, electricity, and even plumbing.
Why Would I Want To Do This?
The most obvious reason somebody might want to do this is for creating a new guest room separate from your main house. It is certainly far more affordable and faster to convert an existing structure into a living space than to build something entirely from scratch, using a shed kit or otherwise. You will also have fewer opportunities to make a mistake since your prefabricated shed is much less likely to have structural problems and other issues than if you did it yourself. Another reason for wanting a new living space is to rent it out for additional income, whether on Airbnb or elsewhere.
How Do Convert My Shed Into Living Space?
There are 6 main steps that you will need to go through when you decide to convert a shed into a living space.
- The shed’s structure
- The ground’s foundation
- Interior walls and ceiling
- Water and plumbing
Note that the last two steps are technically optional and often do require that you get a permit for each one. This can take upwards of a month total, and you can always add them later down the line. There is nothing wrong with having a nice cabin on your property without fancy bells and whistles. Not having to leave it to get anything done thorough is certainly more convenient.
Now that we’ve discussed the steps, let’s start breaking them down.
Whether you’re purchasing a shell to build out from or a fully prefabricated shed delivered to your yard, make sure that what you’re getting isn’t about to fall apart any day now. Ensure the floor isn’t about to collapse, for example. The better the strength of the shed, the better it’s going to be to live in it. Ideally, it should also have a metal roof. Keep an eye out for sheds that are made either 2×4 or 2×6. The construction on these will be ideally suited for supporting a person living in it. Avoid 2×3 framing constructions at all costs. They are next to impossible to insulate, which is essential if you plan on living in a climate that isn’t perfect all year round, not to mention that it won’t support adding some walls and a ceiling without possibly collapsing.
If the shed already exists on your property, you probably already know by now how good it is and if you should consider repairs or replacement.
A structure is only as strong as the foundation that it stands on. Make sure that the foundation for where you’re putting the shed is secure. To help with that, you will want to steer clear of things like a dirt or sod foundation, as it will make your shed be vulnerable to things like the ground getting wet and rotting the wood, the wind picking up enough to physically move the shed, animals deciding to try and burrow inside, or getting a bug infestation.
Instead, the best solution is going to be a concrete pad. The concrete will last a long time and support putting anchors into it to secure the structure against the aforementioned threats. If you can’t get concrete, then a good alternative would be either putting the structure on heavy cement blocks or on securing the ground with paver foundation and putting it on that. If none of those options work for you, then you might consider at least putting gravel down over the dirt. The problem with gravel is that it’s more susceptible to animals and weather, but it’s still better than doing nothing at all.
While this is likely only going to be relevant if you are buying a new shed and putting it on fresh unbroken ground, it is very important to be aware of all of this regardless. You may find that the ground your existing shed was built on was just fine if you’re only using the building for storing tools and the like, but much less suited for actually living in for the long term.
When buying the shed, you don’t need to worry too much about the initial insulation. Just make sure that you know that it’s good enough for keeping out the elements enough for tool storage. It won’t be perfect from the start since a regular shed isn’t built with the intention of living in it.
There are many reasons you would want to insulate it. For one, it provides weatherproofing. You won’t have to worry about leaks during a rainstorm or random bugs getting in. It will also make the space cooler during the heat of summer and warmer during the cold of winter. Not to mention that it makes your space much more soundproof, so you could watch a movie late at night and not worry about the entire neighborhood hearing.
Assuming you followed the previous instructions of getting a cabin with a construction of at least 2×4, then getting R-13 rolled insulation will be a great and easy solution. At under #15 for a 32-inch roll of insulation, it is very inexpensive too. Within an hour or two, you can cover the entire shed and make a huge difference. Failing that, buy a lot of caulk and get to work sealing it up that way.
Interior Walls and Ceiling
Your first instinct might be to buy some drywall and use that to decorate the interior, covering the walls and ceiling. The problem with that approach is that you’re opening yourself up to problems later down the line. The most prominent problem being that drywall is likely to mold and rot if too much moisture gets into it. Needless to say, you don’t want to deal with that can of worms. Instead, consider using a combination of wooden shiplap and metal to create a nice homely atmosphere. Not only will it be easy to clean, but it will also look nice too.
Once the house is secure from the outside, there are a few ways to go about getting electricity. The first and most straightforward way you can go about it is buying some solar panels and putting them up on the roof, getting an electricity battery like an Uninterruptible Power Supply(UPS), and then connecting the two together. You could have that power a lamp and some other things for a bit, but It won’t be very efficient. It will do the job well enough though if you’re only going to be there for an hour or so every day.
For a more long-term solution, however, you will want to properly wire up the interior and connect it to the grid, or hire an electrician to do it for you. As mentioned earlier, to actually get the electrician to do it, you are likely going to need a permit from your local county officials. Do your research ahead of time so you don’t make any expensive mistakes.
Water and Plumbing
This part is the most optional. By the time you get here, you may decide that the cabin is good enough as is and ready to be lived in. You can certainly get away with simply having an outhouse or composting toilet.
If you want to complete the experience though and finish the transformation into a fully functional tiny house, then you will want to connect it to the local water supply. As before, you will either be doing this yourself if you have the needed experience or be hiring a professional to do it for you.
Once all that’s said and done, you’ve got yourself a fully functional and beautiful secondary living space. It’s time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ve earned it.