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Using shed as studio- good idea or bad- need advice

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Erlo
 Erlo
(@Erlo)
New Member

Hi everyone,

First let me say Ive searched the forum and net extensivly and have not found enough information to get a good feeling if this idea of mine is great or like my wife says- bad- very bad . For years I have mulled over this senario:
Purchase a 1/2 acre on St. Croix in a rural area with no restrictions. Pour a 20x20 concrete slab . Build a 12x12 block storage shed (aka cabin)myself with one swing out barred window and one barred door on the slab. The purpose here- storage for a couple blow up matresses , window a/c unit, scooter, camping toilet, lawn chairs, camping gear, cheap grill, an awning to make a covered Patio over the slab, solar shower bag, ect. Add power for a couple of outlets for window ac unit and lighting. The idea would be a storage shed on the property that could be converted into a vacation studio for me and my wife and sons for a few weeks several times a year. Of course the window unit, and all items listed above would be placed back into the storage building and barred shut while gone. The building would be basic and lacking a lot of flare to avoid any undo attention. The benifit Im hoping would be- no need for hurricane insurance as the building would be a shed. No real items to "steal" that would be a devastating loss. No monthly fees, mortgages as the land would be paid for. A nice way to spend a few years holding land investment and being able to use it without high overhead costs, maint and upkeep while not present on the island. Hopefully, I could avoid a lot of red tape and archetect permiting as at is a storage unit/maint shed on a property. Perhaps located on the East end as the area seems to be more arid lending itself to less need to lot clear every few months as Ive seen has to be done on other islands.
Here is a little background- Im a do it myselfer with block, concrete and building experience. I intend to build this myself with thehelp of family and friends all in the construction field. Four or five of us would fly down for a few weeks and set it up. Island time has been in my blood for decades and has set me on a course visiting most of the carribean islands so culture shock, island time, weather, and so on are not new to me or my family. Here are the main points I need advice on:

1. Im trying to avoid a lot of "red tape, waited time waiting for approvals and reoccuring cost" by building a shed myself. Is this feasable? I mean -would I need a permit , expensive hurricane insurance and so on? Please give any advice as you see it.
2. My wife believes the place would be disassermbled block by block as soon as I left only to return a few months later to find a barren slab- i.e. left like one of those cars you see in the movies- on blocks stripped of everything of value. Is she right. I guess what Im asking is- would such a set up broken into and emptied ? Are there areas on St Croix more suitable for this set up?
3. Is this a safe idea camping out on St Croix? Or am I putting my family at risk with the pursuit such an idea? I read that during Easter many Crucians camp out with the entire family on another thread in this forum. I mean really, everyone would be inside at night and all valuables put up while at the beach and such.

Obviously, I can afford the land and have the knowhow to build the above but am trying to do so on the cheap as a 75k condo with reoccuring monthly maint fees, tenant headaches and time is out of my league.
I understand there is an element of crime everywhere you go but I also know Ive been to a few islands where I knew such an idea would be possible or impossible. If Vieques were not toxic we would have already set up in the Monte Carmelo area. We would rather be in the territory with citizenship and title than subject to foreign laws/ language and procedure barriers. Puerto rico is too big for our limited Spanish and St Thomas too expensive. This leaves St. Croix which we are planning to visit this summer to pursue a land purchase to kick this idea of mine off. What do you think ? Im really in need -not therapy- but some of some first hand concrete advice either positive or negative as there is no other source on information I can find on this topic. Thank you all very much.

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Topic starter Posted : April 19, 2010 2:33 am
Lizard
(@Lizard)
Trusted Member

This is a Joke right:D

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Posted : April 19, 2010 3:04 am
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Trusted Member Registered

Save a little more $$ and just build a legal small West Indian Style one room house - get plumbing and running water and septic and a Certificate of Occupancy. You don't need hurricane insurance if you have no mortgage.
What valuables?

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Posted : April 19, 2010 4:15 am
poorthang
(@poorthang)
Advanced Member

Erlo....Your post reminds me of the guy who escaped to Alaska @ 51 yrs old,built a cabin out of sourrounding timber,sod roof,no plumbing etcc.... he lived there for 30 years by Himself. No wife ,no kids...It is now a historical site and maintained by the Park service. Look up Alone in the Wilderness and read his story....But to answer your question.....NO......NO...No... Exit Zero is right on target. Happy wife Happy life:D

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Posted : April 19, 2010 4:58 am
rks
 rks
(@rks)
Advanced Member

Echoing ExitZero and poorthang, it would be almost impossible to improve on the small west-indian cottage for simplicity, function and value, with the bonus features of style and relevance. Permitting is a non-issue. Check out the old slave quarters types of houses.

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Posted : April 19, 2010 2:04 pm
Bombi
(@Bombi)
Trusted Member

I think the minimum allowable square footage is 600 sq. ft. You need a building permit, a plumbing permit, an electrical permit. During the building process inspections are made and when finished an occupancy permit is required. The only water available to you will be the water you collect from your roof and store in a cistern. Sewage disposal is accomplished with a tank and leach field.
You may get away without a permit but the permits are less expensive than the fines. I would't allow a building such as you describe in my neighborhood. Just follow the rules.

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Posted : April 19, 2010 3:13 pm
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Trusted Member Registered

If you get a chance walk through Frenchtown in STT -- the fishing families there have a style of very small house that has worked for them and is quite functional overall. There is even one at the French Heritage Museum there with diagrams and plans.

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Posted : April 19, 2010 3:45 pm
STXBob
(@STXBob)
Trusted Member

I don't think anybody is going to disassemble the place block by block. At worst, they would strip the contents and fixtures, but the blocks and roof will still be there. If they want blocks and lumber, they'll just steal those from a construction site.

Camping on the property with a wall tent might be allowed, but check with zoning. When you leave island, stick everything in mini-storage.

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Posted : April 19, 2010 4:49 pm
Erlo
 Erlo
(@Erlo)
New Member

( quote Lizard) This is a Joke right

I was a long winded with intended comedy but to answer: No. The shed to studio also intended humor.

Save a little more $$ and just build a legal small West Indian Style one room house - get plumbing and running water and septic and a Certificate of Occupancy. You don't need hurricane insurance if you have no mortgage.
What valuables?

Thank you for the response. For the record, Im not trying to sidestep legality thus the inquiry. I feel that constructing a small home would easily run into time delays for permiting and cost a lot more. I only have three weeks a year to work with. Those helping me are more apt to be able to stay longer. Rather, Im just trying to find out if small structure left unattended on my land to use as a storage unit for my camping gear would be safe and if I would need a permit . Second- is camping on my property on St Croix a safe idea?
As to valuables- only those listed above. I do understand the benifit of a small home but Im not trying to build a house as that will come later. Surely someone has done this?

(quote poorthang) Erlo....Your post reminds me of the guy who escaped to Alaska @ 51 yrs old,built a cabin out of sourrounding timber,sod roof,no plumbing etcc.... he lived there for 30 years by Himself. No wife ,no kids...It is now a historical site and maintained by the Park service. Look up Alone in the Wilderness and read his story....But to answer your question.....NO......NO...No... Exit Zero is right on target. Happy wife Happy life

Haha! Not trying to do Swiss Family Robinson san tree or live off grid so to speak. Just a storage building for our gear! You had me lauging though :-).

I own acreage for hunting. We built a 12x12 block structure where we store all our supplies. It has never been burglarized. Has no running water or power for all that matter. I cant tell you how many times friends , family, co-workers have stayed there-set up tent and enjoyed themselves for a week . It is left unattended - barred up for months at a time- visable from the county road passing by. On St Croix it would be used much the same way until I could build a home on it. My wife and I like to camp so your answer of no no no is based on- not safe? property will be vandalized? not allowed?

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Topic starter Posted : April 19, 2010 5:36 pm
Erlo
 Erlo
(@Erlo)
New Member

"Purchase a 1/2 acre on St. Croix in a RURAL area with no restrictions." Great information. I would not think about a residential area for this as I too would probably not like the idea. But, set away in a rural setting and done tastefuly I wouldnt object . The 600 square foot minimum is for a residence correct? Or is this the minimum for any structure on vacant land?
As well, if I scratch staying in the building and use a wall tent as STX Bob suggested an Occupancy permit would not necessarily be needed correct?

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Topic starter Posted : April 19, 2010 6:05 pm
popflops
(@popflops)
Advanced Member

I'm not sure how much you've researched the costs of purchasing land here (and you mention a $75K condo as being "out of your league" -- not that I've ever seen a condo here that would be less than 2 or 3 times that at minimum), but small lots on the east end are running an average of $100K right now. You've come to the right place with your questions, but any way you go is likely to be a lot more money than what you may have bargained for. Good luck!

Lisa

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Posted : April 19, 2010 6:07 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

Also, even in the country, I think anything you build that will be occupied by people will need to meet some minimum standards.

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Posted : April 19, 2010 7:16 pm
DUN
 DUN
(@DUN)
Trusted Member

According to the STX MLS There is 122 lots in STX for 50K or less(don't know, or care which ones are on the east end).
STX lots are WAY cheaper than STT or STJ lots!
Amongst other reasons, I think this is due to the lack of opportunity there(I'm not wanting to start a STT/STX/STJ holy war here).

A concrete 12X12 block structure...I'm building a similar structure for storage & because I can, just for the heck of it.
Ah, why the hell not?
File for a permit, get a construction meter(if you need power), If your a camper, just fire up the gen!

How the hell could a concrete block building get vandalized?
You are going to put rebar & concrete in the voids...right?

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Posted : April 19, 2010 10:23 pm
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Trusted Member Registered

Some of the reasons STX lots are cheaper:
STX is 3X as large as STT or STJ
STJ is almost 60% National Park
STX is much flatter than STT or STJ with more build-able smaller lots
There may be less opportunity in STX for some businesses especially tourism based
A lot of the acreage on STX is more accessible, because of the terrain and roads on STT or certainly STJ

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Posted : April 19, 2010 11:36 pm
scubado
(@scubado)
Advanced Member

Pretty good idea, think I'll build mine 12x24 so the island car and dinghy will fit also.

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Posted : April 20, 2010 2:59 pm
Ronnie
(@ronnie)
Trusted Member

I believe you can build a construction shed up to 24 x 24 with no permits until you build your home. I have known several people that live in them successfully until they 'decide' to build. You get a construction meter and there you go, a cabin in the woods. Investigate that.

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Posted : April 22, 2010 3:49 pm
jsmith
(@jsmith)
Advanced Member

Without septic how would u and your guest use the restroom? You could rent a spot a pot. Save more money and do it right you'll be thankful later

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Posted : April 24, 2010 5:10 pm
STXBob
(@STXBob)
Trusted Member

He mentioned using a camping toilet, although you still have to put the waste somewhere afterwards.

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Posted : April 24, 2010 7:11 pm
Rivets
(@Rivets)
Advanced Member

could use a composting toilet or incinerating toilet. both types need electricity to work.

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Posted : April 24, 2010 11:13 pm
Erlo
 Erlo
(@Erlo)
New Member

I believe you can build a construction shed up to 24 x 24 with no permits until you build your home. I have known several people that live in them successfully until they 'decide' to build. You get a construction meter and there you go, a cabin in the woods. Investigate that.

I will. Thank you all for the information. Ill check back in and add additional information as I find it. How does everyone feel about leaving the structure/shed unattended. Fairly safe locked up for several months at a time? Any area that you could recommend on the island for this set up?

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Topic starter Posted : April 25, 2010 2:45 am
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

No, a building, standing alone, out in the middle of nowhere, would attract unwelcome attention of several kinds. Critters would definitely invade, as would mold, mildew, etc. To say nothing of squatters. I doubt very much you would find it as you left it after several months.

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Posted : April 25, 2010 8:11 am
amanda4882
(@amanda4882)
Advanced Member

If this is such a bad idea how did Maho get started? They surely didnt just show up and build all those eco-tents in one day.
People have been staying there for years.
I ask because I own land in STT and am seriously considering building a shed and staying onsite while I build my home.
Are there any real resons why you couldnt?

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Posted : August 9, 2010 12:54 am
terry
(@terry)
Expert

You need to check with zoning, they probably won't allow it.

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Posted : August 9, 2010 1:23 am
roadrunner
(@roadrunner)
Trusted Member

Something that you might be more likely to get away with, depending on your HOA, would be building a guest house first. A tiny cottage wouldn't take too long to put up, and then you'd be comfortable while you build the "real" house.

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Posted : August 9, 2010 2:51 am
Ronnie
(@ronnie)
Trusted Member

As I stated before, you are a allowed a construction shack.

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Posted : August 10, 2010 1:26 am
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