Looking for input from readers about garden office sheds


Miss D. and I live in a relatively small house.  It’s perfectly adequate for our needs, particularly since both of us have suffered serious injuries in the past, and aren’t as mobile and limber as we once were.  We find that, working together, we can keep our home neat and tidy;  but a larger house would probably be too taxing.  We’re happy here.

Nevertheless, it would be useful to have a little extra space.  At present our garden shed is a ramshackle 8’x8′ structure that a previous owner appears to have built himself.  It’s not very strong, and one of these days it’s going to fall over.  We’re thinking about building a better garden shed.  One half of it would be to store garden equipment and supplies that should not be in the house (for example, propane gas bottles, jerrycans of fuel and so on).  The other half would be a small office for me, a place to write where I’m not plagued by cats wanting attention or other distractions.

There are lots of very attractive office sheds out there.  For example, see here, or here.  Trouble is, many of those sheds are rather expensive.  We’re on a tight budget, so we simply can’t afford them.  We have to look for something simpler and (much!) cheaper.  That’s where you come in, dear readers.

Have any of you built or bought garden sheds for use as a home office or creative studio?  If so, what did you buy, what did it cost you, how have you found working there rather than in the house, and what are your overall impressions?  Also, please go into details like what size shed works for you, and the materials used to build it.  Here in north Texas, we’ll undoubtedly have to insulate it and provide an air-conditioner for summer use (and a heater for the winter).  Have you done the same?

(Also, if any of you work for a shed manufacturer or distributor or retailer, and can offer us a good deal, please leave a note in Comments.  I’m not talking about spam like “Buy our sheds!” – I’ll delete any such comments – but individuals who are offering to help.  Thanks!)

I’ve considered a repurposed shipping container.  These are available at reasonable cost for what they are, and they’re certainly much stronger and more weatherproof than the average shed.  However, they’re also unsightly in a domestic setting;  and my wife gets a vote in this!  Reluctantly, I’ve decided that they’re probably not suitable right now.  Nevertheless, if you’ve used one for such a purpose, I’d really like to hear from you.  That may be the most cost-effective solution available to us – and who knows?  I could always put siding on the thing!

I’ll be grateful for your input.  Thanks in advance.



  1. Unfortunately, now is not the time to start a construction project on a budget. Building materials are sky high, as well as shortages of some items.

  2. Could you clad the shipping container in something more aesthetically pleasing so it looks like a shed? One of our bathroom floors is vinyl sheeting that looks like wood, maybe wrap the container in something like that.

  3. I recently bought a container for a machine shop. Around here, a 10 x 20 she'd is more than a 40 ft container.
    As mentioned above, this is NOT the time to do construction projects.

    Since your wife has vetoed a container, have you considered a used travel trailer or small office trailer? In some regions they can be had cheaply. For me it wasn't an option due to transportation costs, but it could be for you.

  4. In 2018 I built myself an office shed, wound up costing me about 2500 dollars. It would undoubtedly be more today since materials are up, but lumber has fallen quite a bit from where it was a year ago so it may not be a huge amount more.

    Office shed was 10×8, attached to an existing 6×6 little office shed via a short 2 foot hallway. It was fully insulated (apart from the floor, an oversight that I came to deeply regret when winter hit and temps plunged below 0.

    I put in a small breaker box with 3 circuits, and wired in half a dozen plugins. That gave me plenty of of power to run a couple small heaters, plus all my electronics.

    I do regret using 2×4 walls as it would have been a much better option to go with 2×6 walls since I could have put much heaver insulation in than R-13, although that would have probably added another 20% or so to the cost of framing and insulating.

    I do not recommend using a container, by the time you get done making it comfortable you might as well have just stick built an office shed. Containers need a lot of framing inside to hold insulation and wiring, and you must weld supports in if you wish to cut holes in it for windows and such. Plus container prices are high right now.

    1. Agree with not using a shipping container. The roof traps water and will rust out in no time in North Texas. They workout ok overseas in the Sandbox, but precipitation (and money) isn't an issue over there.

  5. My sister bought a 10×16 storage shed about 6 months ago in the OKC metro for about $4k. It's very cheaply made… I like Jonathan's idea about a small office trailer. Many of the construction office trailers are 1/2 office, 1/2 storage, and are pre-wired with receptacles, lighting and at least allow installation of window air conditioning units if one isn't already installed. Some skirting, paint, and faux shutters could make one of those look pretty decent.

  6. Garden shed needs to be near ground level, but your work space needs to be high enough to insulate.
    Maybe first define the space you need to be comfortable working in, how tall it needs to be, and how much lighting and windows you will need to not feel bunkered in. Then add the space for the garden stuff, and you have your overall size.
    There are many books out on building such sheds. Some might be worthwhile.
    Consider 2×6 construction with both 3.5" rigid foam board and R-13 fiberglass on all 6 sides. Seperate doors for each area. Also consider having a sub-panel run out there, as in an older house, the main panel may not be large enough. Probably expensive.
    As said above, an old office trailer off of its wheels might be cheaper.
    John in Indy

  7. If it is an option, find a shed/building that can be torn down and rebuilt
    Bought one this summer (14' x 16')that was finished except for no roof for $200 – guy needed it off his property
    Tore it down and rebuilt a shed 10' x 20'
    Found some metal roofing left overs from a local construstion guy
    The roof is many colors – we call it the Jacob Shed
    Total cost – $600

    Bob T

  8. If you're in a neighborhood, consider the effect a trailer or container would have on the neighbors. Also, our town has a limit on size of sheds without a permit. About 10 yrs ago, I got an Amish made 10×14 one delivered for about 2k. Ohio.

  9. Containers. You can build a cheap roof to "shed" off water. Or, paint it with roof sealant.

    Keep the current shed for garden and build the office shed?

    Cement siding still is affordable. Vinyl siding? I think you can get either with foam backing.

    Roofing material? Half slope (shed) or gable?

    A possibility is to buy a metal 2-car carport and partition.

    How much physical labor can you handle,IIRC, you have back issues?

  10. If you are in the country, maybe you can find a free, non-running school bus, trailer is to your property and convert to office. I have seen them setup as wood workshops.

  11. Check the heavy equipment auction sites like Richie Bros. etc. for used job site office trailers. Used to be able to pick those things up super cheap, especially right after big projects wrapped.

  12. Whatever you go with will the smell of gas permeate into the part of the shed you'll spend time in? Jaime had some good questions.

  13. I recently built a 10'x10' woodshed. Floor was framed with 2×6 12" on center. 2×6 decking. All flooring components treated wood. Wall studs 2×4 16" on center. Siding was 5/4"x8" Doug Fir boards – spaced 1" apart. Roof was 13'x12' Classic shed roof framed with 2×6 rafters 16" OC and sheathed with 5/8" Oriented Strand Board (OSB). Architectural grade shingles to match the other structures on the property. Total cost was ~$2500.

    You could easily build an office shed for $3-4K. Adding things like electricity and internet access could push up the price.

    Most pre-fab sheds that I've seen are absolute pieces of junk – poor materials slapped together as quickly as possible by "carpenters" who can't keep steady work.

    Might look around at the used camper market…

  14. Well, first check out what zoning requirements for yard structures your area has. There may be some issues with using anything in the back or side yard, and we all know there are Karens and Kens out there just wanting to spoil everyone else's fun.

    Once you know what you are 'allowed' to have (damned bureaucrats, I understand some of the stupidity, but, still, grrr, freedom, grrr) then you can start looking at what you can do.

    And, really, we need to know more. What's the weather like year-round, temps, moisture (moisture will kill everything) and bugs and critters? How are the builders/suppliers going to access your backyard? What about room in your garage/carport? Then knowing those parameters we can start tossing out good solutions.

    Someone up there in the comments mentioned Amish. If they or Mennonites are in your area, it's not a bad way to go.

    Shipping containers… well, there are some nice already-made office containers, but you're looking at about or more money than a basic shed. And, yes, ugly and they really need a decent roof for visual niceness and need to be up off the ground. And if it's just a shipping container, then you don't know what's been shipped in it. And ventilation sucks, requiring retrofitting and then you're adding stuff which is costly and now you're back into pre-built or build-yourself shed range.

    As to building a shed, if you have some handy friends and a nice weekend, a decent shed can be floored, framed and roofed in a day with 3-4 people. Walls done the next week (if using plywood panels, it takes 2, if using batten, one can do it but really 2.) Insulation and interior finishing takes another weekend. It's not hard, per se, just time consuming and not easy by yourself or if you're too, er, well-used and high-mileaged.

  15. Peter, I refer you to a post by Claire Wolfe from earlier this year, and it's very good comment thread:
    I had to vacate the garage I was using for storage as the property sold, and I needed to be out by close of escrow. I'm very pleased with the shed I got, and the company has a huge spectrum of choices, from little pumphouse sheds to cattle barns. At least check them out for ideas if nothing else:
    As for prices, they may not be exactly cheap, but I still don't think I could have built mine for less, even discounting my labor to zero. And I certainly am no longer up to a 40 hour week of framing like I used to do.

  16. Elevate the treated floor frame with concrete blocks or railroad ties.

    The advantage of railroad ties is that you can tie them to a tractor to move the shed.

  17. A 20-foot container will set you back about $2,500, and are quite roomy in terms of storage / home office space. Truthfully they are quite strong and weather-tight; you'll probably want to conceal it though re: wife and neighbor's preference re: attractiveness. This will also have the effect of insulating it against summer heat / winter cold for a bare container.

    A 20-foot container is 20'L x 8'W x 8'6" H. Easiest / best way to wrap it is to run stud wall around the sucker with 2"x4"x8' boards. You can then roll in insulation and cap with siding to both insulate and conceal it; will also keep most rain off it to keep rust off. I'd recommend running a line of bricks around the bottom edge and laying pressure-treated 2×4 mud-sill on that, then studding up.

    Linear footage around three sides (one side will be able to open the double doors) is 48 feet (576 inches); all 4 sides is 56 feet (672 inches). Standard bricks are 7.5" L x 3.5" W x 3.5" H – to run a line of bricks around the base of the whole thing (all 4 sides) you will need an extra 14 inches of bricks to cover the 3.5 inch ov6erlap at each corner (so total 686 linear inches) – approx. 91.5 bricks.

    To frame it, you'll need two sets of 2×4 boards for the bottom and top perimeter – bottom is called a "mud sill". 48 feet is six 2x4x8' boards; so you'll need twelve for top and bottom. Spacing for studs is 16", you'll need a minimum of 40 studs (36+4 plus four for the corners) to go around three sides, assuming you're using the double doors for entry. This will allow you to roll in R-13 faced fiberglass insulation; rolls are typically 15" wide x 32' long, so each roll will cover four spaces between interior studs.

    This frame plan does not account for the roof or the siding – frankly I'd throw a 24×12 over-deck on it and run 16 inch centers for the joists under that, and run some stairs up the side with a few 6×6 posts to hold a small landing platform over the top. This will give you a two-foot lip over the sides to put things like motion lights etc around the perimeter and such. You could also throw a pergola over top of it and run some solar panels on that to power the sucker, if you don't want to wire it off your house.

  18. When I moved to working from home in 2015, we quickly realized that working in the house itself was a no-go. I purchased a 12×20 shed (about $1500 at the time) and then paid for insulation, paneling, and a window A/C unit. The front half is sewing space, the back half is my work space (and the lofts are storage for fabric). The cost of this same shed is at least 3 times what I paid for it 6 years ago, and the same can be said for the materials used to make it livable. So I am going to agree with everyone who suggests a small travel trailer/RV, as they come already insulated and wired/piped/plumbed. Set it up under a canopy and it will be cheaper to cool.

    Then get noise cancelling headsets, because the rain is super loud on the roof…

  19. I don't know the exact area you live in. I lived near the DFW Metromess till 4 years ago. Around there are the Ulrich and Leland companies whom we have delt with. They are both Mennonite companies. We got a 12' x 16' shed from Ulrich in 2004; they built it to order with some customizations. The shed has been moved twice. Forty miles the first time and 260 miles the second time.

    If you are in an incorporated area you will have to deal with your local code compliance authorities here in Texas. My son lived in Arlington, TX and didn't do what he needed. He had problems with the city. If you live in an unincorporated area with no HOA, you can do what you need without excessive oversight just do it right. If you live in an HOA area you will have to deal with them one way or another.

    Another thing, look at a small mini-split air conditioner/heater for your office area. They are about the same cost as an in-wall heat pump but offer a better footprint.

  20. We were fortunate in our purchase of a shipping container. We're in the dry west, so don't have to worry as much about rust. Building interior shelves was straightforward, anchoring the wood to the tiedown points spaced evenly along the juncture between wall and ceiling.
    Running power was very easy, both plugs and lights. (We went with LED shop lights. They're more expensive, but they light up quickly in the cold, and the power use is negligible.)
    Heat/AC can be a bit of a problem, especially if you can't cut windows/AC ports on your own. It really heats up in the sun.
    But, to offset this, the double doors opened fully is like removing an entire wall in a house. We've never had problems getting the air to circulate.
    Originally dark blue, we mitigated the heat by painting it the same color as the dirt hill behind us. (I literally took a baggy of dirt to Home Depot in order to get it color matched. Very light color.)
    That also makes it a lot less noticeable.
    Running climbing vines/plants over the container would be an excellent camouflage and would cut down on the heat.

  21. I recently finished mine based on a plan by this guy: https://www.pinuphouses.com/elevated-cabin-plans-virginia/

    He has a ton of designs. For permitting reasons mine had to fit within a 12' square cube but that's tons of space. It was a challenge with the building material situation but in the end for a complete "tiny house" (only lacking running water) I figure it cost between $7-8,000.

    It has been an invaluable addition to the lives of the whole family. It doesn't look like I can attach pictures otherwise I'd share.

  22. Does your local high school or nearby community college offer construction classes? If so, you supplying the material and them supplying the labor might be an option.

  23. If you go with the shipping container, I've seen one on the web that the owner built a normal wood wall with a proper entry door and windows inside the double door end. When he is using it, the metal doors are swung around to the sides, exposing the house type entry area. for security and/or shipping purposes, they can be closed and locked like a normal container.

    I would be inclined to look for a double-ended container for your purpose. I think they may be called a drive-thru version, but they are not a common type. Having a separate entrance for the storage area would be a big plus. Also, containers come it two height versions. The taller (maybe a foot extra?) version would allow you to add more insulation top and bottom inside, and still have enough head height for you tall guys.

    Be aware that if you set it up as secondary living quarters for guests, code requires that all bedrooms require a window or outside door for emergency exit use. That double ended unit with a wood wall at both ends would make it easier to build without having to cut holes in the walls, by locating a bedroom at the far end.

    How is the water level/drainage in your yard? It would help with the visual impact if it could be sunken a couple feet, maybe even enough to get it even with the fence height. This may help with anything you set up, such as a trailer or wood shed.

    Are you allowed to park an RV type unit or office trailer in your yard? Some zoning areas forbid that in residential areas, even though the original development may have included parking slabs and drive-thru (double-ended) garages for campers and boats. (new immigrants wanting to upscale the town have gotten this sort of thing passed by taking over the political offices, and buying houses for investments)

  24. To add to your options would be to have a shed raising party. Have assisted building / disassembling / moving a couple metal sheds, straight labor. From a kit. Engineer types, friends, were in charge, there were always plenty qualified for it. Contractors poured the foundations, did the electrical and plumbing. You have many friends, this route may be useful for you.

    Job site / sales portable offices / trailers are basically mobile homes though set up as an office. Many are just shipping containers though some are full, beautiful tiny homes. After they have sold all the housing lots, the little sales office is sometimes sold off at a massive discount. Sometimes, if you could disassemble / haul away a structure, it was free. Craigslist, ask around?

    The economy may be very different in six months.

  25. Hi, haven't bothered to go through all of the pasts…have you looked into Amish-built sheds, if they're even available where you are?

  26. For flammable storage I put a prefab 3’ x 5’ shed (6’ tall) towards the back of my yard. Very small, but puts the danger away from the house and keeps the fuel smell out of other stored items. Had to throw away some luggage that had been impregnated with gasoline odor.

  27. I don't have advice about building one because we paid some builders to do ours.

    However I have some advice about how to fit it out

    First you must have a (good) power outlet. You need this to run your computer/monitor etc, but the main reason for it is to run the air conditioner. Otherwise – at least in the summer – the prime product of the place will be baked Peter

    Second you may find it useful to have Internet access (either by cable or wifi) . If you go for the wifi version check NOW that your existing wifi reaches to where the shed is and that you can use it for actual web connectivity. If not, or if you want to have better speeds then burying a cat5 cable along with the power cable will be a good thing. You don't have to connect it direct to your computer a cheap wifi router will work just fine

  28. Shipping container, paint it forest green, plant ivy.

    "Doctors bury their mistakes; architects can only advise their clients to plant vines." — Frank Loyd Wright

    Don in Oregon

  29. My cousin works at a manufacturing facility and repurposed some large, wooden shipping crates from equipment. He had to elevate it above ground and add a roof. It is primarily a workshop and storage for his RC airplanes, which is a summer activity here in WI, so it isn't insulated. You'll probably want yours insulated against the heat rather than the cold so that you don't end up spending a fortune on air conditioning.

    I don't know if you can find anything similar in your area and have handy friends with trucks to help you move things.

    Good luck!

  30. Look at the sheds on the costco website. Attractive, something for every budget, and delivered.

    I'm about a month from actually looking at options myself. Last time I did the math, pre-built was breakeven with me scratchbuilding, even with my labor at zero. Material prices have gone up dramatically since then.

    Anything you do get or build will need additional work and material to make it useful for your purpose. Google "she sheds" for inspiration.


  31. Peter,
    your city/county may have restraints on percentage of the plot that is hard covered. If so, that % includes the house/garage slab(s). Your shed, even without a slab or paver blocks under it, MAY have to conform to that total size restriction, even if the structure size itself fits within the outbuilding code.

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