Tiny Houses: Turning Storage Sheds into Living Spaces
Evelyn RobinsonEmail - firstname.lastname@example.org
With the current trend going towards smaller housing and alternative accommodation, people are considering all types of different unorthodox structures for their homes. Storage sheds, once regarded as being too small to live in, have become one of the more common spaces to be transformed into living areas. Some choose to live in them all year round in order to save the amount that would be spent on mortgage payments for a conventional house, others use them as three-season camps, retiring to their houses during the winter. They can be lived in whilst a house is being constructed or used as spare bedrooms, guest houses or offices.
How to Make Your Shed Liveable
The first step to converting your shed into a home is to remove any debris that might have accumulated there and sweep and dust the area. Once this has been done, you need to add a layer of Tyvek to the walls in order to prevent air and moisture from entering. This will act as the first defense against the elements and prepare the structure for insulation. Next you need to mark any locations that you want to install windows in. It is advisable to set windows in each of the sidewalls in order to provide the necessary cross-ventilation. Cut holes at the locations that you have marked and install the windows following the manufacturer's instructions.
You then need to install the wiring for whatever electrical equipment you are planning on using in your new home. Set an electrical breaker box near the front door, drill guide holes through the wall studs in order to keep the wires inside the wall and then install an outlet with a breaker switch on each wall. Once you have done that, you can start insulating the walls and ceiling. This can be done by applying rolled insulation between the studs, making sure that the paper backing is facing out. The paper can be stapled to the studs in order to keep the insulation in place. When you have finished insulating the walls, insulation can be applied between the rafters along the inside of the roof using the same technique. Moisture-resistant cement board can also be added to the walls and the concrete floor can be painted with a cement stain for further protection against moisture.
One thing that might put somebody off transforming their shed into a living space is the lack of toiletry facilities. This can however easily be overcome by using a compost toilet. They are an increasingly popular, inexpensive alternative to the septic system and represent the missing piece of the puzzle for people wishing to self build a smaller, cozier home for themselves. Compost toilets break your waste down into compost rather than using a plumbing system to sweep everything away into a sewage grid or septic system. You can simply remove the dry compost from the toilet a couple of times each year. Compost toilets are also considerably more efficient than standard toilets. Standard toilets are responsible for up to forty percent of household water output, whereas some compost toilets don't use any water at all, making them less wasteful and more ecologically sound.
The Benefits of Living in a Tiny House
Now that you have set up your new home, you can begin to reap the benefits. The first of these is psychological. In a recent interview with The Atlantic architecture and design expert Mimi Zeiger cited one of the main advantages of smaller living spaces as the fact that the inhabitants can become familiar with every inch of their homes. 'There's a certain ability to occupy it all at once, it encapsulates itself, you understand it all at once,' she told the publication. It is certainly true that those who inhabit a shed as opposed to a house are likely to have less on their minds as they will have fewer stimuli. Leonardo Da Vinci once said that small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind whereas large ones weaken it, which anybody who has ever lived in one of these tiny houses will agree with wholeheartedly.
There is also the more obvious advantage of a smaller home costing less money. Living in a shed is astronomically cheaper than making mortgage payments on a home and even if you only live in it for three of the four seasons, you are still guaranteed to make a huge saving on electricity and heating. Transforming a shed into a living space makes sense from both a personal development and a financial standpoint. It is the perfect way of saving cash by cutting out unnecessary expenses and strengthening yourself as a person in the process.
Domenic Mangano - King Of The Cottage
Story and photos by Robert F. Smith, Editor
Domenic Mangano, 39, started the Jamaica Cottage Shop 14 years ago, building doghouses in his backyard with a circular saw, a hammer and a little start-up seed money. Today, the shop is "the leader in the country shipping post and beam shed kits, and anyone close to us is still several years behind where we are," Mangano said. He employees up to 15 people, and builds and sells some 500 units a year, with a constant inventory of 30 to 50 buildings. He still makes smaller items, like a 2'x4' garbage bin, but does a major business with his 16'x20' buildings that can be used as a shed, garage, workshop, studio, storage facility or a live in camp or cabin.
There's even a fully insulated 2-room-and-bath model that comes with a kitchen and is wood and solar-power ready. An even bigger, 20'x30' barn is now in the trial stages. There are all sorts of building sizes in between the garbage bin and large cottage. The 16'x20' Vermont Cottage Kit is under $13,000, and can be used as a three season second home or camp, or insulated and used all year long.
After graduating from Green Mountain College in 1991 with a business degree, Mangano traveled for four years working as a carpenter all over the country, from the East Coast to the West Coast and Alaska.
"I learned all the regional building styles and techniques," he said. "In Phoenix they build on a slab, in California they build to handle earthquakes. On the East Coast, builders take a project from frame to finish."
That experience gave Mangano the background to create the Jamaica Cottage Shop, where he is not only the owner, but also the senior designer. "We have 15 main do-it-yourself kits," he said, "but with everything we sell here, we have over 100 designs, and thousands of combinations. I took our most popular ones and turned them into kits. We've shipped them to 36 states, Canada and the United Kingdom. We do most of our marketing now on the Internet."
All the structures are made from locally cut, rough-sawn hemlock framing, and rough-sawn Eastern white pine for the siding and trim, and it's all cut and built on site at Mangano's new facility at an old lumber mill on Winhall Station Road in South Londonderry that he bought and moved into in 2004. He sells his buildings either fully assembled or in pre-cut kits, both of which are shipped wherever needed. The pre-cut kits have each piece carefully marked, are shipped shrink-wrapped, and the kit includes very detailed assembly instructions with excellent graphics, cut lists and color-coded instructions. The building plans can be bought just by themselves as well, for more adventurous do-it-yourselfers.
"Basically, if someone knows which end of a hammer to hold, they'll be fine putting together one of these kits," Mangano said.
Vermont for Vermonters - The 'Jamaica Cottages' Tale
Don Sawyer – June 2009
Can those of us "from away" conceivably become real Vermonters? Hop in the Diner Guy's new van, we'll soon find out. A scenic drive up Route 100 from the south to its sharp bend in Rawsonville, then two miles and a right onto Winhall Station Road will answer the question. Welcome to Jamaica Cottage Shop and its "Real Vermont" transplanted owner Domenic Mangano.
39-year-old Domenic is shrewd, imaginative, industrious and rugged - the way we idealize old time Vermonters to be. It is not surprising that this cottage-builders best selling model is entitled "The Vermonter." It is rough hewn, basic and strong.
Domenic Mangano grew up in the burbs of Beantown in North Andover, niched between gritty Lawrence and Lowell. His family home was perched on some of the last farm acreage in the area, so his lack of nearby playmates was replaced by an appreciation for nature. While congested Route 495 thundered in the distance, Domenic climbed trees and sold raspberries by the roadside with his sister.
Ten-year-old Domenic's first construction project was a treehouse-gone-bad. He sequestered a hammer and nails from his father then wailed away on a tempting tree. Horrified was Domenic when virtually every nail curled over carpenter's lesson #1, don't hammer into oak! A wiser kid and craftsman, his next treehouse was truly an uplifting success - 40 feet high, affixed to a soft spruce tree. His parents were petrified.
When construction began on a 50-lot town subdivision, 15-year-old Domenic leaped into line for a laborer's job. He was duly impressed by framing and instinctively sought a carpentry position. The experience served him well, then and now, as did the salesmanship of his second high school career as a "Ding Dong Man" - selling ice cream to screaming children and fending off skateboarders gripped to his rear bumper!
College-bound Domenic applied unique standards when selecting a school: it had to be in Vermont and it had to be a place where people smiled. That institution was Green Mountain College in Poultney. Here he majored in business, delighted in campus social life, and fell in love with Vermont. Though happy in Vermont, Domenic embarked on the second phase of his education - a four-year cross-country junket with his two dogs and carpentry equipment in an old Subaru. He literally framed his way from a "spit" in Alaska to Sun Valley and Scottsdale. Vivid memories include a tire falling off in the remote Canadian wilderness and cowboy verbal harangues for his east coast lumber thriftiness and dependence on coffee.
Returning "home" to Vermont in 1995, Domenic rented a farmhouse in Rawsonville from the Tifft family. He immediately put his skills to work and sold doghouses off his front lawn. His future was thus crafted from doghouses to sheds to cabins. Domenic's first shed, a 6-foot by 10-foot "basic," required a crew of eight, a Bobcat, and most of the day just to move across town (as evidence of growth, he now boasts two forklifts, two transport trucks, and a trailer, all hydraulically customized)!
When I first met Domenic five years ago at his previous three-acre lot in Rawsonville, I was captivated. Sheds, boxes, cabins, et al were abutted and stacked so closely that it resembled a simulated city, a wooden world. You could leap over, around and through this "village" like an amusement park of outhouses, wood boxes, gabled cabins, dollhouses and artist havens as long as you avoided the prize chickens who also had reign to roam!
Predictably, the "village" outgrew its boundries Domenic moved Jamaica Cottages to its present location at 170 Winhall Station Road (technically in South Londonderry). The grounds are spacious and several outbuildings allow construction through the winter. Distinct stations exist, from cutting room to assembly, shipping, etc. Compared to the hurly-burly of the "village" the new facility is smooth, orderly and high tech. Fear not, the chickens still wander freely and Domenic's preference for funk over formality still prevails.
Employees (eight to twenty, depending on the season) still wield their nail guns diligently with contented countenance. They take conspicuous pride in the their product. With Domenic's "one man, one project" policy, each shed is constructed start to finish by a single carpenter. Workers don't leave; they relish the laid back Vermont tone Domenic has infused. Of course, lighthearted activities like Hillbilly Biathlon contribute to group-sync!
In its product genre, Jamaica Cottage Shop has no peers (though copied by many). Models are constantly refined and evolving. Domenic's post and beam design utilizes rough hemlock and Eastern white pine, milled predominately in Vermont sawmills. Only superior hardware is used. Some models feature wrought iron by Gary Cheney and stained glass by Hank and Toby's Hot Glass or Manchester Hot Glass. Product sizes vary from 3-by 5-foot garbage bins to 16-by 20-foot cottages.
Jamaica Cottages are wonderfully creative, most exhibiting Domenic's "reverse cross gable" signature. You can order a simple wood bin, a classic doghouse, a chicken coop, a circular wishing well, a traditional saltbox, a porched cabin or even a structure of your own whim. Some buildings come fully insulated, others offer sinks and toilets. It is indeed the creative element of his trade that compels Domenic: "I like the artistic side of it, as well as the salesmanship." Though he never took design courses or served draftsman apprenticeship, Domenic learned by doing and was fascinated by genius architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He even visited a number of Wright's buildings to study the master's design innovations.
During the past ten years Domenic has developed kit products for adventurous, thrifty or geographically distant customers. Since Jamaica Cottages' truck delivery of fully assembled sheds is limited to the Northeast, many kit models are shipped to the West and Canada in single, self-contained, shrinkwrapped "bricks." Even mechanically helpless Diner Don could assemble one of these packaged shelters by simply laying out the pieces and following the numbered, colored, coded, easy-to-read plans.
Like successful but unassuming Manchester business icon Donald Dorr (profiled in the Shires of Vermont magazine portion of this publication), Domenic will never be spotted in a pitchman's tie and jacket; casual work attire best bedecks a human dynamo who sprints incessantly from computer to nail gun. Also like noble Don Dorr, Domenic is proud to have achieved success solely by his own efforts: "My parents paid for my education, everything else I've done totally on my own."
Domenic does find time to amuse himself and tend to others. This inveterate Vermonter enjoys snowmobiling, four-wheeling, and communing with the wilderness. He's been generous with cottage help for numerous schools and has supported the Women's Crisis Center. He has built a home in Jamaica and has become a respected Vermont personality. This Vermonter's here to stay!
When I queried Domenic about future plans, he shared a goal of building bigger and bolder products, perhaps full-size cabins and barns. He also admitted a yen to travel to Europe, the Orient, the Islands. Yet Domenic Mangano seems happiest here, in his Vermont sanctuary, where he has given more than he has taken and has adopted Green Mountain values.
Can an outsider become a real Vermonter? You betcha. A trip to Jamaica Cottage Shop will provide testimony.
Tips to Designing a Garden Shed
Follow the format below to design an affordable, rugged and attractive structure. Excellent accents to detail a shed include stained glass and unusual windows, Victorian corner brackets, wrought iron hardware, arched entries, built in bird houses, flower boxes, weather vanes, lightening rods or a simple brass thermometer will add character to any building. A picture is worth a thousand words, use a drawing no matter how crude to convey your ideas to reality. The advice provided next should help conquer the battle of designing a building.
1) Site Choice
Choose a site, which is both level and accessible. Take into consideration water drainage from both the land and the building. Pitch the water away from the shed. Moisture will cause decay and rot, significantly reducing the life of the building.
2) Site Preparation
Site preparation varies from site to site. Poor drainage can be overcome by making a three to six inch gravel bed. This will keep the shed dry and keep it from sinking. The changes in the seasons can cause the earth to heave and give causing the shed to be pushed out of level.
Several choices exist when deciding on a foundation. It is economical and durable to have the shed sit on skids which in turn sits on blocks. Used telephone poles will work well, and are cost effective. This way the shed is kept off the ground a very important aspect. Hold the "skids" in a foot or so to better proportion the weight. Sonar tubes that go below frost line is another option. This choice requires playing with concrete and having the ability to square the tubes. A deck that is not square will cause the entire structure to be untrue. And yet another choice would be to lay a slab of concrete, brick or patio stone and build your walls off of it, eliminating the need for a wood floor. This fashion will require a generous gravel bed for adequate drainage.
Design the shed for its intended purposes. Choose a practical design. One which will provide agility and comfort. Garden sheds will require space for potting, tools, and etceteras. The overall look can be decorative, plain, or funky. An economical design does not have to be dull. Rooflines are a wonderful way to begin. Understanding the different lines will create a desirable space; one which is both pleasing to the eye and functional. Examples of roof types are gable, hip, gambrel, or the plain one pitch shed roof. Dormers, copulas, and skylights are all acceptable means of generating a sanctuary. The pitch of the roof is another feature to take into consideration. Steep roofs are sensible and realistic for snow and storage.
The size of the building is a question that puzzles most when designing a shed. The easiest way to overcome the guesswork is to gather all of the proposed items that will be sheltered and draw four lines around them. Measure the lines to calculate the desired shed size.
This department provides truth to the proverbial saying "you get what you pay for". Choose materials wisely pay attention to quality. A thrifty siding is T-111 (pronounced T one-eleven) it is textured plywood made to look like vertical siding. Board and batten, clad boards, vinyl, or Shiplap siding are some of the many choices available to cover the exterior walls. Roofing material also comes in various forms. Asphalt shingles are the most affordable, corrugated bi-rib metal comes in many colors. Metal is an excellent choice to keep the snow off and will allow a very inexpensive alternative to a skylight. Lay a translucent piece in with the metal providing a wonderful source of light without the loss of security that comes with a window. Wood shingles can be used on the roof or walls, the down side being the cost and maintenance.
Protect your investment by preserving the building. Paint or stain to match your satisfaction. For a deep rich finish which is both frugal and rustic try using used motor oil. The smell will fade in a few weeks and leave you with a fully protected building from moisture, decay and insect contamination.
8) Do it your self?
Finally decide upon an established builder to erect the structure or attempt the process your self. Consider if doing it yourself is for you. How much is really saved when time and quality is weighed. A fabulous book to view is "Sheds The do-it-yourself Guide for Back Yard Builders" by David Stiles retails for $17.95. The book is full of color photos and many sketches to spark the imagination.
Jamaica Cottage Shop
Small Spaces: Make Creative Use of Petite Structures
By Christin Brun
Copely News Service
If you have any small outbuildings on your property, you have the makings of extra space for all sorts of nonessential purposes- a potting shed or meditation space, a place for exercise or writing, a spot for pursuing a hobby, reading or just relaxing.
A little 8-by-10-foot building could become a petite guesthouse or a pool house. A young family might need a place for the kids to play or practice music that is slightly removed from the rest of the house. If such a building doesn't already exist, don't despair. There are easy ways to create the space and style that fit your needs.
The Jamaica Cottage Shop in Jamaica, Vt., is owned by Domenic Mangano, who discovered during a four-year excursion across the United States working as a carpenter that most outbuildings are flimsy, ugly metal sheds. He vowed to change the concept.
As sources of inspiration, he turned to several books that address issues connected with small structures. "Retreats: Handmade Hideaways to Refresh the Spirit" by G. Lawson Drinkard III, "Garden Retreats: Creating an Outdoor Sanctuary" by Barbara Blossom Ashmun and "The Inward Garden: Creating a Place of Beauty and Meaning" by Julie Moir Messervy.
The results of his research were small cottages with several different personalities. One of his creations resembles the New England sugar shacks used to boil maple syrup. In a real working one, the cupola would have opening sides where the steam escapes. A separate smokestack would pump out its own residue. In Mangano's 8-by-12-foot recreational version, the cupola does not work, but the little building does have a double arched door and five multipaned windows.
All of the designs are charming and conjure up visions of the romantic past. When a site permits, a little deck can be added to accommodate seating or a barbecue area. Another site might just have room for a hammock to be tied between two trees outside the shallow front porch.
No bigger than a good-sized playhouse, these structures could serve as the perfect mother-in-law habitat or granny flat. They have loads of character, and Mangano has bundled a lot of pride in craftsmanship with his product, which is made from native Vermont lumber.
Unfortunately for anyone who doesn't live in the Northeast, his treasures are sent via common carrier in a do-it-yourself kit rather than delivered in one piece to your site. Check with your local government to determine if you will need a building permit.