How to turn a Garden Shed into an Office

When my wife became a teacher we quickly realised that our three bedroom house wasn’t big enough for us, our kids and the many boxes of marking that a teacher has to bring home on a daily basis. We also realised that my wife needed somewhere quiet, warm and comfortable to work, where she could lock herself away from the bustle of the family and store all of her equipment. We can’t afford to build an extension at the moment and moving home isn’t an option, so we looked for alternatives and decided to Turn a Garden Shed into an Office.

After watching a program called ‘Shed of the Year’ on television, converting a shed into an office quickly appealed as a cost effective idea for a DIY enthusiast like me, and as as you’ll soon discover, it was a great success.

 

Things to consider before you turn a garden shed into an office

Before you turn a Garden Shed into an Office, there are a number of issues you need to consider. These are:

  • The size of the shed (if you’re buying new)
  • Damp proofing: your shed need to be 100% watertight from both rain and rising damp
  • Electricity: are you going to have mains power in the shed?
  • Insulation: important during cold winter days
  • Location: sheds can get very warm in the summer
  • Ventilation: you’ll need fresh air
  • Light: natural and artificial
A 6ft x 8ft shed offer just the right size for a reasonable work area and to get a nice chair in
A 6ft x 8ft shed offer just the right size for a reasonable work area and to get a nice chair in

Choosing the right size of shed

This is going to depend on your personal requirements, but in my case a 6ft x 8ft shed provided plenty of space to two large sections of worktop (to use as a desk), a bookshelf and enough room to comfortably move an office chair around. If you have the space to go bigger that may be helpful particularly if you are an artist.

I don’t recommend that you buy anything smaller than 6ft x 8ft.

 

Make it watertight

Your shed will need to be 100% watertight so it’s important your deal with this step before anything else. In my case, I did the following:

  • before I fitted the roof panels, I added a sheet of damp proof sheeting (DMF) which was give to me by a friend from a home building project. In the event of a leak, the sheet will add extra protection and it also provides another level of protection from frost
  • I also added a sheet of the DMF to the entire floor before fitting the carpet to prevent rising damp and help to keep the cold out
    once the roof was fitted, I added a silicone sealant to each of the screw holes
  • I also added some strips of very strong and extra-sticky bitumen tape to the edges of the panels to prevent water ingress over time; probably not required but I had some left over so used it to add extra protection over time
  • you might want to consider using a silicone sealant on any gaps where the wood frame meets – this will prevent water ingress and the silicone will allow slight movement as the timber moves slighting during seasons

    Bitumen strips over the joints of the roofing will help the roof remain watertight for many years to come. You can even do this with a felt roof.
    Bitumen strips over the joints of the roofing will help the roof remain watertight for many years to come. You can even do this with a felt roof.

Will you need electricity in the office shed?

Are you planning on having lighting, heating and perhaps a laptop in your shed? In that case you’ll need to consider electricity.

This is a difficult topic as regulations vary considerably from area to area (and country to country). In my case I had to employ the services of an electrician to install an armoured cable from my house, underground and too the shed.

We did consider solar, but it was very expensive so we had to go for mains electricity. It’s something we may revisit in the future. I’ve since built a solar charger which you might want to check out.

 

What about heating in the shed?

This is going to vary depending on where you live. In my case our summers get up to around 33’c maximum, and down to about -5’c in the winter.

I did a lot of research on different ways to insulate the shed. I couldn’t use standard insulation like Celotex or wool as the cavity wasn’t wide enough on the frame. I could have added battens to the walls but this would only added to the cost and reduced the space inside.

I eventually made my own insulation after seeing some advice online. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Reflective: I purchased an catering sized roll of aluminium foil (yes, the stuff you use for cooking). Using a staple gun I stapled a layer over every surface. It reflects heat.
  2. Thermal: I purchased a large roll of bubble wrap with large bubbles and stapled it over every surface – it traps warm air.
  3. Sound: I added a layer of 5mm carpet underlay (new free from Freecycle) over every surface. It added thermal insulation and also helps for sound insulation.
  4. Strength: I boarded the shed with 4mm ply all over the interior to increase the tensile strength of the building

In the winter it works very well – put the heater on to take off the chill and the heat stays in for quite some time. After all, it’s not a huge space to heat.

I also picked up some carpet – for free – which was just the right size. It was brand new and added even more comfort to the existing damp sheet and underlay I’d previously installed.

As an alternative, you might also like to add some of the following to the ‘cavity’ created between the outside of the shed and your ply lining:

  • sheets of polystyrene
  • expanding foam
  • polystyrene balls (if you can get hold of them)

What ever you do, when you turn a Garden Shed into an Office you’re going to need to insulate it if you leave in an area where it can get cold. Ignore this step at your peril!

Wifi and internet

Given the shed is at the end of the garden, wifi signal was pretty much non-existent and when you could pick it up it was weak and patchy. I came accross the TP Link wireless booster. It basically turns your household wiring into a kind of local network for internet traffic and because the electricity for the shed came from my home I was able to extend the broadband internet to a really decent level in the shed. Highly recommended.

 

Lighting the office-shed

I felt it was important to get as much natural light into the shed as possible. Natural light is much better than artificial for people, and it also helps to reduced electricity bills by reducing the need for powered lighting.

The window that came with the shed was completely rubbish. It wasn’t a window as much as two 2mm think flimsy bits of plastic with cracked and marked. They weren’t waterproof and they offered no insulation. So I decided to make my own and it was very easy.

I purchased a sheet of polycarbonate sheeting around 1m by 70cm. This stuff is great because it’s lightweight, UV resistant and thermally insulating. I affixed a simple timber frame, a couple of hinges and a couple of window stays and the job was done.

I also purchased some LED lighting strips from Amazon and added them behind the polycarbonate I was given by a friend after they pulled down their extension. When they’re turned on at night they make the entire roof glow and look very warming.

A large polycarbonate window provides increased light, privacy and thermal insulation
A large polycarbonate window provides increased light, privacy and thermal insulation

 

Some other tips:

Shed doors have a tendency to bow and warp over time, especially in the winter. I recommend you add some cleat hooks to the top and the bottom of the door, as shown in the picture. Make sure you use them when you lock up; you’ll prevent the bow and you’ll thank me later.

If you’re constructing the shed from scratch (as I did) I recommend that you put plenty of extra screws into the frame to pull it all together. Don’t forget to screw the walls into the floor as well.

I managed to do almost the entire shed on my own, but if you can get the help of a friend then do. It’ll get the work done quicker and make it easier to move things around.

On a really tight budget? Check out local free adverts and websites as people will advertise sheds for free as long as you dismantle it for them. As long as the shed is solid it’ll be a great basis for your project.

Kitchen worktop makes and ideal desk with just a couple of supporting legs and a mount to the walls (set it at 30 inches from the ground which is generally the accepted height of a desk)

So our shed still isn’t quite finished. I’ve still got some cosmetic areas to tidy up, such as a window frame, but the shed is in use daily and I’m assured it’s very comfortable!

Checklist

I’ve put together a list of items you’ll need to arrange in advance before you turn a Garden Shed into an Office, which should give you a fair idea of what you’ll need:

  • A shed (obviously!), no smaller than 8x6ft
  • Damp proof sheeting (DMF)
  • Polycarbonate for the window
  • Some timber, a few lengths of 3/4″ x 1″ for the window frame
  • A couple of hinges
  • A couple of window stays
  • Aluminium foil
  • Bubble wrap
  • Carpet underlay
  • Carpet/lino for the floor
  • Old (or new) worktops for the desk
  • A box of 40mm wood screws
  • Ply to line the walls and make it look more aesthetically pleasing

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog on how to Turn a Garden Shed into an Office and I hope you get some ideas to make your shed a success. If you have anything to add, please comment below and I’ll be sure to reply.

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