What Is A Shouse? The Comprehensive Guide (2024)


What is a shouse? You may have heard of the term “barndominium” being a combination of “barn” and “condominium.”

Well, a “shouse” is a combination of “shop” and “house”, meaning a house connected to a workshop and under the same roof. The concept is excellent for small businesses or hobbyists who need somewhere to disappear away from the family.

Suppose your hobby is restoring classic cars. In that case, what hobbyist wouldn’t die for a shop on their first floor where they can tinker to their heart’s content?

Some people may think I’m describing a barndominium, and indeed, some barndos fulfill the same purpose. Furthermore, shouses use similar construction methods and share some of the same architectural features as barndos.

However, many owners consider them entirely different; hopefully, this guide will explain why. Here, we’ll describe what a shouse is, its pros and cons, how much they cost to build, and what features you must consider when constructing a shouse.

Features Of A Shouse

Shouses come in all different shapes and sizes. But, the unique feature that defines a shouse is that it must combine the functions of a house and a workshop.

Although we can construct them in many ways, most shouses use the same materials and building methods as a barndominium, namely, open-concept rooms, structural steel framing, and steel or vinyl sidings.

Because the framing supports the structural load of the building, there’s no need for load-bearing pillars or walls cluttering the floor space.

Therefore, we have plenty of room for machinery and equipment, storage, and whatever else you need for your workshop, garage, den, man-cave, or whatever else you want to call it.

If you’ve done your homework, you’ll already know that a barndominium is one of the most versatile houses available, combining plenty of space with open-concept living that attracts hobbies needing acres of floor space. So, in that sense, they’re very similar.

However, a shouse narrows down the floor space’s purpose. For example, you can do almost anything in the wide open spaces of a barndo. But, a shouse restricts the hobbies and businesses to those needing a workshop. 

History & Evolution Of Shouses

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The concept of having your place of work under the same roof as your home is centuries old.

In Ancient Rome (and probably earlier), tradesmen opened the front of their homes to sell wares or advertise their services. The practice saved on building other premises, but because the artisan lived in the same building, it also provided security for their precious tools and goods.

More recently, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, shops and service businesses worked from extensions of the proprietor’s living spaces. They would open their front door and let the public inside to view and buy their produce. 

This practice wasn’t limited to shops and trade premises like those used by blacksmiths or bakers.

It was also common practice in farming communities for families to live on upper mezzanine floors in barns, with their animals and tools stored on the first floor. This is the origin of barndominium living.

Barndos were made popular during the mid-2010s with the hit house-makeover television show, “Fixer-Upper,” advising people how to convert derelict agricultural buildings into sleek and modern family homes. 

Once barndos became popular, it was only a matter of time before the idea of using the front rooms or first floors of the family barndo home as a place of work, or indeed of building a living space behind an existing shop became popular again, resurrecting the concept of the “shouse,” or shop/house.

Today, the shouse concept includes workshops necessary for hobbyists and small businesses that prefer to have their workplace at home. This situation avoids the daily commute, provides increased security, and offers other advantages.

Advantages Of Shouses

Compared to a conventional home, a shouse has several advantages, often determining whether you should build a shouse rather than a house.

  • Customized workshop area
  • Energy efficiency
  • Faster erection
  • Affordable

Let’s look at these advantages in a bit more detail.

Customized Workshop

If you need a workshop for your business or hobby, there’s no better way to experience this than to build one customized to your requirements.

If you enjoy making wooden furniture, repairing clocks, or tinkering with classic cars, you can configure your workshop to suit the necessary equipment and storage.

And, if you deal with customers or have employees, you can also incorporate meeting rooms, refreshment facilities, restrooms, and office space. 

Having your shop under the same roof as your home means you don’t have to worry about building separate structures or connecting them to independent utility supplies.

Just imagine how great it would be to walk from your living space into your workspace without going outside. Undoubtedly, this is a bonus during periods of rain, wind, or snow.

Energy Efficient

If you’ve built your shouse, you will already have good insulation to regulate your living space’s temperature.

Additionally, the local building codes will specify the thermal insulation’s performance depending on your climate zone. So, because your shop is under the same roof, you’ve also insulated that area.

Good insulation lowers energy bills, as your HVAC system won’t be under too much load.

However, if your shop area is part of a business rather than a purely residential hobby area, you may also have to comply with commercial building codes. In this case, speak to your local building permit office during the planning stage.

And don’t forget zoning laws, as they may not allow you to run a business from home.

Faster Erection

A steel framing and metal sheets structure is quicker to erect than a multi-material building. Furthermore, you also use fewer materials with this type of construction.

Also, the shop is under the same roof as your home, so there are fewer structures to complete and make watertight; therefore, fewer construction materials, faster erection, and less labor reduce overall construction costs.

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Like a barndominium, a shouse made from steel framework and sheet steel sidings is less expensive than a conventional brick and lumber house.

You see, a specific area of sheet steel takes less time to install than the same area of brick. Steel is also less expensive than masonry and lumber, meaning you can save on the overall cost or divert more funds to the interior.

Furthermore, using a prefabricated shouse kit will be less expensive, just like a barndo. And, if you want to add high-quality wooden siding or porches, you can do that, too.

Although these features will cost more, they’ll still be less expensive than building a traditional home and using these materials alone for the exterior. 

Common Uses Of Shouses

Because a shouse offers direct access from the family home to a storage area or workshop, you can use the shouse for many different purposes.

Typically, people use this additional space as workshops or storage areas to support their business or hobby.

Residential Purposes

Suppose you live in a rural area and want your business near your home. You already own your land with installed utilities, so combining the two makes sense.

Why bother building a separate structure? Instead, construct a home and business premises under the same roof. 


Many people, especially those retired folk with plenty of time on their hands, enjoy a practical hobby but lack the space in a conventional home.

You may enjoy sewing, woodworking, pottery, or any number of other pastimes that need rooms for equipment and storage. Therefore, setting aside a part of your home for your hobby and its paraphernalia makes sense.

Professional Services

If you have a trade needing storage space or workshopshop facilities, a shouse would be ideal. You can use the workshop area of your shouse for machines and other equipment necessary for your work.

Trades like carpenters, mechanics, furniture makers, artists and potters, and other professionals can work undisturbed without the wasted time used for commuting.

Vehicle and Stock Storage

Many shouse owners use their shop space to store vehicle collections or hand-made produce from their business. For example, if you enjoy restoring classic cars, you can work on and keep your collection within a climate-controlled space in the shop area.

Similarly, if your hobby or business creates products such as pottery or furniture, you need somewhere to make and store them before selling them. What better place than the shop space in a shouse?

Shouse vs. Barndominium

Before we compare and contrast a shouse and a barndominium, we must reiterate their definitions:


A shouse is a building combining a living space and a personal workshop. It’s ideal for those wanting a dedicated hobby space or running a small home business.

Furthermore, the very definition of a shouse states that the workshop and home must be under the same roof and integrated into the same structure. Shouses can be post-frame steel or built using conventional materials such as masonry and wood.


A barndominium, or barndo, has a pole frame construction and open-plan floors, providing plenty of uninterrupted space.

Barndos refer to several types of structure, but traditionally, a barndo is a barn converted into or incorporating a living space.

Compare & Contrast

Both structures use low-cost post-frame construction methods and are built very quickly. Typically, the framing is made from structural steel and has sheet-steel sidings.

If you want to combine your home and business life, or provide space for a hobby needing room for equipment, then a shouse is the ideal solution.

Alternatively, a barndo is better if you want an open-concept living space with plenty of room that doesn’t cost the earth to build.

The main difference between a barndo and a shouse is the inclusion of a workshop within the open plan area. If it has a shop, then it’s a shouse. Conversely, if it is purely residential, then it’s a barndominium.

Many people often call their shouse a barndo, and generally, the terms are interchangeable. However, you must remember that not all shouses use post-frame construction. Instead, they use masonry and conventional building methods.

In contrast, a barndo with a shop will always use post-frame construction.

To summarize, a shouse is a standard family home, with a workshop under the same roof. In contrast, a barndominium is a barn converted into a home.

Furthermore, a barndo with an integrated shop is always a shouse, whereas a shouse may or may not be a barndominium.

Shouse Pricing

So far, we’ve been ranting about a shouse’s affordability compared to a conventional home without offering proof. So, here goes.

As you can imagine, pricing your shouse depends on many factors:

  • Is it a kit or a conversion from a previously used agricultural building or shed?
  • The shouse’s dimensions. This includes dimensions for living accommodation and workshop.
  • Specialist barriers between shop areas and living areas, for example, dust barriers and soundproofing.
  • Other specialist customizations.
  • The shouse’s design complexity.
  • Construction materials’ quality.
  • Local labor costs.
  • Your shouse’s location.

You can probably see from this list that the costs could quickly run away with themselves if you don’t keep a tight rein on the material’s quality.

The way to keep your budget under control is to compromise and keep designs simple, choose budget materials rather than premium, and do some of the work as a DIY project.

Although the local construction laws will probably specify fully insured professionals licensed to work in the state, there will be some tasks that you can do.

Therefore, you can usually help with non-skilled work or tasks that don’t affect the structure’s safety and integrity, such as decorating, laboring, and garden landscaping. Speak to someone in the local permit office to determine the appropriate work.

Shouse Costs per Square Foot

So, now we come to the numbers so you can see just how affordable a shouse is.

With the rise in barndominium living comes the increase in the popularity of shouses, especially in states such as Texas, where lenient zoning laws and surplus land allow people to extend their hobby space into their homes, or forget commuting to work and instead try manual home work.

Typically, for a stripped-down and unfinished workshop, you’ll pay, on average, $30-$65/sq. ft. In comparison, you’ll pay up to $150/sq. ft. or more for living space.

It probably makes sense that the overall cost will depend on the living and shop space sizes and the ratio between them. Typically, a shop area could be around 900 sq. ft., with a 2,000 sq. ft. living space.

Using the figures above, we can see that the total cost of this size shouse may be:

  • Residential: 2,000 x 150 = $300,000
  • Shop: 900 x 65 = $58,500
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Therefore, the total price could be around $358,500, which is pretty good for a customized combined living space and business premises. Furthermore, as with a barndo, these costs vary depending on the state where you live.

For example, a shouse, on average, can range from $80/sq. ft. in Alabama to $150/sq. ft. in Massachusetts. 

Shouse Design & Architecture

A shouse’s architectural design varies depending on our requirements. However, they’re always versatile, and we can adapt our shouse to suit various needs.

We can choose open-plan floors, high ceilings, expansive windows for plenty of natural light, and wide roller doors for large equipment and vehicles. Whatever happens, you should optimize the shop’s design for comfort and functionality. 

Externally, the shop should complement the residential part of the structure. The shop is under the same roof and often uses an extension of the same walls. Therefore, finish it with the same trim and extend any wrap-around porches to include the shop space.

Of course, you can’t disguise a large roller or up-and-over entrance into the shop. But, there’s no reason why you don’t make it look like a conventional residential garage door.

A significant advantage of disguising the shop as part of the house is to satisfy the neighbors and local zoning laws.

Zoning regulations attempt to keep residential areas separate from commercial. So, by making the shop look like part of the house, you may satisfy their requirements, especially if the shop activity isn’t noisy.

However, always ask the zoning office before going ahead with your plans.

If you aren’t sure about how to design your shouse, consult a licensed architect qualified to work in your state and who knows your local zoning rules.

Building & Construction

We’ll now consider how to construct a shouse.


The construction materials used to build a shouse will vary depending on the owner’s specific requirements and those that complement other structures in the area.

Because we customize a shouse to suit our purpose, we can design features such as large windows for natural light, high ceilings, and open-plan floors.

Conversely, we can also feature small windows restricting natural light, regulated climate conditions, and other unusual features.

Typically, we build a shouse using pole-frame construction, steel framing, and sheet steel siding similar to a barndominium. Alternatively, use conventional building materials like wood, and masonry products like concrete, brick, or clay. 

We can also design a shouse to include solar panels, sustainable heating systems, and use other environmentally friendly features as required.


Before constructing our shouse, we must build a suitable foundation and prepare the ground. Many self-builders neglect these two necessary steps, especially the foundations.

So, hire a qualified and certified structural engineer to design the best foundation for your shouse.

Site Preparation

Site preparation involves clearing the soil of vegetation, tree roots, large rocks, and other debris that would affect the build.

Typically, we also need to level the site as much as possible and grade the soil to suit access and surface water drainage. Only then can we dig the trenches necessary for the professionally designed foundations.

Foundations Types

A professional structural engineer will design the foundation type based on ground conditions, water table, size and weight of the shouse, and construction method.

The engineer must also consider the requirements of the local building codes and provide geotechnical data for the local authorities to inspect along with their foundation plans. 

Theoretically, we can use the following foundation types for our shouse. However, the local building codes may already specify which foundation to use. So always be guided by the local laws.

  • Slab-on-grade foundation is the most common and needs concrete poured onto the ground to a depth of at least four inches and into deeper trenches to support load-bearing walls.
  • Basement foundation. Depending on the requirements, the contractor excavates the ground large enough for the basement and its footing trenches. This type is ideal for locations with sloping ground, and we can also use it as a storm shelter in regions with extreme weather events.
  • Crawl space foundations lift the building a few feet above the ground to provide access to the underside. We commonly use crawl spaces in locations with poor soil structure. Furthermore, its main advantage is to provide easy access for electrical and plumbing maintenance.

Permitting & Zoning

Building codes are rules and standards based on the guidelines produced by the International Code Council and altered to suit local laws and conditions. Therefore, each state and sometimes each city or county has a variation of the building codes to fit the area’s prevalent conditions.

The codes dictate how to construct a building and create a safe structure suitable for human habitation. 

Local governments set zoning regulations at the city or county level to ensure that new buildings complement the local authority’s long-term plan for the area. Like building codes, each regulation varies with the location and will affect your shouse’s design, size, and shape.

Furthermore, zoning includes keeping together all houses of a particular shape and size, and keeping businesses away from residential areas.

Shouses may not fit neatly into the zoning regulations if we use the shop for business, as it combines residence and business premises. 

Obtaining the Necessary Permits for Building a Shouse

Before designing your shouse, you must research your area’s building codes and zoning regulations. Then, you thoroughly know the rules to ensure your shouse is legal.

A building permit allows you to do most building work on your shouse. Some permits also state who can do the work and if they require special qualifications.

The following list outlines the steps you take to obtain a building permit:

  • Complete a permit application.
  • Prepare a site plan for your shouse, including construction drawings, supporting calculations, and reports from structural engineers and environmental surveys.
  • Schedule an appointment for you to gain approval for your project plan.
  • If successful, you get a permit.
  • Schedule inspections by qualified inspectors at various stages in the project to check you’ve complied with the permit criteria.
  • Complete the project and obtain the final approval, allowing you to move into your shouse.

The permits cover all the building stages and protect single-family and multi-family buildings. Typically, the permits include but aren’t limited to electrical, plumbing, drainage, foundations, HVAC, fire safety, and energy efficiency.

Additionally, you may need commercial permits if your shouse incorporates a shop devoted to a business.

Furthermore, if your business uses specialist equipment or materials, you may need permits for special hazards, treatment plants to release liquids into the municipal drains, or high-voltage electrical systems.

Energy Efficiency & Sustainability

Incorporating as many energy-efficient and sustainable options as possible into your shouse makes sense.

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Typically, the following list highlights some of the energy efficiency features you can add to your design.


Add at least as much insulation to your shouse as specified in the building codes for your climate zone.

Secure Building Envelope

A building envelope is a barrier between your shouse’s interior and exterior. The barrier aims to prevent moisture from seeping into the building, prevent air leaks, regulate the internal temperature, and prevent contamination and pollution.

Vents for HVAC must be adequately designed to maintain the security of the envelope.

Energy-efficient Lighting, Heating, and Appliances

Modern lighting, heating, and appliances designed to EnergyStar criteria use less energy, and help reduce energy costs.

Energy-efficient Windows

Use double or triple-glazed windows and doors to regulate the interior temperature and reduce noise pollution.

Furthermore, use treated glass to reduce UV light transmission.

Passive Solar Heating Systems

Use passive solar heating and cooling methods using the solar energy falling on the shouse to help with energy costs.

These systems vary depending on where you live and how much sun your locality typically receives.

Real-Life Examples & Success Stories

I hear you ask, “How about some real-life stories to give me context?”

There are plenty of examples of success stories that you can find online. But, here are a couple to show you what’s possible:

Shouse in Wisconsin

Wick Buildings in Wisconsin produce post-frame buildings and partner with local construction contractors to erect the kits.

View their website to see some examples of their designs and finished shouses. 


“My wick building is now complete! Fox Brothers Construction out of Union Grove, WI, did a wonderful job. Great craftsmanship, great service, and extremely knowledgeable. They can do it all and do it correctly. Great communication with me as the customer made it such an enjoyable experience. I could not be happier with my new building. Thanks so much!”

Katie Wee on Wick’s Facebook Page

Shouses in Iowa and Illinois

Greiner Buildings design and build shouses in Iowa and Illinois. Metal buildings with hobby garages are one of their specialties.

Here is a specific project for a shouse with a hobby workshop and garage. 


“They kept me updated on the progress the entire time and went out of their way to make sure I was satisfied before they wrapped things up. Thanks, love the new building!”

Michael B., Nevada, IA

“Best price and great salesmen. Very good work crew they were very knowledgeable and did a great job on our building.”

David J., Brimfield, IL

Challenges & Considerations

Like everything in life, a shouse has potential drawbacks and limitations. 

Building Codes & Zoning Regulations

One of the shouse’s issues is that local authorities often consider them residential properties. Therefore, they need to comply with all residential building codes and regulations.

However, shouses have commercial aspects if you use the shop to conduct business. Thus, there are more codes to comply with, not to mention the problem of knowing which zone to place them in.


Typically, people build a shouse outside towns and cities, mainly because of the more lenient zoning rules and because there are larger plots providing more space to build on.

This could be an issue if you prefer to live in an urban environment or if your workshop customer base lives in urban areas.

Curb Appeal

Eventually, you may decide to sell your shouse and move on. When this happens, you must know your home’s curb appeal.

Having an industrial section of your house may limit your pool of potential buyers. You can often overcome this by spending more of your funds on brick, wood, or other high-quality finishes on the sidings.

Land Requirement

Shouses tend to be larger than conventional homes. Therefore, they require more land, at least an acre, to build.

Buying large expanses of land quickly depletes your project funds.

City Ordinances

Many cities have ordinances specifically against living in a metal dwelling.

Check with your architect, permit office, or a certified local builder for assistance.


Applying for finance from a lender such as a bank or a mortgage company can be problematic if they aren’t familiar with shouse living. Therefore, before choosing a lender, research the types of property they offer loans to.

You may be lucky to see the words barndominium, barn-house, modular homes, or if they routinely lend to commercial or agricultural businesses. Of course, the ideal situation is if they publicly proclaim they lend for shouses or Shomes®.

If shouses or barndos are already in your area, ask the owners which lender they used.

Future Trends & Popularity

Source: National Association of Home Builders

Generally, based on current market trends, the real estate market should remain strong until 2027. However, rising interest rates and fewer homes may adversely affect this situation.

There is, however, a growing interest in rurally situated shouses.

Recently, with increased urban commercial real estate prices and the advantages of home-working and avoiding the daily commute, more and more people are turning towards living and working in a rural shouse.

Furthermore, if you only want a shouse for a hobby workshop, a rural shouse as a second home may be ideal for relaxing weekends away from the city.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a central database showing the rise in the trend of shouses. However, the National Association of Home Builders has an article on the rise in homes using alternative materials. 

We’ve already seen that shouses are post-framed structures and can be made from wood or steel. Therefore, the article suggests that in 2020, owners built 831,000 wood-framed houses and 5,000 steel-framed homes.

This may not seem many, but the number is increasing as more people appreciate the advantages of unconventional construction materials.


A shouse combines a workshop or storage space with the owner’s home. Typically, shouses are cheaper to build than conventional homes.

Also, the residence is attached to and under the same roof as the workshop, so there’s less expense without buying additional land or building free-standing commercial premises.

Furthermore, the shop part of a shouse can either be used as a hobbyist’s shop or as a commercial or artisan business premises.

The current trend is to build shouses in rural settings because of the more relaxed zoning regulations and affordable land prices. This may be an issue for those who work or whose customers live in urban districts.

But the peaceful rural living and lack of a stressful daily commute often make up for this and encourage shouse owners to change their occupation to one more suited to home working. And, if you use a shouse’s workshop for hobbies, the increased ability to quickly relax will also help.

Finally, we should consider people who want to combine living and working spaces.

Shouses are versatile and can be customized to suit their owner’s requirements. Generally, shouses are more affordable than conventional houses and provide more living space overall; if you use them for a business, you also increase your company’s space.

So, if you’re looking for a unique, functional place to live and work, buying or building a shouse may be the ideal choice.

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