Building the shed house – shouse.

This is the story of how we built our shed house at Mt Perry, what we learned along the way and some tips for those considering something similar.

(This first section was previously published in our travel blog – but is included her to give an overview of what and why)

Firstly – what and why?

 

We purchased the block of land at Mt Perry about three years ago. We liked it because it was quiet, had lots of bird life and it had water (the price was also a major factor – it was a large block that was (just) within our budget).

The availability of water from a well meant that we could camp on the land almost indefinitely. Well that is what we thought … after camping for a few weeks we received a visit from the local council health inspector. He told us quite clearly that unless we had a “class 1 dwelling” on the property we could not stay. A class 1 dwelling is one that has been approved for living and has had an occupancy certificate issued for it (ie – NOT a shed). At this point we became a bit disheartened with Mt Perry and left. It was however a very important thing to know – while there are (at least) 10 people that we know living in sheds, caravans or motorhomes nearby, there is always the possibility that you could be required to vacate. The only real solution is to build something that is approved.

One other important thing to keep in mind is that it is difficult if not impossible to gain approval to convert an existing shed into a dwelling (due to the inability to inspect the foundations after the concrete is poured and the walls after the lining is on). Clearly if ever we were to build on the property it would have to be by the book.

In 2011 we decided to explore the options for erecting an approved, liveable building on the property. We looked at a number of options including a transportable, relocated houses and kitset houses. Because we really have no desire to move out of the bus and stop travelling, the actual dwelling aspect was secondary. What we really wanted was a big shed that we could take the bus into to undertake maintenance – but we also needed an approvable dwelling section . The shouse idea was born.

 

The Earthworks Begin

The concept was to purchase a large steel kitset steel shed – then convert one third of that into the “approved dwelling”.

We would become Owner Builders and undertake the vast majority of the work ourselves. We decided on an American barn style with a tall centre section (to allow the bus entry) and set about talking with the various governing bodies. The most helpful of all was the local building inspector who had no issues with what we were proposing and was very happy to answer our never ending list of questions about rules, regulations and requirements.

TIP #1

Perhaps the most important thing we got right in the entire project was selecting the right certifier (in our case the local building inspector). We have heard a huge number of stories about building inspectors who are so tied up in their own little power trip and intent on making owner-builders lives hell, it becomes an almost impossible task to create something that they will approve. I am not sure about other states, but in Queensland you have the option to employ an independent certifier (to fill the role of the local council building inspector). I strongly recommend that you meet with every single option you have in this area. Show them the plans and gauge their attitude.  Selecting the wrong certifier will make your task many many times more difficult and potentially much more expensive.

TIP #2

Buy a current copy of the BCA (building code of Australia). Be very sure it is the most recent copy as standards and requirements change often. Read it cover to cover and highlight anything that you feel will be important. If you plan to be an owner builder, it is very important that you understand the standards that the building will have to meet to be certified. It also puts you in a good position when talking with the building certifier if you understand what is actually required. This is a fairly expensive book that is also available electronically (as a PDF). If you have an ebook reader, I recommend the PDF version as it is very easy to search.  (make sure your ebook reader is compatible with the format) .

Other documents that are very useful are the local shire planning scheme. This is a document that details any additional local requirements and variations from the BCA. In our case the local council had extra rules about the extent of slopes close to the building and the minimum height above ground for the slab. Talk with all potential certifiers about any local variations.

 

The day of the concrete

I used the free Google program “sketchup “ to design a few concepts and try things out. We then decided on the basic shed type and the required size.  We then had to select a location for the building. Despite being on nearly 80 acres of land, we decided that the best place was quite close to the neighbouring boundary. Our building inspector came out to look at the location and to discuss “wind class” for the building. He also confirmed that we would need to apply for a relaxation to the boundary rules to be able to build the shouse where we planned. This turned out to be a very simple process and basically just required us to provide detailed drawings and pay a chunk of money (about $500).

The wind rating thing was much much more of a drama. This was our major issue in talking to the 6 shed kit manufactures that we had selected. The biggest problem is that most of the companies we spoke to are using out dated  ratings and inconsistent methods for assessing the wind ratings of their buildings. Also be aware that the wind rating on a shed is different from the wind rating on a house (due to a factor called the “importance rating” of the building). Once again our building inspector was very helpful. He explained what the wind rating on our site would be (and why) and put this into plain English that we could understand AND talk to shed suppliers about.

The shed manufacturer that we chose was Widespan – much of this decision was based on their ability to meet the wind rating requirements of our site. (the site is at the top of a hill in a non-cyclonic area – but because of the location and lack of shelter from other structures etc, we needed a structure that has a very high wind rating).

While I am talking about Widespan – let me list the good and bad points that we experienced in dealing with this company…

The good –

  • The sales team is very knowledgeable and extremely responsive. Nothing is too much trouble and questions are answered almost instantly.
  • The quality of the design and engineering is great (be aware that I have nothing to compare this with – but we had no issues).
  • The materials supplied were fine – again no issues.
  • Any missing or incorrect material issues were resolved quickly and efficiently.

The Bad –

  • The after sales support was poor and the staff far less than helpful. This left us with the feeling of “we now have ya money – too bad”. Once the deposit is paid you stop dealing with the helpful pre-sales staff and get to deal with the real people.
  • The quality of the construction plans and instructions was poor. For a first time builder it was very difficult to understand many parts of the process and some parts of the process were completely undocumented. I have seen the documentation and instructions from other shed suppliers and these seemed to be far more comprehensive.
  • There is no ability to phone a help line and talk to someone about an issue.

 

The frame is almost complete

With the shed now ordered we had two months to get the pad built (with a bulldozer) and get the concrete foundations and slab laid. Once the deposit on the shed is paid, Widespan supply all of the drawings and the slab design. Of course the slab and foundation design is for a shed and NOT a dwelling. We needed to take the existing drawings to an engineer and have him draw slab and foundations designs suitable for a house. The same engineer had a drafts person on staff who took my drawings of the internals of the dwelling section and turned these into plans that could be submitted to council.  This all cost around the $1200 mark.

We spoke to a number of local builders who all advised us to get a professional concreter to lay the slab. While we sat and drank coke and watched these professionals at work, we both commented on how wise this advice was.

TIP #3

Unless you have a lot of experience with laying concrete, do not even think about doing this part yourself. I am sure if we had attempted to lay our own concrete we would have ended up with a big pile of expensive concrete sitting on expensive reinforcing waiting for an expensive machine to come and take it all away. We dug all of the foundations (by hand), compacted and laid the sand. We purchased, bent fitted and wired the reinforcing and we prepared the area for the concreter to fit the boxing. We then watched as the three guys poured litres of sweat into the rapidly hardening concrete and battled to get it right before it was too late. This was perhaps the best $1500 we spent in the whole project.

I had read a lot about looking after new concrete and spent the next few days watering it and trying to stop it from drying out too fast and cracking – it worked (mostly) and we are very pleased with the resulting concrete slab.

We had some friends come and help us with the construction and erection of the shed and the actual shell was really fairly straight forward. It took us about 3 weeks (4 people, 6 hrs per day, 6 days per week) to get the shed ready to clad. The instructions called for a crane to lift the large portal section into place – we used the car and a hand winch. We did look at getting a cherry picker or scissor lift, but settled on simple trestles and planks – these worked just fine.

TIP #4

Buy all the good tools and equipment early in the project. We purchased new batteries for our dewalt drill, a steels cutoff saw, extra angel grinders, an electric rattle gun, another battery drill and a set of electric sheers. A laser level is essential (rent one or buy on eBay)and you will need a load of good quality hand tools. Tool belts and lots of rope are also important.

Inside after the cladding is all on and we are building the partitions for the house side

Our friends had to go back to NZ just as we were ready to start the cladding so both the roof and cladding were carried out by just the two of us. Once we figured out how to do this and how best to cut the cladding, it went fairly quickly and took us about 8 days to enclose the entire building. Fitting the windows and doors was the biggest challenge.

We had decided to go way beyond what had been required in the thermal insulation department. We actually ended up insulating the dwelling section to more than three times the required R rating. We figured that this is one area that is very difficult to retro fix. We were also lucky to come across some very cheap fibreglass insulation (left over from some failed government scheme??). The other advantage of putting all this into the wall cavities is that it almost completely eliminates any sounds from outside and the normal drum effect of the shed is gone.

Once the shed was closed in the rest of the construction was fairly straight forward. We had chosen to use steel frames (and I am glad we did) – these are light and easy to work with. I was fortunate to find a plumber who allowed me to do all of the plumbing work and even lent me the crimping tools to do it. He then checked all of the work before the plumbing inspector arrived.

I decided to wire the shouse for both 240v and low voltage (24v). This gives us the option of using low voltage solar lighting and also normal 240v appliances. The wiring is not complex and took us only a day to complete. Like many other items, the electrical fittings were purchased on eBay at a fraction of the cost of buying them elsewhere. For now the solar setup is tiny, designed only to support the security and surveillance system when we are not there. The bus has over a kilowatt of solar on the roof and this can be plugged into the shed when we are there. The design does allow us to add additional solar to the roof of the shouse as and when required.

Interestingly, because there is no connection to the grid, there is no requirement for electrical inspection or certification. I confess that I do not quite understand this, but elected not to ask.

One aspect that we underestimated the work in was the stopping, this is a really big job. We were very lucky to have some friend drop in to help – it turns out that he has lots of experience with plastering and stopping and was and absolute godsend

TIP #5 – make useful friends J

The final inspection was a breeze and the certificate of occupancy arrived in the mail just two days later. It was a huge relief and we shouted ourselves out for a meal to celebrate.

 

So what did we learn along the way?

  • Do the research. Understand the requirements and the rules BEFORE you design or build.
  • If the goal is to get a certified dwelling up as cheaply as possible, look at what you DON’T need. For example a dwelling with one (very large) bedroom is cheaper and requires less infrastructure (eg septic) than a two bedroom dwelling – and you can erect an internal partition at any time.
  • Drawing the entire building in Sketchup was a massive help – it was like building it before we built it. It helped us avoid costly mistakes and made it easy to estimate quantities for things like insulation and wall sheeting etc.
  • As soon as the shed is delivered go through the bill of materials and count every single sheet, nut bolt and screw. Widespan give you just three days to report any missing or damaged components (we had a few including the roller door tracks).
  • You can actually do about 95% of the work yourself. Even things like wet area waterproofing can be undertaken if you have prior approval from the certifier (this alone saved us over $3000).
  • Select a certifier that is happy to answer questions and emails. It is much easier to ask if this is ok than to have to change it later.
  • Do not underestimate the cost of transport. We are some distance from the nearest large centre and our transport and delivery costs were significant.

All finished!

So, what did it cost?

This is actually difficult to say in real terms. We know exactly what the project costs us – but we did a lot of bartering to get it to this cost. We built websites for some of the designers and suppliers. We did some electrical designs for others, some of the components were purchased second hand and we managed to get some of the materials well below normal retail.

The steel shed kitset cost $25,000 delivered (with no windows or glass doors). The entire project including all of the earthworks, tools, materials and additional labour cost us just under $70,000. In reflection I don’t really feel that it could be done much cheaper than this. This was about $5000 less than we budgeted and has left us with a basic but fairly comfortable two bedroom dwelling and a large and very useful shed on a very nice 80 acre property.  Right now we have no desire to live there (we are still enjoying travelling), but when the time comes  for us to spend less time on the road, it will be a very useful place to have and be able to relax on.

 

Are you considering building a shouse? Have you built one? We would love to hear from you. Please feel free to add your comments and ask questions in the box below.

—————————
Update 1/10/2015 – We have finished the inside of the Shouse and built a large deck area. Photos and info can be viewed at http://hobohome.com/motorhome_travels/120-Oct-15/120Oct2015.php

I plan to write a further article on the technical aspects of the Shouse including the automation and remote management systems as well as the security and surveillance systems. Links will be placed here when that article has been published.

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43 Responses to “Building the shed house – shouse.”

  1. Peter G Says:

    Congratulations are in order!

    Your technical offerings and general commentary of road life over the past few years have been helpful and indeed inspiring. When upgrading from my VW Trakkadu pop top camper I followed your recommendation in buying a bus/motorhome that was in working condition and then began making modifications and repairs as necessary. I made a few long trips and started working on her bit by bit but the perfectionist in me has seen the lower frame stripped in order to get the body and framework right in one swoop. Business continues to tie me down for several months longer so it is a good opportunity to get things right for the hopefully many years ahead.

    Your building project is also of interest as I have often thought about having a cheap block or maybe even a few scattered here and there to camp on and maybe improve over time. But it seems we are no longer ‘permitted’ the peaceful enjoyment of private property no matter how remote.

    Your excellent ‘shouse’ may well turn out to be a good investment but I strenuously object to the fact that local ‘authorities’ force you to build to their standards on your own land. That you must build at all in order to use your hard won private property is nothing short of criminal. On my last trip around Australia in 2008 I was horrified to see the extent of government meddling in the most remote places.

  2. nikolas tzathas Says:

    that’s a real encouraging story about the build. just question would you no how hard it would be to covert and existing shed into a house? legally

  3. Hobo Says:

    Hi,
    Sadly it is my understanding that it is almost impossible to convert a class 10 (shed) into a legal dwelling. The reason for this is that there are pre-pour inspections that verify the depth and steel content of the footings and slab. As this cant be done after the building exists it would be very difficult to find an inspector wo will approve an existing floor/footing.

  4. Cameron Says:

    I’m doing a similar built at the moment, do you have any pictures of your inside fitout?

  5. Hobo Says:

    Photos at http://hobohome.com/motorhome_travels/103-Aug-12/103Aug2012.php
    Let me know if there is any info I can help with

  6. Eva Says:

    Reading to your story …help keep my dream a live…. great tips … to do more researches… so the septic is included on the price?
    Thank you for sharing… all the best in everything.

  7. Hobo Says:

    Hi and thanks for the comments. The $70k does include the cost of the septic system. Because it is a large rural property the requirements for septic did not include expensive treatment systems and pumps etc. Just a plain old septic tank and large underground dispersion trenches.

  8. Squire Says:

    G’Day Hobo.
    My wife and I are looking at building a large shed or kit home. We have 5 kids and have decided to sell our house and build on a small acreage we have. This would allow us to be mortgage free. We will clear approx. $100K from the sale of our house. Our concern is, looking at your project, we may not be able to afford it. We imagined a large American barn style with mezzanine level (for 2 beds upstairs) and then an open plan living/dining/ kitchen with another 4 bedrooms downstairs. We need a septic system as well. The beauty of our block is we are very close to town water/power/gas.

    My questions are…
    1) how much approx. does each additional bedroom add to the price? Obviously with framing, plastering, doors/windows etc.

    2) Did you build your kitchen yourself and if so, how much?

    3) The same in regards to your bathroom and laundry (wet areas).

    Thanks for your blog. It is very helpful.

  9. Hobo Says:

    Hi,
    Sorry I can’t help you with the additional costs for bedrooms. It was not something we considered.
    Yes we built the kitchen (used a second hand bench set – not a great idea). And yes we built both the bathroom and laundry – not really too difficult.
    If you are serious about this plan, feel free to give me a phone call and I can provide further info (we are often out of phone range so leave a message with your number)

    Gavin (Hobo)

  10. Chris Says:

    Hi, just came upon your shouse project. My husband and I are just about to apply to convert our shed which is almost identical to yours, into a house.We have spoken to the council and we will have to have the plans go through a council meeting as our shed is 1 metre off the boundary and class 1A buildings are supposed to be 5 metres. We want to live in our shed for about 6 years and then will build the house.
    The council did say that the slab is not to normal class 1A buildings however, they will accept a report from an engineer stating that the slab will take the weight of a mezzanine floor (its already there) and internal linings. The engineer was dumfounded that the council wanted this because the slab is designed for heavy machinery but it seems that if we can satisfy the council on this matter, that will satisfy them on the slab.
    They are however, a bit vague on what is required to line the shed. The inspector was mumbling about thermal breaks. We are going to insulate it but don’t really want to retrofit a thermal break. Can I ask what you did to line your shed walls?
    It seems that the only reason our council are considering our DA to convert, is that it is NOT a permanent conversion, our block is 3/4 acre, and zoned R% rural residential. I think if we wanted to do it permanently and/or it was on a normal residential block, we would have no chance. We also have a very good personal reasons for wanting to convert .
    Christine

  11. Hobo Says:

    Hi guys,
    Wow, I’m very impressed that you managed to get approval for a slab that already exists – we were told that this was never possible.
    We built the shell of the house inside the shed using steel framing. By isolation they mean that the internal frame must be thermally isolated from the external cladding. We had two options for this … use some expensive thermal isolation material (it needs to be quite thick) OR just use an air gap and NOT connect the internal frame to the portal at all (well kind of – it was braced at some points). I’d be happy to talk with you by phone if you think there is anything useful to be gained from our build. Our contact phone number is on our contacts page.
    Cheers

    Gavin

  12. Christine barrett Says:

    Hi Gavin, we do t have approval yet, im submitting the DA soon. We jyst had a preliminary chat with the council who said we needed a certifucate from an engineer to say the slab would take the weight of a domestic structure. We are in the process of getting this from the engineer who did the shed slab. I think they are sympathetic to our situation and they were very happy ghat we consulted them first. The only stumbling blick will be that it will have to go to a council meeting because the set vacks the shed was built with are way under what they should be fir a domestic structure also the fact that it isnt a permanent conversion is a big factor. Thanks for the offer of a chat , i will let you know how we go. I suspect it wont go smoothly!

  13. Christine barrett Says:

    Hi Gavin, an update on our shed conversion. The DA has been in 5 weeks now and we have just received a letter to request copies of the site plan and elevations (plus money) to advertise our DA for public comment and to inform our neighbours. Turns out our asessor is the head of the building department at the council (and also an Architect).
    The letter says our DA has been asessed so Im guessing that they wouldnt be advertising our DA if it isnt going to be passed. The unknown factor is what they will want us to do construction wise to pass the shed as a habitable dwelling.
    I will let you know the out come.
    Regards
    Christine

  14. Wobbly Bob Says:

    Hello to everyone.

    Thanks Hobo for putting up this blog. My search criteria was “shed dwelling” and this is where I wound up. Interesting reading.

    It would also be interesting to know how many folks out there have recently received letters from their respective councils about the “Sunset Clause” which have been forced upon them due to legislation recently introduced in NSW. This basically means that the Building Entitlement I thought would be forever ongoing for my property near Cowra has to be enacted by 2018, or I lose the entitlement.

    I bought 14 hectares in 2012 and put a shed on the block for recreational purposes, without ever really intending to build a dwelling – keeping the building entitlement up my sleeve. I now have to do something to keep the entitlement alive and so converting the shed appears to be my only option.

    I note that the slab is a big issue once built on. Thanks for your tips on this blog. Armed with the info here, I’ll try and proceed with a DA for my existing shed.

    Regards,

    Wobbly.

  15. JPicko Says:

    Hi Hobo,

    Great blog & tips! We are just going through the design stage now. Same ideas. We have 3.5acres in the tablelands NQ. Your blog was the most informative so far, thanks for taking the time to write it. We are hoping to do one also. One tip I will give readers is to shop around on she’d suppliers, if it is something slightly different to standard they will charge differently, find one that can easily do what you want, dont give up. We are doing an American barn with a mezzanine floor above, that is slightly wider and higher than normal. Hopefully we can stick to budget like you!

  16. Tezza Says:

    Hi Gavin
    We are near Biggenden and have a shed with 48v off grid solar set up. We had an electrician wire the shed for 240v and got him to put in several power points. Now we would like to expand on that by putting in a few more power points and some 240v lighting and would like to do it ourselves to save money but thought it would be illegal to do so. Just wondering where you heard that there was no requirement for electrical inspection or certification in an off grid situation as we would love to be able to research this further to be able to justify a DIY installation. Thanks very much for a wonderfully informative article.
    Regards
    Terri

  17. Hobo Says:

    Hi,
    Sorry it has taken a while for me to get back to you.
    Good luck with the plans – feel free to email or phone of I can be of any help.

    Cheers

    Gavin (Hobo)

  18. Terry Roberts Says:

    I just read your aricle on building the shed. Having been an owner builder I suggest you were very lucky (or empathetic) with your surveyor/inspector, but well done anyway. I note your property is 80 acres and looks very bare. Might I suggest that while you are travelling, you get a permaculture designer to plan and plant your property with perennials, swales, dams and food forests. If done properly, a food forest works via a series of growth climaxes, and after 3-5 years or so is truly abundant and beautiful. This could all happen while you travel, and when you ‘retire’ you will settle down into a paradise. I have provided a link below.

    cheers,
    Terry Roberts

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_gardening

  19. Hobo Says:

    Interesting – I have read a little about this. We planted a lot of fruit trees (about 60) before we built the shouse and these are now starting to provide fruit.
    Thanks for the info

  20. Deborah Says:

    Wobbly Bob— got the same letter ourselves and we have 50 acres with a american barn on it and thinking of converting that into a dwelling. Have to contact Cowra council to find out what is needed for another DA eventhough we had one for the Barn anyway. Just council wanting more money be alright if they would tar the road.

  21. Farni Says:

    hi, we are looking at building a shed in Mackay and to live in it. Where did you get the steel frame for inside your shed for rooms etc. did wide span supply you the whole package or just the kit? We would like to hear from you via email any information or photos you have about the process.

  22. Hobo Says:

    Hi guys,
    Widespan did not supply the steel for the internal walls – we simply ordered that from a local supplier. It is really easy to assemble – the trick is in getting the design right and ordering the right materials. Most suppliers will help out with the quantities and will cut all steel to the right lengths. We screwed and riveted our frames together. I’m happy to talk by phone or email about this – contact info is on our contacts page.

  23. Michelle spry Says:

    My husband and I loved your story!
    We would love to see more photos of the build and inside finish.
    We are doing the same as yourself on a 5 acre property in Sarina QLD.
    Kind regards,
    Michelle and Mick.

  24. Hobo Says:

    We are on just getting to the end of the inside – will post photos of the completed inside when it is done. Very happy to talk by phone or email if we can be of any help.

    Cheers

  25. Patrick Says:

    Great read thanks!!

  26. Cheryl Says:

    Great story…..wish our shouse was as easy as this……we became owner builders and purchased a Fair Dinkum Shed American Barn with a mezzanine level. Organised the builder thru the the Fair Dinkum Shed franchise. Have had the slab put down and it is habitable rated. All the way thru we have been on site until the shouse arrived…..hubby had been admitted to hospital as he has cancer…..well that’s where the problems started, because we weren’t on site the materials have been short ordered by the shed franchise and the builder built the building as a 10a shed not a 1a……so materials are missing……now the builder is claiming he never had a plan to build to…..strange considering he managed to get my windows in the right place as well as the uprights for the mezzanine level which was specifically engineered to have the stairs run up the back wall
    I love my shouse, downstairs is all open plan except for the bathroom. Upstairs is our bedroom…..great views over the Dungog township, if I could get up there
    The building is 12m wide and 10.5m deep
    We are taking it to Fair Trading but they keep telling us we were meant to be supervising….regardless of the fact that hubby was in hospital, having surgery to remove cancer from his lung and spend 8 days in ICU
    If we can’t get this sorted we are going to have to look at a way to try and get the extra girts in the walls that are missing as well as the DA plan amended to put the stairs in a different place because retrofitting that steel requires too much of the building to be pulled down and we can’t reuse the sheeting
    Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks
    Cheryl

  27. Hobo Says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    I’m sorry to hear that things did not go as planned for your shouse build. I can tell you that none of our project could be described as “easy” … it took a lot of hard work and many months of planning, checking and double checking. Widespan were very good at sorting out the few missing items from our kit – it took us a whole day to count everything and measure each item to have a full inventory of parts.
    Having the certifier on-board was absolutely the MOST important factor in our success. Our certifier (local council building inspector) was fantastic! He could not have been more helpful. I recommend that you have a site meeting with your certifier to discuss how best to proceed. If they are not willing to be helpful … find another one who is.

    Just a note – Widespan could not supply a shed that was able to be erected to class 1a standards. Through research and understanding how these classes are obtained, we were able to order a class 10 shed with a wind rating to allow for the increased “importance factor” of a class 1a dwelling. In practice, this meant ordering a cyclone rated building kit even though we are NOT in a cyclone area. We found it helped to ignore the “A,B,C,D” wind ratings (as these to not apply across different building types) and instead use the actual “wind speed ratings” – in our case the building is rated to 67m/s ultimate.

    I hope this helps.

    PS – why can you not just remove cladding, add steel and refit the cladding? I have removed external cladding from our shouse many times to add wiring.

  28. Jade Says:

    Hi,

    This is slightly a different matter, I am currently looking at a property that has a shed on it which has been turned into a house, it is beautifully designed and very modern inside. The downside is that it has not been council approved. Does anyone know roughly how much it would cost to get it approved by council assuming that nothing major is wrong with the way it is built? Or is it not possible to get it approved after it has already been built?

    thank you!

  29. Hobo Says:

    Hi Jade,
    The only one who can give you a definitive answer is the local building certifier (normally – but not always, the local council building inspector).
    When I spoke to our certifier about changing a class 10 building (a shed) into a class 1a dwelling, he said it was “almost impossible, after the build”. This, he explained was due to the inability to inspect the footings and the steel in the slab along with all the other now hidden items.
    However … when we built our awning this year, we had a different inspector. When we were chatting he mentioned that he was on his way to inspect a shed that was being turned into a house. So … two inspector – two different stories

  30. oskar Says:

    Im in the process of designing a shouse to be built in the flinders ranges in SA. The local council seem to be all over the place, they are on their 4th or 5th building inspector in 3-4 years, one of them was a lawyer from interstate with no previous building experience that i could tell and always used the answers ‘ you cant do that’ and ‘dont tell me that im wrong im a lawyer’….. he even approved a house to be built that used chicken wire as the reinforcing in the slab!!!

    Ive got the engineering specs for the shed which has been constructed as importance level 2, soil testing, septic design and slab design done by the engineers, now im in the process of learning revit so i can draw up all the plans myself, cheapest quotes i had were around the 37-3800 dollar range…..

    I can do all of the earth works myself, lay the plastic and reo for the slab myself, ive spoken with the plumber and electrician and they are happy for me to run the piping and the electrical cabling as long as i dont make any joints and they will come out and join everything up and certify it, avg cost of each is around $250. Its a full stand alone power system, solar and battery bank. sapower network wanted 45k+ to hoon up the power, 4 stobey poles and a high voltage transformer……

    internally its only 2 br 1 bath room with open plan rest of the house. so that means 3 internal walls, which i can do myself plus all the insulation and gypbrock installation.

    Ive budgeted 40k for the entire build and with the shed and solar and storage system coming in at 16k i think ill come in under budget, possibly even enough left over for a nice pergola that i can enclose and grow a little tropical garden in to create a cooler climate than summer will offer.

    Thanks for telling us about your journey in building your shouse, hope to hear more about improvements in the future

  31. oskar Says:

    Hobo,

    your PS when you replied to Cheryl, I think when you remove screws after they have been put in and then put them back in again makes a weak point in that part of the building, ie. it wont have the same strength because the screw hole will have been stretched and the screw wont be as tight in that spot. i guess you could put them 20mm next to where the old ones went but then that means you would need to fill the old holes and then it wouldnt look as pretty 🙂

  32. Victoria Says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for the great website. Inspirational reading!! We live on a 20 acre property in a standard type of rural dwelling and also have a few small outbuildings – including a 12metre x 10metre steel American Barn which we had professionally erected and passed by the shire inspector three years ago, mainly to be use for stables and machinery storage. However, since then we have completely changed our lifestyle requirements (due to my husband’s ill health) and we no longer use this huge shed at all (at the moment it has 600 bales of hay stored in it.) The floor is compacted roadbase, power and water tanks are connected and there are windows on each wall, as well as a roller door and personal access door. Our closest neighbour lives 500 metres away. We are thinking that if we could legally convert this barn into an open plan one bedroom dwelling then it would make ideal accommodation for the man we currently have come and help around the property one day a week. At present he lives in a friend’s caravan in a back yard but this is not a permanent arrangement. Is it possible to lay a suitable (i.e. dwelling rated) concrete slab in an already erected shed? And if so, what other problems or requirements would we expect to encounter? Any ideas or info would be gratefully received. Thanks so much, Victoria.

  33. Hobo Says:

    Hi,
    I’d be keen to hear from others on this subject … but here is my 10cents worth…
    The ability to turn a class 10 building (a shed) into a class 1 dwelling is very likely to depend on your local council and the certifier that you choose.
    I have been told that what you are proposing “is impossible” due to the inability to inspect the concrete footings and the steel contained within – having just said that, I have been in contact with people who have don exactly that. One certifier I know of required a hole to be drilled beside each footing to allow for the depth measurement – not fun, but do-able.
    I strongly recommend that you contact your local council and talk DIRECTLY to the person with responsibility for certifying new houses. Get them onboard and your life will be easy! When we built our ‘shouse’, we were very fortunate to have the worlds best council certifier to work with – he was strict but fair and very easy to talk with.
    If you decide to go down this route -I would be very interested to hear how you get on and what response you get from the council.

    BTW – don’t be fooled by the 200m rule! This rule states that you do not need a permit to build if the structure is 200m from every boundary. This exception does NOT apply to certified dwellings (places where people will live – which always require a permit).

  34. eila Says:

    Wow Hobo, this is amazing information! I estimate that I may have around70 – 80 k to build my home and now I feel as though I can do it, with a lot of imagination and some good research! (hence my finding your site!). Where are you located exactly? I think I will be building in the South-East QLD area. My friend told me yesterday Id be able to afford a room for 80k, which was disheartening but now I feel my own-outright dwelling will be possible. Not only that, I love that you are plugging your solar from you bus into the home.
    thanks again,

  35. Hobo Says:

    Hi there,

    Yes it is amazing what can be done with some innovation and hard work. The major factor is getting the building certifier on-side – without that, every step is up hill!

  36. Sam Says:

    Hi,
    Great info, love your shouse! I’ve read most responses and can’t see anything about finance. Are there any banks that will finance shouses?

  37. Hobo Says:

    I can’t see any reason that a bank would treat a shouse any differently from a normal house. If it is approved and certified – its just a house!

  38. Rob Says:

    Great infomation quick question regarding your concrete slab did it all have to be re enginerred or just the house section

  39. Sharnie Says:

    Hi, my husband and I are planning to be owner-builders and build a shouse and I found your article very helpful. One question, as you purchased a shed kit which is not designed to class 1a dwelling standards, did your draftsman have to alter any part of the shed to meet standards? I have been speaking to a few shed companies but they say that for sheds to meet standards they require different framing.

  40. Hobo Says:

    Hi,
    We built the 1a dwelling frame inside the shed frame. The house sort-of sits inside the shed. This was a requirement for both framing and also heat transfer. It was actually quite easy to do and as we used steel frame, not too expensive. The only issue was that the resulting large cavity between the internal lining and the shed cladding reduced the internal size of the rooms.

  41. Hobo Says:

    We initially only laid concrete in the house section, so this had to be engineered. At this point we poured only a footing around the remainder of the shed. A year or so later we concreated the remaining shed section.

  42. Sharnie Says:

    Thanks Hobo, so was there a minimum or maximum distance the internal dwelling framing had to be from the shed frame? Was the internal dwelling frame clad on the ‘outside’ of the frame (eg I’m wondering if the linings go from inside: plaster, insulation, cladding, gap, shed wall?)

  43. Hobo Says:

    We did have to thermally isolate the internal steel (the wall frames) from the external cladding/frame.
    From the outside we had…
    Cladding, shed frame,5mm gap, internal steel frame (filled with fibreglass isolation), wall lining. We had extra fiberglass isolation (long story) so also packed the space between the shed frames – this gives us a total of almost 200mm of insulation in the walls.
    I strongly suggest that you check with your certifier to see exactly what they require. It is much easier to hear what they want and then produce that.

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