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Recently we’ve seen several people ask the question of whether you are allowed to turn a shed into living space on some Tiny House-related Facebook pages and groups. When the same topic came up on our own Historic Shed page, I decided I should look into the idea. Understandably, it is an appealing idea to many who dream of an unencumbered Tiny House lifestyle: buy an inexpensive set of 4 walls and a roof, finish out the interior, and live a debt free life. While, we can’t speak to the practicality of this idea everywhere, we can give some insight into the issues you might run into with this idea in Florida so you can plan accordingly.
Zoning: Zoning codes are basically a list of what and where things can be built within a community – how tall, how much of the lot they can cover, how they can be used, parking requirements, landscaping, etc. They vary from town to town, and even from neighborhood to neighborhood, so you need to check individual local zoning requirements for any parcel you are considering building on. Before planning to place even a shed for storage in your yard, these are some items to look into related to the local zoning codes and small buildings:
Building Code: In order to build a residential building in Florida, you will have to get a building permit from the local building department and go through a series of inspections before you can occupy the building. Permits require a set of plans and elevations that meet design criteria in the Florida Building Code. Most times, the plans are required to be reviewed and approved by a licensed structural engineer. Sheds in Florida are not held to the same construction standards as residential buildings. This is good for shed manufacturers, but means that you might have issues with the following if you try to convert a shed into a dwelling unit:
Other things to know: In some areas of Florida, you may build a storage shed under a certain size without a permit. This does not mean than you can build a building for other uses, such as a residence, under that square footage without a permit. And you may not change the use of a building without a building permit legally. In addition, some gated communities have their own set of design standards. This may include regulations on accessory buildings, how buildings should look, and provide minimum sizes for new construction above and beyond what is called out in zoning code.
I doubt I have identified all the potential issues with using a shed as the starting point for a residence in Florida, but at least this will help some who are considering the idea. Personally, for all the adaptations that could be required, I would think starting from scratch would be just as easy, albeit perhaps more intimidating. If so, feel free to give Historic Shed a call and we can build a shell that will meet all Building Codes for your dream cottage lifestyle.