You know…it’s a great feeling when something that you’ve always wanted finally happens for you, like building a “she shed”!
I have been wanting a “she shed” for the past 6 months, waiting on permits, waiting on contractors, and finally, it happened! I’m going to share the most important questions that I asked myself while delving into this project.
If you’ve been following Thrift Diving for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a love hate relationship with my 2-car garage.
While it has served me for many years since we moved in back in 2010, housing all of my creative projects, you’ll know that in the last year or so, it’s become impossible for building furniture (like the walk-in closet organizer I built!), refinishing furniture, or even being able to record videos for my YouTube channel.
Let’s not forget dangerous!
Have you ever tried to build a closet organizer while stepping over lawnmowers, pressure washers, leaf blowers, and more??
Trust me on this–I’ve had my share of near-misses with landing on my butt!
I fantasized about buying an investment property with a 2-car garage that could just be a dedicated workshop.
I drooled over having a spare bedroom to set up a podcasting room with soundproofing foam for recording new episodes of my podcast (have you listened yet?).
But with people losing their heads in the real estate market, offering thousands more over asking price, no way in heck I was going to jump into that fray!
Instead, I decided to buy the biggest “she shed” that I could afford and that could comfortably fit into my backyard. Because it wasn’t that I wanted the investment property right now. Rather, I was craving a blank slate, and an unobstructed space to create.
Since I’ve been in the trenches of figuring out how to navigate buying a “she shed” for my home, I decided that this is the perfect opportunity to share with you what I have learned along the way, to help make your own “she shed” selection and installation that much easier! 🙂
So let’s jump into it now!
Listen to This Podcast Episode
When I first started this process, I recorded a podcast episode with these 10 questions. You can easily listen while you work, exercise, or drive! 🙂
10 Questions You MUST Ask Before Building a “She Shed”
Before we bought this house in 2010, there was another house in this neighborhood that we had looked at. The owners had converted the one-car garage into a studio space! For that reason alone, I.WANTED.THAT.HOUSE.
I walked into the converted garage and my face lit up at the skylights and at the bright, open airiness of the space.
At the time, it was unfortunate to discover that the same day we went to look at that split level home, someone else had already made an offer that had been accepted.
Thankfully, we found our current home just down the block. But many times when we drive past that house, I remind my family how we “almost bought that house…the one with the amazing studio and skylights!”
That studio became the example of what my “creative happy place” looks like.
And that is what I had in mind when I ordered my backyard “she shed.” I wanted to re-create the bright, airy creative workspace that I fell in love with 11 years ago.
Navigating that process, though, there were a lot of questions and things I have learned along the way, which I’ll share with you in case you, too, have always dreamed of a bright and beautiful place to call your own and would one day like to move forward with making it a reality! 🙂
Watch My Shed Being Built!
Want to see how my “she shed” was constructed in only 11 hours? Watch here!
Question #1: Do I Want to Buy a Prefabricated or Custom-Built She Shed?
I had several contractors come over to my house to give me some quotes so that I can compare the cost of buying a prefabricated shed or having someone build it from the ground up. Whatever project you’re doing, you generally you want to get three quotes so that you can make sure that the quotes are all in line with each other and you’ve got something to compare to each other.
You will not believe what I was quoted from all three contractors to build a she shed in my backyard:
$80,000 to $100,000.
There’s no way I’m paying $80,000 – $100,000 to have a custom outbuilding built for me, from the ground up. I knew based on that price, that it was going to be easier for me to buy a prefabricated shed.
I ended up deciding to purchase my shed from Tuff Shed. (They’re not sponsoring this, by the way). They sell smaller version of their sheds at The Home Depot, around 10′ x 12′, but if you want more customization or a larger size, going directly to Tuff Shed is the best option.
Using their online customization Builders Helper tool on their website, I created this customized she shed:
- 16′ x 26′
- 4 skylights
- Residential full-lite glass doors.
- 6 windows
- Flower boxes and shutters (I mean…pretty flowers in the spring–hello!)
- Scissor trusses so that I could have more ceiling height.
There were more customizations I could choose, such as increasing the roof pitch, adding a loft, adding vinyl siding, etc. But the more customizations, the more expensive it would be.
The Cost of My Prefabricated “She Shed”
When all the customizations were done, my shed was $20,400. That’s still a lot of money, but compared to $80,000, that’s much more affordable!
Tuff Shed is a bit more expensive than other brands that you might be able to find local. Don’t forget to check for locally build Amish sheds. Those tend to be a less expensive. I decided to go with Tuff Shed because they’ve got a good reputation and I liked all the customization I could do. I wasn’t sure how much customizing I could do with other brands. That’s why it’s best to know what you’re looking for before you decide to go with a prefabricated or a custom build. And know your budget, too!
Keep in mind, too, that if there are specific features you want for your “she shed,” you can often buy the items you want to use. For example, I bought my own French door from The Home Depot and stored it in my garage for when the shed would be built. I wanted French doors that had the interior blinds. You can also customize the types and sizes of windows.
Question #2: What Kind of Foundation Will I Want or Need? Is My Yard Level?
Every shed needs a foundation. The question is, what type of foundation will you need?
This depends in part on several things:
- Your local permitting office and their requirements.
- How you’re planning to use the shed.
- What you’re planning to store there.
- How long do you want it to last.
Your Local Permitting Office
If you haven’t already located and contacted your local permitting office, now is a good time to do so. Across states it can vary but guess what–even in the same state, rules can vary!
For example, here in Maryland, in Washington County (Western Maryland), no permit is required for sheds not greater than 100 sq ft. So essentially, you could install a 10′ x 10′ shed and not have to get a permit.
But just 1 hour away, in Montgomery County where I live, all sheds must require permits, no matter the square footage. If it’s 200 sq. ft. or less, there wouldn’t be a structural review, but rather, just a check to make sure that you’re adhering to rules about placement and setback (which we’ll cover in a moment).
How You’re Planning to Use the Shed
Again, this is also related to what my county requires, so check with your county. But in my county, if at any time you plan to use your shed for “inhabitable space” (e.g. office, workshop, reading space, art studio, etc.), then you must have a concrete foundation. Otherwise, a pressure treated foundation with gravel is allowable, which gravel works very well for sheds in terms of drainage and keeping water away.
But let’s talk about cost here.
Concrete foundations are way more expensive. I got two quotes for someone to come and do a concrete foundation. Both quotes were five figure quotes. One company quoted me $15,000 and the other quoted me $11,200. That’s a significant difference, but still a significant cost!
Another concrete option is to do concrete piers, which are round cardboard tubes filled with concrete, deep enough to go below your frost line, along with gravel. But I much preferred to think of securing everything to a solid concrete foundation.
If your shed is on solid ground and it’s pretty flat and even, you might even be able to just set it up on some concrete blocks. You might even have some pavers that are already there, maybe it’s level, but whatever you decide to do, you have to make sure that the ground is level.
When you order a prefab shed, they don’t level your site for you. You have to pay somebody extra to come in and make sure that’s level for you. So keep that in mind. That’s one added expense whenever you’re getting a shed in your backyard. You want to make sure that it’s level and you may have to pay out of pocket for that.
And it can be several thousand dollars even for them to come and do the 16 x 26 gravel with the pressure treated wood. I believe that was going to be $3,600 for a 16′ x 26′. But when I consulted with my carpentry instructor, he told me that pressure treated wood and the gravel will last you no more than 15 years because it’s wood. It’s going to break down. It’s pressure treated, yes. But it’s wood. It’s not going to last forever.
I felt that concrete would be more secure over time.
Watch My Concrete Pad Being Installed!
If you’re thinking about getting a concrete pad installed for your “she shed,” you can watch how mine was installed here on my YouTube channel!
Question #3: Will the “She Shed” Need a Permit?
This is where a lot of people don’t really know what they should do because it really depends on your jurisdiction. Where do you live? In what county? What does your permitting office require?
I’m here in Montgomery County, in Maryland. Their rule is that it doesn’t matter what size your shed is, you need a permit. They need to know you’re putting something in your backyard. They want to know where it’s going to be, how big it’s going to be.
In my county, if the shed is over 200 square feet, then they got to do a structural review and a final inspection will be required. Thankfully, I passed my final inspection!
How Much Does a Permit Cost?
The permit is not that expensive. My permitting office charged about $0.77 per square foot. For a 16′ x 26′ shed, it came in around $320.
Avoiding applying for a permit because you think it will cost too much money isn’t a great reason to not get one. If a neighbor reports you (and believe me, we all have that neighbor who will), a permit will cover you and you won’t get any fines (or worse, be required to stop building the she shed or to tear it down).
Question #4: Where Will I Place My New She Shed?
Sometimes there is a big disconnect between where you want to install your “she shed” and where you can install your “she shed.”
First, consider what looks good aesthetically. My property is about 1/3 of an acre. It’s not huge, but it was a large enough backyard that I could get a nice 16′ x 26′ back there. This area highlighted in red was the prospective home of my workshop. 🙂 I wanted it to be catty-corner so that it was nestled into the yard.
When thinking about your “she shed” placement, consider the following questions:
- Do you want it to be parallel to the house or perpendicular?
- Does your county have regulations about how far from the property line you can build? This is called “set back” and it can be as little as 5 feet, and upwards of 15 feet. (By the way, my county set back was 15′ from the side. Otherwise, I would have pushed the shed back a little more).
- Will it get full sun, or do you want it to be away from the sun, in a shaded area?
- How far away from the house will it be? (The further away, the more expensive it can be to bring electricity to the shed).
- Will it be a struggle to get to the shed in cold, snowy, or icy weather? (Too far away and you won’t want to come outside to get to it. Too close and it will make your house feel cluttered).
I was worried about the placement I had chosen for the shed, but once the concrete was in and the builder became constructing my “she shed” (it only took them 11 hours to complete in a single day!), I was happy for the location I have selected! I really liked it.
Question #5: Who Will Finish the Inside of My She Shed? How Will the Shed Be Finished?
All of these sheds that you buy prefabricated, none of them are finished inside. You’re literally just buying the shell.
So when you go onto Pinterest or google any of these sites or blogs for she-shed inspiration, you’re only seeing the amazing finished insides, not just the framing.
Finishing the inside with electric, insulation, drywall, and heating and cooling will add an additional $10K or more to your price. Unless, of course, you can (or have the time) to do it yourself. Otherwise, you’ll need to spend some time hunting for contractors and gathering quotes.
(TIP: Get at least 3 quotes before you pick any contractor, for comparison shopping. Check references, too, and get recommendations from friends and family.)
When I had a contractor come to my house to give me a quote for a custom-built shed, let me tell what he quoted me for adding insulation, drywall, and paint:
That’s a lot of money! These jobs are possible for someone like you and me to do ourselves. It might take us awhile, but it’s always true that when you save money, you spend time.
You also have to consider how the shell will be finished. What type of flooring is best for a shed? What type of insulation will you want? Can you used recessed lights? How will you heat and cool the shed? These are all questions that will require some research (and I don’t have the answers–I’m still looking for those myself!).
I was planning to do the insulation myself if I use the pink fiberglass batting. But my carpentry instructor said spray foam was the best, albeit more expensive. I have someone coming to provide a quote on what spray foam will cost. I’ll keep you posted on that. Maybe $2,000?? Expensive!
Question #6: How Much Will It Cost to Run Utilities to My She Shed?
Are you going to have electricity? Does it need plumbing? These are the things that you need to know. And I think when you consider the location, that will also determine how much the utilities will be.
The further away you install your shed, of course, the more money it’s probably going to cost to wire your shed because they have to lay more conductors from your home to draw that power to your “she shed.”
So far I’ve gotten one quote for electrical wiring and it was $4,200 but could go as high as $5,500 for the additional outlets and lighting I want and need. I’m still waiting on another quote to come in.
Plumbing: Can You Put a Bathroom in a She Shed?
Technically, yes, you can put a bathroom in a she shed. I’ve since learned that it’s fairly easy to bring running water to sink in a shed (for watching paint brushes and hands, for example).
But getting wastewater (read: toilet water!) away from your “she shed” is a whole ‘nutha type of project. To add a bathroom toilet in a she shed means a plumber would have to tap into the main sewer line, which could require digging under your house, depending on where those waste pipes are.
While I’m discouraged to hear that, that isn’t going to deter me from getting a quote for waste plumbing so that I could put a bathroom in my she shed if I choose to.
I’ve also seen clever portable camping waterless toilets that might work for a “she shed” bathroom, especially if you’ll use yours as a guest house.
For the running water, however, I have learned that it’s possible to have the run-off from the sink be deposited outside of the shed. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out for that.
Heating and Cooling a She Shed
Many “she shed” owners have an HVAC company install what’s known as a mini split that is installed on the upper wall of a shed. This is a ductless system that has an outdoor unit that is installed behind your shed where it’s not visible.
The cost of the unit itself starts around $1,100, and the cost of the HVAC guy to install it is additional.
Question #7: Is This Really Worth the Expense?? What Does the She Shed Cost?
When you’re spending large sums of money on something like this shed, you might ask yourself the same question I did:
Is this really worth the expense?
I kept wondering what else I could have done with the money, like invested in more stocks. Or I could have bought myself a new car.
But when I think about tripping in my garage… and being utterly frustrated because you literally have nowhere to cut a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood to make something you want to make, the answer becomes quite obvious.
Yes, yes, and more yes!
I think that when you buy exactly what you’ve already wanted, and you figure out a way to afford it, you don’t regret it one bit.
I have paid $1,800 to get a tree removed from my yard, which is super expensive. But what that removal gave me was more sunlight in my home, and the peace of mind that the roots aren’t compromising my foundation.
Sometimes the benefits far outweigh the costs!
In terms of hard numbers, depending on the brand, she sheds can cost around $4,000 for a 10′ x 12′. Those are the ones that are pre-manufactured, include the cost of installation, and can be bought at big box stores.
The larger the shed, and the more amenities, like skylights, larger windows, adding house wrapping, upgrading to siding instead of engineered wood paneling, increases the cost.
When the shed was finally build and the builders packed up their trucks to go, I snapped this picture of myself and the pure joy on my face of finally making a long-time wish come true: dedicated creative space.
And it’s all mine! Bought with my own money…I coordinate the project…and I will reap those benefits 10-fold.
Totally worth it.
Question #8: How Long Will I Live in My House?
If you’re planning to move in the next year or two, I don’t know if I would sink 20 G’s into a huge “she shed.” Instead, I would put that money into the new house I am trying to buy.
But if you’re planning to be carried out feet-first (like I am), then it’s worth investing into the shed.
Question #9: Am I Trying to Increase the Value of My Home?
A contractor told me a few months ago that a shed isn’t going to increase the value of your home like putting on an addition would increase the value.
Maybe he’s right.
However, I feel that if you put something really cute and quaint in your backyard, when you go to sell, imagine how many excessive number of bids you’d receive because you have this one amazing “she shed” that none of the other homes have?
Maybe it doesn’t increase it directly (or as much), but there’s going to be a selling point there that you could put in the description of your home for sale.
And honestly, I didn’t do this project to increase the value of my home. I did it because my heart wanted it. I need it. I deserve it.
If the unintended consequence is that it makes my home more attractive to buyers, then so be it. 🙂
Question #10: What Am I Going to Use This She Shed For?
There are no right or wrong answers as to how you’ll use your “she shed.” I’ve seen women using their sheds for relaxation, gardening, sewing and crafts, entertaining friends and family, mini backyard bars, a home gym, and more.
As I mentioned, I’m going to be using this for a workshop, but I’m sure there’s going to be some area in there where I’m going to be lounging. I want to put a TV in watch while I’m working on projects.
This side with the workbench (see below) will be the end from which I will be doing more of my filming for videos for my YouTube channel.
But I’ll tell you that I’m also thinking of building a Murphy bed for the shed, in the event I want to sleep out there (shhhh! Don’t tell my family). Or maybe we get a visitor who spends the night and needs a place to sleep. I want to make sure my shed can accommodate all of those things.
But this will be The Thrift Diving Headquarters!
So what are you going to use your “she shed” for? 🙂
After getting my shed installed, I thought of some other very important questions that you definitely want to consider. Episode 35 of The Thrift Diving Podcast touches on these updates with the bonus questions. Have a listen!
Question #11: How Much Will All the Basic Accessories Cost?
Before buying my “she shed” I wasn’t thinking about all the accessories that I’ll need to buy in order to finish off the shed. Here are the things you need to consider buying when calculating how much a “she shed” is really going to cost. Some of these links are affiliate links.
- Door handles with deadbolts. Door handles aren’t that expensive, but if you want nice ones, or specialty ones, it can be pricy. I decided to buy a premium fingerprint deadbolt (I bought this Lockly fingerprint deadbolt from The Home Depot) so that all I need is my fingerprint to get in, and a quick touch on the screen pad to lock the shed. Who wants to grab a key every time I want to go to my shed? 🙂 (You can read more about the 10 reasons you should upgrade to a fingerprint deadbolt).
- Security cameras. I’ll likely have a lot of expensive tools in my shed. What will you store in your shed? Installing security cameras will give you the peace of mind that your shed will be protected. I order these Ring floodlight cameras with motion sensors. I bought the wired versions, which I’ll have the electrician install for an added cost.
- Custom paint. I wanted a custom paint job on my shed, which cost me an additional $320 for a 5-gallon bucket of top-quality exterior paint. For this shed, I used Behr Marquee exterior paint in the color Cold Steel.
- Heating and cooling. I’m planning to get a mini split in my shed, which is a unit that will sit up high on the wall and is connected to an outdoor unit. It will provide heating and cooling. The unit will cost about $1,000 – $1,200, but I didn’t anticipate that I would need an HVAC guy to come and install it. I’m still waiting on that quote! If you don’t have the money to pay for a mini split, you may have to spend a bit of money for a heater, a ceiling fan, or a window AC unit.
- Landscaping. I’m so excited to do the landscaping around my shed so that it blends into the yard! Lots of pretty plants and flowers. 🙂 But that costs money, so don’t forget that the exterior will take time and money to complete.
- Decorating the inside. A “she shed” has to be pretty and/or functional! You’ll want pictures, furniture, desks, organizational solutions, and more. Shop your house (and thrift stores) to save money on this part!
- Lighting. Recessed lights are so clean, which is what I plan to install in my shed. Not only will I have to pay for the cost of the electrician, but I may have to pay for additional lights needed around the shed.
- Porch. Many sheds require you to step up into them. With 1 foot or more off the ground, you will likely want to build steps or a porch. If you can’t do it yourself, you’ll need to hire a handy person.
Question #12: What Electrical Needs Will I Have?
I touched on the top of electrical needs above, as you’ll need to buy the lighting you’ll need (e.g. ceiling fans with lights, lamps, recessed lights, etc.). But you’ll also need to think about the following things when it comes to your electric needs for your “she shed.”
- How many lights you want, where they’ll be placed, and how bright and what temperature of the lights will be used? If you’re using your space for refurbishing furniture, you’ll want the lights to represent the colors accurately.
- Motion sensors so the lights come on when you walk in with your arms full and don’t want to fiddle with a light switch.
- Know what equipment you plan to use.
- Exterior outlets.
- Porch lights.
- Outlets in the ceiling for an air filtration system (if you’re creating a workshop) and Christmas lights hung around the ceiling.
- Outlet in the ceiling where you can attach a cable reel to plug things in while working in the center of the room, without running cables across the shop, which are tripping hazards.
Below, you can see the electrical plan that I drafted for the electrician to get an idea of what I am looking for. (By the way, I used electrical symbols for the outlets and the lights–sorry if you can’t read those!).
Question #13: Do You Have Easy Backyard Access?
Homes that have backyard access can generally have trucks deliver completely assembled sheds and place them into position. If you don’t have a wide enough backyard access, they’ll bring everything in, in pieces, and it can be more expensive.
Keep in mind that fences will need to be removed (temporarily, but you will be responsible for putting them back together).
And with the number of trucks that might be driven on your lawn, say goodbye to your grass.
We have mostly weeds so I was okay with the destruction of the lawn, since we’re now growing grass.
While the concrete contractors did re-seed (see the hay below?), the new growth got trampled on by the shed installers. With all the other trades that may be coming in–electricians, HVAC–more damage can be done and will need to be fixed on your dime.
Question #14: How Will My “She Shed” Impact My Home?
This question is somewhat related to where to place your shed, but I like to think it’s more about what changes will occur after you build your shed?
For example, is your shed going to block the beautiful view that you use to have of your garden?
Will the new “she shed” block the sunlight that used to come into your dining room?
Even if you put down painter’s tape to map the footprint of your shed (I did this), the shed will have height to it. How will that heigh impact the views from your home?
I’ll tell you that the placement of my shed catty-corner is now reflecting bright sunlight into my kitchen, and it’s not the pretty kind of light. It’s the harsh glaring kind of light. LOL. This could be because of the French doors, or if could be the reflection from the glass. To “fix” this temporarily, I close a couple blinds in the kitchen to minimize the glare.
I’ll also try decorative anti-glare film that I can put on the French door glass to see if it reduces the glare.
No matter how much you try to plan, you never know until your “she shed” gets installed! 🙂
Question #15: What’s the Warranty on Your She Shed?
Last but not least, take advantage of your warranty if necessary. Sometimes things go wrong with the build.
For example, a woman in the She Shed group on Facebook had a shed delivered that, within 2 days, was leaking and had mold growing on the framing. Something like that should be fixed immediately! Hold the company accountable to it.
Better yet, ask them up-front what their warranty covers (and what it doesn’t cover, like “settling” of the shed) and know who to call if something goes wrong during the warranty.
And keep in mind that when you put a shed on your property, depending on your home insurance, that shed is typically covered from natural disasters, theft, and other things, as described in your policy. They consider it an “outbuilding” and your policy may cover up to a certain amount. Good to know! But call your insurance company first to make sure. And if you don’t have that coverage, be sure to add it prior to buying your shed.
Soooo….When Are You Building a She Shed??
Are you convinced yet that buying a “she shed” is totally a great idea?? 🙂 I know this post is long, but I wanted to include everything that I felt that was important for my own “she shed” investment.
If you’re planning to get a shed, let me know down in the comments! And for any questions about my shed, ask away! 🙂
Download the 5 freebies!
Thrift Diving inspires women to decorate, improve, and maintain their home themselves...using paint, power tools, and thrift stores! Use these 5 printables, checklists, and ebooks to get started!