How to Build an Affordable Shed-Office in 18 Easy… Months.

Whenever the subject of pregnancy, labor, and delivery comes up, my husband likes to say, “It was a piece of cake!” He loves this joke. He thinks it’s funny. Get it??? Because I did all the work. I put in the months of carrying, I gave up the sweat, blood, and tears, and I felt the pain – while he just sat there and watched. Piece of cake.

Well, now it’s my turn. I can’t wait for people to see the beautiful office El Chupacabra built in our backyard. They will undoubtedly look it over with admiration and inevitably ask if it was hard to do, and I will cut into the conversation to say, “IT WAS A PIECE OF CAKE!” 
Every time. 
I cannot wait. 
It will be so good. 
Because, get it??? He put in the months of work, and there was a lot of sweat, and also some blood, and probably a few tears. He felt the pain and angst and frustration of bringing something new into the word. And I just sat there and watched. Piece of cake!
But, I have to admit, unlike bringing forth tiny humans, where after the initial act of conception I had very little choice in the matter – the babies grew, labor started, delivery happened – he had to make a conscious effort to bring forth this office. And he did. For me. He built me an office from the ground up, and he did it in spare minutes and slivers of free time and occasional hours that were salvaged, snuck, and carved away from the busy, busy life of a Pastor/Father/Son/Friend/Husband/Brother/Neighbor.
And it was not a piece of cake.
We aren’t people of great financial means, so when I asked him if we could put a “writers shed” in our tiny backyard, I thought I was asking if I could piece together some tin and and particle board and 2x4s to hide in when I needed a quite space to write. The kind of writer’s shed I had envisioned is usually filled with rusty bikes and lawnmowers and black widows; a squatty, dilapidated, little building where people throw shit they don’t want to look at and rats multiply in the night. I thought we’d buy something off Craigslist, haul it home, spray it out with a garden hose and VIOLA– Jamie’s Home Office!

This was the office of my dreams? 
But when I cast the vision for a crappy little shed to write in, El Chupacabra shook his head and said we could do better. He told me to buy a brand new shed, and when we found the perfect thing on sale at Costco for $999, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I never expected to have such a nice crappy shed to hide in! So we bought it and had it delivered to our house on a pallet in 10,000 pieces with no instructions on a cool October morning. 
And then El Chupacabra went to work on it!
Just kidding.
Then the shed sat on a pallet in 10,000 pieces in the garage for six months because homeownership can be a real son of bitch and it took a long, long time for “build a shed” to make it’s way to the tippity top of the long, long list of things that need to be done around our house. 
It sat for six months. And then El Chupacabra went to work on it.
This is the part where I wish I could convey how busy this man is so you would know exactly what a big deal this is. He is THE BUSIEST. But he’s not like a neglectful, workaholic, wheel spinning kind of busy – he’s like a community building, child rearing, neighbor loving, people serving, bread breaking, beer toasting kind of busy. He loves and he is loved and that’s not a bad thing. I could never complain about that! But it did mean that building a shed would have to be done in a series of tiny movements; an hour here, an evening there, one Sunday afternoon every couple of months, several late nights – until it was done. Fortunately, this perfectly matched the slow pace of our itty bitty budget, giving us time to collect and count our nickels and dimes for things like shingles and windows and drywall.
So that’s why it took another year, but he got it done
The walls went up on July 19th, 2014, which sounds like a long time ago, but, you guys… 


….September 9th, 14th, 15th he worked… And he reengineered things along the way, adding 3 feet in height to make it less sheddy and more cottagey, putting in two little windows to make it less cavey and more homey (even though I told him he didn’t have to add anything, I would be fine with a writing cave; I would call it “The Batshit Cave”)…


…and then…October 5th, 13th, 23rd…He gave me a water tight roof and french doors, ooh la la, and with the exterior finally finished, on the inside he let there be light, and then he began the process of installing insulation and drywall, and I got very, very excited, because when the walls went up, it felt like I was actually, for real, totally gonna have an office someday!…

…and then the Holidays came and made him even busier… but he was back at it January 14th and February 11th and April 19th, still working whenever he could, and then there was a ceiling and one day it was stained, and on May 3rd, trim showed up around the windows and on the 30th the floor appeared… 
…And on June 1st, 2015, without ceremony, El Chupacabra quietly welcomed me in to the MOST DREAMY SPACE you could ever imagine and then he gave me a look that said, “Now write.” 
So I am.
I asked my husband for a crappy shed to hide in and he gave me a tiny house to shine in. And it’s even more significant to me that this incredible gift didn’t come out his full days and great fortunes, but it was built with precious seconds and bought in spare change, created from the leftovers of the day… and I think that’s maybe what love really looks like for us; It looks like a little cottage, built with fleeting moments and pinched pennies and big dreams. 
And soon it will look like the dedication page of a book that says, “For the Love of my life, who built me an office. Even though it was a piece of cake.”
In case you’re interested in the more practical details: 
A friend of mine just told me she was going to pay $10,000 for an unfinished prefab office – my finished office cost A THIRD of that. Sooooo, yeah. 
Overall, we spent about $3500 for the entire project: Shed kit (, foundation, subfloor, shingles, windows (discounted at a Home Depot clearance wherehouse), insulation (to save money, he brought home giant sheets of styrofoam left over after our church’s VBS program), electrical everything (fuse box, ground rod, wire, outlets, switches, faceplates), drywall/compound/plaster, pre-hung doors (around $360 at Lowes), trim/baseboard, interior and exterior primer/paint, flooring (to keep costs down, we used a click and lock vinyl “wood” plank floor, and can’t even believe how good it looks!), and a keyed entry doorknob/deadbolt. 
 $3500 for the whole dang thing. His spending is frugal. 
His tools are basic: a drill, a power saw, a nail gun, and his bare freaking hands.
His skills are mad. 
If you have specific questions about El Chupacabra’s kickass shed-into-office process, feel free to ask. I’m sure he’d be happy to pop in with answers. 
But please – If you’re planning on paying $10,000 for a prefab shed/office, El Chupacabra would be happy to offer his services. I am not even kidding. A dedicated backyard build would take him like 2 weeks. For real. He’s available for hire and he would be happy to build you the sheddy office of your dreams. No, seriously…


1 Comment

  1. Marissa on March 8, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Hi I absolutely love This! My husband us a handyman & I’m sure we both can do this project with no problem. One question, how did your husband add a breaker box for electricity?
    Thanks in advance!

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