Things You Will Need
- Building permit
- Wood storage shed
- Electrical supplies
- Plumbing supplies
- Interior finishes
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.
- 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.
Try RV supply stores to find smaller versions of most home appliances and fixtures. Save space by installing an all-in-one kitchen unit. These usually have a small sink, two-burner stove and a tiny refrigerator built into a single cabinet.
Call a line-locating company before digging.
If you're not comfortable working with electricity, hire a qualified electrician.