Buying a Storage Shed [Everything that you need to know]

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Many first-time homeowners find that they soon need storage space for all their yard tools and equipment, as well as a place to store seasonal items such as outdoor summer toys. Cramming everything into the garage or carport is out. What you need is a shed to keep your stuff out of the weather, away from prying eyes, and easy to find.

This takes some time and thought, so it’s not an impulse buy. If possible, take time in the winter to do a little research so that you’ll know just what you want by the time spring comes. Let’s look into what needs to be considered before you plunk down your money.

What to Consider Before Buying a Shed

Usage – The first thing is to analyze just what you’re going to use your shed for. Will it be used mainly for storage, or could you use a workspace for carpentry or other work? Perhaps you’ll want to build a workbench at one end. If you plan to spend some time there, you may want to insulate your shed and put-up interior walls.

Will you need extra space for storage in the attic? You’ll need to plan where the opening will be and leave sufficient floor space for a ladder. Do you plan to store large equipment such as a riding mower or ATV? Adding up the space you’ll need to store what you plan is a good start. Be sure to add space to this figure to allow for new acquisitions or uses in the future.

Size Considerations – First of all, check with your local building or zoning authority. Many localities have limits on the size shed you can have, its maximum height, or at least its placement. You can be liable for ongoing fines until you get rid of the shed if you install one that’s not within limits.

Plan for some kind of shelving and enough extra space so that you don’t find yourself squeezing alongside your mower to get to something. Drawing a rough outline of what you plan to store and how you may want to arrange your shed can help you decide how large a shed you need. Check out my article How Do I Choose the Right Size Storage Shed? for tips on choosing the right size shed.

The Price – Of course, price is a consideration with any large purchase. Try to figure out a budget and stick with it. It’s not wise to just go out and buy the biggest shed you can afford without taking into account the cost of a firm foundation and preparations for drainage and ventilation or the cost of delivery of materials or the shed itself.

A good way to plan is to figure out a proposed location that fits within local zoning parameters, then price different types of foundations. Once that part of the cost is out of the way, you’ll be better able to see what kind and size shed you can afford. Of course, when looking at sheds, you’ll need to balance quality and price.

The Quality – The quality of the shed’s construction is an important consideration. You want your shed to last for many years. It has to be built to withstand all the weather it will be exposed to.

You don’t want a shed with a creaking or bowing floor, or one that lets in drafts. You certainly don’t want to worry about the roof blowing off because it was not attached correctly. Once you zero in on the type of shed you want, go over a model carefully, checking to see that studs weren’t installed too far apart to save money or roofing was nailed on haphazardly and that any bent nails were replaced.

Look at the quality and quantity of fasteners used, and whether they are at the right distance apart. Ask if a proper underlayment is on the roof and about other such details. You may need to read up on shed construction methods to be able to thoroughly check the quality or bring along a knowledgeable friend.

Its Design – Design has a lot to do with choosing a shed. If you need attic space for storage, you may want to consider one with a gambrel, or barn-style roof that will leave more room there. If you have a lot of smaller things to store, you may need one with space for shelves.

If you plan to insulate the shed, you’ll need one with studs for holding the insulation. You may need one with a higher roof pitch to allow snow to slide off. Check with your local zoning authority; they may have limits on the height your shed can be.

Materials Used – The materials used for construction and siding are vital to a shed’s long life. You don’t want to buy a shed made with cheap lumber the wrong size for rafters, thinner plywood than is recommended for flooring, or flimsy metal siding.

Using the right kind of fasteners in the proper amount can make a big difference. If metal siding was installed without neoprene washers underneath the fasteners you can end up with leaks. Rafters attached to the walls without the proper tie plates can lead to problems.

Weather is another factor – Certain types of sheds or shed materials may be better than others at surviving your particular climate conditions and weather. For instance, plastic sheds may not do well when exposed to a lot of hot sun or very cold winters. Extreme heat may make the shed buckle, while extreme cold makes the plastic contract and leave gaps. If you live in a windy area, you’ll want a shed with a heavier build and a roof design that is less likely to be damaged by wind.

Foundation Needed – While some people don’t use a foundation, especially with smaller plastic sheds, it’s a good idea to plan for one. A good foundation will keep water away from wooden or metal shed parts or water washing away soil on one side so as to make the shed unstable. It doesn’t have to be expensive; a good gravel base is fine for most sheds. You’ll need to decide if your climate dictates that you raise your shed above the foundation a few inches for airflow.

DIY or Hire a Contractor – If you’re not buying a pre-built shed or a shed made to order, the next question is do you build one yourself or hire a contractor. You may have some carpentry experience and figure you can handle building a smaller shed, but do you have any experience with rafters, trusses or installing roofing?

If you do it yourself, you’ll have to figure out all your materials, including the number and types of fasteners, purchase them, and schedule delivery. Since you’ll have to cut all your materials to size, you’ll need to buy extra materials to allow for mistakes. You also want to make sure you have all the proper tools.

You may have to buy a circular saw and nail gun, for instance. You’ll also need to know things such as how to make your base square when starting. If you plan a larger shed, you may need help with raising rafters or trusses and other parts of the build, especially if racing against the weather is a problem.

Whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor depends largely on how much building experience you have in the various parts of the build and perhaps the size of the shed. While building the shed yourself can save you money, remember that contractors get materials at a cheaper price than you can. Get more information on  how hard it is to build your own shed in this article Is it Easy to Build Your Own Shed?

Types of Sheds Available

Wood Storage Sheds – Wooden sheds are the most popular. They usually have plywood or plank siding, and the roofing materials vary from shingles to metal roofing to just plain roofing felt. They feature studs inside, which some other types don’t have.

These are great for holding insulation and installing shelving. These sheds are very long-lasting. The studs allow for all sorts of adaptations as you find the need through the years, whether for more shelving, adding an attic floor, or even building attached cabinets. Adding items such as gable or roof vents is easier as well.

If you change the paint color of your house, it’s easy to make the shed match. Wooden sheds are usually considered the most attractive type, especially since you can add decorative touches such as contrasting trim paint or window boxes.

Metal Storage Sheds – Metal sheds come in two basic siding materials: steel or aluminum. While most are built using steel siding, some people opt for aluminum because it won’t rust. They are popular because they are less expensive than wood or plastic sheds in some areas.

However, they aren’t as sturdy as wooden sheds or even some plastic ones. Since they are relatively lightweight, especially the aluminum ones, they usually require being anchored down. If you choose a metal shed, you’ll likely want to have some sort of interior framework.

Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on free-standing shelving, as you don’t want to drill holes in the siding to attach shelving and risk damage from a heavily-laden shelf pulling on the siding. You’ll need to watch for potential rust forming and periodically check fasteners, especially on the roof, for potential leaks. If your steel shed is painted, repair scratches promptly to avoid rust. For more information on metal sheds read my article Is a Metal Storage Shed a Good Option?

Plastic/Resin/Vinyl Storage Sheds – While these come in larger sizes, most are purchased by people who really don’t need a lot of storage. If you have a small yard and just need a place to store your walking lawnmower and a few yard tools such as shovels and rakes, this may be just the solution for you.

They come with or without floors, while some brands come with pre-marked holes in the floor to allow attachment to a foundation. Some also come with a metal frame to allow for insulation and shelving attachment. Just be aware that the lighter weight that makes your shed movable also means that it be tied down firmly to prevent it from being blown away during high winds. Some localities even require this. The vinyl sheds are usually the more weather resistant than other plastics.

Prefab Storage Sheds – A pre-fabricated shed is one that is either already built and assembled or comes in a kit that requires some putting together. These kits can come with the walls pre-framed and even insulation installed. You’ll probably need some help assembling it, but it should go fairly quickly.

Storage Shed Kits – Shed kits consist of all the main materials needed to build the shed already cut to size. Doors are windows usually come already hung and the materials cut to allow for them. Plastic, metal, and wooden sheds can be purchased in kits. The plastic ones are easiest to assemble, as you basically fit the pieces together. The potential drawback comes with the possibility that the pieces may not all fit correctly or at least give you a hard time when assembling.

Metal sheds take more work to assemble, and many purchasers are surprised to find out just how many fasteners it takes to assemble one. You also have to take care when working with the metal, as it’s just too easy to get cut by a metal sheet that slips.

Having the pieces already cut helps a great deal to lessen the chances of injury. Also, cutting metal can be quite a challenge, whether using snips or a circular saw. Many do not come with a floor, so a gravel foundation may not be the best. Wooden shed kits usually offer the most variety in sizes and styles, and also offer different build options and extra features available. Some kits come with all the fasteners needed while others just supply the frame connectors. Make sure you choose the kit that suits your needs.

All kits come with installation instructions. Some people look upon kits as a way to save money over pre-built sheds, but they usually aren’t that much less expensive, especially if you have somebody professional assemble it for you or you get stuck and have to call in a roofer just to make sure you get it done right. Take your time selecting a kit so you know just what is included.

Pre-Built Storage Sheds – These are the sheds you’ll most often see at big box building supply stores and other dealers. If you’re not handy with tools and assembly or carpentry or just don’t have the time for a big DIY project, a pre-built shed may be just what you need.

You can look over the sample models and inspect the build and materials qualities and see just how much space each size actually gives. The shed is ordered and delivered and set up where you want it. If you want a foundation, you’ll have to have it ready when the shed comes.

Another type of shed that can be called pre-built is the custom-built shed. These sheds are built to order. Many shed companies have websites to facilitate ordering that offer various sizes and styles They also offer all sorts of features to choose from, such as a loft, built-on porch, insulation, ramp, built-in workbench, and others. It can be too easy to go overboard checking off the extras. Those that offer wooden sheds will allow you to choose paint colors and even contrasting trim.

Metal custom sheds are also available, although they usually don’t have as many customizable features as custom wooden sheds. They will have roofing shape, door type and other choices as well as size and type.

Some companies will install a wooden framework inside if you tell them you plan to insulate the shed or offer inside partitions and other features. Plastic sheds aren’t offered by many custom shed companies as far as actually being customizable more than size and style, and perhaps choice of door style. The shed is built on the company site, then delivered to your home and set up. Again, you’ll need your foundation to be ready for it. Some companies offer free delivery and setup. If your still undecided on which material is better check out my article Wood Vs Plastic Vs Metal Shed [Which is Best Choice?].

What Type of Shed Will Last the Longest?

Overall, plastic sheds tend to resist the elements better than wooden or metal ones. Vinyl sheds tend to be more resistant than other types of plastic sheds. They withstand heat and cold better than the other plastics. While they do need to be firmly anchored to the ground to prevent shifting or damage from wind, even to tying down the roof, they usually last longer than the others with a little care.

How to Get a Good Deal on a Shed?

If possible, buy your shed outright rather than making payments. You’ll save a lot on interest payments. Wait for sales, as most companies run sales on different models at different times. Also, don’t be swayed by extra features you don’t need. While you should figure in a little extra space for unexpected needs in the future, don’t buy a shed very much bigger than you need.

Differences in style can mean a difference in price on two sheds the same size, so watch for this. On the other hand, don’t just try to get the cheapest shed you can. A cheap price can mean cheaply built, so look over any shed carefully for materials and workmanship. Saving too much money now can lead to having to make expensive repairs in a few years or even another shed. Try to balance quality and budget.

What is the Best Month to Buy a Shed?

April and May are usually the best months for buying a shed. People are preparing gardens and other yard tasks and often decide they need a shed. While these months are busy for buying, it’s the time when dealer stocks are usually at their highest, and some dealers run sales even at this time to compete. Sheds often go on sale in the fall as well, but stocks may be limited by that time.

Buying a Used Shed

Buying a used shed can be a good way to save money. Dealers sometimes have to repossess sheds that customers have not made payments on. There are even some sheds bought on a rent-to-own basis that have been repossessed. Usually, a used shed at a dealer will be only a year or two old and will be in good condition. You may even get a break on delivery and set up just so the dealer can get it out of his inventory.

Pros: You get to inspect the shed for quality and workmanship, and to see if it has any damage. You also get it more quickly than when you order one online, whether you are buying one from a dealer or a private party and have to arrange your own transportation.

Cons: While you may save on the price, you may have to pay for transport. Buying from an individual is where you really have to be careful, as the person has a reason he’s selling it, and it may not be the reason he claims. Take along a good flashlight to look inside carefully for any signs of past leaks or water damage.

Inspect the base well inside and out, as this is where much rot damage starts. Get up on the roof to inspect it if possible. Be prepared to ask if you can move stuff around inside for a thorough inspection. If the owner objects, he may be trying to hide something, and you should probably go elsewhere.

Hiring a Contractor to Build a Shed

Pros: You get an experienced builder who knows what he’s doing. A contractor can make recommendations on the build or even such things as the siding according to his experience and the local weather patterns. He can alert you to possible drawbacks with your choices. A contractor also provides opportunities for customizing your shed you won’t get otherwise. A contractor also gets cheaper pricing on building supplies not available to the average person.

Cons: You’ll need to check out contractors carefully and check references. A contractor does cost, and the difference between a contractor’s price and buying a pre-built shed can be substantial. If you don’t need a specialized shed, you may be better off just buying one already built. Building a shed takes more time than buying one and getting it set up.

You also will need to secure a building permit. This will involve submitting a detailed copy of the building plans, including a plan of the location to ensure it meets with local zoning codes. You’ll need to have a building inspector sign off on the build or alert you to any changes required to meet codes.


A shed is one of the largest purchases a homeowner will make. While choosing among all the options available may seem to be a daunting task, assessing your size needs and usage will narrow it down quite a bit. The more care you take in the purchase, the less care you’ll have later on, and you can just enjoy the convenience.

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