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Community and Q&A

Cost-Effective Temporary Heated Shed

neutral_grey | Posted in General Questions on

I have to build a heated shed (iecc 5b or 6b) that will be torn down in 3~5 years once we have our house/cabin built.  My question is what construction method strikes the right balance of material cost & build effort -vs- energy we use heating it + materials we will have to throw away.

I’m leaning to 2×6 studs with glass batts, 2×8 joists & rafters also with glass batts, as it’s cheap & dead simple to build.   But wanted to throw this out there in case there is something else with much less embodied energy I would do that wouldn’t balloon the effort required.

TBC i would prefer to avoid the “tear it down” part – but with the details of the site & eventual structure, it’s simply not avoidable if we are to be able to have usable water & bathroom on site for use between now & then (as well as during construction).

We are going to build a house/cabin, climate zone 6B or 5B (hard to tell from the IECC map i see).  Energy efficiency & self sufficiency are very high on our list. Idaho has been absolutely insane to build in for several years, and after initial experiences with well contractors, and electricians for site temp power hookup (read: not good, in addition to 6-12 month leads), we’ve taken two steps back and are going to be doing a lot of the construction ourselves.  We’re working with a designer, and have started down the journey of choosing design & construction methods that will be efficient & accomplish able.

In the meantime, we have purchased a yurt for living space (re-sellable & mostly re-usable when we’re done with it).  The yurt is to be heated only while occupied with a mini-split, and will have power only (no water, sewer, or gas).  In total over the conditioned months, we will only be present for a small fraction of the time – so the re-usable aspect of the yurt vastly trumped a more permanent (but well insulated) structure that would be torn down.  It also avoids complications with the county on building a future house with a house already on the property.  An (always heated) shed next to the yurt will house the rest.

The shed is required today for:
– house the well’s water tanks & a year-round water source (mandatory)
– a toilet (mandatory, there are neighbors in visual, but no nearby services, and I have a wife & kids)
– since we’re building it, adding a sink, clothes washer, and plumbing for a screened outdoor shower will dramatically ease use of the property while we build, and allow use in general until then.

My engineer has OK’d a 2×8 shed roof, 2×4 walls (I’ve upped this at least to 2×6),  and 2×8 floor joists on pre-cast piers on gravel (eg OK’ing minor frost heave for this ~temporary structure).  One door, no windows.

Is this the right construction method for this shed?

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  1. plumb_bob | | #1

    Sounds like you are on the right path. I would consider the 2x4 walls personally. Maybe you could build this small structure in such a way that it could be sold and hauled away on a trailer when you are done with it?

    1. neutral_grey | | #3

      That's actually a FANTASTIC idea, thanks!

      Presently its planned on precast footings, which would be quite conducive to moving.

      The only big wrinkle i'm seeimg is that i need supply from the well (essentially needs to be heated, as it stays static when we're not there), as well as below-floor ejector (saniflow sanicubic 1, which also needs to be freeze proof)

      Is there any way to make this 16x16 or so (footprint) heated "nano crawlspace" without pouring concrete?

  2. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #2

    This comment is a bit beside the point in terms of your question, but given you will be doing much of the construction yourself, be sure to check out tomorrow's post by former editor Brian Pontolilo, "Thoughts for Owner-High-Performance Builders." He shares some valuable lessons from his own build that might be helpful to you.

  3. DC_Contrarian_ | | #4

    I'd be leaning toward a construction trailer/mobile home type of structure. You could probably sell it for close to what you paid after three years.

    1. neutral_grey | | #5

      I wouldn't know where to start looking, other than searching "single wide" ... and a "single wide" trailer would be far too large. Think ~5x10 footprint.

      Are there any products offered in that size? Where might i look to find them / any second hand options?

  4. Andrew_C | | #6

    If you're going to spend any time living or working in this shed, I'd add some natural light. If you bought transom windows, you could reuse them when you build your garage, or possibly in a bathroom. And perhaps one window that opens for ventilation. If the shed has overhangs, you could put the transom window on the south side, otherwise you could put it up high on the north side and not have to worry about extra heat loads from the sun.
    Even building crude "windows" with fixed sheets of plexiglass separated by blocks and caulked would let in some natural light that is sure to be appreciated.

    1. neutral_grey | | #7

      There is a 20ft yurt 6ft from the shed :)

      Shed exists so
      - I don't have to make a more complicated / more material / more energy to heat space in (or under) the yurt to house the well tank & water supply; and the "under" solution doesn't work for the toilet, anyway.
      - so none of that takes up any _space_ in the yurt, which is at a premium
      - so that the yurt is not a "house" in the eyes of the county, which theoretically could complicate my house permitting process.

  5. kbentley57 | | #8


    I really hate to rain on peoples parades, but I'm going to, because I like you, and want you to succeed in your final house goal. The yurt/shed combo is going to be money wasted, time wasted, and a worse experience for your spouse and kids than is otherwise required. If I had to sale a used yurt to survive, I'd be toast. It's true that a shed can be built to be consumable otherwise (reusing the 2x lumber and all that, but probably not much of the sheathing), but it is unlikely to happen in reality.

    Used RV's / campers are available, have showers / kitchens / heat / beds / AC already, can be moved at will, and actually have some retail value if they're not trashed. If you go that route you can spend your time planning for and starting on the real goal here, which is the main house.

    1. neutral_grey | | #11

      Appreciate your response, see details in my reply to walt, below

      1. kbentley57 | | #12

        I see,

        It helps that they're used to it, in that case. I'm only imagining the look on many a spouses face after they hear they 'live in a tent through the winter' suggestion! Ha.

  6. walta100 | | #9

    Did I miss where does the toilet waste water go?

    My local government is about as Laissez faire as I can imagine any being. My government does not allow any connection to the electric grid without a permitted and inspected septic system in place.

    What is the yurt setting on? Dirt floor?

    I think it would be a bad idea to put in the well and septic before the houses foundation is in place. The risk that the heavy equipment needed for the foundation would damage the systems is to high for my tastes.

    Consider the idea of a used travel trailer It would be self contained and designed to be weatherized quickly and easily


    1. neutral_grey | | #10

      Sewer: we're a bit in the country ... but the town does have a wastewater district and we are lucky to be on it. Propery is close to water, the original plat'er had to put in the sewer main. So we have sewer stub, and a saniflow sanicubic 1 will eject to that.

      The well is on the other corner of the property, side-hill and at least 60' from future foundation wall.

      Yurt is on a 3~4' raised deck (i had to get this engineered per county).

      My family happenes to love yurts, having done hut-to-huts and the like, so they know what one is like w/out running water and they are 100% bought in. None of us love RV's FWIW, but i do understand your point.

      Interestingly, power, water/sewer appear to have no permitting interdependancy here.

      All good points, though, i appreciate the thoughts. Since we pivoted to do (much) more of the work ourselves, something had to give, and the big one was schedule. The fam is going to love the yurt, esp in the middle of winter (no, not joking lol :) )

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