Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Those looking to turn a shed into a cabin or dwelling unit will soon get stronger guidance from Missoula County under a contract approved this week.

Under the agreement, Bureau Veritas North America, which provides “solutions dedicated to sustainability,” will create publications for the county outlining “a clear and concise path forward” for individuals looking to convert a storage shed into a dwelling unit.

County building official Kevin Heisler said the process would be consistent with other planning efforts.

“They would be providing documents for us to give to the public when they come in asking about converting a shed into a cabin, or even a house. They would research what needs to happen,” he said.

Some see the conversion of sheds into tiny houses, or accessory dwelling units, as a possible way to combat housing affordability. If done right, experts say the results can be budget friendly “and incredibly charming.”

Heisler said a number of people come in each week seeking information on the process, rules and regulations around shed conversions. The contract would provide such requests with literature.

“We get quite a bit of walk-ins with this kind of request, or wanting information on their next step forward,” said Heisler. “If you by a shed from a roadside shed vendor, they're built as sheds, not as a house or cabin.”

But with some modifications, he said, conversions are possible.

“When they apply for a building permit, there's a change in use that has to happen,” Heisler said. “Typically, a structural engineer has to sign off on that change in use, because they're not built to the same codes as a house would be. We want to outline a clear and concise path forward for individuals that want to purchase sheds and convert them into cabins, ADUs, and even single-family residences.”

The county has already engaged Bureau Veritas as a third-party plan reviewer on large commercial projects. Providing guidance on shed conversions represents a $6,500 addition to the company's existing contract.