Do you need a hunting cabin? Do you want to build a vacation cottage on the lake? Or do you just need a studio for work or your hobbies? A shed may be the answer! But sheds don’t come with the inside finished. In this guide, we cover the basic design steps to convert your shed into a shed house! But first, we are going to answer a few FAQ’s about shed houses.
A custom shed will give you the most options when building a shed house. You can find local shed manufacturers and dealers online. If you are located in Georgia we would love to do business with you! Request a free quote today!
Can you legally turn a shed into a house?
As with most housing permit questions, it depends on your local codes. Shed houses are subject to local zoning regulations applicable to residential houses. The best place to find your local zoning laws is at your city or town offices. City attorney, mayor’s office, or department of housing are all good places to start. Some local libraries have local ordinances as well. For a general overview of state-by-state laws, check out this blog on godownsize.com
How much is a shed house?
Prices are subject to change due to inflation. Our prices in January 2022 average around 34 dollars per square foot for our Garden Shed Max. Once you add custom options and the shed design is finished, the total bill could be around $20,000-$40,000. If you would like to price out a custom shed, check out our 3D shed builder. You can use this as a starting point to plan your budget.
How to convert a shed to a house step by step
Plan shed house location and size
First, you need to decide on the location and size of the shed. You will need to check your local zoning laws for this. Aspects regulated by local zoning laws are land use, location, height, width, type of foundation, number of stories, and minimum size of lots and buildings. Next, determine which building codes apply to your shed. For example, Georgia has four different types of tiny homes. If your state has a similar system, you need to find the class your shed house falls in. The laws that apply to your type of tiny home will affect the size and location of your design.
Design the Exterior
Next, it’s time to design the exterior. Our 3D Shed Builder is a great place to get exterior design ideas. You can choose from many different exteriors, trim colors, and roofing options. Use this opportunity to blend into your surrounding landscape or match other buildings on your property. Here are our top five shed house exterior finishes.
Engineered Wood Siding | Pros and Cons
Engineered wood is a composite of wood fibers or veneers bound together with adhesives. It looks like real wood and is more durable than real wood. For example, the brand we use, LP Smartside, comes with a 50-year warranty! Engineered wood is resistant to rot, deterioration, and termites. Best of all it is environmentally friendly and easy to install. If it is properly installed, it will be low maintenance and have no moisture issues. Check out this video by LP Smartside showcasing their material’s durability!
Metal Siding | Pros and Cons
Metal siding is an industrial-looking solution that is 67% recyclable. This environmentally friendly solution has a paint finish with a 20-50 year guarantee depending on the manufacturer. It is fire, weather, and insect resistant. Metal siding is easy to install and should last for years to come. Image source
T1-11 | Pros and Cons
T1-11 comes in two grades, plywood or OSB. Plywood is the higher quality and more expensive. T1-11 ads structural integrity and no wall sheathing is necessary. Plywood is easier to work with but it will need repainting every 3-5 years to prevent rot, fungi, and insects. While it may be a lower-cost solution in the beginning, Over time the maintenance may make this more expensive than other options.
Vinyl Siding | Pros and Cons
Vinyl shed siding, which is made from PVC, comes in a variety of colors and textures. It is durable and isn’t prone to dents or fading. Depending on the brand of vinyl siding, it could last 30 years! Vinyl doesn’t rot and doesn’t attract bugs. Vinyl is more DIY-friendly than natural wood. If you are building the entire shed by yourself, vinyl siding is a great option. Image source.
Fiber-Cement Siding | Pros and Cons
Fiber cement siding is a mixture of cement, sand, and cellulose fiber. These materials are rolled into sheets and pressed into a pattern. It isn’t wood, but the pattern used may give it a wood grain appearance. Fiber cement is durable with most manufacturers offering a 30-year warranty. It is heat, fire, and insect resistant. However, fiber cement is difficult to work with. We recommend hiring a professional to install this product. Image source.
Not only will you need to decide on a style of door, but also the door placement. While most sheds come standard with wood doors, you will want to upgrade to an insulated fiberglass door. The most common single door size (and the size we offer) is 36” wide. You can experiment with door sizes and locations on our 3D Shed Builder.
As with the door, you will want insulated windows. We offer 24’x36” and 24”x48” vinyl insulated windows. You can also add shutters to help control light and add an extra aesthetic. You need to consider the interior floor plan when adding the windows. Where will natural light be best used? Check out these pictures for some ideas!
Custom Exterior Add-Ons
Lastly, let’s look at custom structural options. This is where you can truly personalize your shed house! Do you want a porch? What about dormer windows? Do you need a ramp for wheelchair access? Check out our full list of custom options here!
Design the interior
The best way to start designing the interior of your shed house is by drawing a simple sketch on a piece of paper. Graph paper works best for scaling your drawing. We listed some of the main points to plan below.
We recommend hiring a professional to install plumbing; however, you can install it yourself. Check your local building codes so you know how deep to bury your supply line. If you live in a cold region, insulate all exposed pipes properly. You can also install a pipe trace heater to ensure your pipes don’t burst. Design your bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen close together to simplify the plumbing process. Image source.
As with any living quarters, you will need a bathroom. The cheapest and best off-grid toilet option will be a composting toilet. Some other options available are incinerating toilets and standard flush toilets. For a flush toilet, you will need a sewer hookup which will be more expensive than a composting toilet. Incinerating toilets are a great option for off-grid living as well. The only downside is that they require power to operate and are expensive.
Due to the limited size of your shed house, the shower and sink options are limited. A single-piece fiberglass shower unit will be the easiest for a DIY installation. You can find these at your local hardware or home improvement store.
Lastly, you need a ventilation system for the bathroom. The humidity produced by the shower will be unbearable in a shed house! Check out this blog for a more in-depth bathroom design guide.
There are four factors to consider when looking at flooring materials. You need durability, water resistance, ease of installation, and ease of cleaning. Here are the best options.
Tile | Pros and Cons
Tile is a great choice since it is easy to maintain, water-resistant, durable, and low cost. But, tile can be slippery, cold, and it is heavy. With many DIY guides available, tile is one of the easier flooring options for an amateur to install. Image source.
Hardwood | Pros and Cons
Hardwood flooring is durable and good-looking. It can be damaged but is more scratch-resistant than many other flooring options. The downsides to hardwood are its price and its ease of installation. Compared to other flooring options on our list hardwood flooring is more expensive and harder to install as a DIY builder. Image source.
Laminate | Pros and Cons
Laminate is a hardwood layer covered with a wear layer. It looks like hardwood flooring but is less expensive. Most laminate flooring products don’t need nails or adhesives for installation like hardwood. The main downside is that laminate is manufactured from lower-quality particleboard. Particleboard is more susceptible to water damage than hardwood. Image source.
Vinyl | Pros and Cons
Vinyl flooring is made from polyvinyl chloride, commonly known as PVC. It is durable, water-resistant, and easy to install for amateurs. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns. However, it does have a shorter lifespan than wood floors and can’t be repaired. Image source.
There are several options for wall paneling. Before installing the wall paneling of your choice, install a vapor block to prevent rot. We listed some of the most popular options below.
Drywall | Pros and Cons
Drywall is cheaper and more fire-resistant than wood products. If you ever need to redo a wall it is easily removed and patched. However, drywall is not resistant to water and is easily damaged. It is easily installed by an amateur but it takes an expert to get the joints and tapes perfect. Image source.
Tongue and Groove | Pros and Cons
Tongue in groove walls give a pleasant wood aesthetic while offering stronger support than drywall or plywood. The boards are easier to install as a one-person job vs drywall although both go better with two people. But, it is not as soundproof and takes longer to install than drywall. Image source.
Plywood | Pros and Cons
Plywood is lighter, easier to install, stronger, and more durable than drywall. However, drywall is cheaper and is easier to cut when installing. Plywood also takes more paint and it is harder to get a smooth finish on plywood versus drywall.
You can incorporate your sleeping quarters into the main floor or use a loft. A loft for sleeping quarters will save a lot of space on your main floor. Check out our Lofted Barn Max for more overhead space.
You need to be space-efficient with your kitchen. Gas, electric, or alcohol stoves are the most popular options. If you plan to stay off-grid and want to be environmentally friendly, alcohol stoves are the best option.
When planning cabinets and a pantry, measure how much food you regularly use. Add some space to that number and use it to plan your kitchen storage. This blog has an in-depth guide on kitchen design.
There are a few countertop options available.
Stone, Very durable but some stones can be stained and scratched.
Wood, Higher maintenance and can be more easily be stained.
Corian, Not maintenance is needed but can be scratched and stained.
Laminate, Susceptible to high heat and can warp if moisture gets in.
While not the cheapest option, mini splits are one of the best options for heating and cooling. If you only need heat, you can use electric heaters, gas or electric fireplaces, or a wood-burning stove. For a cooling-only solution, you can buy a wall air conditioner, window air conditioner, or fans. Your heating and cooling needs will depend on your location. Image source.
Prepare for Your Shed House
Now that you have your shed house planned, it’s time to start building! Here are some of the basic steps you need to follow to finish your shed house.
Build a Level Foundation
You will need a level foundation to place your shed on. Local regulations will govern the width, size, and style of foundation you can build. When choosing the style and location of the foundation, keep water drainage as a top priority. Preferably place it on a high point of your property but don’t build on a steep slope. Building on a steep slope will require retaining walls and more digging.
For a cheaper but durable foundation, use concrete blocks. Use solid concrete cinder blocks, not cinder blocks. Cinder blocks are more susceptible to the winter freeze-thaw cycle.
If you want a more permanent solution, install a foundation pad. You can use a concrete pad but we recommend a gravel pad. Gravel is better for water drainage so you will not have to worry about your shed house skids rotting. Make sure to buy clean crushed stone without any stone dust. The stone dust will pack hard and prevent good water drainage. Check out this blog from Siteprep on how to install a gravel pad.
Run Utility Connections
Once your shed house pad is installed. It’s time to run utility connections to your shed house. Here are some pointers on running water and electric lines.
How to run power to your shed
If you are off-grid, this step is not for you.
Hiring a professional electrician is the safest way to avoid electrical accidents. If you want to run power to your shed house, you will need to decide if you need 240v or 120v power. Also, you will need to determine if your main building has enough power to meet the shed house needs. 240v conduit must be buried at least 18 inches deep. 120v metal conduit must be at least 6 inches below the surface. Non-metallic conduits, like PVC, must be buried at least 18 inches deep. Once the conduit is laid, run fish tape or rope through to pull your wires. Please note code requires a separately sheathed cable for each conductor. Install a sub-panel in your shed house to simplify the connection. Use a junction box to run the line into your sub-panel from the outside. Watch this video from This Old House for an in-depth tutorial. Image source.
How to run water to your shed
Hiring a professional plumber will be the easiest option, but you can run a water line yourself! First, call 811. This is the national “call before you dig” hotline that will tell you what utility lines run under your property. This is important so you can avoid any accidents when digging.
HDPE or PEX pipe is the best choice for running a water line. You can use copper pipes as well but the HDPE and PEX are better. Consult your local ordinances to determine the minimum depth you need to bury your water line. If you live in a cold climate, insulate the pipes and make sure they are buried below the frost line. Image source.
Finish Your Shed House
Your shed is delivered! Now it’s time to convert it into a shed house! Follow these steps below.
Wire and Plumb
Wire and plumb your shed house before installing insulation. If you bought a prefab shed with wiring or plumbing installed, all you will need to do is connect your supply lines. A junction box is the easiest way to connect your electrical line to your sub-panel. Make sure you properly ground your shed house before installing electrical components. Image source.
Seal and Insulate
Next, seal and insulate the walls. Check for any gaps around windows, roof, siding, and the foundation. Use caulk for thin gaps and expandable spray foam for large gaps.
Measure the width between the studs to determine what size sheets of insulation batting to buy. Blanket or batt insulation is easiest to install on 18”-24” studs. If the shed walls already have paneling installed, foam, loose, or spray insulation will be easiest to install. Cut a hole in the wall and blow the insulation into the frame. Image source.
Hang Wall and Ceiling Panels
Once the insulation is installed in the ceiling and walls, you’re ready to install the wall and ceiling paneling. We recommend adding a vapor barrier between the paneling and insulations to prevent moisture build-up. Once the wall panels are hung you may want to install trim depending on your flooring type. If you are installing carpet, you need to install trim before the flooring. For hardwood or laminate flooring, it is easier to install trim after the flooring. Image source.
Install Cabinets and Sinks
Once the panels are hung, add your kitchen cabinets, sink, bathroom cabinets, etc. Install your shower and properly seal it with caulk. Don’t install the toilet just yet. Wait until your flooring is in.
Now is the best time to paint the walls before installing the flooring and trim. Properly tape off all cabinets and areas you do not want to be painted. It is best to paint before the floor is installed. This way if you drip paint on the floor, it will just get covered up. Image source.
Install Lights and Outlets
Install your light fixtures and light switches after the walls are painted. Add all your outlets, smoke detectors, etc. Add any light switch covers and outlet covers once they are all installed. Image source.
Install Flooring and Trim
If you are installing carpet, you will have to install trim before the carpet. If you are installing hardwood or laminate flooring, trim the doorways but not the baseboards. It will be easier to trim the door casing instead of notching the floorboards to fit around the doorway. Once the flooring is installed add your baseboards and paint them.
Decorate and Furnish
This is the time you have been waiting for! Bring in all the furniture and accessories. Decorate the rooms according to your style. Once you add all the furnishings, your shed house is ready to live in!
Thanks for reading! We hope you found this guide helpful! If you have any questions please contact us. If you are interested in purchasing a shed, fill out a free quote today!