How to: build an outside office

The side view of the office-in-progress.

The side view of the office-in-progress.

How to build: A room of one's own

It's been a long time since Virginia Woolf wrote the famous book-length essay with this title (and lectured on the topic).

I'm not sure "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" is still the absolute Woolf believed it to be, although she's not wrong that it's almost impossible to subsist on royalties from writing fiction alone, no matter your gender.

The Dimond roof in place.

The Dimond roof in place.

Still, I know many writers who dream of a room of their own. In fact everyone I know with children seems to harbour this dream. I've been dreaming of it for a while. So while all the diggers have been making grand gestures and rearranging the landscape, we have made a delicate little impression of our own. 

Looks a bit like a fancy shed.

Yep. It's a 10-square-metre wee shed. It'll be clad in Colorcote black steel corrugated cladding, with a touch of cedar (and I really mean a small touch) so it will certainly look a bit like a shed. But with pretty great windows and a spectacular view, it'll be the flashest shed my books have ever been housed in.

What will be the view from the window.

What will be the view from the window.

Most importantly, it will be all mine. This shed is going to be my office, and, compared to the view of the washing machine I've had these past years, it will be heaven. It's certainly got Mr Building Boxes jealous. And all the builders. 

Why build it now?

It's summer. Mr Building Boxes, like many Kiwis, had an obligatory summer break away from work. So it meant he could get a bit of a start before we had the professionals in.

Mr Building Boxes getting the floor down.

Mr Building Boxes getting the floor down.

It also means it becomes a luxurious smoko room for our builders come the winter. Because until such time as the main house is closed in, they're going to use it. We're not lining it until they have somewhere else to go (muddy boots and books do not a happy marriage make).

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But still, they tell me it's not a bad place to eat a sandwich.

And you built it yourself?

The front face of the office frame.

The front face of the office frame.

Not me. Like I said. I am allergic to nail guns. But Mr Building Boxes got a seriously fancy tool belt for Christmas and has since done a bunch of the work himself.

He had a friend help him dig the post holes. In the rain. Through the mud (thanks Adrian). And another help him push the frames up and hold them in position (thanks Angus). So far he's totalled about 125 hours work on it.

I have clambered up on the Dimond Veedek roof to pass out screws, hold on to bits of building paper and guttering, flashings and string, and offer general moral support. Painting the fascia boards on the hottest day of the year was a bit of a killer (thank goodness for Resene Hot Weather Additive, the paint would have dried before I got it out the tin otherwise). So it's got a lot of love in it already.

It would have been a much quicker process with more people, especially more builders. But we've saved ourselves a bunch of money doing what we can ourselves, (so far it's cost less than $5000 including all materials) and it's been satisfying – says Mr Building Boxes.

Helping to trim the roofing flashings, however, has made it clear that putting up all the Dimond steel corrugate cladding, even on a project as small as this, is not really a job for the uninitiated. Certainly not to get the finish Mr Building Boxes is after, and because the windows will be new double glazed units (OMG lush) they'll be fitted by professionals too.

So is this a kind of a test build?

Yes. Not doing the cladding ourselves will cost of course, but we're hoping the office will be a little sister to the house, in look and appeal, so we'd prefer to have some help to make her fit alongside as best she can. But it is a great way to have a small snapshot of the look of the main house as we're using the same external materials (Colorcote steel in Black Ebony on our Dimond roof and cladding and JSC rough-sawn cedar). 

And when's it going to be finished?

There's perhaps another fortnight to go before the windows are fitted which will allow the cladding and door to go on. (A door we bought on Trade Me for $30 which Richard – Our Man of Doors – was well impressed by. He reckons it's worth $1000!)

Once that's done she'll be closed in. She won't be lined as I say, and in that regard she'll be very different to the main house. Because, n a fit of romanticism, I'm hoping to use some old tawa floorboards and kauri weatherboards from our current house on the floor and one internal wall.

I'm thinking she might be a recycled-upcycled upstart to her shiny, passive, big sister house up the hill. I'll keep you updated on her progress.


* Introducing the family and the build

How to price a new build

* How to find a builder

How to get resource consent

* How to work around rain

* How to: concrete foundations

Michele Powles is a writer and mother of a Lego engineer and destruction specialist. You can read more about their New Build Love over at or on Facebook

 - Stuff


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