This content was written by to help others make informed decisions about building a backyard shed office.


Backyard Office Ideas - Pre-Construction

About two years ago, I started building lamps, go-karts and rehabbed a little sailboat. I filled our garage with tools and my wife, who normally parks in the garage, was forced to park outside. She wasn’t happy.

Six months ago, I began researching how to build a “office shed” so I could have a workshop. During the research process, I found the difference between a “shed” and a “livable space or detached office” was minimal. A shed uses less structural reinforcement, no insulation, no drywall, and usually no soffits and fascia. I ran some estimates and realized I was going to spend around $5000 to build a space to “shed quality.” Or I could spend around $7000 and have a building up to residential building codes, even matching the exterior of our home.

So I decided to build a “workshop” that could later be used as a detached office, guest space, craft room or man cave. The reality is a “shed” isn’t counted within the square footage of your home value but a livable space is. For a potential future buyer of our home, a "shed” isn’t as appealing as the space I decided to build.

The Building’s Purpose:

Obviously, before you start building this structure you need to think about how you’ll use it.

  • Will this be a detached office space?
  • What could future uses be? I wanted a workshop so I could work on little projects like go-karts and lamps.
  • Do you want a bathroom in your building? If so, research composting toilets.
  • Do you want running water?
  • Where will the electrical outlets go? Where do you want recessed lighting? Where should the light switches go?

Choosing a building location: My yard is a rectangle oriented north/south. We have a corner on the southwestern side that is shaded and unused. I wanted a shaded spot because in Florida it’s harder to stay cool than warm.

I wanted something near the fence so I could build organization racks for our scrap pieces of wood, etc. The fence will help keep rain off the wood. Be aware of city and county residential “setback” codes. A “setback” tells you how close you can build to your property line.

Design: In the process of designing my building, I wanted to keep the light coming in from the north and east side of the building to reduce heat. I don’t mind the inside being a little dark, especially if one day I turn this into an office space, I don’t want a glare on my monitor. Windows also limit your choices of room arrangement. I wanted double doors so I could open them up and let the air, smoke or dust out of the space easily. As we cover each specific building aspect, I’ll go into more of the decisions I made.

Some things to think about.

  • When you decide on a spot for your build, go stand where you imagine you’ll have a window. Do you like that view? Stand in that spot in the morning versus afternoon. How does the light cast there?
  • A contractor friend said that building things 12’x12’ is the easiest, cheapest way to build something. Siding and roofing are ordered in 100 square-foot increments. Walls are usually 8 feet, but 2’x4’s come in 12 and 14 foot as well. Consider how many supplies you’ll need to purchase when you’re considering sizes, because you want as few scraps as possible.
  • If you move from your current house, what else could the next owner use this building for? Are there considerations you might think about for the next owner?
Consideration: Do you consider yourself a patient person? Have you swung a hammer before? If not, do yourself a favor and hire a contractor or buy a shed from a company that builds sheds. FYI, I looked at sheds from Home Depot, but overall they’re really cheaply built. Building a 100+ square foot building is not a weekend job. It’s probably $30+ square foot and 3-8 hours per square foot if you do it yourself. Building something over 50 square foot is time consuming, frustrating and even scary at times.
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