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How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

Ever wanted to turn your backyard barn or shed into a livable tiny house for guests or yourself? Even if it were only for the kids to camp in once in a while…

One of our awesome readers, Jean, sent me photos and information on how she converted this barn into a little home. At approximately 288 square feet, it’s not incredibly tiny, but you can take the same concepts and apply it to an even smaller structure. Jean bought a 12′ by 24′ barn with a loft and converted it by hand into a guest cottage.

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It All Started With This 12-ft by 24-ft Barn

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny HousePhotos Courtesy of Jean H.

The exterior is a cedar color with a green shingled roof.

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

Inside the walls have a mahogany finish.

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny HouseShe added a tin ceiling inside after insulating and installed a beam down the center where Jean also installed a ceiling fan.

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

When you look at the kitchen don’t miss the space-saving built-in cutting board.

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

In the bathroom (see below) you can use a combination of tin and wood to keep material costs low.

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

She installed hand-made tongue and groove wood flooring, sanded the walls, stained everything, and polished.

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

Jean used an old log to create lots of what you see inside, added a carpeted sleeping loft upstairs, and insulated the entire thing.

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

The antique bar stools were a good choice and Jean used an old log to create the bar (see above).

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

Wow, look how nice the wood looks!

How to turn your Barn or Shed into a Livable Tiny House

She did all of the plumbing and electrical which meets coding regulations. Jean’s barn conversion also includes:

  • 6 windows with locks and screens
  • Full shower
  • 6 electrical wall outlets
  • New appliances
  • Closet with hanging rod
  • Tall drawer chest

Almost all of the furniture was hand-made. I don’t have details on total material costs or hours of labor but Jean said, “more than I’d like to admit,” in one of the emails that we exchanged.

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 90 comments… add one }
  • January 9, 2012, 10:21 am

    Very nice! Lloyd Kahn’s new book has an excellent example of a shed conversion too. I would have use lighter colors within though, just me, darker ones visually make a place feel smaller. I love that slab bar/table though- and several other aspects. -Deek

    • January 9, 2012, 11:11 am

      Thanks, Deek, glad you liked it. Can’t wait to get Lloyd’s book in my hands!

    • carrie adams
      June 13, 2013, 9:22 pm

      Deek hi!
      After watching HGTV like an addict…They say ‘don’t be afraid of color’. And dark color doesn’t have to confine a space?!?! I like the way the dark stain has been ‘finished’ and I wish to see the kitchen when all appliances are in place. BUT, I agree with you…I love lighter colors: they just seem cleaner and ‘newer’…To each his/her own!!!

  • January 9, 2012, 10:46 am

    I have long been fascinated by this idea and even wrote a post about converting sheds into tiny houses back in February of 2011. You can find that post here: http://www.tinyrevolution.us/2011/02/28/turn-your-shed-into-a-tiny-house/

    I agree with Deek in that lighter colors, more windows, etc. help make the interior space visually more open and inviting (as well as larger). That said, the stain is a beautiful and rich color and I commend Jean on his awesome work!

    • January 9, 2012, 11:13 am

      Thanks, Drew, glad you pointed that out. I’ve always liked the idea of turning existing structures into tiny homes. Sheds/barns are perfect for that.

      I agree with you guys on the light colors but I also like the dark. Gives it that bar-like atmosphere where you can drink your whiskey with pride, lol.

      • January 9, 2012, 11:34 am

        Good point with the whiskey. Not sure my wife and daughter would care for a whiskey atmosphere though. HAHAHHAHA

        • January 16, 2012, 5:55 am


  • Steve of Lazyaa B&B Guest Ranch (Indiana) home of the "Woolywagons"
    January 9, 2012, 12:15 pm

    Very nice Well done I like the look. You have done a super job at this and it is obvious you are a craftsman

    • January 16, 2012, 5:55 am

      Thanks, Steve- glad you liked it!

  • eli curtis
    January 9, 2012, 7:44 pm

    I think the dark adds a bit of continuity with the exposed framing.it kind of dresses up the framing lumber a bit. I really love the use of galvy roofing metal for wall coverings it looks good,hangs quick and is definitely built to last! it Might even heat up quicker in there because the metal will not absorb heat like wood or dry wall.the draw back is that the building will cool off quicker.

    • January 16, 2012, 5:56 am

      Thanks, Eli. I like the use of galvanized metal too.

  • Faye
    January 9, 2012, 8:12 pm

    Hi Alex, Great Job!!!

  • sesameB
    January 13, 2012, 12:58 pm

    excellent. I already live in one (smiles), 6 six years and counting right here in rural arkansas

    • January 16, 2012, 5:56 am

      Hehe 🙂

      • Rexanna
        February 26, 2015, 3:00 pm

        How did you keep condensation from building up under the insulation on the roof on the inside? Having serious issues with this

  • Randall
    January 14, 2012, 11:23 am

    I like the steam punk feel of the dark wood and the metal.

    • January 16, 2012, 5:57 am

      Glad you like it Randall!

  • Carl in SC
    January 14, 2012, 7:42 pm

    Great idea. We have a 12′ x 20 ‘ corrugated metal storage building with round metal supports inside. I would like to put some type of siding around the outside of the building and put a standard roof over the thin corrugated metal which has already been punctured by falling limbs. No insulation in building.
    Any info on best way to accomplish the task of putting siding outside and putting a stronger roof on, and insulating the interior. Any help will be appreciated.

    • January 16, 2012, 5:58 am

      Thanks, Carl. Wish I could help you there.

      Does anyone have any ideas he can use to add siding and a roof over his corrugated metal storage building?

      • jean herbert
        January 16, 2012, 10:06 am

        not unless its just re-framed in i would guess,

        • January 17, 2012, 2:11 pm

          Thanks, Jean!

        • Eugene
          April 23, 2014, 11:44 am

          Well plywood sheet then shingles fro the roof, then for siding just side it like a house.

    • Kris
      January 20, 2013, 10:37 pm

      Carl, I didn’t add siding to my metal shed, too much $$$. Save that money for a roof and porches. I pressure-washed it and painted it forest green, trimmed out the doors and windows with white. I don’t think these metal sheds could bear the weight of a framed roof directly on it, so I invested in an open carport-type metal shed to cover the entire top, with a few feet to spare over the front end to make a covered porch/entry for bad weather.Kept the metal doors on it for storms and security, framed in French doors just inside.Framed in the inside, added insulation and beadboard,framed in a small overhead loft from wood, NOT using the metal frame. Built our bathroom as an add-on out the side door. Cozy and critter-proof, and the green blends in my woodsy location. Good luck, there’s a lot you can do with one of these sheds.

    • December 19, 2013, 1:28 pm

      You could put up a free standing roof that is attached to posts of either concrete, wood, or bamboo. Your roofing material could be…Latex concrete. It is very light, very easy to do, very strong, and very cheap. It can be any shape you want. Here is one example. http://velacreations.com/shelter/building-components/roof/172-latex-concrete-roof.html Here is more information. https://www.engineeringforchange.org/news/files/CATIS/Thin%20Shell%20Concrete%20Roof.pdf This technique can be added over other roofs, such as existing tin.

      • Rebecca
        August 13, 2014, 2:47 am

        Wonderful! Thank you for the excellent information.

  • Roxy
    January 15, 2012, 7:33 am

    I would like to see the floor plan for this

    • January 16, 2012, 5:59 am

      Wish I had it.. We’ll see if she can provide it for us.

      • jean herbert
        January 16, 2012, 10:12 am

        i went to lowes, bought some pine 1x6x8 ‘s. tongue and grooved them my self. put them down with screws….used an old laminate flooring hook to pull them in tight as we worked our way down each board. .took a heavy log chain and beat the crap out of it to give it that worn old look, stained them, put about ten coats of high gloss shine on them. and there we go….

        • January 17, 2012, 2:10 pm


        • Thomas
          May 26, 2014, 7:23 pm

          I think by floor plan, they meant the layout of the entire shed – like blue prints. We’re considering buying a 16×30 shed from Graceland Portable Buildings and doing this for at least 5-6 yrs then building a house and using this for a cook house for family get -togethers.

  • Danielle
    January 15, 2012, 8:30 pm

    Even as a kid, I thought a barn or shed would make a great home! Thanks for sharing

    • January 16, 2012, 6:00 am

      I always thought so too! Glad you enjoyed it Danielle.

  • jean herbert
    January 16, 2012, 10:15 am

    thanks everyone for the comments, i wish i had knwon about the tiny house when i did this, i would have put it on wheels. thats the only regret i have. but. my dad is living in it right now and he loves it.

    • January 17, 2012, 2:09 pm

      Hey Jean- thanks again so much for sharing with everyone. I think you’ve inspired at least a handful of folks!

    • RockyMissouri
      December 19, 2013, 8:55 pm

      Great job, Jean…!! Any chance of more photos…. I’d like to see it finished.

  • Lex
    January 17, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Thanks for this great post, love all the big, clear photos. The metal roof is a very unique touch probably a bit tricky to cut outlet boxes and such into it, but makes for a cool and sturdy ‘vibe’ to the house.

    I’d love to hear more about other good low cost paneling options as I prepare to finish off my new cabin addition -the price of most wood paneling is really high (T111 and beadboard, etc.)


    • January 17, 2012, 2:10 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Alex!

  • Corinne
    January 18, 2012, 5:22 am

    Nice,,,,,,,,to work hard for what you have and very economical to save money,,,first you buy a shed,,and then do all the work yourself,,,it looks amazing how you stained the walls,,floors,,, I love the bar too,, imagination you have,,,,thanks for sharing with this too…..

  • Corinne
    January 18, 2012, 5:24 am

    Very nice how you stained it yourself,, i love the bar how you fit that in the kitchen,,,,very resourceful….and it works when u can insulate this also….thanks…

    • January 18, 2012, 10:17 am

      Hey Corinne, glad you liked it. I think she did a great job too.

  • jean herbert
    January 18, 2012, 2:38 pm

    thanks for all the comments folks. enjoy getting feedback. as quick as this one sells i will be starting on one on wheels. here we go again!!

  • sesameB
    January 23, 2012, 5:11 pm

    Of course, I love this, just love it. Awesome. I have one here in rural south central sunny Arkansas. You rock!! This is the future.

  • Stephen
    August 27, 2012, 6:27 am

    I love this! Before FINALLY deciding it was time to downsize,simplifiy and start fresh recently,I bought one of those rent-t-own sheds,12×24,though mine too (like someone else who posted)is made of the same material as these new steel roofs. Come Spring,I intend to move it to some property I own elsewhere and turn it into a tiny house where my kids acan stay when I have them too,maybe a mini-homestead. When I get it where I want it,I’ll make a post on it (I’m new t here,BTW) 🙂

    • August 27, 2012, 1:41 pm

      Hi Stephen, that’s awesome! Can’t wait to hear about it when you start the conversion. 12×24 is pretty good size to work with. Welcome to the community by the way!! 🙂

  • Stephen
    August 27, 2012, 6:06 pm

    Thanks for the welcome! My journey with it won’t begin until tax season next year,being on a fixed income (I call it “early retirement”,but I’m disabled with 11 year old spinal injuries as of 4 years ago) will make things interesting. The property I own there,we lived on it before a housefire last year-it was a “total loss”,though 3 walls still stand,I will move there and spend a year tearing all of that down,hauling it aay,salvaging anything I can use,selling what I cannot (if good),living in that shed during,looking to build a more perminent “small home” (slightly bigger than ‘tiny house’) after that.


  • Sharon
    September 15, 2012, 12:44 pm

    Stephen, instead of building two houses – a tiny one and then a larger one later – consider building one house, but in stages. Design it so after you finish the first tiny part, you can add on another section.

  • Stephen
    September 16, 2012, 5:47 pm

    Sharon,I’ve been thinking the same idea (and thank you for suggesting it). The shed I’m converting is a steel building-shed 12×24 feet (288 sq ft),so I could easily enough buy another (LOL,I don’t mean to im;ly there’s bunches of disposible income,but rather that this one will be paid off and I could swing the same payment again 😉 ),and could certainly “hook them together” in some form or fashion-though they may be too wide for the space I have until after the tearing down of the old…

    What I’m thinking as I’m researching,and have crawled under the old burned house to look,is possibly tearing it down to the floor,then section off and tear out all of it that was damaged,building a nice large deck over that portion (being a “mobile home”,a doublewide,it has that trailer frame underneath I’m not equipped to cut into haulable pieces myself,and cost to pay someone is prohibitive from what I’ve discovered),and rebuild using existing flooring/framework/foundation…just smaller 😉

    • JEAN
      September 17, 2012, 12:34 pm


  • JEAN
    September 17, 2012, 12:36 pm

    i have since added homemade flower boxes to all my windows. and painted all the trim burgundy. looks great. thinking about a porch next.

  • Stephen
    September 17, 2012, 8:34 pm

    Jean,I think you misunderstood,1) it isn’t a trailer,it’s a doublewide (which is technically a trailer,but has certain and specific differences),and 2) it’s a total loss from a fire as far as someone buying it,it cannot be moved (besides the fact that it could never be moved out due to sheer size,as it’s now surrounded by other houses that weren’t there when it was brought in back inthe 80’s)…it must be torn down,whether it was sold or scrapped.

    • JEAN
      September 17, 2012, 8:53 pm

      ahhhhhh got it.

  • January 4, 2013, 12:04 am

    I own a 12×30 portable cabin that’s already insulated and wired. The interior right now is metal, but I want to refinish it in something else over time. I should start working on it this spring. Anchoring it to a permanent foundation is my main concern right now. Any ideas?

  • Roxanne Schaffer
    February 21, 2013, 10:33 pm

    How much did it cost to build the bathroom in the shed.
    I’m probably gonna do the same thing for my barn lol.
    Love the idea!!

  • Judy
    June 13, 2013, 10:58 pm

    Got excited when I read the headline because I thought it was a REAL (as in formerly housed horses) barn.I have a stable with a large hay room and 2 stalls that are 10 by 10 ft. I’m thinking kitchenette in one and bathroom in the other and hay room could be a living room with a murphy bed for sleeping. Would love to hear any other ideas for it.

    • jean
      June 14, 2013, 11:18 pm

      all i can say is craigslist, craigslist, craigslist for as many materials as you can possibly get.

      • jean herbert
        August 2, 2013, 4:02 pm

        i have since added a porch to my 12×24 lofted barn/cabin. its turned out very nice, i am adding an xtra room for sleeping next month, wish i knew how to put updated pic on here for all to see. any ideas???

        • Alex
          August 3, 2013, 10:49 am

          Hi Jean just send me an email with those pics and I’ll add them for you. If you can just include a link to this post in the email so I know exactly where to add it without having to search around. Thanks! My email is tinyhousetalk at gmail dot com.

        • jean herbert
          September 13, 2013, 10:24 pm


  • Abby
    October 18, 2013, 12:55 am

    Love, love LOVE this…I just recently went yesterday to pick out my barn/lil house…didn’t order it yet because I wanted to decide where to put extra windows and such..the one I liked was the dual loafted barn type with the double doors on the front..the lofts were on each end, with vents up there wonder I g of I should have 2 windows one in each loaft for summer breezes since k will not have power in NW Georgia. Any ideas on circulating cool air with no power? Thanks, Abby

    • justin
      November 17, 2013, 5:57 pm

      I’m considering turning my shed into a tiny house like you did. same dimensions but how high is it to the peak of roof from floor. Id love to do a loft as well. what was the final cost after everthing except appliances toilet sinks and cabinets?

  • Jacqueline rogelio
    February 2, 2014, 11:31 pm

    Awesome!!! can u give me an idea of the cost. I have a shed with two lofts that we want to convert. The question is whether we are going to add plumbing and electric. thank you

  • Brandon C
    May 15, 2014, 1:27 pm

    I love th look of your building, I’m doing this myself to have a place of my own when I come back from working abroad,instead of paying rent,dad’s idea, its a 12X36 lofted barn shed, but I’m running into an insulation issue with how to insulate the roof,with it not having an attic,so there wouldn’t be any ventilation any ideas is appreciated,only thought I have is that sprayed foam insulation,but no contractors are near me.

    • Dennis Reynolds
      August 13, 2014, 8:08 am

      They sell these soffit pieces at Lowe’s that you put down into the Edge of the rafters so you can blow insulation in a normal house. (Pink or blue lightweight Styrofoam pieces) anyway, run then from the bottom of the rafters to the top of the roof. Leave a little space at the top. When you finish the ceiling, don’t make it a peak, flatten off the last 8-10 inches. Put a small ridge vent on each end and put those round 2″ soffit vents on the finished off soffit down the sides of the shed.

      • Janet Chepulis
        August 13, 2017, 5:47 pm

        I ran into the same problem. Even with no grid, I was getting moisture on the vapor barrier. I was told that the insulation should never touch the ceiling or there could be rotting in time. Checked into mineral wool. Waiting back for an answer. It fits tight into the openings, and of course all I have are 2 x 4’s . With this it is rigid in 10 ft lengths and repels moisture. Better than fiberglass insulation that has no effect if it gets wet at all. I see Lowe’s has it, so I am still checking it out. I still have the vents at the top, but also thinking about putting maybe hexagon windows there too with screens for air circulation. Wondering Dennis Reynolds if maybe you have already checked this out?

  • Ruth Vallejos
    August 12, 2014, 6:32 pm

    I think a shed structure is a great way to start, but here are a few differences between shed buildings and buildings for human occupancy, typically:
    1) Sheds can be close to a property line. Houses have to be set back to allow for proper light, air, and in consideration of the properties next door.
    2) Sheds don’t need to pass energy regulations. Houses do!
    3) Sheds are light weight and can be supported by a few cinder post blocks. Houses, due to heavier construction, need a serious foundation either poured, or framed and off the ground to avoid rot.
    4) Sheds don’t need to provide emergency exits for bedrooms. Houses do! Watch out for your window sizes and locations.
    And on, and on!

    I’m not saying this idea doesn’t have legs, but you need to be careful along the way to not invest and then find it doesn’t work for you or those that issue permits!

  • Brian
    August 12, 2014, 8:10 pm

    Hi Jean what a great home you are putting together. Simple barns are common here in Australia and are often converted into houses. These are (new) barn kits I am talking about. Many people put a caravan inside the barn while the barn is being completed so they have accommodation during the work. Love what you are doing. Cheers from Aus

  • Marsha Cowan
    August 12, 2014, 11:36 pm

    I never get tired of seeing this amazing transformation. So beautiful! Thanks for sharing with us

  • Denise
    August 13, 2014, 7:24 am

    They did an excellent job with this. Decor wise, it is like a cave – too dark but that type of thing is cosmetic and can easily be done different if one was doing it for themselves. I am curious though, how did they plumb it, seeing it is on cinderblocks with no crawl?

    This is an issue I am running into with my cabin and joint shed addition. I am building my cabin on cinderblocks also and have built it high enough and with two hatches in the floor for the plumber to get into and access so he can plumb for a toilet, sink and kitchenette. I am just wondering how the people above did their shed plumbing wise.

  • Reese Galbraith
    February 28, 2015, 11:26 am

    Would anyone ever consider donating their tiny house OR building a tiny house for someone in need? My Father was recently diagnosed with liver cancer and was given a time frame of 10 months to live. He lives 3 1/2 hours away from me and I desperately want to be with him as much as I can. I usually make the trip by myself because he has a full house with my brothers and sisters therefore I usually have to camp out on the couch. I, myself, have a husband and children so if I were to bring them I would have to stay at a hotel. Between gas & hotels, it’s starting to become a financial burden. I LOVE TINY HOUSES and could easily fit one on my Dad’s property. I am a proud person (like my father) and am not the type to ask for help however, if asking for help would mean being able to spend a lot more time with my Dad, then I am going to ask~
    Thank you to anyone that read this and I am sorry if this was inappropriate to post this request.

  • Carl W
    February 28, 2015, 7:49 pm

    I’m glad to finally see something about converting a shed into a tiny home. I’ve asked before about ideas to convert 12×20 corrugated metal building and got no response. My metal building has a lower roof too low for a loft bed, but could put a pull down, Murphy type bed on an end wall. Glad to see this idea even though it is slightly larger than the 240 sq. ft. of space I have to work with. Big problem is deciding how to attach wood panels to outside walls and do a roof-over. Ideas?

  • Martha Marfino
    June 4, 2015, 3:14 am

    Do u have to have a builder permit for a mini house made out of a storage buiding on your land.

    • Doris
      June 5, 2015, 3:26 pm

      Totally depends on where you live. If you call your local building or zoning department, they will most likely tell you that you MUST have a permit to put a storage shed on your land, depending on the size. Zoning departments used to be lenient, but now they want permit fees for dog houses. $$$
      As for converting it into living quarters, there’s a reason many people go stealth. Once you put a bathroom and/or kitchen in a large shed, you have a home, and the code games begin. Your shed home is subject to regulations governing housing in your area. Read posts on here regarding horror stories before consulting your local code department.
      I’ve known people who have lived in the nice little barn sheds for years, but they sure didn’t advertise it.

  • william
    June 4, 2015, 9:35 pm

    is your tiny house still for sale
    i remember seeing it advertised

  • Brenda
    June 13, 2015, 3:33 pm

    I’d like to know how much cost to make these????

    • Doris
      June 22, 2015, 11:02 pm

      You can use salvage or spend up into the $100K area. Depends on where you live and how much you want to spend , just like a “real house.”

  • tammy
    June 21, 2015, 2:19 pm

    Where do you find instructions on making a tiny house?

    • Doris
      June 22, 2015, 10:58 pm

      You Tube has a ton of videos on Tiny Houses.

  • September 11, 2015, 11:08 am

    Very well done. Some possible issues with using a shed for a home to consider though: https://historicshed.com/2013/02/can-i-turn-a-shed-into-a-tiny-house/

    • Alex
      September 11, 2015, 11:36 am

      Thanks Jo-Anne!

  • Timothy
    September 11, 2015, 12:04 pm

    Really nice. And like everyone else said the stain is pretty dark, but maybe a chair rail or wainscot around the area and just paint a lighter color up towards the ceiling and you’d notice the difference immediately. Fantastic job. <3

  • Mike
    October 4, 2016, 1:33 am

    Two questions what did you use for insulation and where in the cabin did you bring in the water?

  • Christina
    May 6, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Wondering how much did all this cost? Found a barn around the same size for $6000. Wanting to know how much it would cost to add a bathroom so guests could stay in it

    • Natalie C. McKee
      May 8, 2017, 5:51 am

      It really depends on the area, the supplies you use and the permits you’ll need to add on. I recommend getting a consultation with one of these folks and seeing if they could help you come up with a design to then work out the price for: https://tinyhousetalk.com/tiny-house-consultations/

  • Jp
    October 30, 2020, 6:07 am

    Question. What did u use to heat and cool with??? What type system??

    • Natalie C. McKee
      October 30, 2020, 2:23 pm

      A mini-split system is a great idea for spaces like this. Alternatively, a space heater and a window AC could work.

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