How I Created My Own She-Shed – Reader Story

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Today we want to share a story from Freshome reader Krissy, who built her own she-shed in her backyard:

The over-sized shed in our backyard that was made over into a home office.

My husband would likely die if he read that headline, especially because he is using our new she-shed too. We should really call it a “We-shed.” This is the story of how we turned our over-sized shed into an amazing work space for two!

Why do we need a she-shed?

This project all came about when we found out we were expecting our third child.  While absolutely thrilled with this news, it meant that our 4 bedroom home no longer included a home office. During my maternity leave, my husband took a new job and his commute changed from taking the train into the city to sitting on our bed working from his computer. I also work from home and have been doing so for about two years. When maternity leave was up, and I needed to reclaim the bedroom as my office, we thought that this house might not work for us anymore. 

We considered a couple of options for our home office. This included everything from buying a new house-not in the budget, to renting an expensive office space, to converting our garage into an office. Then one day I said what about our shed?  When we bought our house two years ago, it came with a huge shed used by the previous owner as a woodworking space. We literally only used it to store a lawn mower and a canoe, so we thought this may be a viable option. The shed already had electricity, and we thought it would only need heat and a WiFi signal to be all set. If only it were that easy!

Manland in the fall.

Prior to this, my husband had initially claimed this shed and its land as his own and called it ‘Manland.’ Since the kids play area took over our basement, he had no man cave space to claim for himself. So he moved to the wood near our shed and built a fire pit area. He strung some lights, added some Adirondack chairs and made a really cozy little campground dubbed “Manland.” This space stayed Manland for about 2 months and now has been turned into our We-Shed…with a cozy fire pit for s’mores breaks.

Laying the plans to build a she-shed

The minimal interior of the shed allowed us to determine its viability as an office pretty easily.

Deciding to convert our shed into a home office was the easy part; figuring out IF we could convert it took a lot more work.  Living in the Northeast, our weather conditions played a big role on the development of our shed. If you live in San Diego or any other comfortable 74 degree location, you may be able to skip the insulation and heating/cooling portion of this process. Here in Pittsburgh, PA, we knew insulation and heat was a must. 

Creating a comfortable space

We added insulation to the walls, ceiling and beneath the floor boards to keep the external elements outside.

To determine if the shed could be a warm and comfortable space in the dead of winter, we hired a contractor to come out and check out our space. It was easy to figure out what we needed to do because the space was just framing, no drywall or really anything but the bare bones of a structure. The contractor recommended that we add insulation to the walls and ceiling to protect from the exterior elements. He also ripped up the plywood floorboards and added a water barrier to protect the floors from the bare ground below. This would ensure warmth but also serve as a moisture barrier. On top of the barrier he laid more insulation before adding new floor boards.

It’s starting to come together. The shiplap paneling is getting installed.

Because a shed is more exposed to the elements, we opted for wood paneling walls vs. sheets of drywall. This would also help to protect against moisture. Now I’m sure when you think wood paneling you are thinking your grandfather’s 1970’s television den, but paneling has come a long way people! Perhaps you have been living under a rock and aren’t familiar with the term “shiplap,” but thanks to the influence of Joanna Gaines we fell in love with the white shiplap look. So that is exactly what we selected.  (PS taking three kids to Home Depot to pick out your She-Shed materials isn’t exactly an enjoyable way to spend a morning.)

Three kids in Home Depot, not a relaxing way to spend a Saturday.

At Home Depot we also selected our floor covering. Now if you thought paneling was dated, wait for this term… VINYL. I promise, this was a great option for our space and like wood paneling it’s evolved a lot since that 1980’s kitchen look we all remember. The vinyl comes on a big roll 12 ft wide and cut to whatever length you need.  Our space is an 11 foot box, so this meant we wouldn’t have any seems in our floor, another way to protect from moisture. It was also super affordable.

Vinyl has come a long way since my childhood 1980’s kitchen.

Power, internet and flipping the switch

We really thought that insulating and making the shed feel comfortable would be the extent of our work. When our contractor came out to inspect what we were working with, however, we learned that we needed to add some additional elements. I mentioned earlier that there was electricity to the shed, but the voltage was too low to power all of our office equipment and we needed to beef up our panel with the necessary voltage.  Unfortunately, the conduit that ran the power from our house to the shed was too small to hold the additional wire. This meant we needed to retrench our yard.

Thanks to the new wiring run up to the shed, we have a TV that we can use indoors as well as outdoors.

We had our friend who runs a landscaping business rent out the necessary equipment to dig an 18 inch deep trench in our yard the 120 feet from our house to the shed.  Luckily we knew that we had a fairly large gas line buried in our back yard so we made sure to reach out through 411 to have the team come out and mark where the line was.  To be sure we didn’t cut this line, we hand dug the trench in this area. After we dug the trench we were able to run a new conduit to the shed with the appropriate power needed as well as the lines needed to have ethernet, cable and phone service in the shed. My husband was thrilled with this addition because it mean he could have a television in Manland.  Football and firepits all fall long!

The additional power capacity was an added expense and something that we didn’t really anticipate, but was necessary to make the space function for our needs. The trench and electrician work nearly doubled our initial budget. This did not make me happy at the time, but I can now say I’m so happy we did it the right way.

All the little details

We have walls, floors, baseboard heat and lights… it’s looking like an office!

We are still in the midst of adding details to make the office shed feel really comfortable, but here are some of the things we’ve done so far to make it workable. We added two matching desks from IKEA.  We already had one desk so we added another and put them right beside each other to allow us to make the best use of our space. This also allows us to enjoy the sunshine that comes through our screen door. Come summer we will have to think through ways to keep our space cool (an HVAC unit was not in the budget at this time), but having a screen door should allow for some nice breezes. Speaking of temperature, we added two baseboard heating systems. These run off electricity and keep the space super warm. We keep them on all day to make sure the space is super comfortable as soon as we arrive every morning.

Screen door added for extra sunlight and a warm summer breeze.

We also added LED can lights that have various colors of brightness. Sometimes LED lighting can be too white, almost like fluorescent lights, so we like that we can adjust the softness of these lights to make sure the lighting is just right.  We also added a place to put our shoes, hang our coats and wipe our feet so that we don’t trek mud, dirt and moisture into the space. We are in the midst of hanging whiteboards and bulletin boards and hope to add some art to the space to punch up the color.

Cost and evaluation of our shed renovation

Desks and computers are in and the space has been fully functional for about a month.

All in we spent nearly $9,000 to renovate, rewire, insulate and furnish our shed office. It’s way more then we had hoped to spend, our original budget was $6,000, but totally worth it. The space has been a huge boost to our productivity and has allowed us a space to escape for work.  Oftentimes, when you work from home it’s hard to separate work and home life.  Having this separate space has really allowed us to leave our work in the office shed at the end of the day to come back down to our house and enjoy our lives with our little family.

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