Office Workstations, Work From Home Solutions

Americans are buying, building, converting backyard sheds into home offices

Robin Salcido and her husband have been sharing a small home office since March as America eased into the era of remote work.

She’s an artist. He’s an engineer. But as the months ticked on, the couple in Louisville, Colorado, longed to separate their work environments.

“Let’s face it, no matter how great a relationship is – and ours is pretty fantastic – no one wants to be on top of each other 24/7, especially when you’re working,” Salcido said. “Now that we can’t go to coffee shops, and we’re really limited in other opportunities for leaving the house to get some work done, we realized we need more space.”

So they ordered a prefabricated backyard shed that’s getting installed on Friday. Salcido will use it at her office.

As the COVID-19 crisis enters its sixth month, an increasing number of Americans are buying and building backyard sheds use as home offices. For some, it represents a chance to get work done away from the kids as schools practice remote learning in the fall. For others, it’s a necessity because there’s no room for an office setup inside their home.

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These detached, mostly self-contained spaces are more affordable and more practical than taking on a full-scale construction project, shed buyers say.

Google queries for office sheds began to tick higher in April, a few weeks after the pandemic was declared, according to search data. Searches began trending higher again in mid-August as the nation entered the back-to-school season. Companies that sell backyard shed products are noticing the trend.

Tim Vack, general manager at Modern-Shed, said there has been a 400% rise in interest this summer. A 50% rise in the summer is typical as people take on more outdoor projects. The company gauges interest by downloads of its online catalog.

“A lot of companies are allowing their employees from home from now on if they choose. So everybody is scrambling to find space to put their computer,” Vack said. “People are growing tired of putting their laptop on their dining room table or their kitchen countertop.”

These detached office spaces are more premium than the standard metal sheds at Home Depot. You decide on what style of wood you’d like to use, where you’d like the windows to be placed and various other customization options. The more you want, the more you pay.

Modern-Shed tailors each outdoor building to the buyer’s specifications. The firm then uses independent installation companies to do all the on-the-ground work.

Most people are choosing to buy spaces that offer an additional 120 square feet, said Mike Koenig, president and co-founder of Studio Shed.

The 12-year-old Colorado-based company said it saw a “huge spike” in inquiries for backyard home space since March. Most of the buyers are using them for home offices, followed by school rooms for their kids, and a few are being converted into home gyms, Koenig said.

“Maybe the kids are doing their schoolwork in the shed” away from parents who can then work peacefully inside the house, Koenig said.

Studio Shed, which ships to all 50 states, sends buyers a flat-packaged kit to be installed in their yard.

Sheds help add more space for less

Prices are typically around $120 to $180 a square foot, depending on size and other options, the company says. Prices for its entry-level series start at $10,500.

That’s substantially lower than costs associated with hiring a contractor and buying materials to build onto your existing home. The average cost to build onto your home ranges from just over $21,000 up to $70,000, according to Home Advisor.

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Salcido said she’s saving more than $150,000 by choosing a backyard shed office rather than building on top of her existing house.

“We would’ve had to tear down the garage to add more concrete to support another level,” Salcido said. “It would’ve been way too much work to go through just for another studio room.” The Studio Shed room she chose comes with electrical outlets and mini splits for AC and heating.

The typical turnaround time for sheds is four to six weeks from the order date, according to Studio Shed.

People who go for larger backyard home offices often have a lengthier build process, experts say, in part because states require varying permits for constructing rooms over a certain size.

Going the DIY route

While many are turning to companies for help with their shed, some people are going the do-it-yourself route, which is an even cheaper way to add a yard shed.

In April, Julie Masson’shusband and a neighbor teamed up on her “She shed” project. It took three months to build. Now she uses the 120-square-foot room as an office escape from the kids’ distance learning in the main house.

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“My husband sketched out a blueprint on a piece of paper. I decided where I wanted the door and windows to be. And our neighbor told us the supplies we needed,” said Masson, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. They bought the home improvement materials from Lowe’s, Home Depot and Menards.

The entire project cost $5,000 – including office furniture from IKEA. The hardest part was digging an 18-inch-deep trench from the house to the shed for the electrical wires, Masson said. Starting around 10 a.m. Monday to Friday, she works as a marketing director from the outdoor shed. She clocks out around 6 p.m.

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“I have this routine at the end of my day where I lower my standing desk, I shut the shades, I turn off my air conditioner I turn off the lights, I lock my door and I commute home, just a few steps away,” Masson said.

Have you converted an ordinary shed into your office? Shows us! Send photos to Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Americans turn backyard sheds into home offices as pandemic rages on