Tips for converting a shed into a guest house

Phantom Screens / May 1, 2015

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That old tool shed in the back yard may not get as much use as you thought it would, but you can turn this structure into a guest house. Whether you imagine your shed becoming a covered outdoor space or studio apartment in your yard, you can add room to your home and provide visitors with a private and convenient place to stay. Of course, a project of this scale will require careful planning. Here are some considerations you’ll need to make before building:

Code and municipal law

Be very careful when planning a shed conversion as many towns have strict rules about building. Zoning laws stipulate where you can place something, how large it can be and more. Visit your town’s website and check out the municipal codes section to read all about the details of building. You can also call the town hall or request permits that will be reviewed.

Quantity: Some towns do not allow detached living units, in which case you cannot convert your shed into a full guest house. If you are part of a homeowners association, you’ll have to check both the town and association laws before building. You can’t simply install a toilet in the shed (which would prevent it from qualifying as a detached living unit). Once you know the rules, you can determine which features to include in your guest house.

Permits: If you’re adding plumbing and/or electricity to your shed, you may need to apply for specific permits in addition to completing the forms for simply building.

Features to include

Once you know what you can and cannot do with your shed, you can start planning the features you want it to have. The amount of space available and your town’s laws will determine what you choose to include in your guest house. Find out how many square feet you have to work with and start planning.

Lighting: Include lighting in your guest house. While many sheds have a single bulb for basic illumination, you’ll want a more extensive network so guests can see well.

Electrical outlets: While planning your lighting, include outlets in the electric system. This way your guests can charge their phones or computers while in the small house.

Plumbing: If your shed is large enough for a bathroom or kitchen area, you’ll have to plan a plumbing system. You should definitely hire a specialized architect or designer to create the plumbing layout.

Windows: You can be creative about the way in which your guest house will get natural light. For example, an entire wall can be a large opening with folding glass doors and retractable screens. Or you can install a series of windows. Either way, the shed won’t feel comfortable until you add windows.

Hire some help

Converting a shed to a guest house can be complicated work, so you may want to hire help. An architect will draw up the plans and hand over final drawings to a contractor. You’ll have to get building permits before the contractor can begin construction. Consider hiring a professional who specializes in electrical or plumbing if you’ve included those features in your design.

If you opt to do it yourself, start by installing windows then work on the plumbing and electric. Add insulation and finish with drywall.

Interior design

A guest house made from a converted shed will most likely have limited space. Make the most of it purchasing multi-functional furniture, like a futon. You’ll also need some storage space. Shelves are a great option because they don’t take up floor space.

Keep the house private by installing retractable window screens in your guest house. Not only will it become a sanctuary, but visitors can open the windows to get natural ventilation without worrying about bugs.