As I rack my brain for alternatives to purchasing a house, I seem to lean towards prefab homes and kits. Every time I swing by the Home Depot, positioned just outside their front door, are a variety of Tuff Sheds. I walk inside the empty shed and it seems spacious and roomy. Granted, the shed doors are wide open and there’s not a lick of furniture, or anything else for that matter, inside. But for $3,995 it’s a bargain!

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Update: We recently purchased our own manufactured home on rented land (we just couldn’t find land close enough to purchase in our area) and went with a Goldenwest floor plan that we modified. If you’re interested in purchasing a manufactured home as an alternative to a stick-built or Tuff Shed,¬†this book has some good information. Or check out my manufactured home page.[/dropshadowbox]

Having such a curiosity about kit homes, I wonder if there’s any way to put a couple of Tuff Sheds together and call it home, or at least a temporary home. As I begin to seriously consider this option, I decide to check out their website. Not only do they make sheds, but they also build garages. Ding! An idea strikes. Having browsed many a home plan, I know that it’s possible to build an apartment above a garage. Surfing through their photos, I found just the picture that I hoped to see: a two-car garage with a loft/apartment with steel building frames.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ] Also check my guide “Tuff Shed Cabins Are Customarily or Conventionally Small Houses”[/dropshadowbox]

A Tuff Shed Two-Car w/Apartment Garage
A Tuff Shed Two-Car w/Apartment Garage

With an apartment above the garage, not only could our car fit, but we could also use the other half of the garage as storage. My thinking is this:

  • Buy affordable land. I’m not sure where this land will be, there’s really nothing in my area, but this is key to making my plan work. (Perhaps this is a faulty plan?!)
  • Build a temporary shelter on the cheap. This is where the garage with apartment comes in.
  • Park the car and storage in the garage. Since we’d be on our own land, we might as well keep as much stuff as possible in our garage instead of paying for storage. A two-car garage with apartment would do the trick.
  • Live in the apartment. Most above garage apartments are large enough for two people. We primarily use our bedroom and living room the most. I think we could hack it in a small-ish apartment.
  • Build a house. As we save money living above our garage, we could save for our dream house.

My plan began to sound possible once we received a quote from Tuff Shed. For $28,000 they could build us a two-car garage with apartment. Not bad! The biggest hurdle, besides the land purchase, is the preparation of the land. However, the garage doesn’t need that large of a foundation. And looking at the photo (above) that I found on their website, a flat pad will do.

Tuff Shed Home in Texas

Now, if I could just find some land!

TUFF Sheds don’t have plans for sale, but here’s a company that sells tiny and small house plans:

Tiny House Design’s Pioneer Cabin – 16 x 20

¬†Tiny House Design’s Pioneer Cabin House Plan: $9.95

The 42-page e-book contains the framing plans, required lumber, and drawings for this structure.

Not, TUFF Sheds, but garage plans I like – each one has a nice floor plan with enough space in the garage area to build a shop or hold lots of storage:

Garage Plan 69719 – 1 bd/1 bath 628 sq ft via eplans

Garage Plan 01848 1 bd/1 bath 633 sq ft via eplans

Garage Plan 66990 1 bd/1 bath 675 sq ft via eplans

Garage Plan 05437 2 bd/1 bath 992 sq ft via eplans


  1. – I think you’re right. The same is happening in my neighborhood, any vacant land is being turned into a multi-housing community (no matter how small the land)!

  2. @Holme – You’re right. I haven’t factored in the plumbing or electrical yet. One of the sites I’ve browsed estimates the site work at around $100,000. I’m thinking this must include the plumbing and electrical. I really have to list my pros and cons on building a house vs. buying a house vs. continuing to rent. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. @eemusings – Yes, if only there was more availability of land! This will be the hardest part of my plan. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. This solution might be feasible in a warm climate but no place that gets an actual winter. Plumbing above an unheated garage = frozen pipes…

    In addition to the actual costs of the plumbing and fixtures, wiring, etc, if you’re on a city lot you’ll need to get a quote on connecting to the local water/sewer/power at the street. If you’re going country, you’ll need a quote on well drilling, septic installation and connection to power. If your land is a long way from the nearest power line it can be reeeeealy expensive. I’ve known people who spent $20k to get power to their remote land – they had to pay for a few dozen poles to be installed to bring the lines to their property.

    Don’t forget to include the cost of building permits and building inspection fees in your calculations. Some areas also impose other fees on new construction. When we built, our rural area had several extra charges they added on to help fund the infrastructure development required by all us city folks moving to the country (mostly related to highway improvements and new interchanges to get to our country properties). We weren’t aware of these fees when we bought the land. It was a shock when we went to get our building permit – $1500 for the permit, $10,000 in other fees. If we’d bought a lot 5 minutes further away in the next township we wouldn’t have had any extra charges.

    When buying land anywhere check to see what restrictions there are on when/what you build. There may be a minimum square footage (to protect the value of surrounding homes). There may be a minimum time the building permit can remain open – in other words you must complete the home within a set amount of time from when you start the garage/apt. In our rural subdivision (everyone on 3 acres) we had to be larger than 1500sqft and we cannot put up more than 2 buildings on the property and the smaller building cannot be any larger than 40% of the footprint of the larger building. This was intended to prevent putting two homes on one lot, or a tiny house and an enormous garage used for commercial purposes. These were criteria registered by the developer of the subdivision and not normally a requirement of the township.

    • @Jenn – Thanks for all of this information! I’ve been hoping someone who’s gone through the process of building their own house could shed some light on all the technicalities. The only prefab home website where I saw the cost of land prep was Wee House and they estimated up to $120K for land prep, sewer, plumbing, electrical, permits, etc. Great to hear from someone who’s actually done it. Thanks again!

  5. David Pierson Reply

    Please send me everything there is to know about this garage/apartment on this page

    • @David – I found this on the TuffShed website and was actually quoted a rough estimate to build it (not including a foundation.) The TuffShed rep quoted me around $28,000 but I don’t think this included the plumbing for a bathroom or kitchenette. Hope this is helpful!

  6. jennifer gunter Reply

    I added a 12×15 ft TuffShed on to a garden shed of the same size by removing both sheds end doors and attaching them at the facing ends,the opening becoming the passage from one to the next. We framed in 3 sets of very nice sliding doors on the opposite end of the the new shed. lastly we insulated, sheet rocked the interior, added nice lighting and floor covering and the new end is nicer than the inside of my older cottage. The TS folks don’t advertise this, but they will actually do many modifications if they are reasonable, no more work or cost. After the framing,roof and siding is done, they leave and you mount the custom doors and windows you want. How and where they frame the doors and windows for instance is mostly up to the purchaser as long as its structurally sound. I think Id be happy adding a bath and galley kitchen to this studio, and eventually an upstairs sleeping loft when I re-roof the old half.
    The only problem I could see is the permitting. Technically these sheds are removable up to a certain size. Its the plumbing and heat/wiring that the officials may bulk at.

    • @Jennifer Gunter – Thanks for sharing your story about your garden TuffShed. It sounds like TuffShed is pretty accommodating. This might be something my husband and I look into more seriously in a few years when we make a decision to purchase property. I’d love to see photos and maybe even do a follow up story on this.

  7. jennifer gunter Reply

    At the time, about 6 years ago we put about 5000$ into this project by doing most of the work our selves, getting over run sliders, sale moldings for sills etc. also my dad was able to wire it. Now it would cost more but the main price point is determined by how much you can trade for or do yourself after the basic shell is up.

  8. I would like to use your photo in a powerpoint presentation (for my work as an urban planner) as an example of ancillary housing in suburbia. I will also be printing hard copies of this powerpoint, only for minor circulation, not for sale or mass distribution.

    Is this ok, and is the website listed on the image sufficient credit?


    • @Linda -Which photo were you thinking of using? Please let me know since I don’t own the rights to many of my photos here on this site.

  9. There are a number of factors you will need to consider though before installing a prefab garage on your property and one of the principal factors to consider is the question of zoning/planning permission in your area.

  10. Please send photo’s and information, regarding *eemusings* two car w/apartment garage. I sure like the photo illisturating the finish look including the foundation. Photo’s of the inside of this adorable apartment above the garage would be a great help.

    Also, I like the Jennifer Gunter garden shed addition story. If possible, Jennifer I would like to see photo of the inside of the project.

    I have been offered an opportunity to live on 2 acres at Hawaii. My very good friend is retiring to his 2 acres soon. I givin an opportunity to live in Hawaii, undeveloped land of 2 acres. The tuff shed idea will be the best saving money idea yet. Thanks to all for great information, living in afforable housing, and lot’s of bang for the buck. Please feel free to send additonal information or adivise.

    Looking forward to hearing more information, ideas and advise to afforable housing (tuff shed) and my new adventure in Hawaii, building my tuff shed housing project.

  11. Good tip on the old kitchen cabinets. I know those are readily available in our area when people remodel. They usually just give them away!

  12. Sheds Brisbane North Reply

    Thanks, hopefully I will get a chance to check it out. These pictures are so good.

  13. sheds garages Reply

    A great option and the cheap too. But building a new home will take a lot of attention and time as well.

  14. Martha Jacobs Reply

    I have had experience while working for a contractor as well as by building my own home as the contractor. Finding land involves deciding first where you want to live or need to live. Building in rural areas is usually easier. Seeking a pot of land that already has a well and septic or utilities to the lot saves a lot of time and money. Some states are more difficult than others just as within those same states exist areas that have fewer requirements for the Permit process. Kit Houses and Kit Barns are built of maerials that must meet certain standards and the kit is cut and assembled in a covered area. Building from the ground up or “Stick” Built Homes are exposed to the elements throughou the process and most Houses built today are comprised of many feature that are prefabricated and then built into the House. The most important part of the Home if you are your own contractor is the Foundation. Simpson is a Company that specializes in effecient framing that is attached to the Foundation during the Concrete Phase. So today there are a lot of choices to build a very effecient attractive home on a budget. Just do not be afraid. Home building is not Rocket Science and build to Code as that is the safest approach. Modular are also a very fast way to get your home livable. Good luck.

  15. Bonnie Folk Reply

    Where Do You Want to Live? I am Thinking of Doing Something Similar, But want to be Closer to My Sister! I am Thinking 2 Sheds Put Together Also, Have Not Checked Permitting Yet! I Have an Acre Of Land, With a Septic Tank, Hooked Up to City Water, Lightpole/Wiring in Place…..In The FLORIDA Panhandle, 8 Miles From The Gulf, 30 Miles From Tallahassee, Fl.
    Looking to Sell, Approximately 1/2 is Cleared, The Rest Wooded! This Acre . Is in a Flood Free Zone, BUT, Is Only Partially Cleaned Up from a Previous Mobile Home And Mobile Home Shed!
    IF This Sounds Interesting for $12,000. Negotiable, Contact Me @

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.