That old back­yard shed? DIY’ers give it makeover

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Erin Dou­glas

The Tuff Shed, which has humbly shel­tered lawn­mow­ers and bikes in sub­ur­ban back­yards for decades, is be­com­ing a new sum­mer Pin­ter­est project for a small but proud group of DIY home­own­ers. Cus­tom sheds are the new­est trend in home im­prove­ment. From record­ing stu­dios to gar­den­ing cen­ters, man caves to she-sheds, cat houses to gi­ant tor­toise shel­ters, home­own­ers are lim­ited only by their imag­i­na­tions. A few have gone so far as to turn their sheds into full-time res­i­dences — mir­ror­ing the “tiny house” craze.

Den­ver-based Tuff Shed and oth­ers in the busi­ness are cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the grow­ing back­yard-liv­ing move­ment. After the first be­gan to pop up in the early 2000s, cus­tom sheds for al­ter­na­tive uses such as home of­fices and guest rooms have grad­u­ally picked up steam.

Cus­tom sheds are boost­ing sales and ex­pand­ing Tuff Shed’s cus­tomer base, com­pany of­fi­cials said. They ac­count for about 20 per­cent of its busi­ness and the com­pany, which started in Idaho in 1981 and moved to Den­ver in 1986, has nearly dou­bled its num­ber of fac­to­ries since 2003. Other com­pa­nies, like Louisville-based Stu­dio Shed, have built en­tire busi­ness mod­els on the trend.

Shed own­ers range from as­tron­omy en­thu­si­asts to wine afi­ciona­dos, but Tuff Shed Mar­ket­ing Di­rec­tor

Phil Worth said there is one thing the in­dus­try leader’s cus­tomers have in com­mon: They are home­own­ers.

As home prices across Colorado rise, many home­own­ers find them­selves “stuck” in a smaller home than they would like to be, be­cause to move up is out of their price range. As a result, the state has seen an in­crease in home re­mod­els and ad­di­tions — sheds in­cluded.

“A lot of peo­ple want a tra­di­tional home, but peo­ple are re-eval­u­at­ing the need to live in a large home,” said Jeremy Hor­gan-ko­bel­ski, Stu­dio Shed co-founder. “Peo­ple real- ized they can live a lit­tle smaller, but smarter at the same time.”

One such ad­di­tion to the tra­di­tional home is the “she shed,” a con­cept that picked up when women started turn­ing back­yard sheds into pri­vate re­treat spa­ces for their hob­bies. The term is now a pop­u­lar hash­tag on In­sta­gram and Pin­ter­est.

“The ‘she shed’ is all the rage right now,” Worth said. “We started hear­ing the term be­ing ban­tered around in the mid­dle of 2015, and I think it was re­ally el­e­vated by so­cial me­dia. It’s about claim­ing space for your own.”

Some cus­tomers go fur­ther — much fur­ther. For Texas “DIY-ER” cou­ple Mandy and Blake Lowry, a shed was their so­lu­tion to an over­crowded Austin, Texas, neigh­bor­hood.

“”I’m sure a lot of our friends and fam­ily thought we were crazy,” said Mandy Lowry, who, with her hus­band, turned a 900-square­foot shed into their full­time home. “But, last year, ev­ery­thing just fell into place per­fectly.”

The cou­ple were look­ing to move to a sus­tain­able home pow­ered by so­lar en­ergy but were un­able to find one in the Texas mar­ket. They found that adding the mod­i­fi­ca­tions to an ex­ist­ing home was go­ing to be out of their price range.

“We live in Texas, and the sun beats down on us con­stantly,” said Mandy Lowry, who works from home as a video game de­vel­oper. “To not har­ness that power is ridicu­lous to us. I don’t want to say we’re hip­pies, but we try to con­serve as much as pos­si­ble for things that seem log­i­cal.”

The cou­ple pur­chased a Tuff Shed and added the sus­tain­abil­ity fea­tures them­selves. With a cou­ple con­trac­tors to do the elec­tric and plumb­ing work, and a $120,000 bud­get from the profit they made sell­ing their last house, the Lowrys found them­selves with their dream home four months later.

“We had a Pin­ter­est board ded­i­cated to ev­ery­thing we wanted to do in the house,” said Mandy Lowry, who also de­scribed us­ing a VR head­set to make a mock ver­sion of the house. She added, “We wanted it to be a pretty hands-on project.”

For ul­ti­mate Diy-ers like Lowry, Pin­ter­est is the so­cial me­dia plat­form of choice. An­other shed de­signer, Shan­non Sisler of Green­wood Vil­lage, drew in­spi­ra­tion from the site while de­sign­ing a shed as a play area for her kids. What her chil­dren now call “the club house” in­cludes a queen size bed, a mini fridge and a couch.

An av­er­age Tuff Shed costs about $3,800, ac­cord­ing to Worth, and they start at $1,500. Tuff Shed pro­vides the foun­da­tion and the struc­ture — the cus­tomers do the rest. In con­trast, Stu­dio Shed’s most pop­u­lar prod­ucts range from $15,000 to $20,000, but the in­te­rior and elec­tri­cal work is in­cluded.

Cus­tomers spend the ma­jor­ity of their time and money on the in­te­rior work and decor, Worth said. Tuff Shed cus­tomer Chris Wright spent a year and a half re­search­ing and de­vel­op­ing a plan for his cabin near Horse­tooth Reser­voir in Fort Collins. He ex­pects it will take him four to six months to fin­ish the in­te­rior after Tuff Shed in­stalls it on his prop­erty.

“I want to get my hands dirty, but without the scary stuff, like the struc­ture,” said Wright, whose shed will be fully liv­able for vis­it­ing friends and fam­ily.

Cus­tom shed com­pa­nies boast that the prices cor­re­late to the qual­ity – Tuff Shed uses old-school rollers to paint, order the ex­act amount of ma­te­ri­als needed to re­duce waste and say their sheds have sur­vived hur­ri­canes. Stu­dio Shed in­te­grates weather and va­por bar­ri­ers, uses high efficiency glass and helps their cus­tomers meet build­ing per­mit reg­u­la­tions.

“There’s a sur­pris­ing amount of tech­nol­ogy that goes into it,” Worth said. “We’re not wing­ing it.”

Hor­gan-ko­bel­ski said though the tiny home move­ment gets a lot of at­ten­tion, it is not prac­ti­cal for the av­er­age per­son — in­stead, HGTV fans happy with their not-so-tiny home can turn to sheds for a project.

“It’s been a steady ramp up,” said Hor­gan-ko­bel­ski, a Univer­sity of Colorado en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ate. “As the trend has grown we have tried to tai­lor our prod­uct of­fer­ings to meet that need.”

Gabriel Scar­lett, The Den­ver Post

Shan­non Sisler de­signed her own Tuff Shed and dec­o­rated it as a play­room for her kids in her back­yard.

Gabriel Scar­lett, The Den­ver Post

The in­side of Sisler’s Tuff Shed in Green­wood Vil­lage has plenty of homey qual­i­ties about it.

Gabriel Scar­lett, The Den­ver Post

Shan­non Sisler could be open­ing a door to a home, but it’s re­ally the Tuff Shed that she de­signed and dec­o­rated.

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