Outdoor Storage Sheds: Buying Guide

These days, it seems like having a storage shed is a necessity. Many houses don’t have a garage or basement. Others have those areas, but the rooms are already full. After all, once the car is in the garage, how much space is left?

Many people store everything in the garage and leave their cars outside in the weather.  Yet the cars are the investment that needs the most protection. Building a shed is ideal for keeping gardening and yard tools.  It’s also a good way to create a workshop separate from your house. Or, it may be an indoor-outdoor space just to relax.

 We’ve put together this guide to help you understand what goes into buying or building a shed to help you better understand what to do.

Why Build a Shed?

The most common reason for a shed is that they serve as extra storage. It provides a place to keep tools organized and a hideaway for implements used only occasionally. If you are used to packing these things into your crowded garage, a shed can help ease some of the crunch. 

You might consider using a shed as a dressing room or a pool house for your in-ground or above-ground pool.  A shed could be a playhouse for your kids if they’re old enough to play unsupervised. When they outgrow it, you can convert it into storage.

She-Sheds

Have you ever heard the term “she-shed?” These are sheds that people (mostly women, hence the term “she-shed”) use as a studio, a private workshop, or just a little escape from the banality and frustration of running a household. 

Studios and Workshops

If you’re getting into something like woodworking or other types of art that require dedicated space, you don’t want to do it inside your house. The dirt, dust, and fumes from chemicals, paints, and finishes are less harmful in a dedicated space where the windows can be opened.  

Different Types of Sheds

What kinds of sheds are there? You can find five different types of sheds:

  • Horizontal, which looks like a giant storage bin
  • Vertical, which resembles a tall, narrow storage bin
  • House-style, either rectangular or designed to fit in a corner
  • Barn-style, with a raised roof and possibly a loft or second floor
  • Lean-to shed, bigger than a horizontal shed and attached to the house

A walk-in shed will require flooring, but many times, you’re on your own for that. If you have a contractor building a shed, you can talk to them about flooring options. However, if you’re building it yourself, keep in mind that you might have to think about flooring in addition to the rest of the structure.

Things to Consider Before Building a Shed

Whether you’re planning to buy a shed kit or build a custom shed, there are some things you should consider before doing anything else. 

Building Permits

Before you start putting your shed in, you should contact your town’s public works or building department to find out whether you need building permits for it. 

They’ll be able to give you information on which permits you need and how to obtain them, along with any fees you’ll need to pay and the dates by which the permits are due before you can begin construction.

Zoning Laws

Before you build anything, you need to check the zoning laws. 

Start with a couple of calls to your town’s building or public works department to find out what kind of shed you can have and where you can put it, and go from there. You may also need to call your homeowners association, if you are a member of one.  

Whether you can build the shed you want where you want it depends on at least some of the following things:

  • The overall size of your lot
  • Whether you have any easements where you want your shed
  • Whether a shed is considered a temporary or permanent structure
  • Ordinances governing how far a structure must be from the property line
  • Ordinances governing how large an additional structure can be

Hopefully, you’ll be able to put the shed you want right where you want it. It’s always best to check and be certain before you start building it, though. 

Property Values

Generally speaking, sheds don’t add much value to your home, but they don’t reduce its value, either. Unless they’re built on a foundation and are a permanent structure on the lot, they may add to marketability but not the overall value of your house. 

Take care to keep your shed in decent condition, though. An eyesore on your lot can hurt your neighbors’ marketability.

Preparation

Once you settle upon the type of shed you want and where you’re going to put it, you or a contractor need to prepare the space for the shed.  

Obstacles

You need to remove obstacles like trees, stumps, large rocks, decorative landscaping, and other things in your planned shed’s way before you can build. A large rock may need to be moved by bulldozer. Decorative landscaping may be worth digging up, potting, and replanting.  

Big trees are expensive to cut down, plus pulling the stump out will cost you a pretty penny as well.  If removing a tree, remember, the ground under and around your shed will shift as the long roots die off underground. This can lead to stability problems down the line.

Leveling

Sheds need to sit on firm, level ground with good drainage. You may decide to grade the ground yourself if you don’t have a sloped yard. However, you might want to hire someone to grade and level the area just to ensure it’s done correctly. 

You should also consider drainage issues before you build the shed. This may take a contractor who can predict how run-off will be affected when the shed is in place. 

Size

You can buy a small shed that will house a few tools or a much larger shed that can house a tractor or serve as a studio or a she-shed. You should know how big the shed you want is before you start working on the ground and its base. 

Base or Foundation

Most sheds won’t need foundations. However, they will need some kind of base. The easiest bases are pressure-treated wood and pavers or blocks. Depending on weather and drainage, you might want to put your shed on a platform of pressure-treated planks that sit on top of concrete piers. 

Building The Shed

When it comes to the actual construction, you have options. You can use a kit or simple architectural plans.  Then you either build it yourself or hire someone. However, you may need a builder to draw up the plans for a customized space. This is especially important if you need to match your shed to your existing structure.

If it’s for a workshop, it will need good light, good ventilation, and sufficient climate control for your work. An electrical plan and/or an electrician will be needed if you are doing everything yourself. Otherwise, a good contractor will cover all of that.

Features

Sheds can come with many features. For instance, you may want French doors or sliding glass doors, window boxes for flowers, and a window-mounted air conditioning unit. You will want to be careful to match the style and color of your house to help with general curb appeal

If you plan on trying to turn it into a self-sufficient living space, though, you should check out accessory dwelling units instead. Those can use your utilities, allowing you to put in things like a kitchen and bathroom.

Extras

A growing number of house-style and barn-style sheds come with little porches. They add to the shed’s footprint, though, and may or may not contribute to its purpose and functionality. 

A little porch might seem cute and fun, but remember, everything that adds to your shed’s footprint means a larger part of your yard is taken up and also means your shed needs a larger base. 

Things to Ask Your Contractor

Make a plan with your contractor about how they will guard your property from damage. They should use construction mats to protect your sidewalks, driveway, and the grass. The right composite mats cushion the weight of trucks and equipment that could damage your driveway. The same mats cover the grass and keep trucks from getting stuck. 

Even if there is some damage, a new storage shed shouldn’t result in a major mess on your lawn. It will drive up your costs if you have to repair large areas where the grass has been torn up.

Final Thoughts

Installing a shed on your property can sound easy, but the truth is that it’s a structure, and, like any structure, you need to plan for it before you build or install it.