Building a simple, small house out of a wood storage shed isn't as outrageous as it might seem. After all, you can buy a new, prefab shed for around $30 per square foot—which is usually less than the price you would pay for the materials alone. From there you can add wiring, plumbing, insulation and interior finishes. In a few short weeks you'll have a beautiful small home that you can use for a guesthouse, office, studio, vacation cabin or whatever else you might imagine.
Things You'll Need
- Building permit
- Wood storage shed
- Electrical supplies
- Plumbing supplies
- Interior finishes
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Check with the local building department to see if you'll need a building permit. Most municipalities don't require one for structures under a certain number of square feet. If you can avoid permits and inspections, you'll save time, money and the headaches of bureaucracy.
Purchase a wood storage shed. Large home centers sell a variety of makes and models, or you can study the classifieds and find one used. Most companies will have a crew deliver and set the shed up wherever you'd like it.
Install windows and doors. Look for great deals on salvaged windows at your local rebuilding center. Try to find a door with a threshold that allows it to swing out. These are not only more weather-tight and secure against break-ins, they save valuable space inside your house.
Run an electrical wire from the main house to your wood storage shed. Because the house you're building is small, you probably won't need more than one, 20-amp circuit. This is enough to power an overhead light and a few small appliances. Use a 12-gauge, two-strand wire with ground, buried in conduit. Once you have it inside the building, you can add plugs, switches and lights as needed.
Install plumbing, if desired. Use a 120-volt, point-of-use hot water heater that doesn't take up much space. For waste water, consider a portable RV holding tank that can be emptied directly into your home's exterior sewer clean-out.
Insulate the walls, ceiling and floor. While fiberglass insulation is the cheapest and easiest to install, blown-in polyurethane creates a much tighter seal and won't release noxious chemicals or allergens. Sprayed polyurethane is a bit more expensive than fiberglass, however, and requires professional installation.
Finish the interior. Oriented strand board (OSB) can be sanded and finished with a coat of super-durable urethane for an economical and attractive floor. Use ¼-inch plywood on the walls and cover them with cork board for a practical finish, or use burlap wallpaper for something a bit more rustic.