A brief look at prefab storage buildings for sale at big box stores and on Amazon reveal that you can buy a 12' x 24' storage building kit for around $4,000. This does not include a foundation or roofing materials, but the "bones and skin" and a building. But there is something more that, in my opinion, is even more valuable: It includes a product description of Storage Shed. This by definition will often preclude the required permits, thus saving you prying eyes and bureaucracy. However, even if an inspection is required, have it done once the foundation and skin is built. After that, no one will pay you any mind (well if you live in the sticks that is) and you can go about making improvements. This type of building is known as an "Accessory" building in code. The best way to go "unnoticed" is to build this where there is already a house and tie into the existing electric, water, and cable.
For an additional $2,000 you can build the slab or pillars, finish out the roof, finish the interior quite nicely with electric, water, and propane. With windows and adequate ventilation, I feel this is a viable option, especially if, like me, you intend to build a more permanent structure in the future. Add in a compost toilet and you have all the comforts of home.
Now, I feel it is necessary to make sure that I point out that safety should not be overlooked. There must be adequate exits, windows that open, a smoke/carbon monoxide detector, and fire extinguishers available in case of emergency. I suggest adding additional framing if you find your shed is built using 24" on center construction. Go with 16" on center, if you can get it or modify the walls to reflect this. That way you can insulate and drywall easily.
The more I think about it, the more viable this options seems to me. You can build the kitchen cabinets ahead of time to be installed once the building is up because the doorways are large enough to moved them in and out. You be able to acquire all the materials to finish the inside as you wish (light fixtures, wiring, plumbing, etc) and take them to the build site. The structure itself is shipped free, dropped off at the building site (you will need some able-bodies to help unload and move the materials). Taking the initiative to set footers in place and the sub floor built ahead of delivery, you can begin building almost immediately. Two able-bodied adults should be able to assemble and roof the structure in under a week. Finishing out the interior may take a little longer, but because you are protected from the elements you can work at your own pace.
These are my thoughts. Some of my best ideas come to me in the middle of the night, and this may be a solution to the conundrum of how to make a tiny house dream come true that sooner on a small budget. If you have someone with a large tract of rural land with a house already sitting on it then that is even better.
Let me recap how this may alter your plans:
- You can plan for a 12' x 24' building. You can lay out a floor plan based on these dimensions.
- You can plan for electric and plumbing service in advance, calculating how much wire, number of outlets, etc. Buying these in advance on sale or off Craigslist will help keep costs to a minimum.
- You can prefab your kitchen cabinets, including counter tops, cutting out the sink hole and the stove inset, etc. They will be simple to install, cutting time.
- Planning for flooring will be simple and based on the basic square footage of the house. Purchasing trim and moldings is easy to calculate as well.
- You can prefab a staircase to a loft that is also drawers if the model you select has a loft with enough headroom. This will provide storage and be much more practical that climbing up and down a ladder to the loft. Built correctly, the staircase can also form one of the walls to the bathroom, providing additional storage for towels and toiletries.
- You can select size and placement of windows as "add on" options for many styles of sheds.
- Knowing in advance the window sizes allows you to make window coverings to keep out prying eyes.
- Building using plans instead of a prefab kit may save you even more money. If you are handy this may just be the option for you.
What do you think? Could you live in a modified shed if the price was right?