Update: After building my own shed by hand, a friend pointed out that Amazon actually has a pretty decent selection of pre-built sheds. Not sure if they’ll fit your individual needs, but definitely worth looking into.
When I set out to build a livable shed on my property, I didn’t really see the need to go out and pay for any complicated plans. After all, men just naturally know how to build things, right? I figured that a shed is a pretty simple project, so I sketched out a basic blueprint and assumed I was ready to go.
But once I started researching how to build a shed, I realized that there were a several parts of my plans that just weren’t going to work out. The biggest problem area was my roof design, which (if I’m being honest) probably would have collapsed after our first big Oregon snow!
I was a little bummed out that my “back of the napkin” blueprints weren’t going to cut it, but I was also glad I did my research and identified issues before I invested too much money and labor into the project. I decided that there was no reason to re-invent the wheel, so I started searching online for some decent shed plans.
I found quite a few sites where I could buy single shed designs for $5-$20 each, but I didn’t like the idea of shelling out cash for plan before I knew how complex it was going to be. I was able to dig up a couple decent free shed plans, but it took a lot of poking around just to locate a small handful good blueprints.
I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical when I took on the project of building a livable shed home on my property–and I know that my wife had her doubts!
Even though I had never taken on a big construction project before, I had always enjoyed doing small woodworking projects and repairs around the house. I figured that building a livable shed couldn’t be that much more difficult.
Thankfully, that prediction turned out to be mostly true. Now, I’d be lying if I said that I built my shed from start to finish without a hitch–some parts turned out to be a tad bit harder than I originally anticipated (like framing the roof). But overall I was able to do everything on the first try, which was a good feeling.
If you are serious about building your own tiny house, the best advice I can give you is to make sure you have good plans before you buy your first nail! Don’t assume you can head out onto your property with a pile of boards and throw up a shed without a hitch. Sure, you might be able to make something, but it’s probably going to look a lot like the funky treehouses we made back when we were kids! Take the time to find plans that fit your needs exactly–remember, you’re going to be living in this shed, so make sure it’s something you’re 100% happy with.
Once I found a good set of plans, I sat down and mentally ran through the building process in my head. I know it might sound a little silly, but if you take 10 minutes to visualize each step of the construction, you’ll quickly spot which parts are going to be most problematic. For example, once I did my mental “practice run”, I realized that there may be times when I’d need a second person to hold parts in place or help me lift beams over my head. I guess it’s kind of like a pro golfer visualizing his (or her) putt before they actually hit the ball.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your shed can be as simple or elaborate as you want. I’ve seen plans for livable sheds are little more than a wooden box with a roof, and I’ve seen other blueprints for “sheds” that might as well be for a 3-bedroom house! There are literally hundreds of different shed designs out there for builders of all skill levels.
I hope you found this primer on shed-building useful, and good luck with you project!
As you can probably tell, this site isn’t intended to be a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to building livable sheds. My primary goal is to provide you with information that I found helpful when I was going through the shed-building process.
There are a bunch of great articles out there written by builders with a lot more experience than me, so I’ll let them explain the nitty gritty details of making your first tiny house.
How To Build a Shed @ AskTheBuilder.com – While this article doesn’t provide much in the way of specifics, it gives a lot of good general advice and brings up several points I never even thought about at first, like making sure to check with municipal offices regarding zoning regulations and building permits. This is a great place to start, and I recommend checking it out before you read the others.
Building a Storage Shed @ HowStuffWorks.com – This HowStuffWorks.com shed-building guide is a fairly detailed and has a lot of helpful information in it. You won’t be able to count on this article for start-to-finish instructions, but you’ll certainly avoid some of the bigger pitfalls of making a shed if you take the time to read it.
Storage Shed Instructions at BuildEazy.com – BuildEazy.com is a great resource for free plans and detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to build livable sheds from scratch. Even though their shed plans were a little too simple for what I needed, the site was still a very helpful reference whenever I got caught up on a specific portion of my build. I recommend printing off every page of on of their shed-building plans and using them as a guide during construction.
Time lapse video of shed being build on YouTube – I know the Benny Hill music is a little goofy, but this video lets you see what the entire shed-building process looks like from start to finish.
Once I had picked out my plans, these are the primary resources I used for guidance when constructing my shed. Hopefully you’ll find them useful as well!
When I tell most people that I built a livable shed on my property, their initial reaction is “You built a tiny little shed, even with all that land? Why not a cabin?!”
Well first of all, the difference between a shed home and a cabin isn’t black and white. Some people might look at my shed and consider it to be a cabin, why some people might look at another man’s “cabin” and call it a shed!
But on a more serious note… once I started thinking about what I truly needed to be comfortable for short periods of time (usually a week or less) I realized that there was no point in building a huge cabin when all I needed was a single room.
Personally, I define livable sheds as being small (less than 15×15) single-room dwellings. A cabin, in my opinion, is larger and has two or more rooms. Some people might also go so far as to say that a cabin will have running water or electricity, but I don’t know if I agree with that.
Another key difference (in my mind) is that a shed is much easier to build–I was able to put mine up in a couple weekends using materials I picked up at my local Home Depot. Also, shed homes are going to be much cheaper than cabins.
Of course, some people will never be able to get over the idea of living in a shed, or will need something bigger to accommodate their entire family. For these folks, building a full-size cabin is clearly going to be their best bet.
But if you only need a small dwelling for you and perhaps your spouse, then you should consider a shed. They are cheap, easy to build, and can be surprisingly cozy and comfortable once you’ve taken some time to dress up the inside with a rug and some framed photos.