Living in a Shed? An In Depth Guide To Turning A Shed Into A Tiny Home

how to live in a shed

NAVIGATION


When it comes to Tiny Houses, they come in all shapes and sizes. Many people have asked me about building a tiny house shed as an affordable option to having your own tiny house.

A tiny house

I think what’s important to keep in mind is that tiny houses have made a name for themselves because they’re willing to break the mold. Diversity of what Tiny is, is in itself, part of what makes it so fascinating to me. As people take these ideals, we share in the Tiny House Movement and manifest itself in so many forms, we find creative ways to live in small homes.

With that said, using a shed as the shell for your tiny house is a great way to get things started. I myself have considered is a prefab shed and today I was able to go see a model that I have been toying with the idea of purchasing and putting in the middle of a plot of land.

Can You Legally Live In A Shed?

get your permits

Like Tiny Homes, making this legal and meeting building codes is rather difficult when you say you want to live or dwell in it. One big advantage of the prefab shed option is that these structures are so prevalent that in many places you can just drop one off and you’re good. Some places require a permit, but it’s a formality more than anything, city hall needs to get it’s slice anyway they can.

These sheds will almost always pass code if you’re using it for storage. That means the shed would officially would have to be just a shed. It can a bit more complicated when you are not placing the shed behind a primary dwelling. This is where I find myself.

The real lynch pin when it comes to living in a shed legally if you want to connect sewer, water and power.

Connecting Water To Your Shed

water connection for a shed

Fortunately, you can get water to most properties without much hassle. Of the three main utilities, water is the simplest because it’s not terribly complicated or pose much risks. I did this on my current property in the mountains where I got a well and where my tiny house is in the city, I was able to connect to the city water for “landscaping” with zero issue.

You just pony up the cash for the permits and the install, run it to a frost proof hydrant (again saying it’s for landscaping) and get your inspections if needed. Once the inspectors are done with their checks and you have all your documents in hand, drop your shed, and connect it off the books.

NOTE: Because water is so easy to get, you can get it and the bill will provide “proof of residence” for other things like the DMV, getting a post office box etc.

Connecting Power To Your Shed

electrical hook up to shed

Getting electricity in your shed is slightly trickier because this is the part where code officials start to get warry you’re planning on living in the shed. That said, it’s not uncommon to want to have power in a shed for tools etc. What I suggest you do is get your water installed on the land so it’s about 20 feet into the property, wait a few weeks while you get your shed pad graded and shed dropped off.

Now next is what I’d do, but realize I’m not responsible for any consequence if you do this. Once the shed is dropped off, stage the inside with a few shed-like items: A lawn mower, a table top on some saw horses, a few tools scatted on top. Make it look like this is a real shed used for actual storage. That way when the electrician comes to install and the inspector does their inspection, it looks like your using it as a storage shed.

You’re most likely only going to get approved for a 50 or 100 amp service compared to a normal home is usually 200-amp service. That should be totally fine for your needs in such a small space.

Connecting Sewer To Your Shed

sewer connection

Here is the biggest hurtle and frankly I’ll be honest and say you’re not going to get any code official to let you install a flush toilet in a shed unless it’s totally above board and designated as a dwelling. I don’t mind using a composting toilet, but having water and power is a must.

For toilet you could use a composting toilet, you could use a porta potty service, or you could consider getting a septic system installed (if it’s possible). Septic systems will start to get people asking questions if they see a septic installed, a water line run to the property and power run to a “shed”. It won’t take much for anyone looking at your property or reviewing parcel tax and permit records to put two and two together.

Can You Live In A Shed?

can you live in a shed

When I was talking with the sales person at the shed store, she told me that they have had several customers live in these sheds. They call these buildings “sheds” loosely, with models up to 1000+ square feet. He had an entire wall of photos where people had converted a shed into a house, upfitting the outside with porches, accents, etc.

Why Should You Live In A Shed?

why you should live in a shed

Living in a shed comes with a lot of advantages, between their wide spread availability, cost and ease to obtain.

Easily Permittable

The ease of getting them legitimized is the biggest appeal to me. There aren’t many things these days that are easier to do, in many cases you can just drop them on your property and be done. Often municipalities have rules like “if the structure is not a dwelling and no dimension is greater than 12 feet, no permit is required”.

Very Affordable

The model I show here is 192 Square Feet. Included are the windows, doors, installations, taxes, anchoring, site leveling and delivery all for the price of $4,200! Figure adding in permits, running power, insulation and drywall (doing the work myself of course) I am looking at a sweet house for around $6,000. You could then deck it out with Ikea swag for another $500 and have a really nice place! The only drawback is there is no loft for a bed, so you have to deal with that. Possibly you could use a murphy bed.

Another angle to this is they offer payment plans of $70 a month, makes it pretty affordable, considering I have friends that pay over $1500 a month in rent.

Easily Transportable

The other advantage to these houses is that you can move them! Not as easily as a house on a trailer, but it’s possible. This is because they deliver these sheds on flat beds or even tow trucks sometimes. They even have these little crawler machines to maneuver the shed into place where a truck might not be able to get into tight back yards.

Widely Available

Unlike tiny houses where the closest builder might several states away, there is probably several shed sellers in your city. These sheds are everywhere it seems, so getting a shed is pretty simple and you can even price shop between them.

How To Convert A Shed Into A Tiny House

how to convert shed into living space

Once you buy a shed, you’re first going to want to get all your utilities to the site and setup before you do anything. Get your water, power and sewer squared away, get your copies of all the approvals, then wait a few weeks. I’ve found that sometimes there are a few little loose ends that need to happen and you don’t want an inspector around while you convert your house.

1
Set A Level Pad And Grade For Drainage
Before the shed even gets delivered, I’d suggest at the very least scraping the grass away and putting down 4-6 inches of ¾” gravel. Consider burying your water and sewer connections at this point and hide the ends so the inspector doesn’t ask questions. Have the gravel base extend in all directions about 1-2 feet beyond the footprint of the shed. Make sure the space is totally level and compact the base with a plate compactor.While you’re at it, consider how the water will flow around the shed, put in French drains if any slopes will push water towards it. Also consider where the water will flow off the roof if you have gutters, consider trenching a drain pipe to flush water away from the shed.
2
Make Utility Connections To Your Shed
Once the shed is delivered on the pad you created, the inspector has come and gone, then bring your connections from wherever they are to the shed and inside. If you pre-buried your connections, uncover the connection points, and connect them. Test everything before you close up the walls.
3
Deal With Moisture On The Bottom Of The Shed
If there is one thing I don’t like about these sheds is they use OSB or similar products, which just don’t stand up well to moisture. If you have the option, I’d pay extra for plywood and make sure it is treated. The underside of the floor where it faces the ground is a place that moisture can build up and bugs can eat into.I suggest that you have you shed on blocks just high enough for you to crawl under so you can access things easier. This is even the case if you don’t need to use blocks for leveling. Having access and air flow is really great and super important to keep your floor dry and rot free. I’d also apply a thick coat of exterior deck oil based paint to the underside of the shed to seal the wood from moisture.
4
Adjust Your Shed Framing
In many cases shed builders use a smaller dimension framing than traditional 2×4’s. If you can, request your shed to be done with 2×4’s so all your building materials will work (insulation, electrical boxes, etc which are all sized for 2×4 cavities).If your walls aren’t framed with 2×4’s then you might have to figure out alternatives to every other step coming up because all building materials are sized to accommodate a 2×4 wall. You also are going to want a deeper cavity to insulate, a 1×3 wall like some sheds are will end up being a very cold home.If you can’t order the shed to have 2×4’s then you’ll need to build the wall inwards, if you go through that trouble consider getting a slightly larger shed and then you might as well go for thicker walls for more insulation.
5
Rough In Your Electrical, Water and HVAC
Next put in your electrical lines, water lines, internet connections, any HVAC needs etc. I’d also consider putting outlets and lights on the outside of the shed too.If there is one thing I’ve learned about outlets is that it’s hard to over do outlets. Because it’s a small space, you want outlets right where you need them. Consider everything you’ll be plugging in and put outlets there. Additionally, if there is any runs of wall more than 5 feet with no outlets, just put one there. Outlets are $1.50 for a box and another $2 for the receptacle itself, these are super cheap so don’t skimp here.
TIP: I’d also suggest taking a video and photos of the walls so you can remember where things are in the future if you need to fix something.
6
Seal Up Every Little Crack
If there is one thing I’ve learned about these sheds is they aren’t very air tight and because of that, bugs can get in too. The space where the roof meets the top of the wall and around the soffit/facia is usually so poorly done you can see day light!I’d start with sealing everything with a good silicone caulk. Follow all the junctions, seams, and transition points. First seal from the outside, then seal again from the inside. I’d also caulk where the walls meet the floor, the corners and inside the framing where the studs meet the sheathing. This will seem excessive to many, but a shed is so small that it will take a few hours to totally seal it up tight.Once you have that done, I’d move to spray can foam and fill in any hard to reach gaps. I’d also fill places you’re not going to be able to insulate easily and I’d go over any seams to safe guard from any leaks. Again, this is considered overboard by many, but a few hours and $50 of prevention will pay dividends, keep air and water out and the bugs at bay.
Note: You should make provision for fresh air exchange and humidity control. When you seal up the space and live in such a small space you need to take air quality seriously. I’d suggest having a mini split system that does heating and cooling (where it dehumidifies too) AND an Energy Recovery Ventilation unit (ERV). The ERV will take your indoor air, heat or cool the incoming air through an exchange, then adjust humidity levels too. The ERV will cycle your air so the indoor air is always fresh and the correct humidity.
7
Insulate Your Shed Walls And Ceiling
You have two main options for insulation spray foam or bat insulation. Bat insulation is a good option, easy to install and not that expensive. You an get bats that are sized right for your wall cavities to minimize the amount of cutting you need to do.The other option, and the one that I’d recommend, is closed cell spray foam. I specifically suggest closed cell spray foam because it is also a great vapor and air barrier. Spray foam is also a very high R value so you’ll keep your house hot or cold longer with the same amount of wall thickness.Many people will suggest open foam because it’s cheaper or some make the argument it’s easier to find the leak if a leak occurs. Because the shed is a small space, it will be more expensive, but since it’s small, you might only be talking a few extra hundred-dollar difference. The notion that you can spot leaks easier is something I flat out reject, you just bought a brand new shed and spend a few hours sealing everything, it’s not going leak any time soon and if it does, the closed cell foam adheres to the back of the roof decking, minimalizing the spread of any leaks. Open cell will allow the water to flow through it and into your wall cavity leading to mold.
8
Insulate Your Shed Floors
You want to insulate your shed floor or else you’ll have a condensing surface and your feet will be cold on the floors. You can do this by insulating under the floor on the bottom of the shed or laying foamboard on the floor and putting a new layer of plywood on top.If it was me, I’d do both. I’d order a shed that had a taller wall and then spray closed cell foam on the underside, then lay down 2 inches of polyiso foam with a compatible adhesive, then lay down a thick plywood subfloor on top of it, again with adhesive.The two downsides to laying in the foam on the sides is that you’re building into the space, reducing your overhead height (hence why getting a taller wall option on your shed is a good idea) and also your front transition of your front door will be a little weird, so you’ll need to work that out. Both are solvable problems and warm floors are a must have in my book.
Tip: If you do build up into the space by laying down foam, consider doing an in floor radiant heat!
9
Drywall, Floors And Trim
Next I’d suggest finishing with dry wall because it’s cheap. You want to make sure you are sealing all the joints and transitions of the dry wall for air tightness. This is because if you make this air tight, no water vapor can enter the wall cavity and hit a cold surface to condense, build up moisture and cause mold. This article on the proper way to air seal drywall is a great resource for this.[https://www.buildingscience.com/documents/information-sheets/air-barriers-airtight-drywall-approach]Once you’ve put up your drywall, spackled and sanded your joints, go ahead and trim out your doors and windows, then paint the whole thing. Install your floors at this point, then add your baseboards to hide the rough edges of the floors.
10
Final Finishing
At this point I’d drop in my cabinets, counters and other finishes. Consider using off the shelf premade things that are pretty affordable and make it easy. Your local big box store or Ikea will have good options for this. Bring in your appliances, add your lighting fixtures to the roughed in boxes etc. There you have it, you’ve converted a shed to a tiny house!

At this point I’d drop in my cabinets, counters and other finishes. Consider using off the shelf premade things that are pretty affordable and make it easy. Your local big box store or Ikea will have good options for this. Bring in your appliances, add your lighting fixtures to the roughed in boxes etc. There you have it, you’ve converted a shed to a tiny house!

How Much Does It Cost To Convert A Shed Into A Tiny House?

cost to convert shed into house

Converting a shed will cost around $75 per square foot including the cost of the shed. Depending on the shed size, utility connections and fixtures/appliances. This assumes you’re buying a pre-built shed. It could be done more cheaply if you build the shed yourself (shed companies typically mark up 60% above material cost).

Example costs:

  • Shed: $3,500 to $10,000
  • Windows: $500-$6,000
  • Insulation: $500 to $2000
  • Interior finishes: $500-$4,000
  • Electrical: $750 to $3,000
  • Water heater: $500 to $1000
  • HVAC: $500 to $1,500
  • Toilet: $20-$800
  • Fixtures: $1,000-$5,000
  • Appliances: $400 to $4,000
  • Interior wall: $500 to $1000
  • Flooring: $300 to $1,000
  • Fasteners/Adhesives: $1,500
  • Paint: $50 to $200

Living In A Shed While Build Your House

living in a shed while building your house

Many people want to live in a shed while they are building the permeant house. I myself have considered this for building my home on the property I bought in the mountains. This again falls to the legality issue. Dwelling in a shed is often not allowed because how small it is.

Additionally, I’ve found that if you do this, the code enforcement staff will require everything you normally are required to having in a full house, jumping up the cost dramatically.

Ultimately, the real answer is yes and no. Legally no you can’t. Is it possible, totally!

How do I turn my shed into living space?

This is something I have a lot of experience with, tiny houses are working on the same scale as a converted shed. There are a few critical things you want to consider when converting a shed into a living space.

Top Ways To Turn A Shed Into A living Space

  1. Run power to the shed for lights, electronics & HVAC
  2. Choose a way to climate control – Heating & Cooling
  3. Seal cracks to control moisture and bugs
  4. Insulate and Drywall for a clean look
  5. Install a durable flooring option
  6. Use a light color pallet, good lighting and natural light

Shed Design Ideas And Tips

tips for desinging your shed home

There are a so many ways to take your living space in a shed to the next level. Many of them can be borrowed from tiny houses for design inspirations. Here are a few guides I’ve created to help you design the perfect shed to live in!

Small Bathrooms For A Shed

A bathroom is one of those spaces in a shed you have to get right, there is a lot going on between power, water, fixtures and storage. Check out my post on how to design a small space bathroom.

designing a bathroom for a shed

Kitchen Designs For A Shed

The kitchen is another critical area if you want to live in a shed. You don’t have a lot of room to pack a lot into a small space. When I designed my tiny house kitchen there was a lot that went into it. Learn more about small kitchen concepts and how to design them.

kitchens in a shed

Appliances For Small Sheds

One challenge I’ve found is getting appliances for small spaces. You can’t always go to the big box hardware stores and find an appliance that will fit in your shed’s kitchen. Choosing the right appliance for small kitchens is important, here’s how to choose the right one for you!

small space appliances

Consider Adding A Sleeping Loft In Your Shed House

A sleeping loft can add a lot of room in the ground floor if you’re tight on space. Sleeping lofts are pretty straight forward, but I figure out a few tricks to make them really well.

save space in a shed with a loft for your bed

Add Solar Panels To Your Shed

Solar is a great option if you can’t get power run to your shed. I’ve written several post about how to setup solar, so here are some great I wrote about how I did it on mine.

Setting Up Solar Guides

Converted Shed To Living Space Photos And Ideas

bedroom in a shed

shed living area

gambral roof shed converted to living space

living space in shed house

bedroom in converted shed home

kitchen and bedroom in a converted shed house for living

modern cozy shed home

cottage style shed converted into a living space

 

guest room in a shed

living space with sitting area in a shed

tiny bedroom in a shed

guest room and office space in a shed

guest room in converted shed

rustic shed conversion to live in

 


a Tiny House made from a shed

Living In A Shed In Your Backyard – Is It Right For You?

Converting a shed into a house or living space is something that a lot of people have done and it’s totally possible. They are a great way to have a house quickly and pretty affordably. So I wanted to ask you all what do you think of this idea? Do you think living in a shed is right for you? Is anyone here doing this?

196 Comments
  1. I’ve been working on my shed turned tiny home now for 4 months all of a sudden I’m told that whatever plumbing I put in it will freeze and bust in winter because the pipes will be against the outside wall. PLEASE ANY SUGGESTIONS I’ve spent a ton of money buying stuff for it and I’m a 67 year old woman wanting this to be my forever home on my daughter’s farm but I can’t do without plumbing. Thank you in advance

  2. I love my little one bedroom house
    650 sq ft
    Would not have it any other way
    Kitchen is still a working progress but will eventually get done

  3. My shed is 12’x14’ and besides my husband helping me paint the ceiling, I helped put in the electricity, insulated the walls, have a wool rug for the winter, a dry sink where I use a large container of water for cooking or washing, and a compost “toilet” hidden away. I sleep in the loft, have a workbench/office, a renovated stereo console from the 1970’s for storage. My grandchildren love “Nommy’s Cottage”. After 9 years of changing it or adding stuff, it’s finally decorated the way I want. Well worth the money and time. AND as a COVID-19 RN I lived out here for infection control after many a rough shift.

  4. Who would you recommend for expertise in Colorado.? I am older single woman caregiver who needs a separate dwelling from patient,

  5. I think about this a lot. I think is a really idea for me. I have 3 siblings that have land I could live on.
    Worth the economy going the way it is, a no brainer.
    My only issue is my husband dose not want to do it now.

  6. I am getting ready to close on an acre of land in 2 months. I am first putting in a 40’ x 60’ steel barn, drilling a well, installing a septic system, and putting in a shed that will be where I sleep until I am ready to build my house. Your article will come in very handy in the next 4 to 6 months.

  7. I am really interested in home living in a shed. Want to put a small kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom. But not sure what size shed I need without a loft. Or how to put regular stairs to a loft

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