A DIY Case Study: Building a Fancypants Detached Studio

studio-closeup1About three years ago, my family was happily living in a comfortable, mortgage-free house. There was more than enough room for everyone, it was in a walkable neighborhood, and thanks to some unexpected boosts in our family income, life was more affordable than ever.

But suddenly, perhaps due to some combination of a romantic whim* and the quest for constant optimization, we decided to downsize to a house that was about 50% smaller.

While the above-ground space only dropped by a couple hundred square feet (from 1734 to 1532), this move also cost me my nicely finished basement, a warm dry attached double garage, a garden shed, plus a nifty “tiny house” building I had built out back. The total pain was thus much larger: my almost-3200 square feet of dry indoor space was cut down by more than half.

I use the word “my” because in our family, I really am the main consumer of space. While my share of bedroom and closet space is minimal, I am responsible for a bulky drum set, too much audio and computer equipment, most of the bikes, and of course the whole Confused Renaissance Man’s set of tools for working on houses, gardens, metal and electronics. And of course, the accompanying materials and salvaged scraps are even bigger than the equipment itself. I’m a living contradiction because in some ways, being a Maker is the opposite of being a Minimalist.

So, moving to this new house came with one condition: I could survive the compression if I could at least build something about the size of a garage – to function as a place to work, think, create loud music of questionable quality,  and spread out my big messy projects.

Thus, before even signing the contract to buy the place, I checked with the city’s building department to make sure I could squeeze this future building legally onto the lot. They approved the idea, so after getting the main house mostly built, I broke ground in April 2016 to start building The Studio.

Sometime in the fall of that year, I declared this new Mancave mostly done, and this is in fact the first full article that I will have typed inside the structure. Thus, I thought it would be the perfect time to share some of the decisions, numbers, and lessons learned from this project.

After all, nearly every home buying quest brings up the question: “Could I add extra space onto this old house? If so, what would it look like and how much would it cost?” – Often the best-located houses are in the older and more central neighborhoods, built during an era when a family would happily squeeze into 800 square feet and share a single bathroom. It’s a noble goal if you’re tough enough, but for those of us who prefer a fancier pad (myself included), a few modifications can make all the difference.

So here’s a rapidfire recount of the process I went through to build the Studio:


The main house (always in progress), as it looked in early 2016

The back of main house (always in progress), as it looked in early 2016. We wanted the studio to go along with this basic style.

I wanted something with similar style to the simple midcentury modern lines I stuck with for the main house: a single-plane roof with substantial overhangs, and big windows on the South side to let in the sun. After doing some sketches, we happened to find a local kit-building company called Studio Shed that offered almost same design. The benefit of a kit is that all the materials come in one package, which saves a load of shopping and ordering work, plus the wall segments come partially pre-assembled.

I weighed the convenience of the Studio Shed prefab kit against the extra cost, which was fairly high. But I still ended up buying the kit in the end, partly as an experiment to report on the prefab experience to you, and partly because I am trying to value my time more highly these days. The purchase would eliminate most of the boring administrative work: shopping for materials, getting quotes and placing orders, coordinating with a structural engineer, and getting materials to my building site.

Since extra money will no longer help me these days, it helps to take money out of the decisions and think about where time would best be spent. So I bought something called the “Summit Series 16 x 22” with a few nice customizations.

Layout and Digging: 


This decision went the opposite way of the Studio Shed kit purchase: since I had never laid out a foundation, dug the actual hole, created large concrete forms or built a complex rebar structure, I decided to do all this stuff myself so I could learn a few more new trades.

I used tape measures, plus the existing lot survey and structures to figure out where to pound in stakes and pull some tight strings. Once everything was verified, I used bright orange ground marking spray paint to clearly define my digging lines.

Then the fun part began: I walked down to the local equipment rental shop and inquired about how a man might go about renting an excavating machine. It turned out that they’ll lend one out to anybody, as long as you’ve got the money. Why did I wait over 40 years to learn this amazing thing about our country?

I only needed a 3 foot deep trench with roughly 16″ width, and it turns out that even the smallest digger can dig down to 8 feet, so I rented a John Deere 17G. Rental rate is a little under $200 per day, but you also need to transport the 3800 lb machine to your house. Not owning a heavy equipment trailer, I paid the shop an extra $80 for drop-off and pick-up service. With taxes and fees it was around $300 in total.


Note: I had never driven an excavating machine before. But it’s just like a simple video game with a few levers to control the joints: three for the arm, two for the treads, plus one lever for the body swivel and a final one to control the small but surprisingly useful bulldozer blade. I was able to get a pretty straight, tidy foundation hole (really more of a “footing trench” in this case) in only a single day of work. There was plenty of time to spare and the machine burned through less than two gallons of diesel ($5) over the course of the day.

After digging the hole successfully I taught my son to use the machine and he was able to load the 6000 pound dirt pile nicely into an open-top trailer for transfer to our front garden.

I'm saving this picture in case there's ever a future dispute about me being the Best Dad Ever.

I’m saving this picture in case there’s ever a future dispute about me being the Best Dad Ever.

After the machine digging, I set the strings back up and went back through with a shovel to fine tune the depth and positioning of the trench. My son made a nifty timelapse video of the process and even wrote some music for it – watch it on YouTube if you like.

Forms and Rebar

This was a great challenge for me, because precise foundations are inherently tricky: you have the imprecise medium of rough soil, combined with heavy wood or steel forms and reinforcement bars that are hard to work with. And all this needs to withstand the force of a 30,000 pound liquid concrete delivery that must be distributed and smoothed quickly as soon as it arrives. But the end result must be precise to within an eighth of an inch, and dead level across the span of your entire structure. As a beginner, I had to invent various shims and jigs to make the adjustments. It was particularly fun to figure out how to bend and weld up a complex 3-d mesh of rebar to match the structural engineer’s specifications (and pass an inspection!):


One of the four overlapping walls of rebar that I had to create.

A builder’s transit level (borrowed from a friend) was absolutely essential for getting the form positioning correct, and lots of fun to use as well.

I put some rough timelapses on YouTube of these stages as well: building a form wall, and installing it alongside the other three walls.

In the end it looked like this:


Here is the final form, filled with rebar, radiant heating tubes, and even rough-in plumbing for a possible future small bathroom just in case. Note my haphazard reinforcement to compensate for overly flimsy forms. In the future I would make them more like walls: full 3/4″ plywood screwed to full studs on 16″ centers. You can always unscrew and reuse the wood later, as I did with all this stuff.


Pouring a Truck Full of Cement

Concrete is another dark art that is worth learning. Think about it: it’s liquid stone that can be formed into any shape, then can last for hundreds of years with no maintenance once it cures. Yet it costs only 5 cents per pound if you buy it in bags, even less if you order a truckload for delivery. Shortcut: ask for “4000 PSI mix with a 6″ slump, fly ash added to slow curing time.” You order it by the cubic yard and each truck load holds 10 cubic yards, so you can do the math in advance and sound smarter on the phone.

My foundation and 6″ thick floor slab required about 15 cubic yards worth, which cost me $2176 in total. The base price of $145 per cubic yard was much higher than I’ve paid in the past, but all the local companies were in that range – blame it on the building boom.

This was my third large concrete pour. It’s a fun, intense type of work. The basic procedure is to recruit at least three friends, work with them to fill the form uniformly with the truck’s chute plus some wheelbarrows, then scrape off the top with a long, rigid piece of metal to get a flat surface. Then work the surface several times over the next few hours with trowels of increasing precision to smooth it out more.

My Youtube timelapse of the part of the second truckload: pouring and smoothing the concrete.

Assembly (also known as Framing) 

Once you have a flat, solid slab of concrete that has hardened for a few days, the job is much easier – you’re just framing a very small house. Which sounds fairly advanced, but if read a book on the subject or intern with a skilled framer for a day, you’ll get the picture.

The Studio Shed kit presented a mixture of advantages and disadvantages in this stage: because the wall segments are bulky and can weigh up to 350 pounds, you really need four people just to unload the delivery truck. Then, you have 10,000 pounds of bulky wall modules, lumber and siding scattered around your yard until you put it all together. On the positive side, the assembly process was slightly faster than manual framing and did not require quite as much knowledge.

Timelapse: Unloading the Studio Shed from the delivery truck
Timelapse: Assembling the walls

The roof comes completely unassembled, so the process was the same as building any other house roof: set the rafters in place and secure them with endless blocking and hurricane ties, heft up the sheets of 3/4″ roofing plywood, fire in a few hundred nails, then move on to roofing paper and final roofing material (we used a metal roof in this case, because metal roofs rock).

Finish and Electrical work

To finish out a building like this, you need exterior siding and interior finish materials. This particular Studio Shed came with a very modern kit of painted cement board panels and aluminum accent pieces. The style was something I had never built before, so I feel I learned a few new tricks that I can use elsewhere. The downside is that it was incredibly labor intensive compared to other siding materials – lots of precision required to get it all to work out properly.

Super Insulation for Sound and Temperature

After that, I insulated the structure meticulously with a combination of rigid foam, canned spray foam for the cracks, and batt insulation for the bulk of the building. I used heavy 5/8″ Type X drywall on all surfaces for more thermal mass and soundproofing. I even coated  the foundation with 1″ rigid foil-backed foam insulation before backfilling the hole, to allow the concrete slab to function as an efficient chunk of thermal mass for stable temperatures year-round.  The building has gone through a hot summer and now most of a winter, requiring no air conditioning and very little supplemental heat (I set it up as an individual zone on the radiant heat system I built for the main house).

My First Ever DIY Garage Door

studio-cornerWith the exterior finished, I was left with a gaping 8′ x 7′ hole in the front of the building, where they expect you to get a garage door installed. I wanted lots of glass on mine, so I priced out a couple of fancy glass/aluminum garage doors like you see on patio restaurants or fire station garages.  The estimates were coming in around $2000 including installation, for a door that was not even well-insulated. I was also concerned about the overhead track cluttering up my precious high sloped ceiling. So I decided to try something new – making my own pair of side-hinged doors from welded 1″ x 3″steel and thick plexiglas, with a wood interior.

The result was better than I could have hoped: the doors fit very tightly and have not warped at all since I built them six months ago (a huge advantage of steel over wood), and I created a weathertight design much like a standard exterior door.  Total cost was $300 and about 8 hours of work. Thermal performance seems great as well – no noticeable draft even on the coldest nights.

 A Serene New Life with the Studio


View from the drummer’s seat.

The experience of building this thing was worthwhile in its own right: lots of education, Zen-like days of problem solving and hard outdoor labor. From a financial perspective, it’s probably a good investment, as I spent less than $100 per finished square foot, while the per-square-foot value of houses in this area is well over $300. This might yield a “profit” of roughly $60,000 when I eventually sell this house. But the real benefit has come from actually putting the thing to use.

Suddenly, I have a warm, dry indoor space in which to roll a snowy mountain bike on a winter night. I also used up some scrap materials to add this seven-bike outdoor garage to the otherwise-unused North wall:

Seven bikes that can now stay dry without taking up precious indoor space.

Seven bikes that can now stay dry without taking up precious indoor space.

And an incredibly quiet place to retreat and write or read, when the main house becomes a zoo. And a soundproof place for the newly revived funk band to play whenever we want, without any worry of disturbing family or neighbors. As a result, I’ve played more music with friends (and even with my son) in the past six months than I had in the previous six years.

By the Numbers: Building a Detached Studio

Let’s finish up with a rough summary of typical costs for a project like this in a midrange region of the US , with my spending in the second column from the right.



So in the end, it’s about 31 grand and a lot of good hard work, for a building that will pay ongoing productivity dividends and then return more than its cost when it is eventually sold. Overall, building this structure has been one of my happier projects in the last decade, and it’s one that I can recommend as an alternative to looking for a bigger house if you need to expand a little.


* The whim in this case was a desire to rebuild an old 1959 house almost from scratch, as well as an even-better location: still within walking distance to everything, but also on a quiet circle with a mostly unused public park as the back yard. An extra 1.4 acres of free land, maintained automatically by the city!

Need More Details? If you have specific questions on how this thing was built, or how to make your own, ask them in the comments section below. I left a lot out of this article in order to keep the length reasonable, but we have more space there.

  • Lars-Christian January 24, 2017, 10:28 am

    This is a fantastic read, and a great inspiration for someone who is just looking to get started with some DIY-work (read: painting, plastering and that sort of stuff). It truly looks fantastic, and the fact that you managed to save that much money doing it yourself is quite something.

  • Kyle January 24, 2017, 10:39 am

    Is the in-floor radiant heat tied into the house or on its own closed system?

    • Tim January 24, 2017, 12:24 pm

      He mentioned that it’s an individual zone on the main system heating the house.

  • 9 O'Clock Shadow January 24, 2017, 10:39 am

    Glorious… The labour, the result, the future. Just Glorious.

  • Jessica January 24, 2017, 10:43 am

    Looks amazing! Me and my husband are considering this. We run a Real Estate business and have 2 kids in a 1500 square foot house. I will be looking back at this again before we do it.

  • Neil January 24, 2017, 10:45 am

    Pretty cool! I would like to see more detail on the homemade door. What thickness of plexiglass? Also, what made the cement siding so difficult to work with? Looks good finished and should last a long time!

  • Paul January 24, 2017, 10:49 am

    Thanks for the detailed description of your project. So by my crude math if you value your time at $88/hr or less then your route is a bargain; if you value your time at >$88/hr it isn’t. (Yes, I am discounting down to zero the fact that you enjoy this process, and/or you gained some other valuable skills). Sorry, but I did not notice if you factored in the time of other people that they offered out of friendship or the fact that they think this is kinda cool also?

    Cool bike garage! No security issues or other problems being exposed to the elements? I have too many (my family’s view) and not enough (my view) bicycles in my basement now.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 11:00 am

      Yeah, that $88 figure sounds about right. In general I will gladly do construction even if there is a $0 per hour financial benefit, so the financial savings are just another plus.

      For the help from friends, I did a mixture of bartering time and paying certain people. But that part was such a small total I didn’t want to complicate the spreadsheet with those individual deals.

      The bikes seem to stay dry in all typical weather conditions. They’d be a bit easier to steal out there, but it’s in a pretty hidden area of my yard. Property crime seems to be nonexistent in my area.

      • Stephen January 24, 2017, 2:32 pm

        Glad to see I’m not alone when I viewed the 258 hours of work as a bonus rather than a cost.

      • Dan March 2, 2017, 4:16 pm

        Doing improvements on your house has the added financial benefit that your labor is effectively not taxed since if you sell your house, profit is excluded from capital gains taxes. It’s kind of an obvious loophole — maybe worth its own blog post
        Imagine the scenario of paying someone to do an improvement on your house – say $50k. And imagine the improvement adds $50k of value to your house. The person you hired pays income tax on the $50k, so their takehome value from their labor is about 70%, or $35k. Now if you do labor on your own house (i.e. pay yourself the $50k), then the $50k value you add to your house is essentially tax free when you sell the house, due to the capital gains exemption.

    • Do c Tim January 26, 2017, 8:04 pm

      If he were paid $88 per hour, unless this was his only income his takehome would be much less. As someone still working I find when I look at my takehome per hour and think of the amount of paid work needed to fund something DIY seems more attractive on top of the fun of learning how stiff works.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks January 24, 2017, 10:49 am

    Sweet studio dude! I love working with my hands and seeing this kind of stuff. I never did a full foundation before, and looks like you did a super job. I dig the DIY welded re-bar and the built in radiant heating. That kit came out looking sick.!

    I’m tempted to take up a project like that. I was thinking earthship, but probably don’t need the space enough to justify it. After quitting my job last summer I redid a unused space under our addition, it helped me clear a lot of things out of my garage so I have plenty of space, and can even keep my firewood in the garage for the winter. While I was renovating that space, I took some debris to the dump and found a jackhammer that I fixed up. So if you ever need to take that foundation out, just give me a call ;)

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher January 24, 2017, 10:51 am

    Wowza!!! I love it! I didn’t know you played the drums. :) We have a converted garage and that’s where Mr. Picky Pincher keeps his drum set. Unfortunately ours isn’t super-soundproofed, so he uses a sound-minimizing kit. It’s cheaper than renting a studio after all, eh?

    Way to go for building something so badass! It’s a great example of insourcing. ;)

  • Richard January 24, 2017, 10:54 am

    I’m curious to know if you considered spray foam insulation instead of fiberglass batts. Supposedly it’s more effective at insulating (thermal and sound) and even adds structural rigidity, but obviously more costly up front.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 11:02 am

      Yes! Spray foam is the ultimate stuff. Just more expensive and not DIY-friendly. I used a layer of it for the entire roof of the main house, plus the crawlspace joist bays: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/05/01/beating-the-stock-market-with-diy-insulation/

      • Thomas January 24, 2017, 12:14 pm

        Spray foam kits are becoming more accessible. http://amzn.to/2jbcq5z

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 1:01 pm

          Yeah – I did read about those kits quite a bit. In the end, they are still overpriced though: I was able to hire Denver-based RG insulation to spray my ceiling in the main house for the same price of an equivalent volume of foam in those kits.

      • G-Dub January 24, 2017, 2:54 pm

        Where did you use the rigid foam in the studio and where the batts? Thinking about rigid foam boards sealed in with can spray foam to insulate a shed.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 25, 2017, 9:36 am

          I used the foil-backed rigid foam on the ceiling – glued up between the joists, with any cracks sealed with spray-can foam. Then stuffed R-30 fiberglass batts into those same cavities to finish them out efficiently.

          This method lets you get away with an “unvented” roof, which is useful in this type of building and keeps the place warmer.

          Vents are normally required by code to prevent moisture build-up and condensation on the inside surface of the roof deck (although I can tell it’s a very rare problem in Colorado, based on work I’ve done in the unvented attics of old houses around here.

    • David January 24, 2017, 4:25 pm

      Did you consider rock wool batts? The brand I am familiar with is Roxul. It has A higher R-value than fiberglass and makes very good soundproofing. It is also easier to cut to fit and doesn’t make me itch.

      • Stephane February 1, 2017, 2:45 pm

        Sadly, rock wool is barely any better; the foam kicks it to the curb. As well the foam allows no drafts inside itself (careful about the seams as always). As for itchiness, both recommend the same precautions although the rock wool is better in this aspect.

  • Colin Weir January 24, 2017, 10:56 am

    Love this project. My only real complaint about my downtown row home is I don’t have the room to do this. LMK if you ever want to do some carpentourism to add a 3rd floor to a rowhome :)

  • Mr. 1500 January 24, 2017, 11:01 am

    This turned out fantastic. The pictures don’t do it justice. The only issue I have is that seeing you do this makes me want to build my own structure (a small cabin in or near Nederland to Airbnb?). Anyone want to learn some building skills?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 2:29 pm

      MR. 15, I hear you are planning on organizing a Camp Mustache Colorado someday. If so, maybe part of it should involve building a structure on some land?

      Of course, that’s a big bit of overhead – finding and buying land on a deadline. But then you’d have a perfect camping venue too :-)

      • Ben January 26, 2017, 12:24 pm

        This sounds like a great plan. You’ve got one vote.

      • Mauro 5280 January 27, 2017, 9:03 pm

        OK, I own 1 random acre of land 15 minutes from Nederland (off 119 highway and S. Beaver Creek rd.) and actually built a 10 x 12 fancy shack/microcabin last summer, all by myself during the weekends (I live in Denver). I felt you two were talking about me! I actually had this random idea last summer: “I’m going to email 3M and see if we could have a shack building party/mustache camp up here”. Kind of like the Relaxshack guys. Email me if you are seriously considering it.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 28, 2017, 9:18 am

          Cool Mauro! I just looked up at the location and it seems like a pretty epic section of the nearby mountains. I’ll get in touch.

    • financialfreedomsloth January 25, 2017, 1:35 am

      Wait, what? There is a Nederland in Colorado? Those early settlers were not very original in naming places in the ‘new world’. Nederland is the correct dutch name for the Netherlands, so apparently some dutch guys a few hunderd years ago travelled across the world, came to this lake in colorado, got homesick (lots of lakes in the Netherlands) and decided to call the region after his homecountry! (Google also revealed there to be a nederland in Texas and a Belgium in Illinois!). Sorry, went a bit off topic there …

    • Robert January 27, 2017, 1:14 pm

      I live in Fort Collins and have handy man skills of about a 1.5 out of 10, but would love to learn more. If you’ve got a spot for me to sleep or set up a tent, I’d love to help out and learn a few skills for a couple days.

  • Josh January 24, 2017, 11:04 am

    Cool. Nice job, really impressed at your labor total. I’m sitting at $12,500 w/o electrical, plumbing, heating, insulation, or windows on a fancy 20 x 28 garage shop. I still have to finish the exterior and add all the above and I am over 400 (+100 help) hours of labor +~100hr of design work, which is why I didn’t finish last summer!

  • Greg January 24, 2017, 11:10 am

    Thanks for the detailed post! One item that is a mystery to myself is the whole permit/inspection process. Did you have to apply for any permits before this build and/or submit drawings of the shed you bought? When did the inspections take place? I have nightmares of undertaking a project like this only to have to redo everything after a failed inspection. Any insight you can provide to this process would be greatly appreciated!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 11:23 am

      Yeah, it works like this:
      – you start with plans that show the proposed placement on the lot, and all four side views (“elevations”)
      – for larger buildings, you also need a structural engineer’s design which specifies foundation and framing details
      – bring that all into the building office and pay a fee. They review it, and hopefully approve it.
      – they give you a page which tells you the various inspections. In this case, it was “footing/forms/rebar (by engineer”, “framing”, roof”, “electrical”, and “final”.

      If you screw anything up, the inspector tells you what needs to be adjusted to re-inspect and pass. But I’ve only had this happen about twice out of 50+ inspections in my lifetime – it’s pretty easy stuff.

      • Chris January 25, 2017, 8:46 am

        My dad was an electrician by trade and he always left a little something for the inspector to find so they felt like they were doing their job ;) He could fix it quickly and easily while they were still there and then pass his inspection. I’m not sure if other people have used this strategy but we I remember him telling me about it.

        • Stephane February 1, 2017, 2:47 pm

          I would put a “mistake” just to see if my inspector is paying attention…

      • Jon Martin January 29, 2017, 11:31 pm

        How much of this stuff did you prepare yourself? I know you’ve done some great little mockups in Google sketchup (ex: when you revamped the house), but did you have an architect or someone do up your elevations?

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2017, 10:13 am

          For the main house, my wife and I did the architecture ourselves: Designed the structure (to scale) in Sketchup and used that for the elevations, and the structural engineer used that to generate his drawings. That stuff went together to form the building permit application.

          For the studio, it all came as part of the package other than the survey/building placement diagram that shows where you want to actually put the building on the lot. So I made that one myself (simple cut/paste in Photoshop) and then handed it all over to the building department. They approved it after a few weeks of delay/review.

      • Dan March 2, 2017, 4:10 pm

        What about the rough in plumbing you did in the floor?
        Doesn’t sound like you had a plumbing inspection. Sometimes zoning rules prohibit a bathroom in an outbuilding. not allowed in my city.
        I added on a bathroom this past year and the rough plumbing inspections were tough. I had to redo a few things even though I did a lot of research.

        • Mr. Money Mustache March 5, 2017, 7:41 am

          Yes, zoning rules can definitely be an issue. Last time I checked, we had that “no bathrooms in an outbuilding” rule here in my town as well, even though I strongly disagree with it.

          So I did not put the plumbing on my inspection sheet, but I documented it well with photos and tape measures. Based on my usage patterns of the building, it looks like I’ll probably never put a bathroom there, but at least the option exists. If the zoning rules have loosened up by then (which the city is working on, to increase our density), it might even be legal! If not, there is always the option of “fuck the rules”, which is sometimes necessary when the rules themselves are dumb :-)

    • Josh January 24, 2017, 11:54 am

      I hear you. My pro garage builder neighbor freaked me about his experiences with failing inspection and horrible interactions with the inspectors. I was more worried about that than not knowing anything about construction. But my experience with inspections (and planning and zoning at the permit office) were quite pleasant.

      My city (Mpls) has a nice pdf sheet that outlined the permits process and necessary documentation, which helped a lot. It also referenced building code so I could go in and understand the details. That would be a good place to start if you are in a bigger city?

      I screwed up my footer placement and failed inspection. I had to move my slab forms away from my alley by about 7 inches. Cost me a day of hard labor, but I was glad for that inspection. Learning I was too close to the alley after pouring $1700 of concrete would have been unpleasant. The inspector was real nice about it, lol; he started telling stories about the pro mistakes to cheer me up. He let me know what he was going to look for. I asked him questions over the phone a few times to make sure I understood everything. I passed the follow up and the framing inspection, which also looks at all sorts of garage-specific details.

      The building permit cost me $500 which was an unexpected chunk of my $12,000 budget. But on the other hand the process saved me from a several thousand dollar mistake.

      I still need to wrap up the cladding and complete final inspection, but I’ve taken care of all the fussy stuff. He just needs to sign off to close the permit.

      Good learning experience on all counts.

      • David January 24, 2017, 4:34 pm

        Stories like these make me appreciate where I live. We can build accessory structures without a permit if there is a 600 square foot or larger house on the property. There are setback rules, minimum 50 feet from a road, 10 feet from a side or back boundary, 75 fet from a brook and 100 feet from a pond or lake. Also at least 2/3 of the lot has to be water permeable. Only 1/3 can be building footprint, patio or driveway.

  • CapitalistRoader January 24, 2017, 11:11 am

    I second your Best Dad Ever award. I had the opportunity to operate a front end loader for a couple of days. It was fun.

    “Often the best-located houses are in the older and more central neighborhoods, built during an era when a family would happily squeeze into 800 square feet and share a single bathroom. ”

    And when only one person worked in the family. Two working people usually need two working baths, which is why there is a flurry of scrape-offs in north Cherry Creek and Congress Park in Denver. Those nice but small 1920s/1930s houses just don’t cut it for modern families. And since they’re almost all double brick they’re a PITA to add to or pop the top Cheaper just to scrape them off and start over.

  • KMB January 24, 2017, 11:12 am

    They didn’t have a bike trailer for the Deere??

    Did the city ding you with impact fees for this?

    • KMB February 7, 2017, 8:12 am

      Dumb bike trailer jokes aside, I’m truly curious as to what kind of fees the municipality added to your project, beyond just the cost of a building permit and inspection fees. The sanitary line that you ran from your house makes this almost an accessory dwelling unit. I checked the Longmont code and, much to my surprise, ADUs are allowed in almost every residential district. This should open you up to impact fees for compensating the school district, stormwater system, traffic/road system, public utilities, library and/or public safety. Were any of these assessed? If not, were they discussed and intentionally avoided?

  • Mrs. Mad Money Monster January 24, 2017, 11:16 am

    That space is absolutely beautiful. Congrats on completing the project and putting it to good use. I never knew I was a lover of midcentury modern design until I started paying attention. I was able to pinpoint where that love came from when I realized I grew up living in it in our trailer home as a child. It was a 1950s 8 x 50′ trailer with real wood and great design. It helped that my parents were meticulous in caring for our home and decorating the inside. Unfortunately, because of the stigma, I didn’t appreciate its beauty until recentlyt.

    Now, we live in a modest 1300 SF, 2100 SF if you count the finished family room we finished in the basement. Last year we decided to not up-size our family home and, instead, install custom finishes in the one we already owned. I have come to love small spaces and great design and have even considered putting a small studio like the one you built in our backyard. I even went as far to price kits, which are a little high, but not outrageous for such a cool space. I just can’t justify having it other than wanting it. For now, wanting it isn’t good enough. But it’s good to know the kits are a feasible option if I come up with a need for it in the future!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  • Cathleen Hutchins January 24, 2017, 11:16 am

    Very nice small shed! I wanted to add one onto my property in Hawaii, to serve as a home office since I telework full time. But in my county any shed under 120 sq ft. does not require a permit- I wonder if its the same elsewhere?
    How’s the insulation work in the summer- do you leave the windows open at night to let the cooler air in, and then shut it during the day? My options for placement are on the south-west side of a large tree, or the north-east side of the tree, which would provide afternoon shade, but not much light else-wise. We would also do a pier and post type of foundation, since here it helps the air circulation under the structure, and provides additional cooling. Lots of the old houses (including mine) have that- it also helps if there is flash flooding, since the home is elevated, and provides storage for extra building material.

  • Peter Sieve January 24, 2017, 11:30 am

    Hey MMM! Love the project, and it’s serendipitously timed — I’m converting my detached garage into an apartment. I would LOVE to learn more about how you built your custom steel/plexi doors! I want to replace my garage door with something similar that can open out into the yard, and this seems like it might be the perfect solution — in Minnesota, it’s got to be weather tight, and I doubt that a typical glass garage door will keep cold out. Any details about that part of the project would be MASSIVELY appreciated.

    Longtime reader and first time commenter — I really appreciate what you’ve been putting out into the world. Thanks a lot!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 12:46 pm

      Sure, although I hadn’t planned a blog post on it, here’s a google shared album with the photos I happened to take with my phone while making the doors. I added some comments to each picture to help explain. I hope these are at least somewhat useful!

      (right click and open in new tab):

      • Seth January 24, 2017, 2:27 pm

        If it’s not too much work you might want to think about putting this link in the body of the article. I suspect many of us will be interested in learning more about that awesome door!

      • Jmac January 24, 2017, 5:53 pm

        Super cool (and I agree that these photos would be useful linked in the main article). Motivated by your “Mr. T” article, I finally took the plunge and got a welder (Lincoln MIG 140). It was a skill I’ve been wanting for some time. I’m glad I did – having metal as a material option is a powerful advantage.

      • Jwheeland January 25, 2017, 9:00 am

        Pictures look great. Thanks for sharing. How’d you clean up the gaps for a draft free fit? Just weather stripping?

      • Dave January 25, 2017, 12:24 pm

        Do turn this into a blog post. This is the kind of stuff I love about your site.

  • Greg January 24, 2017, 11:49 am

    That’s a badass project. Nice work putting it up! I appreciate all the detail about how you did it.

    I had a question for you about digging for the foundation. What precautions did you take ahead of time to make sure you wouldn’t have a conflict with any buried pipes at the studio location? Presumably you already knew that the water, sewer, gas, and electric came in from the other side of the house, but how about others?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 11:58 am

      If you look up “Call before you dig”, you will find a free utilities location service that will come out and spraypaint the locations for you. The utilities fund this out of their own pockets, to avoid the much more expensive consequence of cleaning up after accidental line damage.

      • Greg January 25, 2017, 3:44 pm

        In Colorado will they locate the pipes on your property as well? I looked at the California laws and it seems like here they only go from the street up to the meter. Side sewers apparently don’t get located at all.

        • wesley January 26, 2017, 11:32 am

          I deal with this situation often. The public utility locating service (811) simply notifies all companies such as Comcast, Xcel, the town you live in etc. to perform a utilities locate on your property. Normally the private companies such as Xcel or Comcast will locate on your property but public utilities such as sewer may only locate up to your property line. I always schedule a private locater as well to make sure all utilities (including water lines that the town may not know about) are located. A list of approved locaters can be found on the http://call811.com/before-you-dig website.

  • Brian January 24, 2017, 12:00 pm

    What kind of sound reduction are you getting? That seems like a lot of glass which I’d imagine you loose some sound out of.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 12:49 pm

      I haven’t done an actual decibels measurement. But subjectively I walked outside one night while the other fellas were wailing on the bass and drums, and the sound level was very mild – like a conversational level or less. I figured it would not disturb any neighbors – the nearest window of the nearest house is about 60 feet from the studio.

      The glass is all double-pane and the plexi is 1/4″ thick, which seems to help.

  • Laurie January 24, 2017, 12:01 pm

    I’m impressed by the bike rack. More than two bikes per family member! :)

  • Kathy January 24, 2017, 12:08 pm

    Great shed! Did you cover your remodeling project indoors in a blog somewhere? I am trying to love our 1953 ranch house with square foot of around 1500. I need ideas and inspirations on how to improve the living room, dining room and kitchen area which are all within a square layout. Do you have pictures of before and after of your house indoors? Thanks in advance!

  • Darby January 24, 2017, 12:10 pm

    Very glad to see you have continued with diy radiant for you new digs as well as the old. I am in the middle of a radiant project that has been inspired in no small part by your project. A grand experience radiant post would be very useful as you have put out some of the best diy material on the subject that I have been able to find, but more is always welcome especially with the same style of problem solving on tow locations etc…
    Thanks for your efforts and your sharing.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 12:51 pm

      Glad you are enjoying the stuff, Darby! Here is a more recent tip I need to add to my radiant post:

      To run the thing with multiple zones/thermostats, and/or to add the 24 volt AC power you typically need to power a WiFi thermostat, simply add a “Zone Controller” from Taco or another brand. This becomes the interface between your circulator pump and any thermostats.

      • David Wendelken January 25, 2017, 5:22 am

        We recently bought a 1951 mid-century custom house to refurbish and flip. It has a concrete slab foundation and apparently had radiant water heating put into the slab. We’re also told it developed a leak which no one was able to find and fix, so it had to be turned off. Its’ not something we expect to be able to fix.

        Did you consider doing the radiant flooring above the concrete slab instead, and just opt for the cost savings for now?

    • Seth January 24, 2017, 2:31 pm

      We are just finishing up an ADU project behind our house. We decided to go with a ductless mini split rather than radiant for two reasons: one being cost savings and the other being after touring about 20 completed ADUs in our city (Portland) we got a consensus that people that had both forms of heating rarely, if ever, turned on their radiant heat. We just started the process of moving into the ADU to rent out the big house and I’m hoping we don’t regret not adding the radiant heat. It will definitely be a slipper house in the winter as our floor is the concrete.

    • David January 30, 2017, 11:34 am

      Most builders in my area don’t like to pour a slab without radiant heat tubing, even if the owner has no plans to heat the structure. The logic is someone might want to heat it later and placing the tubes in the slab adds little to the cost now. Being ready for radiant heat is also a selling point. The garage/workshop I built 4 years ago has radiant heat tubes in the slab but I heat the building with a hot air furnace. If I wanted to heat it all the time radiant heat would be more efficient and more comfortable. I only heat the shop when I want to work in there. Raising the temperature from zero to 50 degrees would take several days with radiant heat. The hot air furnace does the job in a few hours. Radiant heat is the best way to heat most buildings but is not the best for every situation.

  • Mike January 24, 2017, 12:20 pm

    Thanks for the continued inspiration! (Your son’s music ain’t too shabby either.) ;)

  • AnonymousEngineer555 January 24, 2017, 12:21 pm

    Is the ABS pipe being used as conduit or as drain for a potential washroom?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 12:52 pm

      It’s a drain for a potential bathroom sink, utility sink, and toilet.

  • Graham January 24, 2017, 12:34 pm

    I actually built a 24×24 garage with my girlfriend last year after losing the garage in a fire. Italian cars or something.

    City was ok with me keeping the slab in place, and I was not so interested in another $2k or so of cost, so I left it. I had the Pro Desk at Home Depot help us model the garage in their system, and it provided a calculated bill of material, all purchased at the Pro discount and delivered for like $25.

    Actual build took 10 days just due to the fact that we spent 8-12 each day learning what we were doing, and then 12 to 9:30 or 10 (sunset) building. We were pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the works was. We even caved and bought Harbor Freight tool belts on day 3 or so. Badass. City inspector was pretty impressed with the build too.

    Now I use the garage to repair Alfa Romeos that I purchase well below market price in some sort of disrepair and then mechanically / cosmetically restore them. I’ve also taken to buying up undervalued Alfa spares to rebuild or auction on eBay. It’s a fun hobby and more than self-sustaining. Unfortunately I’m not zoned to repair others’ cars for anything but beer and food payments, so I travel with my tools in order to make a little bit of cash repairing Alfas.

    Losing my garage to a fire was pretty tough at first, but I ended up learning quite a bit, fertilizing the yard with some nice ash, and finally experiencing a deep puncture wound (two framing nails into the sole of my foot – yow).

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 12:55 pm

      A tale of true Badassity Graham – congrats!

      I’m with you on that puncture wound too – I got one while building the main house when a very sharp nail punctured my tough work boot sole. Felt like it went almost through my foot, and took a full two weeks for the sensitive walking to fully subside.

      It was my fault, too – when studying under a pro carpenter, he was religious about making sure nobody EVER left boards with nails out on the floor of any work space – not even for a few minutes. In this case, I got sloppy and I got stabbed.

  • Neil January 24, 2017, 12:41 pm

    Cool siding? What is it exactly? Haven’t had any luck googling it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 12:59 pm

      It is called “Hardiepanel” by James Hardie siding. Really it is just 1/4″ thick sheets of some cement/fiber-based material. It is brittle and hard to cut and nail, but in exchange very durable and water/pest resistant, and holds paint forever.

    • The MAD Consultant January 24, 2017, 3:27 pm

      Neil try googling “Cement Board Siding” also.

      I’ve worked with this stuff before and it’s a bit different than normal siding. As MMM says brittle(you should make sure you hold longer boards vertically when moving around), and difficult to cut. You might want to consider getting a cement board blade for a larger project. Also make sure to wear a mask. During the cutting process you’ll create a lot of dust. Also on a cut board you might have to add paint with a paint pen to the cut edge to keep a manufacturers warranty. Check with your supplier. One last thing is make sure you flash it properly. Sometimes overlooked by DIY’ers.

      Very awesome project MMM. Judging by real estate prices in Colorado you might get even more than you anticipate for this projects ROI.

  • Keren January 24, 2017, 12:58 pm

    The USA is so vast! In Israel you can’t get that much land for yourself for any reasonable amount of money, unless it’s off in a remote location without convenience of nearby facilities. Most people live in apartments, and those that have detached houses don’t have more than 1/10th of an acre of land (probably less). I’m pretty blown away by how much stuff is available in the USA. I’m good with my frugality here though. Happily keeping it simple and striving to simplify even more.

    • Mixed Money Arts January 24, 2017, 1:53 pm

      I felt the exact same way back when I was living in my 200 square foot apartment in New York. MMM’s DIY and real estate articles inspired me to move somewhere where land isn’t so scarce!

      • Keren January 25, 2017, 6:58 am

        After converting 200 square feet to square meters – 18.5 square meters, that’s tiny! We live in a 70 square meter apartment (my boyfriend and I and our five cats) – that’s about 750 square feet. And we’re moving to an apartment twice the size of this one in a couple of months. I’m kind of sorry we’re doing that because although I’ll have my own studio for my art stuff, I don’t really need all that space. And the facilities payments and municipal tax are much higher. We thought about moving to Europe, but the USA is just too far away, emotionally, from our family. It’s funny I should be sentimental about things like that but I guess I am. As much as I’d like to live closer to nature and have more breathing space, I don’t know if I want to move to a different country for that. Moving inside the USA or from Canada to the USA is probably less of an upheaval than moving from Israel to those places. Not that I think it’s better here – I’ve just gotten used to it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 2:36 pm

      Indeed, the US is truly an amazing place – combining incredibly high income potential with cheap land and manufactured goods. There’s a reason this economy became the world’s largest (and also why we have the highest per-capita consumption of most resources). It’s also one of the reasons I moved here.

      • Keren January 25, 2017, 6:59 am

        In Canada, this isn’t the case?

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 25, 2017, 9:53 am

          Right – Canada is still up there on a world ranking scale, but with higher prices and lower incomes at the top of the chart.

          In short, it’s a place of more equality. But also less entrepreneurial optimism. Better for the average person, but maybe not quite as fun for the 1%.

          Although I selfishly enjoy the extra wealth from moving to the US (it allowed me to retire in roughly half the time!), I mainly came here for the better weather and more varied geography :-)

          • Dharma Bum January 25, 2017, 5:00 pm

            That is why I spend all of my vacation time in the US. Weather, geographic and topographic variety, and Trader Joe’s!

  • Cory January 24, 2017, 1:55 pm

    Cool post! I especially like the shot of your son operating the backhoe. My son is only 2 1/2, but man would he love the chance to get up close to one of those!

    • mike January 24, 2017, 4:22 pm

      Me too, and I’m 60. Looks like a lot of fun, and yes, MMM is the world’s best dad.

  • Seth January 24, 2017, 2:37 pm

    Love this! I just bought a kit shed from Lowe’s and will be building it. A bit different scale haha. My SO and I are about to move out of our 1400 sq ft home into a 750 sq ft ADU that in our backyard we just had built. I would have like to have been more hands on but we both are still working full time+ and I didn’t have the motivation to fit it in. The pros finished the whole thing in about 2 months. It was expensive renting out the main house will virtually cover the entire mortgage we’re still working on. Love that aspect!

  • Matt January 24, 2017, 2:40 pm

    How was your overall experience w/Studio Shed? My wife and I have been contemplating the purchase/build of one in our back yard in Boulder, but the salty reviews online (BBB, Yelp) made us a little skeptical. They’re apparently better to deal with when you are local, but would love to get your take on them.

    We would contract the dirty work out (foundation, installation, electrical) so my cost would probably be 30% higher than a DIY install, but I can barely make simply blocks out of my son’s legos – so DIY is OOTQ.


    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 6:02 pm

      They were nice, competent people!

      There is definitely a long period between order and delivery, so don’t buy if you’re in a rush.

      Also there was one support guy that had the annoying habit of returning my emailed questions with voicemails that told me to call him back for the answer (?!), but this is life in the construction industry :-)

      • longwaytogo January 26, 2017, 12:44 pm

        HA! sounds like my Dad; he’s 61 and I still don’t think he’s sent an email. He does finally know how to read them but then calls me to say so and so emailed, get back to them. I’m like yeah, thanks dad.

  • fox in ftc January 24, 2017, 2:47 pm

    Surprised that the decision was made to go with radiant floor heat for a use such as this. Despite the advantages of radiant floor heating I would have thought that the disadvantage of LATENCY would have made it much more expensive to heat a structure that is only used part-time. Latency is the time delay that it takes for the building to warm up or cool off. Radiant floor heat takes many hours to warm up a room and continues to warm the room for many hours after it is turned off. A forced air natural gas or heat pump system warms the air in just minutes making the heating system much more like “turning on the lights” and I would think much more economical for a space that is not used continuously.

    LOVE the pic of the kid operating the backhoe, he has a very cool dad indeed!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 5:59 pm

      This is a good point, and something to consider when designing a structure for your own use.

      I wanted my building to be a constant temperature (at least in the range of 55-85F) year-round. It’s really just another room of the house, used at unpredictable times around the clock, so I decided to leave it warm all winter. Thus, lots of thermal mass and slow temperature changes are a good thing.

      The good news is, the cost is very minimal – maybe $5 per month of extra natural gas, during the 3-4 months when I need to supplement the already abundant solar heat this building soaks up.

  • Paula January 24, 2017, 3:12 pm

    Congratulations on getting the studio done and it being so very handsome! But I have a question: in watching the time lapse videos, I noticed that once the foundation was cured and you were putting up the walls (with Mrs. MMM- right on!), there were what appeared to be 2×4’s or 2×6’s along the perimeter, over (over?) which you put the walls.

    Where in the scheme of things and how did you actually attach the walls to the foundation? Or is it floating? That part wasn’t in the videos.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 6:10 pm

      Good catch – I initially screwed down those 2×6 sill plates with basic 4″ masonry screws. But after the structure was done, went back and drilled in about twenty 14″ long “Simpson Titen HD” bolts with massive washers and braces and such. Quite a hassle, but required by the structural engineering plans. We are all set for a nuclear tornado hurricane now.

      • Greg January 25, 2017, 8:31 pm

        Around this area everyone just sets anchor bolts in the concrete when it is poured. Cheaper and quicker than drilled in anchors

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 25, 2017, 8:38 pm

          Yes, definitely cheaper and easier for the bolts themselves. But with this slab-and-foundation pour all at once, having no protruding bolts made the concrete work much easier. It is also much easier to put up the sill plates and walls without having to pre-drill exactly for bolts. So it might come out pretty even in the end.

  • Rob S. January 24, 2017, 3:44 pm

    Hey Pete – A fun read as always, but I wanted to focus on one statement in the article: “I’m a living contradiction because in some ways, being a Maker is the opposite of being a Minimalist.”

    I’d vote for an article on this topic, as I’m struggling with this same contradiction myself at the moment. Downsized our space by around 3-4x around 4 years ago, and everything of mine is shoehorned into a single car garage and a 10×10 office nowadays. I shed a LOT of tools and supplies in the process, and am considering going for a second round this spring, but there’s a constant tug between interesting projects, the time I have, the $ I have, and the space I have…

    • Rebecca January 25, 2017, 2:04 pm

      I second this vote! This contradiction is definitely something my husband and I struggle with as well. We are living tiny and affordable on a boat in a big city, but enjoy a lot of DIY projects (mostly boat/bike repair and maintenance, plus random food related projects) and one equipment intense hobby (backpacking).
      The math in both money and time keeps working out in favor of buy but the space says rent or sell back when done for the tools and equipment we only use seasonally. We compromise by getting a storage unit, which minimalist me hates on principal though it is definitely a time and money saver in the long run. I would love to get another perspective. #thestruggleisreal

    • bryan danger January 27, 2017, 8:21 am

      I share in this battle and would love to read the same post!
      The wife and i live in 480sqft (the garage we converted to our “home base” so someone else can pay the mortgage) but spend over half our year exploring in a van.

      Really the only drawback I can think of for our lifestyle is the difficulty in “Making”… but i’ve tried to find various ways of continuing the creativity:
      – Found a community shop in our city that allows us to use communal tools rather than having to double our living space for tools alone.
      – Realizing that making doesn’t have to mean collecting… and selling the things youve made can provide a nice extra boost to the income/savings
      – Designing/making for others. Once our garage project was finished we started designing small homes for others…and its amazing how much better it is to take part in a project (of any size) when someone else is paying for it! ;)

  • Ken A January 24, 2017, 3:53 pm

    Is welding the rebar really required in your area? I would’ve thought that rebar ties would be adequate for a footing and slab. Just curious.

    • Ken A January 24, 2017, 4:19 pm

      BTW, I watched all the time lapse videos too. Looks like a pretty fun project. Looks great too!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 6:07 pm

      It’s not required, but it does increase strength, and perhaps more importantly makes the complex mesh easier to handle. (Since I was able to make it on saw horses and carry it in, rather than trying to wire stuff together in the hole).

      • Johnny January 30, 2017, 9:08 am

        As a structural engineer by trade, I can tell you that welding the rebar will oftentimes weaken your structure in the long run, not strengthen it. As a DIY’er You should always tie the rebar together. Most of the projects I work on prohibit the use of welded reinforcing bars.



        • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2017, 10:02 am

          Thanks for the tip Johnny – I did not hear the same thing from my engineer for this project, but perhaps he was just being polite?

          And a special thanks for including those links to back up your idea. I read the structure mag article and it sounds like the main issue is that welding a piece of rebar can make it more brittle, especially if it is a high-carbon grade of steel. This makes sense to me.

          On the other hand, welding the joints allowed me to be much more precise in the placement of the bars. This leaves fewer open fields of unprotected concrete (they are especially more resilient to shifting under the pushing of the wet concrete. And the decreased slip from the more rigid mesh might get you back some of that strength.

          I did use simple wire-tying on the simple parts of the mesh – like the main grid. But even that Structure Magazine article was a bit speculative. What I’d really like to see is a controlled test of a concrete sheet reinforced with tied vs. welded bars, to see the actual difference in its break strength.

          Anyway, thanks again.

  • Russell Graves January 24, 2017, 4:15 pm

    Very, very nice work! And truly huge for an outbuilding space! Your garage door is a good chunk the size of my whole office.

    I built something smaller, but for a similar purpose last summer: https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2016/07/solar-shed-summary-my-off-grid-office.html

    I moved out to a rural area to be closer to family, and needed office space to work from home. Instead of trying to work from the house, where my wife & daughter spend their days, I built myself an office from an 8’x12′ Tuff-Shed, powered with solar (because we pretty much live on a pile of basalt, and trenching power is rough out here).

    Having isolated space to work from is awesome, and I can do what I want out here. Since I’m under 200 sq ft, I don’t even need permits – I just scraped a spot flat (normally, Tuff-Shed can block the space level, but I got a prebuilt unit at a rather substantial discount) and went at it.

    How did you insulate things and how are you heating the space? I’ve got a blend of propane and electric heat out in mine.

  • Ari January 24, 2017, 4:33 pm

    That’s a lovely end result – thanks for all the details! If you feel inclined to add more details about the doors at some point it’d be much appreciated – the in progress album does make things much clearer. Our ‘front’ doors are a double hollow core set that didn’t have any weather protection when we bought the house – the pergola had a pretty climber on it but didn’t stop the rain at all. So we’re replacing the doors with something that actually insulates as well as looks good. And I’m learning to weld!

  • Todd January 24, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Holy fucking tits this is impressive.

  • Kim January 24, 2017, 6:09 pm

    Lovely job. Don’t let your number of bike hooks on the rafters stop your love for acquiring useful second hand bikes for your kids! I recently bought the Rubbermaid Fast track system… and can store bikes 10″ on centre with their wall hooks especially if bikes are attached alternatively by the front wheel then the back wheel. You can really cram them in if the bike type is in off season. Just hit the wall studs when you attach the mounting bar. Wall hooks are also a bit easier for shorties (including kids) to hang there bikes;). Rubbermaid certainly lacks photos for best installation practices for this product. Many photos show horizontal hanging with no space saving- go figure. Here’s a photo of someone’s garage…https://www.google.ca/search?q=rubbermaid+fasttrack+bike+rack&rlz=1C5AVSZ_enCA613CA614&espv=2&biw=1690&bih=930&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjupfr_jNzRAhUE0GMKHWBWAWwQ_AUIBigB#imgdii=cryc8HoMI_u2uM%3A%3Bcryc8HoMI_u2uM%3A%3BIqCM5fqjlyrCzM%3A&imgrc=cryc8HoMI_u2uM%3A
    My hooks are simpler and they slide relatively easily when I want to cram up an extra bike or two! Good Work!

  • Dharma Bum January 24, 2017, 7:21 pm

    Can you explain in a bit more detail about the rebar and concrete? In the photo of the rebar laid out in between the forms, is that a series of the rebar sections you built all butted together? What is the material under the rebar? Is it thick plastic covering the dirt? Does the concrete then just get poured on top of it all, and flow down into the trenches along the sides (inside the forms)? How us the thickness of the concrete controlled, Is it poured up to the top edge of the forms? This us fascinating to a dummy like me! Thanks for the detailed post!

  • Steve January 24, 2017, 7:22 pm

    A nice project and spectacular result. I enjoy construction as well, and have built several houses including the one I currently live in.

    My question for you is regarding the siding. The Hardi panel squares as used are a very nice architectural detail, but I do not see how they are providing a true barrier to moisture. Is the exterior clad in something else prior to applying the Hardi Panels? What seals the panels at the edges, as they appear applied to the surface.


    • Mr. Money Mustache January 24, 2017, 8:00 pm

      The actual OSB of these wall panels is sealed with a green rubbery paint before shipping, and then you seal the cracks with wide Grace Vycor tape stuff. If all that weren’t there first, you could always add a layer of Tyvek-style building wrap before moving on to the aluminum and hardi.

      But you’re right that there is no true sealing behind the Hardipanel. This is fine in a dry place like Colorado (especially with the big roof overhangs), but in a seaside or location with violent sideways spraying rain, you could get some moisture behind the panels unless you sealed the perimeter of each one.

      • Ms Blaise January 28, 2017, 7:29 pm

        This the type of material that caused our leaky home scandal in NZ and a lot of heartache for owners when their builders went bankrupt rather than honour the build. You are right MMM, it is all about the climate, and in New Zealand’s wet climate it was not good. Now , even rebuilt and reclad, those homes are hard to sell. I’ll stick to my 1930’s wooden 1 bathroom, three bedroom house, which is rock solid and rot proof.

    • Green Thing January 30, 2017, 10:15 pm

      This method is called a rainscreen facade.
      Water can get into your building in a number of different ways- bulk water, pressure-driven water, and water vapor. This system deals with each threat tidily.
      1. Bulk water aka rain, is shed by the siding and very little rain water will actually get behind it. Water that gets behind it drips down the back of the siding or the plastic barrier harmlessly.
      2. The plastic forms a vapor barrier to keep water vapor from entering the wall and condensing somewhere inconvenient, like inside the batt insulation. Or the plastic is not a vapor barrier, which is fine in CO.*
      3. The rainscreen system was developed specifically to deal with the most insidious form of water penetration – pressure driven water. In a rainy, windy storm, the air pressure is lower inside the building than outside. Any small pinholes in the building envelope will act like a straw and literally suck water into the wall. Bad news. In a rainscreen system, the air pressure between the siding and the wall acts more like “indoors”. Just like when there’s a hole in the side of your soda straw, the pressure is broken and the building becomes unable to suck in water. Result, a nice dry interior.
      There are a lot of standard siding methods that act like a rainscreen, or have 2/3 the benefits. Stucco plaster is one, wood siding is another. MMM is right that Tyvek will work; it holds off bulk water and pressure driven water, but passes vapor both ways, which is fine in CO. I won’t get too far off topic with building science there. Suffice to say that rainscreens are cool.
      *Different rules apply in Florida-like places, where the heat and humidity are reversed from Colorado and preventing vapor drive is very important.

  • Jason January 24, 2017, 8:37 pm

    Awesome post, we are just signing a contract to move into something more rural that is lacking a workshop. This post definitely inspires the DIY attitude I need to get something like this done.

  • Betsy January 24, 2017, 10:39 pm

    Parents-in-law built a concrete slab home in which they stained and sealed the concrete rather than install tile, carpet, or wood floors. (There is tile on the bathroom floors.) Durable, of course, and surprisingly nice looking, with the right scatter rugs. Plus lots of thermal mass.

    I was going to ask how quiet a metal roof is, from inside, when it rains or hails, but I see that’s covered in the comments on the metal roof article.

    One other benefit I would expect from a metal roof is a good, clean surface for collecting rainwater, as opposed to the sand and asphalt shingles pervasive in my suburb. I would love to collect rain from my roof for later irrigation during arid summer months here. (Best implementation I’ve seen of that was a 2000-gallon water tank, above ground but artfully covered in ivy. I stood right beside it and had no idea it was there before I was told.

  • Ricky January 24, 2017, 11:48 pm

    Great stuff! I’ve always wanted a haven for a set of drums. You say “for when the house is eventually sold” – where would you move to?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 25, 2017, 8:49 pm

      This is a distant plan, as we’re committed to staying here to raise this boy (7 years or so left). After that, anywhere is possible – San Diego, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Australia, … ?

      • Adventures with Poopsie February 2, 2017, 3:36 pm

        You should definitely move to Australia!! We can totally hang!

      • Reade February 2, 2017, 6:19 pm

        Be a great article, or a guest article about moving to lower cost areas/countries.

      • GingerMustache February 17, 2017, 7:39 pm

        Upvote on you moving to San Diego, please!

  • JC January 25, 2017, 12:20 am

    I couldn’t discern from a quick run through the vids – did you insulate below the slab/foundation walls, to thermally de-couple the concrete from the earth? It’s a passive solar technique that may or may not be appropriate for your climate, and heating/cooling needs.

  • financialfreedomsloth January 25, 2017, 1:43 am

    Was this not supposed to be a cross fit studio for the misses also? Because with the drums and all your tools you reference to, I got this sneaking suspicion you sold it to the wife as a cross fit studio for here. And then, once build it actually turned out to be your man cave. If this is the case, a follow up post on how to get away with such subterfuge and not get killed by the missus would be greatly appreciated by most of your male readers …

  • Dean January 25, 2017, 6:35 am

    I might have missed it, but I’m waiting for the radiant heating update from almost a year + ago…

  • Matthew January 25, 2017, 12:16 pm

    Have you ever looked into what’s called an earthship?
    And what would your opinion be on them?

    Created from some parts garbage, some parts normal building materials but with the philosophy of being self contained, no maintenance and no central heating/cooling due to the thermal mass. It grows it’s own food, is off grid and uses water 4 times creating virtually no waste or re-occurring bills and payments.

    Efficient and self sustaining…

    • Green Thing January 30, 2017, 10:22 pm

      I love earthships. Do you know of any that have been constructed in urban areas? Or do they all have to be out in the sticks where there are no building codes? I’d love to live in one but not on the side of a hill in rural New Mexico.
      If you don’t already know about it, look up the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Ted talks by its founder Amory Lovins. They are doing amazing things with design that conserves/ generates energy, and rethinking the whole model of energy and grid power.

  • grisly_atoms January 25, 2017, 7:26 pm

    One thing I love about America is that we over-use the word “fancy”. Heck, even our giardiniera is ALWAYS fancy. I cannot find non-fancy giardiniera to save my life.

    But you, Mr. MM, have not over-used the word “fancy” at all, in describing your studio. I do believe that is the fanciest residential studio I’ve ever seen.

  • Echo January 25, 2017, 7:54 pm


    Unbelievable work. Between this studio and the sustainable home, you have inspired my future plans to no small end.

    Currently I am doing the “Stash up in a HCOL” area but am yearning for the space and permit freedom you have out west. By us such a structure is logistically impossible and bureaucratically laughable a lot of the time. I have wanted a secondary building on my future property, and if I cant find a perfectly situated detached garage – I am buying one of these.

    Keep on educating man


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