Shop House: A Complete Guide

Shop houses have been a prominent feature of Southeast Asian architecture for centuries, and their popularity has grown recently. Small business owners and families will appreciate these unique buildings, which provide commercial spaces on the ground floor and living accommodations above. However, for those unfamiliar with the concept, navigating the world of shophouses can take time and effort.

This complete guide will delve into all aspects of shophouses, from their benefits to design considerations and building costs. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or simply looking for a unique living space, read on to discover the possibilities of shop homes. 

What Is a Shouse?

A house, also known as a “shop house” or “home,” is a type of building that combines both residential and commercial space. Typically, a house is constructed using metal or wood pole frames and connects to a large workspace.

Shouses have an open-concept layout featuring high ceilings, large windows, and often oversized garage doors. They are popular among individuals who require a large workspace for their profession or hobbies, such as welders, mechanics, and construction workers.

A house provides a unique living and working space that is convenient and cost-effective. It allows homeowners to have a workspace close to their homes, increasing productivity and saving time and money. Spouses are also highly customizable, with many options for interior and exterior finishes and design features.

“Shouse vs. Barndominium: Understanding the Differences”

If you’re considering building a new residence, it’s crucial to understand the critical differences between a house and a barndominium. Although these housing types share similarities in appearance, their construction, and intended purpose can significantly influence which option is suited to your needs.

A house, also known as a “shop house,” is a hybrid structure that merges residential living quarters with a large, connected workspace. Typically built using metal or wood pole frames, a shouse often features an open-concept layout with high ceilings, large windows, and oversized garage doors that provide easy access to the workspace. Spouses are an excellent choice for individuals who require a spacious workspace close to their living quarters, such as welders, mechanics, or construction workers.

On the other hand, a barndominium is a residential dwelling that is built within a metal or steel barn-like structure. These homes are highly customizable and can be tailored to fit a variety of lifestyles and preferences. Barndominiums offer ample living space and are suitable for individuals who require additional living space that can also accommodate their hobbies or work activities, such as equestrian enthusiasts or artists.

Structure & Building Material

While both houses and condominiums commonly use metal siding, their primary building material and structure differ. A house, also known as a pole barn home, is primarily constructed of metal with a pole frame, whereas a barn dominium incorporates more wood. Additionally, the exterior of a barndominium is designed to resemble a traditional barn, while a house typically has a more industrial appearance, often featuring tall garage doors.


One of the critical distinctions between houses and condominiums is how they prioritize living space. Shouse owners prioritize their workshop area, incorporating it as a significant feature in the home’s floor plan. In contrast, most condominiums emphasize residential amenities in a barn-style, open-concept living space. While a barndominium can incorporate those elements if a workshop is added, other structure focuses exist.

What is the cost of building a shouse?

Building a house (a combination of living space and a workshop) can be a cost-effective way to create a versatile and functional living space. However, it’s essential to understand the costs associated with such a project before embarking on it. Building a house costs are influenced by a wide range of factors.

  1. Materials: Materials play a significant role in the overall cost of building a house. Materials are available at different prices. On average, a place can cost between $50 to $120 per square foot, while a traditional home build can cost between $100 to $155 per square foot.
  2. Land Prices: Land costs can also impact the overall house cost. Land prices vary widely depending on the location, plot, and the local zoning laws. Before you purchase land, it’s essential to research the area and get an idea of reasonable prices.
  3. Prefab Kits: Another factor that can impact the cost of building a house is whether you choose to use a prefab kit. Prefab kits can be affordable, as they come with pre-designed and pre-cut components that are easy to assemble. However, they may not offer the customization options of a custom-built house, and you may need to pay for shipping and handling.
  4. Finishings: The finishing touches you choose for your home can also impact the overall cost. Options like flooring, cabinets, and countertops can vary widely in price. Budgeting accordingly is essential, as determining which finishings are most important to you.
  5. DIY vs. Contracting Out: Finally, the percentage of construction work you do yourself can impact the overall house cost. While DIY projects can save money, they can also be time-consuming and require specialized skills. Hiring a contractor to handle certain aspects of the project may be a better option for those without experience.

Exterior Shouse Costs

Building a house can be cost-effective for those who want a combined living and workshop space. However, it’s crucial to understand the costs involved in building a home’s exterior. The following are the primary materials required for the exterior of a house:

Metal Siding

Metal siding is one of the most common materials used for house exteriors. The cost of metal siding varies depending on material quality and thickness. Metal siding costs around $1 to $35 per square foot.

Concrete Foundation

A concrete foundation is necessary for building the exterior of a house. The cost of a concrete foundation is determined by its size and thickness. A concrete foundation can cost around $4 to $8 per square foot.

Oversized or Customized Garage Doors

Garage doors are essential to a house as they provide access to the workshop space. Oversized or customized garage doors may be required for large equipment or vehicles. The garage doors’ cost depends on their size and style, ranging from $800 to $4,000 per door.


Windows are essential for natural lighting and ventilation in a house. The cost of windows varies depending on their size, style, and quality. On average, a single window can cost around $150 to $800.

Interior Shouse Costs

When constructing a custom shop home, including various amenities and features will naturally lead to increased costs. Below are some of the interior expenses that are typically associated with places:

Code-Approved Workshop and Home Ventilation:

When constructing a house, it is crucial to install a ventilation system that meets the required standards for both the workshop and the living area. Proper ventilation not only ensures compliance with relevant building codes but also helps to maintain healthy air quality. The cost of ventilation installation varies based on factors such as house size and the type of ventilation system required.

Countertops and Shelving:

Adequate shelving and countertops are essential for a well-organized and functional house. Workshops can store tools and equipment, and living rooms can be workspaces. The cost of countertops and shelving will depend on the materials used, such as laminate, granite, or wood.


Installing high-quality appliances is crucial for the day-to-day activities of the house’s occupants. App prices vary depending on the type, brand, and features. Some of the common appliances in a home include refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, and washing machines.


Flooring plays a significant role in the appearance and durability of a home. Popular house flooring options include concrete, tile, hardwood, and carpet. The cost of flooring depends on the materials used, the house’s size, and the installation’s complexity.


Proper electrical wiring and fixtures are essential for the safety and functionality of a house. The cost of electricity installation will depend on house size, the number of outlets and light fixtures required, and the electrical system’s complexity.


Installing plumbing fixtures such as sinks, toilets, and showers in a house is crucial for adequately functioning the space. The cost of plumbing installation will depend on the number of fixtures required, the complexity of the plumbing system, and the materials used. Proper installation of plumbing fixtures is also necessary to comply with relevant building codes.

Benefits of a Shouse

A house could be an excellent option if you’re looking for an affordable, customizable, and functional living space with a workshop. 

Cost-Effective Custom Home

A house, also known as a shophouse, is a metal building structure that combines living quarters with a workshop or garage. Compared to traditional brick and wood houses, houses are less expensive. It is because the metal sheets used to construct the exterior cover more surface area, making the construction process quicker and more affordable.

Moreover, the exterior materials used in houses are less expensive than those used in traditional homes. You can save money on the exterior and allocate the budget to customize the interior to meet your preferences. You can also add wood, rock, or brick to the exterior to create a more custom look, which is still less expensive than using these materials for the entirety of the exterior.

Customizable Workshop

One of the major pros of building a house is having your dream workshop customized to your exact specifications. You can decide on the floor plan, storage options, finishing touches, amenities, and features that work best for you and your work. Moreover, since the workshop is part of the house, getting utilities installed will be much easier.

Many house owners use their workshop as a garage so the workshop may be more extensive than the living quarters. The advantage of having a workshop in your home is that you won’t have to commute to work. It is an excellent solution for business owners and hobbyists looking for a workspace.

Short Build Time

The fast build time is another advantage of building a house. Because the metal sheets are simple to install, the exterior shell can be constructed quickly. It means that the inside of the house can be framed and sheetrocked faster, saving you both time and money.

Moreover, purchasing a house kit will also reduce your build time. Depending on your customized exterior, the exterior shell can be installed within a few days.

Lower Utility Bills

A house is also energy-efficient, meaning it is better insulated than traditional houses. You can save money on utility bills in the long run by installing higher-quality insulation. The insulation can be easily installed during the initial construction process. Even though it may cost more initially, you will eventually save money on heating and cooling.

Disadvantages of a Shouse

Living in a house, or a shophouse, can have its downsides that need to be considered before deciding to build one. Here are some potential drawbacks that you should keep in mind:

limited location options

One of the major cons of a house is its limited location options. City building codes and neighborhood associations may not permit the construction of shophouses within city limits, which could require building in rural areas. While the rural location may appeal to some, the distance from city amenities and utilities, such as water, waste management, and gas, may impact the cost of your house.

Lender Availability

Approving a loan to build a house may also take time and effort. Lenders may be hesitant to provide funding for a newer housing concept. You must present a detailed building plan to your lender to obtain a construction loan. 

Noise Level

The noise level is another consideration when living in a house. Since the home is attached to a workshop, it can sometimes be quiet. You should know those living in that area if you have worked there. In addition, a house’s metal or steel exterior may amplify outside noises, such as wind or rain, which can be a source of disturbance.

Balancing for both the shop and home space

Balancing the space for both the shop and home can also be challenging. When designing a house floor plan, it’s essential to determine the size of the workshop. This decision will impact the layout and amount of living space in your home. Finding the perfect balance between the space needed for both the shop and home can be challenging, requiring careful planning and consideration.

What to Keep in Mind When Purchasing a Shouse

When embarking on constructing a shophouse, there are several key considerations to keep in mind.

Purchase Enough Land

Firstly, it is crucial to ensure that you purchase enough land to accommodate the structures involved in a shophouse, which typically occupy a considerable amount of space. Please purchase adequate land to avoid delays, costly redesigns, and even project abandonment.

Have the Utilities Installed

Another important consideration is the installation of utilities. Since shophouses are often built in rural or remote areas, access to essential utilities such as water, electricity, and septic systems can be a significant expense. It is vital to budget for these costs and ensure that the necessary arrangements are made with local service providers well before the construction process.

Building Permits and Regulations for a Shouse

Finally, knowing any building permits and regulations that may apply to shophouses in your local area is crucial. In many cases, shophouses may be subject to specific zoning requirements or building codes that differ from those of traditional residential or commercial properties. There can be severe fines and legal issues if these regulations are not followed, so seeking expert advice where necessary is crucial. These factors can help you make the shophouse construction process smooth and successful.

How to Build a Shouse

Constructing a house can be exciting but requires careful planning and execution. These steps can assist you in building your house according to your specifications.

Step 1: Purchase Land

Building a house begins with purchasing a suitable piece of land. It would help if you had enough land to accommodate your home and any other structures or activities you plan to conduct on the property. Consider the location of the land and its proximity to amenities like grocery stores, schools, and hospitals.

Step 2: Choose the Right Builder

After acquiring the land, the next step is to choose a builder who can construct your house according to your specifications and budget. Research is critical in selecting the right builder. You should evaluate their portfolio, experience, expertise, and any reviews or recommendations from previous clients. When interviewing potential builders, it is essential to understand your budget and the features you need clearly and want in your house to ensure that the builder can meet your needs.

Step 3: Choose Shouse Floor Plans

Selecting a suitable floor plan is crucial to the success of your house project. The floor plan should be based on your lifestyle needs and preferences. While pre-designed floor plans are available, it is vital to consider customization options that can be tailored to your specific requirements. Choosing a floor plan well-suited to your needs can create a functional and efficient living space that meets your requirements.

Step 4: Select an Interior Home Style

The final step is to select the interior home style to make your house feel like a proper home. Consider the type most suitable for your lifestyle and preferences. For instance, a farmhouse or cottage-core style may be ideal for a rustic and cozy look. A sleek and contemporary style may be more appropriate if you choose a modern and minimalist design. Selecting the right interior home style can make your home reflect your personality.


In conclusion, Shop houses are a unique and fascinating architectural feature that has played an essential role in developing cities throughout Southeast Asia. They offer commercial and residential spaces, with businesses occupying the ground floor and living spaces above. Despite their rich history, these buildings have been adapted to the changing needs of their communities.

Shop homes have become increasingly popular with developers and investors, and there is a growing trend of restoring and repurposing these historic buildings for modern use. These spaces are ideal for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and creative professionals who wish to combine the convenience of a commercial area with the comforts of home.

Overall, Shop houses are an excellent example of how architecture can evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of society. Whether interested in history, architecture, or real estate, Shop houses offer a fascinating and rewarding subject.

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