Katy Zientek's tiny house caught my eye, when I learned that it was actually a shed that was converted into a tiny house. I have a very popular blog post about how to convert a shed to a tiny house, but I have never interviewed someone on the show who actually did it. Enter Katie, Katie and her husband took a shed that was built in the 1980s on their grandparents property, and turned it into a gorgeous Pinterest worthy tiny house. In this conversation, we go through all the basics, like how they did the floors, what they had to do to the walls, the ceilings, why they chose to add a porch, and all of the details that went into converting a shed into a tiny house. 

In This Episode:

  • How they converted a shed to a tiny home in 9 months
  • What does it take to turn a shed into a house?
  • Sleeping arrangements for a family of four
  • Plan the location of your appliances before you begin your build

Links and Resources:

Guest Bio:

Katy Zientek

Katy Zientek

We are Michael and Katy and we live in a 280 SQ ft tiny home with their two daughters. They've always loved tiny homes and had the opportunity to turn an old shed on some family property into a tiny home. They started the project in September of 2020 and finished in May 2021. They did most of the work themselves but had some amazing help along the way. The Zienteks plan to live in their tiny home until their big house is finished with its remodel, then plan to put the tiny home on Airbnb for everyone to enjoy! The Zienteks love living tiny and being able to experience that with their two daughters makes it that much more special!



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More Photos:

The old shed was built in the 1980s

The existing insulation and original floors were both in great shape

The Zienteks did most of the work themselves but got some help with the shower


They dug a new septic tank that will also be used by the big house

Katy chose shiplap walls for the farmhouse look

They completed their build in just 9 months


They're looking for a pullout sofa

They added a porch

They'll turn the tiny farmhouse into an Airbnb when their forever home is finished


Katy Zientek 0:00

My advice would be, don't set a deadline on when you're going to finish. Just do it. I you know, I have a lot of questions about why we went tiny and I mean, there's so many there's so many answers.

Ethan Waldman 0:15

Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 178 with Katy Zientek. Katy Zientek's tiny house caught my eye, when I learned that it was actually a shed that was converted into a tiny house. I have a very popular blog post about how to convert a shed to a tiny house, but I have never interviewed someone on the show who actually did it. Enter Katie, Katie and her husband took a shed that was built in the 1980s on their grandparents property, and turned it into a gorgeous Pinterest worthy tiny house. In this conversation, we go through all the basics, like how they did the floors, what they had to do to the walls, the ceilings, why they chose to add a porch, and all of the details that went into converting a shed into a tiny house. It's a really helpful conversation, and I hope you stick around. But before we get started, did you know that I personally send a tiny house newsletter every week on Tuesdays. It's called tiny Tuesdays. And it's a weekly email with tiny house news, interviews, photos and resources. It's free to subscribe and I even share sneak peeks of things that are coming up. ask for feedback about upcoming podcast guests and more. It's really the best place to keep a pulse on what I'm doing in the tiny house space. And also stay informed of what's going on in the tiny house movement. To sign up, go to the tiny house dotnet slash newsletter, where you can sign up for the tiny Tuesdays newsletter. And of course you can unsubscribe at any time I will never send you spam. And if you ever don't want to receive emails, it's easy to unsubscribe. So again, that's the tiny house dotnet slash newsletter. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy next week's tiny Tuesday's newsletter.

Alright, I am here with Katy Zientek. Michael and Katie live in a 280 square foot tiny home with their two daughters. They always love Tiny Homes and have the opportunity to turn an old shed on some family property into a tiny home. Katy Zientek Welcome to the show. Hi, thank you for having me. You're very welcome. I saw photos of your of your beautiful tiny home, I think on tiny house talk. And I was just I like, keep these topics kind of in the back of my mind and like, shed to tiny house is definitely one of them. So why don't you? You know, can you tell us the story just from the start? You know, how did you get into into tiny living and you know, how the story of how this shed kind of came to be? Sure.

Katy Zientek 3:15

So it's actually pretty funny. So back in December of 2019, my husband was telling me about this shed that his grandparents used to use as a storage building. And he was telling me that it was 800 square foot. So that's a big difference from what it actually is. So one day, we drove out there, and we come up to this shed and there's weeds everywhere. Deal just piled up, you can barely see the building. Okay, so we walk up, and it's a lot smaller than what I was thinking, Well, what he's told me to 800 square foot. Yeah. And I was like, are you sure this is 800 square foot? And he started laughing. He was like, um, I don't think so. So we walk in. And I mean, it's filled with just stuff, you know, storage, seasonal decorations. And we walk in and I'm like, this is not 800 square foot. So we actually measured it, and it's 14 by 20, which is 280 square foot. Yeah. And I was like, that was a big difference. So anyway, so we decided, so this project actually started in December of 2019. Okay, we started cleaning out everything that was in here. And then you know, COVID hit, right. So we kind of took a pause on getting everything out and just trying to figure out life. And then last year, in September, we decided to work on the project again. So we started cleaning everything out. Once again, everything was out. And then we were like, what are we going to do with this place? You know, there There's different options on what we wanted to do. But in the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to do a tiny house. And when I mentioned that to him, he was like, Yeah, that sounds good. So, which is shocking? You know, because sometimes my ideas are like, ooh, you know. So, um, we started remodeling it, and September of 2020. And we finished May of this year. So it took about nine months to finish.

Ethan Waldman 5:30

Wow. That's, that's pretty quick. Yeah. I looked at some of the, your Instagram stories. And I mean, it was it's a shed it was it looks like it was in kind of rough shape. Yes, it was. So So what did you What did you have to do to it, to turn it into the really beautiful home that it is now?

Katy Zientek 5:55

Well, thank you. The foundation wasn't bad at all. We did have to take all the paint off because it was old paint and it was chipping away. And we actually put a tin roof on because it was the roof was kind of leaking. So we changed the shingles out and put a 10 refine, okay, leveled it a little bit because it was a little unleveled that we leveled it a little bit. The floors were beautiful, their wooden floors, there was no damage to them. It was plywood walls and ceilings. So we took all those out there and there was insulation here. So we didn't have to worry about the insulation. Okay. And then we put up, we did the studs, and then we put up the walls and then it just went from there. So

Ethan Waldman 6:40

okay, so you had to put up studs for the walls?

Katy Zientek 6:43

Yes. Yeah. So it was it was a blank space.

Ethan Waldman 6:47

Wow. Wow. Yes. How did you choose the materials that you used?

Katy Zientek 6:52

Mostly Pinterest. I really love the farmhouse look, and I knew I wanted shiplap. And it the shiplap kind of cost said the same as it would sheetrock. Yep. So I was like might as well do shiplap and it's more sturdy to with with it being on block cement blocks. Yeah, I think that was a lot a lot better than having sheetrock.

Ethan Waldman 7:16

Yeah. And so speaking of the foundation did did you make any changes to the foundation? Because it certainly seems the house is probably quite a bit heavier now that you're done, you know, putting a kitchen into it and the hardwood floors while the floors were already there, but the walls and the ceilings was the foundation Did you need to do anything to change it?

Katy Zientek 7:38

We added a little bit more of blocks to make it more sturdy. Okay. And we also added the porch to that. So that so we did like a long beam from the porch to the end of the house. So that helps with the foundation. Okay, that level.

Ethan Waldman 7:55

Okay, cool. Yeah. And so was the porch. Was that there? Or did you add that porch? Yeah, we added the porch. Yeah. And that's great for just having like an indoor, indoor outdoor space, like a place to rustle for your keys while it's raining or something like that. Yes. So the floors, so the floors are the original floors of the shed, and they're they're beautiful. It's amazing.

Katy Zientek 8:25

Yes, they are the original floors. And it was built in the 80s by his grandparents, so, okay, pretty amazing.

Ethan Waldman 8:32

Did they ever intend for someone to turn it into a cabin? Or they just that's just how they built the shed?

Katy Zientek 8:38

Yeah, I don't think they ever intended this to be a house. Mostly just for storage. And yeah. crazy dream.

Ethan Waldman 8:49

Now did you? Did you add windows or were the all the windows already there?

Katy Zientek 8:55

So there was actually three windows here already.

Ethan Waldman 8:59


Katy Zientek 8:59

we move the front door to the other side of the building. Okay, so the front door was actually on the where our bedroom set and then where our shower said there was a window. Okay. And so we didn't like that view on that side because it was facing, you know, just really nothing. And so we wanted the we wanted to change that to the front door to the other side of the building where we could see the road. And we added three extra windows. Okay, and then the door. Okay.

Ethan Waldman 9:28

Was it was that process difficult adding the windows?

Katy Zientek 9:32

Not really. No, no, it wasn't hard at all.

Ethan Waldman 9:35

Nice. Nice. So in the in the tiny house talk article. You share that your budget was around $10,000. And you finished around 15 which is still pretty, pretty great for a house to live in. But maybe you could talk about you know, why do you think you went over budget what what caused that to happen?

Katy Zientek 10:00

So I believe we went over budget because we didn't add include the appliances to that. And like with the vanity, just the small things, we were mostly doing like material. Like the shiplap walls, we totally forgot about the the mini split. We thought about that the last minute and we're like, oh, wait, we have to have AC and heat. And so that was a big expense. That was that was the one that kind of was like, Oh, hey, you know, by the way, here's an extra 3k

Ethan Waldman 10:34

Yeah, no. Mini splits are not cheap.

Katy Zientek 10:36

Yes. But so, you know, with having the building here, the shed here, that really saved us some money as well.

Ethan Waldman 10:44

Of course, yeah. Getting to start with with a structure that was was sound. Yes. So in terms of sleeping space, are there are there two bedrooms? No, there's

Katy Zientek 10:56

actually one bedroom and Okay, in our one bedroom, we have a full size bed.

Ethan Waldman 11:01

Okay. And then where do your daughter's sleep?

Katy Zientek 11:06

So as of right now, we're co sleeping so me and my girls will sleep in the bed one night it just depends on where they fall asleep at right we are in the market of looking for a pullout couch with a bed in it. That would also help you know what sleeping arrangements but right. You know, with the price and everything. We just haven't found one yet. Right. So we're still in the market for one nice nice.

Ethan Waldman 11:32

is like, I love that porch. I guess. I don't know what the what the weather's like there. You're you're in Texas, right? Yes, we're in Texas. No, probably a bit hot for sleeping outside. I would imagine.

Katy Zientek 11:45

Yes. Right now it's 100 degrees and it's almost six o'clock.

Ethan Waldman 11:50

Oh my gosh. Okay, so definitely not sleeping outside and definitely a good thing to have the mini split. Yes. Correct. Yeah, bit screened in porches are a big thing up here. People sleep out in the summer at night on their screen in porch because it's it's cool outside. That'd be so nice. So you started in in September of 2020. And finished may 2021. Was that like, faster than you expected? slower than you expected? Like talk Tell me about the timeline.

Katy Zientek 12:26

So we initially wanted to finish by Thanksgiving. So that was about we we wanted to finish it within two months with material and you know, things coming in. And so then we pushed it back to January. And same thing, you know, just you just don't know how long things take or, and and then we pushed it back to Easter. We wanted to spend Easter here. And then like I said, we totally forgot about the mini splits. So that took about four weeks to come in. Yeah. And so once we got that, I think we ended up kind of pushing it. And then we we moved in in May.

Ethan Waldman 13:09

Got it? And are you living there full time? Yes, we're here full time. Awesome. Awesome. So the shed to tiny house concept. Definitely. There's a lot of interest in it. I'm curious, what, you know, what advice would you have for listeners who are hoping to do the same thing?

Katy Zientek 13:30

My advice would be, don't set a deadline on when you're going to finish. You know, with my experience, it took us about nine months. But

Ethan Waldman 13:40


Katy Zientek 13:41

just do it. I you know, I have a lot of questions about why we went tiny. And I mean, there's so many there's so many answers. But if you have a dream, and you want to make it into a reality, just do it, we only have one life to live, you know, you know, and living Chinese has been the best experience for us.

Ethan Waldman 14:01

That's awesome. So you you mentioned that you know you plan to live in your tiny home until your your big house is finished with this free model. And then you plan to do the tiny home as an Airbnb. And I just I love that you're intentional about that, you know, because some people go into tiny house living and aren't sure what they're going to use it for how long they're going to be there. I mean, that's that's me. What is the timeline on on that dream or on that bigger house.

Katy Zientek 14:34

So initially, we wanted to be in the little house for about a year to two years. And about two weeks ago we met up with some contractors about our forever home our break home, and we met with them and we we went through the remodel and everything and they they told us if you're ready, we'll be finished within three months. Which that was kind of a shock to me because I wasn't You know, I wasn't planning on being there, possibly at the end of the year and the big guys, you know, wanted to live in the tiny house for about a year. So I still want to live tiny for for about a year just to get the real experience of it. But if our big house is finished, I'm super excited to have the tiny house on Airbnb.

Ethan Waldman 15:22

Yeah, yeah. And that's it. Really, it photographs beautifully. So I'm sure you'll you'll have no problem finding people who are excited to stay there. What What lessons have you learned? Living tiny that you think you'll kind of carry forward into your your big house life.

Katy Zientek 15:46

So the one thing I tell people a lot is being organized. When we were in our other house, our rent house, we weren't the best at being organized. We weren't the best that having things where they're supposed to be. Uh huh. And with living tiny, you kind of have to Yeah, you know, like, you have to have your towels at a certain place, you have to have your cups in a certain place. And so that has really helped me and my kids. stay organized. And that is a life lesson that I will take with me forever into the big house as well.

Ethan Waldman 16:21

Nice. Nice. Yeah. So that kind of the organization and having having things, everything has a place to where, where it should go? Yes. I'm just like, I'm gonna post as many pictures as I can. I think you've sent me a few. But I would also love to include the remodel photos. You know, on the show notes page for the episode. What were some of the steps in the remodel? Like, it seems like you did most of the work yourself? Can you talk about what things you decided to bring in? outside help for?

Katy Zientek 16:59

Yeah, so our biggest thing that we wanted help with was putting up the walls. My husband, he works a full time job. He's self employed. So the only time we could really work on the house was in the evening. And so that's when we decided to bring a local contractor in here and help us. They put up the walls, they put up the ceiling. And then we had one of our family members come in and help us with the shower. He helped us put the tile up and do that. And then with the mini split, of course, we had people come in, but mostly we did the work ourselves. But we did need some extra help.

Ethan Waldman 17:37

Yeah, yeah. And so I'm looking at the finished photos. You know, at the front, at the new front of the building, there's what looks like a gutter running up the middle of the building. And I kind of was I was gonna ask you what it was. And then I realized that's probably that's the mini split. That's the refrigerant line for the mini split, right?

Katy Zientek 17:58

Yes, it is. So that was actually going to be on the side of the building. Yeah. When we initially wanted the mini split in the bedroom, but we decided to put it in the living room because we spend most of our time in there. Right. So yeah, it's right by the front door, which is okay. You know, sometimes you can't you don't notice it, but then sometimes you do, but

Ethan Waldman 18:19

yeah, well, no, it doesn't. I was gonna ask because that's a good example of like, how important it is to plan out your appliances before you start building. Because you wind up in a situation where like, oops, I realized that I need to put this thing in. But now I'm much more limited on where in the building I can kind of hide the wires hide the pipes do it.

Katy Zientek 18:45

Yes. Yes, I would say do your appliances first. If you plan on doing building tiny or remodeling tiny figure out your appliances first.

Ethan Waldman 18:55

Yeah, yeah, totally. That's systems. It's all about figuring out those systems. Also with you know, again, I'm looking at these remodel photos that I'll post on the show notes page. Just looking at the insulation it looks like it's in really great shape and that that's the insulation that was already there.

Katy Zientek 19:15

Yes, that insulation was already there. So we were very fortunate to have that that was a that was going to be a huge expense. But yeah, we're thankful that that was in great shape.

Ethan Waldman 19:26

Yeah, yeah. And so do you get like what's winter like where you are?

Katy Zientek 19:34

So usually doesn't get we stay cold. I say about 40 to 50 degrees is cold to us. Okay, it usually doesn't get like that until November. So when we moved in, it was still it was it was summer you know, we moved in and it was 85 to 90 degrees. So I'm not sure what winter will look like in the tiny house. I'm hoping with all the insulation in the walls and then ceiling should be fine. Yeah. With the mini split, I'm hoping it'll be okay. But we had a crazy winter storm back in February, where the the snows stuck on the ground for about four days. Which right? So not normal for here.

Ethan Waldman 20:13

Right, right. Now, was that the big freeze in Texas? did that affect you in the tiny house at all? Yes. So

Katy Zientek 20:21

that was the big freeze back in February. Yeah, we were still in the remodel process with the tiny house, it didn't really affect the tiny house that much. It was actually really pretty the seats No, you know, on the tiny house with with the remodel and everything actually took some pictures of it. So that's good. Good memory.

Ethan Waldman 20:41

Yeah. Well, I mean, it was a big news story. And it was sad to see so many people, you know, having losing losing their homes or just having major damage as a result of that freeze. So you had to add, you know, this was just a shed there. Was there running water or likes septic sewage hookups. At the start?

Katy Zientek 21:03

No, there was no running water, no electricity, we had to put all that in, we had some people come out and put the septic system in and we had an electrician come out and put the electricity and so yeah, that was that was another expense that we didn't really think about.

Ethan Waldman 21:21

So you did you dig a new septic for the shed? Yes, we did. Wow. All within the $15,000 budget. Yes. That's, that's amazing, because I feel like I have it in my mind that a septic system alone can cost $15,000.

Katy Zientek 21:39

Yeah, thankfully, it wasn't that much. It was around 6000. Wow. Okay, so like over a third of your budget was the septic? Yes.

Ethan Waldman 21:47

Mm hmm. Now, did you have the option of doing a compost toilet? And then you know, letting your gray water kind of run into the bushes? Or is that that was not an option for you?

Katy Zientek 21:58

So we didn't really think about that option. What we did is we for our big house, our big house is about 50 feet away from the tiny house. Okay, so we just built a whole brand new septic system for the tiny house and for the big house. Ah, okay. I didn't realize that your big house is on the same property. Yes, it's on the same property. Perfect. Okay, so

Ethan Waldman 22:22

that makes things easy, also, from an Airbnb like management perspective, that you're going to be able to kind of have this right on your property and continue to kind of operate it as an Airbnb. Yeah, that's what I'm really excited about. Yeah, that is exciting. And that, like, that's what's so cool about about tiny houses that, you know, just because you're not living in it anymore, you know, you've done this, you've made this investment. And I would imagine that you'll probably recoup the cost of the build within a year or two of Airbnb being and then after that, it's like a real source of income.

Katy Zientek 22:58

Yeah, thankfully, we're in a good spot. We are very close to the famous roundtop, Texas, okay, where they have antique fairs. So thankfully, we're really close to that. And I think that's going to be I think the tiny house will be very successful during that time.

Ethan Waldman 23:14

Nice. Yeah, I'm sure it will. And and, you know, I've spoken with there's a woman named Christy Wolf, who's kind of an Airbnb, Airbnb Rockstar, she's the one who has the potato. Her Hawaii treehouse is like the most the number one most requested or the most like kind of saved tiny house or home on Airbnb and she buys like cheap land wherever she can find it. And like she is She told me in our interview, basically that people come people go everywhere for various reasons. So even if you think you don't live somewhere where people need to stay people do come there and they do need to stay there so it's kind of like wherever you have your your Airbnb, you if you make it a unique stay and a unique experience you can you can still really do well with it. Yeah, definitely. Well, I'm curious what you know, you were fascinated with going tiny what what were some things that you that inspired you to kind of go on this journey. I usually I like to ask people, you know, to share some things that that helped inspire them with our listeners.

Katy Zientek 24:28

So what really inspired me is I've been in love with tiny houses for about 10 years, I used to watch the tiny house shows on the DIY network and I've always just wanted to have a tiny house or living in tiny house. But last year when COVID hit that was kind of a really big eye opener because we we've been renting for about six to seven years. And we have this opportunity in front of us and we're like you know what, it's time let's let's live debt free. You know, save up some money for the big house and, and have this tiny house for when we are in the big house as an investment. Yeah, you know once it is on Airbnb, so it's, it's a cool life memory, you know, when we look down the road when we're 60 or 70 and be like remember when we lived in the tiny house, then I just really love it.

Ethan Waldman 25:21

Nice that that's fantastic. And this is a bit of a non sequitur, but I remembered a question that I wanted to ask about, about the floor. You know, what did you have to do to refinish and or, you know, kind of treat the floor.

Katy Zientek 25:37

Thankfully, it was in good shape. All we really had to do was sanded down and then we put a finish on it. We actually just did one coat because that's really all it needed. So thankfully, we had the, you know, good wooden floors.

Ethan Waldman 25:52

Nice. Nice. What did you do for so for the electrical you said that you had a you know, a contractor come? Did they have to bury a line? Like how did you get the place hooked up?

Katy Zientek 26:06

We had a pole for the big house. Right outside the little house? Yep. So we just kind of reconnected and put a new electrical box in there. So it wasn't that hard.

Ethan Waldman 26:19

Yeah. Okay. And from the photos to kind of similar question. I don't see any propane appliances. Is that is that correct?

Katy Zientek 26:29

The only propane that we have is to heat the water. Okay, we had it's on the back of the house. And we have like we connect a little propane bottle to the to the wire so

Ethan Waldman 26:39

it heats up the water. Okay, so you just have like little 20 pound tanks, like the grid like that you'd use for a gas grill? Yes, correct. Okay. Okay. Cool. I mean, it's really inspiring to me. I mean, just like a lot of people when they are looking at property for their tiny house or even looking at a bigger house, you know, you might look at a kind of somewhat dilapidated shed No offense to your shed. Yeah, he might look at a dilapidated shed and kind of not see the potential to a turn it into a home, either for you or into, you know, an Airbnb, Abul asset. And, you know, I'm excited for our listeners to go to the show notes page and just check out all these kind of before and after photos. of the of the shed.

Katy Zientek 27:42

Yeah, I was pretty. When we showed our family they kind of looked at us funny. Like, are you sure this is gonna be a house and we're like, you know, my that I love a challenge. So my vision was like, yeah, this is gonna be a house like, can't you see it? And they're like, um, but then once we started doing the remodel and adding the ports and everything, then they then they slowly started seeing it.

Ethan Waldman 28:04

Yeah, yeah. So actually, this is actually a great question coming in from Tiny House Engage. What what are some of the things your kids say about tiny living?

Katy Zientek 28:14

So thankfully, they're still young. We have a normal six year old and a two year old and our six year old. She always you know, once her own comforter set. So once we get the pullout couch, I think we're going to you know, let her pick out whatever comforter set she wants to we try to ease into it, you know, within but so far they've they've done amazing which awesome, we're thankful for.

Ethan Waldman 28:37

Awesome. Well, that's great. I'm, who knows they might not want to leave when you go to live in the bigger house.

Katy Zientek 28:46

I know. I know. That's what we were saying. Like, what if the big one wants to have this as their own house? You know?

Ethan Waldman 28:51

Yeah, yeah. Who knows download down the road. Yeah, you never know. Well, Katy Zientek thank you so much for for being a guest on the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. It was great to chat and and I found the conversation very inspiring, and just helpful. So thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you so much to Katy Zientek. For being a guest on the show. Today, you can find the show notes, including a full transcript and all the before and after photos of Katie's shed conversion at the tiny house dotnet slash 178. Again, that's that tiny house dotnet slash 178. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman. And I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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