Turn your shed into a Tiny House

by andrewodom on February 28, 2011 · 26 comments


When Crystal and I first talked about tiny houses we found inspiration in the most….well, (dare I say????) obvious of places. We were not sure what less than 200 square feet would look like, let alone feel like inside. So we headed to the local box home improvement store. It was there that we found the Best Barns Woodville model. Measuring roughly 10ft. x 12ft. it was ideal for us to get our bearings on a small space. We took a look inside and talked for several minutes on how we would convert such a simple space into a home. Within moments though we had plotted out a bed space, a kitchenette, a commode and sink; it was all coming together and quite quickly! For a moment we even considered how the space would be to just outright buy and convert to a cabin-esque sort of house. It was at least a start though and a point we often come back to when we find ourselves becoming too elaborate or trying to squeeze too much into our Tiny Home.

You can only imagine my surprise then when I came across the post yesterday on the Tiny House Blog by Christina Nellemann titled, A Tiny House for College Students. According to Nellemann 85% of college graduates move back home upon graduation. Interesting fact considering in the year 2000 only 32% of college graduates moved back home (according to collegegrad.com). Such a figure is an imaginative stomping ground for the likes of George Hemminger, who runs the YouTube channel Survive and Thrive in the New Economy.

His video Sick of Living At Home? Build A Small House touches on just the thing that Crystal and I first contemplated upgraded for the statistic outlined by Nellemann.

In the video Hemminger outlines how he built from scratch the small home a la Home Depot (including a window, insulation, and sheetrock interior) for about $1200 total. The video does not show anything resembling a kitchenette or a bathroom and from the commentary I gather it is little more than a bedroom outside of the main home it shares a yard with. However, it is a great launch point for anyone with an innovative spirit.

I personally think it is an incredible idea and leads to me to more global thoughts about how such a box-style shelter could provide incredible living options for impoverished people (including those here in the United States). If the box home were partially or completely off-grid (a simplistic 165-watt solar power system should fit most basic needs) and had some form of plumbing it could be a great structure for those struggling to get on their feet, get back on their feet, or even maintain ground. In terms of college graduates it would allow them an opportunity to pay off some debt, establish themselves in a job with a steady income, and find out more about what they want out of life before burying themselves in a mortgage or heavy consumer loans. But I digress (…for now).

What do you think? Is the small home (read: step-up from a storage shed) a viable option for people? Could it be done for less than $2000? What obstacles might come about in regards to living in one? I would love to hear more about your take on tiny houses, structures turned tiny houses, and how they play into the growth and development of our nation and world.

  • Tracy G

    The city code here specifies 650 square feet of living floor area as the minimum dwelling size in residential zones. Since even sheds require a building permit, I imagine it wouldn’t be easy to fly under the radar with the type of living arrangement you’ve described.

    We are allowed to store a single camping trailer on our properties. I haven’t been able to determine whether anyone could legally live year-round in a tiny house-on-wheels parked on a residential lot, however. The code is quite difficult to read. I’ve skimmed it and haven’t yet come across anything specifically referencing that situation.

    Legal issues aside, the shed would have to be properly insulated and ventilated to be habitable in our climate. I’m sure that’d be possible–I’m just noting it as an added expense.

    I personally love tiny houses and am helping a friend clean and redecorate the charming rental home that he owns and which measures about 350 sq. ft. It was built in the 1940s and grandfathered in. I’d love to see the laws changed so we could still build ‘em in that size.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Always going to be an issue Tracy. Trust us, we know. Cities don’t know how to classify small homes or alternative living spaces. And they certainly aren’t going to lose out on property tax revenue, you know? In our hometown in Georgia it is not the size of the home but rather the size of the land. We have to have at least 2 parcel acres per home. Do you believe that?

      I agree with you Tracy. I would love to see tiny houses come into their own.

      • Tracy G

        I believe it will happen. It’ll be an uphill battle, though. You’re right that property tax revenue is a huge concern.

        The path of least resistance for us was to buy an older home. We paid off the mortgage in a little over half the original term. At 990 sq. ft. for two people and three parrots, we’re nevertheless heating a fair amount of wasted space–an ongoing unwelcome expense. I’ve thought about closing off the second bedroom. Mr. G appreciates it as an office and away room, though.

        My dream home is the Whidbey by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. I’d build it with the split loft–one end for my sewing room and one for Mr. G’s study. And I’d want the additional bedroom adjacent to the kitchen to serve as a pantry/utility/laundry room. I’d use that space to preserve the produce from our garden on drying racks, sheltered from insects and inclement weather.

        But since it offers only 557 sq. ft. of “habitable” space, I think we’d have to get a variance to construct the Whidbey here.

        • briana

          I have a 34ft metal shed/open front in my backyard on a concrete pad. Would like to turn it into small house for my dad. How do you go about starting this?

          • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

            That is not an easy question to answer. I would honestly start by Googling “how to turn a shed into a tiny house” and then go from there.

  • Nebraska Dave

    Drew, your imagination goes wild when it comes to ideas about tiny house living. I would have never thought about a Home Depot backyard shed for the start of a tiny house. My thoughts were always in the opposite direction. There are a lot of old barns on abandoned home farm places. The farms have been bought by the big corporations or by other farmers and the home place stands falling apart. My thought was always to convert a big huge barn into a habitable house. Not that I’ll ever have opportunity for that in this season of life but it was a great idea I thought.

    I drive by an old house by the road on occasion that has to be the orginal house for the farm. It stands alone our in the field by the road. It has a couple windows and a porch. If I had a place to move it to, I would try to buy the building and disassemble it and restore it to it’s orginal glory. It looks like maybe it has two rooms. Back in those days the bathroom was down hill from the house and usually within a quick walking distance.

    Have a great tiny house day.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      HAHAHA. My imagination is a scary place to be sometimes Dave. hahahaha. LOL. You are right about the abandoned barns. I have been to Pennsylvania once and I fell in love with some of the old barns seemingly left to die next to the highway. Likewise for the shotgun houses and shanty shacks in the rural South. I would love to see them restored and cared for rather than thousands of McMansions being built, etc.

  • Roberta

    Hey neighbor…have you seen this site/blog before? http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/2008/07/24/mini-cabin-plans/
    Lots of tiny houses to check out. Also…have you ever considered a Yurt? http://www.yurtworks.com/
    Lots of affordable and green options.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UVGEIL3GLSY72V33BSGXKEVSOU cjyopp97

    Our first home was a shed package with an addition. My dh had a construction background and we just registered it as a shed since there was another home on the 6 acre lot.

  • Tammy

    I live in a 288 sq ft tiny home and I LOVE it. The cost was $1400 for a used storage building plus having it moved. I scoured Lowes, craig’s list and garage sales for almost all of the materials to fix up and turn it into a home I love. Total cost was less than $500. All of the labor was done by family and friends.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      You can’t tease us like that. We need to see pics!!!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/packerpiledriver Robb Packer Piledriver Pompa

      awesome! do you have any photos??

    • Daniel Bowen

      Pics or it didn’t happen.

  • web design London

    I personally love tiny houses and am helping a friend clean and redecorate the charming rental home that he owns and which measures about 350 sq. ft. It was built in the 1940s and grandfathered in. I’d love to see the laws changed so we could still build ‘em in that size.

  • MawpakeMadHatr

    do you need a permit to have it on your land?

    • anotherkindofdrew

      No. At least not here in eastern North Carolina.

  • Cdtrouble3

    I had a house fire in a apartment, I was renting no renters  insurance. I’am a member of local 1000 a laborer.Work has been , well you can guess. I have been renting a room from a friend. Half the year well almost half is unemployment ..I have no savings so I have being trying to come up with a plan for my future sheds was my first then I looked into sheds not a bad idea just need some where to put it. cd

    • Gamemaker04

       I turned a Derksen 12×32 lofted barn cabin (shed) into a house  You can follow my entire work on youtube.
      http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE09044622B9409EB&feature=mh_lolz

      • Andrew Odom

        I can’t wait to watch all those videos tomorrow when I can concentrate. It looks like a solid build! Thank you so much for sharing.

      • Rochelle Earp

        could it be permitted as a full time livable home?

  • http://www.facebook.com/virginia.lynch.35 Virginia Lynch

    Do you have to have a permit though to put a shed on your property even if you already have one house on the land? Is there any law against this?

    • Andrew Odom

      Hey there Virginia. Thank you so much for turning to Tiny r(E)volution with your question. The answer is a little difficult though as it truly depends on your municipality and their zoning ordinances as to whether or not you need a permit. Most times permitting for a shed or outbuilding will depend on the size and whether or not you run utilities to the shed.

  • Okracefan

    After our 2000 sq ft house was totaled by a tornado in May 2011 my wife and I was not sure of what we were going to do.  After settling with the Insurance company we only had about 10K to invest in a home.  I did not like the idea of starting over at 50 yrs old with a mortgage. 

    A friend had told us about “tiny houses” and my wife started searching the internet and we started playing with that idea.  She saw a storage building that had been repoed which had a toilet, shower, sink and was partially insulated for $5700 so we bought it.  We spent the next 4 months insulating and dry walling it and moved into it in October. 

    We love it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/harrison.bryant Harrison Bryant

    im planning to build my tiny house on my mothers 2 acre farm starting next week. i will post when i do!

  • jd camp

    Im just finishing up building a shed it a 16X34 with a basic metal shed roof an metal siding. its almost 550Sqft an ill have around 2grand in it. just an idea for those folks wanting to try this an go buy a small amish one an pay a huge price for it,

  • cew

    Many sheds do not meet hurricane building codes for many areas; you could buy a shed that does in some cases, but may find it cheaper to frame it yourself with 2 by 6s and maybe 6 by 6s for the corners, which is better than Fl hurricane codes; the 2 by 6s should be no more than 2′ apart though, maybe 16″; and whatever you have to insulate everything, the foundation, everything, ventilate the walls and roof too. In Florida you have to cover the outside of the frame, before adding plywood and siding, with asphalt felt (I will recheck this but believe so). So be careful thinking these are for your areas (areas outside of tornado, earthquake, and hurricane areas may be more open). I am hoping to find alternatives to run-down mobile homes that people are in.

Previous post:

Next post: