Tuff Shed Living

This is an interview with Aaron Brachfeld who owns and writes for the Meadowlark Herald and lives in a cooperative in Colorado. He is currently building a little house using a Tuff Shed as a boat cabin.

Q1: You mentioned that you live in a Tuff Shed. Is it a custom built a home or something more similar to the sheds Living used for gardens?

  • Technically speaking, we are talking about a boat.  My boat’s cabin is a Tuff shed, a 10×12 tall Tuff shed, which has been improved with insulation, paint and also walls of 1/2 inch plywood.  It is not yet done, but a continuing work in progress!  Eventually, we are going to build a larger home, but we like our boat.

Q2: What made you choose to live in a Tuff Shed?

  • Affordability – Tuff Sheds, because they are mass produced in a factory, are cheaper than homes built on site customized to the needs of the location.  Also, they are ideally suited to be made into cabins of boats: as a self-contained unit, they may be attached to the deck with ease.

Q3: When you were building your Tuff Shed home, what kind of land preparation did you need to do?

  • None, in fact.  I have a very level spot of ground with excellent soil.

Q4: How much would estimate you saved building a Tuff Shed home versus a pre-fab home?

  • Tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, easily.  My total costs still are under $5,000 for the entire boat.

Q5: How large is your home in square feet? Do you find it is energy efficient?

  • 120 square feet.  Smaller is better for energy efficiency.  Last winter, even with it being 20 below zero, enough heat was retained by simply being in the cabin or cooking a cup of coffee that we were largely comfortable.  They stay cooler in the summer too.  Small homes are easy to keep clean (you can clean your entire house daily and still spend less time than you would on a big home).  They are easy to maintain, with fewer costs.  They simplify your life and make it better.  Large houses are – usually – full of empty people and their many things.  Large houses are hard masters and will own you.  A small home you own and do not need to pay for every month is sound finances.  Better to live in a small home you can afford than to lose a large home you couldn’t.  There is a lot of stigmas associated with poverty and small houses, but there is no need to be embarrassed: they were very popular many years ago (Abe Lincoln grew up in a 16×18, and that was a large home then), and may come back into style soon.  They are better for the ecology, and are better uses of land: we have more garden space with a small home.

Q6: Is There anything else you can add about the logistics of building a Tuff Shed home or a pre-fab home?

  • Check with local regulations for homes.  The County or City building inspector will not like your small home, or a Tuff Shed unless you make considerable modifications to it.  However, in many places, it is legal to dwell in an RV.  Some RV’s have wheels, others have pontoons.  RV permits are very affordable in most places.
  • Also, check with Child Protection Services or the police for regulations required for children.  In Colorado, each child needs about 75 square feet, their own bed (at least 2 feet wide) and numerous other details.  If you don’t have children, it is likely you won’t need to modify your plans much.
  • Sanitation is regulated too.  On boats in Colorado, you are required to have on-board sanitation before entering waters, and most RVs are required to have toilets.  Sanitation may be easily provided with a marine toilet, in any case, combined with an off-board processor, or septic dump.  There are numerous solutions, but the most cost-effective will be determined by the site, the regulations, and your own requirements.  An onboard sewage tank will not likely require a permit from the government, and maybe sucked clean like any other… or dumped.
  • If you are making a small or tiny home, shelving is vital.  So is furniture that serves double purposes, easily stored or hung, and moved about.  Your room will need to be reconfigured several times a day from the bedroom to kitchen to office to…
  • Electrifying your RV requires not connecting it to the ground with a permanent attachment, usually.
  • Adequate research into the law is vital.  You are not allowed to live freely anymore, and everything that we do and how we do it is regulated.  Boats are regulated differently from other RV’s and RV’s are regulated differently from mobile homes.
  • We found a barbeque is cheaper than a kitchen stove if you want cooking facilities on board.  Mounting it or altering the barbeque is not necessary, but possible.
  • There is not much special about a Tuff Shed vs. other buildings in terms of lifestyle, but it is a choice to make a home you can afford than take one pre-made you cannot.  With Tuff Sheds you can customize the number of windows and other structural elements, and that is certainly nice.

Good luck with finishing your house, Aaron!

Have you considered a Tuff Shed as a house? Could you convert a shed into office space or a guest house?


  1. I had never heard of a Tuff Shed, but it seems like it makes a pretty decent place to live! The energy savings must be huge from the way he’s describing how he heats his shed.

  2. retirebyforty Reply

    I thought it would not retain the heat very well, but I guess I was wrong. Interesting, but I don’t know if I can live in that small space full time.

  3. i think this place is really small..But it easy to clean it..Thank you for sharing this post to us..

  4. Fascinating. I wouldn’t have thought about regulations for children requiring a specific square footage. I think I could do it, but my wife couldn’t.

  5. I haven’t heard of Tuff sheds, but sounds like a very cost effective alternative to conventional building materials. Keeping costs less than $5K for the entire boat is very impressive indeed.

  6. We bought a 21-foot trailer to live in while we built our new (small) home, then had to have a Tuff Shed built in order to catch rain so we could be off-grid with water. Was going to need somewhere to put a freezer, anyway, while living in the trailer.

    Long story short, we’ve (me, DH and DS) decided to move into the shed instead of staying in the teeny trailer. DH has extended the loft, almost doubling the square footage (total around 320), and we’ve insulated it and are about to put in wood paneling and peel and stick vinyl tiles on the floors.

    • @Emily -I’d love to see photos of your Tuff shed! That sounds like an awesome alternative while building a house. Thanks so much for sharing!

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