Converting a shed to living space: Getting started

 

There are as many reasons for turning a shed into living or working space as there are people who choose to do it. Some people are having to downsize as a result of economic difficulties, some folks just want to add a nice garden cottage for guests, some people want to create a presentable and comfortable office space, and some may want a little backyard get away or a pleasant game room or reading room. No matter what angle you approach it from, the steps to converting a shed to livable space are about the same, and they all start with the same thing:

Planning

Plan ahead. Check with local officials, and get any permissions or permits you will need ahead of time. Make a working drawing of the project. Lay out the work that you will do, what materials you will need, and how you plan to approach the work. If your local codes require a licensed plumber and electrician to do the plumbing and electrical work, it is better to know that early, and make the appropriate contacts. Make sure you know exactly where you want plumbing and electrical fixtures to be. Make sure that you can adequately heat and cool the building. If this is to be done with a window unit, do you have enough windows, and that one of them is sufficient for the job. If not, you may have to cut a hole in the side of the building to accommodate it, and that is good to know early in the process. Plan for the materials that you will need such as insulation, drywall, fasteners, bedding and texture materials, and of course all the wiring, pipes, and fixtures.

The foundation

Before you start any of the work, you should insure that your building has a firm foundation. Depending on what part of the world your shed resides, that will mean different things. If you live in a very cold part of the world, you may want, or even need to dig as much as 50 inches deep and pour a concrete footer, or install a concrete slab. In most places in the southern half of the U.S. this is not needed. A concrete slab is a good way to go in almost any part of the world, but in moderate climates, a firm base of compacted crushed rock and perimeter blocking will do the job nicely. Once that is done, we strongly suggest underpinning the building.

Plumbing and electrical rough in

With a secure foundation in place, you will be ready to take the next step, and that should be plumbing and electrical. Please be sure to check for local regulations and permits needed before embarking on this. Some areas may require that the work be done by licensed professionals. Be sure to do this before you insulate and drywall. It will save a lot of frustration.

Insulation

Is your electrical done, including all the switch and outlet boxes? Is the plumbing roughed in, including all piping through the walls and floors? If so, you are ready to insulate. Depending on the type of insulation you have chosen to use, it will be a simple matter of either placing the bats in the cavity between the studs and stapling the edges in place, or rolling it out over the studs, and stapling this to the studs. Make sure that the switch boxes, outlet boxes, and plumbing openings are left accessible.

See also:

Converting a shed to living space: Walls ceilings and floors

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