From Shed to Cabin: Part 1 (the Guts)

For several years, we debated whether we should add on to our house or not. At 1296 square feet, it’s on the smaller side (at least in the U.S.) for housing 7 people. I could never commit to adding on. For 200 square feet, it would cost $20,000 and require us to move some sprinklers in our yard. We finally have good grass after 5 years, so I really didn’t want to do that! Ultimately, we decided to convert a shed into more living space.

Finding the Right Shed

After weighing a few options, my husband found the perfect shed on the side of the highway. He called the number on the window, and we got our shed delivered within 3 days!

Preparing for Delivery

We didn’t have long to prepare, so we had to get right to work. We chose an area of our yard that used to be garden space but hadn’t done well for several years. Preparing took all day since we needed to take down some of our fence, remove weeds, level the ground, and put down concrete blocks. It wasn’t easy to get things squared and lined up. Once the shed was delivered, some of the blocks shifted and the shed wasn’t quite square with the patio.

placing the concrete blocks
shed
delivery day

Squaring and Leveling

It was frustrating work, but we managed to square and level the shed. We lifted it up with floor jacks. I had to redo a lot of the blocks I’d worked so hard on, using gravel or digging to get them perfectly level again.

After lowering the shed back down, things still weren’t quite perfect, so we used ceramic tiles where more height was needed on the blocks. This was a process we did over a few days, and I lost sleep until we got it just right. It was much more difficult that I expected just to get the shed into place, but once it was, I felt much better. I made temporary steps out of extra concrete blocks and made sure the gravel looked nice around the edges.

shed
the inside on delivery day

Electrical Work

My dad helped with all of the electrical work. We would have hired someone if he hadn’t been conveniently visiting at the time. It took a few days to do all of the following:

  • Dig a trench from the breaker box to the shed.
  • Cut and lay out the conduit in the trench.
  • Install outlets and switches.
  • Assemble and install the ceiling fan and motion sensor lights.
  • Install circuit breakers and connect the wires.
  • Bury the conduit.
  • Add stud supports.
the conduit in the trench
more conduit
ceiling fan with separate wires for the fan and lights
air conditioner window and a separate circuit (with the metal outlet) for heating/cooling

Cutting a Window

My dad also helped with cutting a window for the air conditioning unit. He researched the largest size of unit we’d possibly install for that room size (160 square feet) and cut accordingly, then framed it in. I painted the trim inside and out. We didn’t do an airtight job of installing the air conditioner because it’s old and will be replaced in the spring.

Insulation

It took many cans of Great Stuff and tubes of caulk to fill in all the cracks around windows, the door, and everywhere else. I found it helpful to go outside at different times of day to see where sunlight or wind was still getting through. After the Great Stuff was dry, I used a utility knife to trim off the extra.

Since the shed is only 6 inches off the ground, it wasn’t possible to insulate underneath it conventionally. Instead, we using furring strips and foam board, then covered the floor with another layer of plywood. We finished the entryway similarly but with a thinner sheet of plywood to allow the door to open. I filled in the cracks between the sheets of plywood with wood filler and sanded it down.

insulating the floor

The gables were the trickiest to insulate because of their shape, but we made it work with more furring strips and foam.

layer 1 of the foam pieces

Once we got to the walls and ceiling, it seemed to go really fast since we were only cutting straight lines. I was itchy for a day or two afterward despite wearing protective clothing. I made the mistake of sitting directly on the floor where I was cutting insulation bats.

shed
after installing fiberglass bats

To get to this point took us about a month: from the day before delivery (August 10th) until Labor Day (September 7th). I can’t accurately measure the number of hours because our availability and number of people varied greatly throughout the month. Though it still wasn’t done, I felt really good about all the progress we’d made at this point.

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