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Is a Temporary Storage Shed a Good Option in a Pinch?

If you have family, you can end up with complications, some of which can present unusual problems. For instance, your brother is getting a divorce and needs to store some of his belongings until he finds a new place. Could you help out?

Or maybe a single cousin lost his job and is getting evicted. Can he stay with you until he gets back on his feet? Of course, said cousin also comes with a lot of stuff. Since this cousin probably will take longer to get back on his feet than he thinks, you really don’t want to shell out a lot of money on a unit at a storage facility.

Maybe you are renovating your kitchen or adding a room which means removal of an outer wall, exposing the interior until the room is built. Maybe you just need an extra covered space to temporarily protect a long-term visitor’s vehicle or one of your own you are selling.

You really need some temporary storage, but the nearest storage facility either has no units available at the time or is just too far away. Maybe a temporary storage shed on your own property is a solution.

What is Considered a Temporary Storage Shed?

Temporary sheds are usually included in the definition of a building used for only a specific period of time that can be dismantled after it no longer is needed. If you’re considering using a temporary shed, you need to check with your city building inspector.

You may be required to obtain a permit for the shed. While you’re checking on that, you can find out how long you can keep it standing. Many municipalities have definitions for temporary buildings which can include buildings for special events, builders’ on-site tool sheds or office trailers, and all sorts of other types of structures.

Some of the codes can be pretty confusing, so it’s worth the time to visit your building inspector’s office, explain what you intend to do, and get the requirements straight from the source.

How Long Can a Temporary Structure Stay Up?

Some codes and zoning regulations define this period as a year, but they may vary from place to place. Some only allow a month or so. This is very important to find out before you invest in a temporary shed. You may find that a storage facility is less expensive in the long run if you know you will need the storage for a longer period than is permitted.

If you live in an area governed by a Homeowners Association, you may have other restrictions. While most HOA Covenants, Codes & Restrictions, or CC&Rs, cover the permissions and restrictions on permanent structures, like gazebos or sheds, many don’t go into much detail about the restrictions for temporary structures, or even have specific periods for how long the structure may exist.

Some HOAs don’t allow any permanent auxiliary structures much less temporary ones, even refusing permission for such things as swing sets. Some CC&Rs may consider the shed permanent if it is tied down but may also require that any shed be tied or bolted down to prevent wind damage, which will leave you in a confusing fix. In any case, be sure to find out what you are allowed to do, even if you have to wait for a meeting for the board of directors to decide on this. If you are allowed a temporary shed, be sure to get the approval in writing.

What Qualifies as a Temporary Storage Structure?

The specifics vary greatly from place to place. Some codes address only structures that are used for specific events, such as food fairs. Others go into great detail, naming such things as construction sheds and trailers, and may even include mobile homes since technically they are movable. Some state that a temporary structure is one that requires assembly but not construction. Some address permitted sizes and heights.

As far as a time limitation, this also varies greatly. Some allow a time period of less than a month, others extend it to a year. The type of foundation of the shed also plays a part. If you pour a concrete slab for the shed, which admittedly isn’t likely for a temporary structure, it may be considered to be a permanent structure.

You may want to tie down a lighter weight shed, such as a plastic one, but this tying down may turn it into a permanent structure according to code. Conversely, any plastic shed may be required to be tied down, which will leave you in a confusing situation.

With all the variations as to what qualifies in your area as a temporary structure, what is permitted, and for how long, it is vital to check with your local building inspector or zoning authority to get it straightened out. If possible, get a printed copy of the relevant codes that will permit you to have a temporary shed, in case there is some confusion later.

A neighbor can always get into a tizzy over what you have in your yard and make a phone call that starts a problem. If an inspector or other city official later has an objection to your shed, he may be citing a code that has since been changed. Having proof prevents a larger problem.

What Are the Types of Temporary Structures for Storage?

Temporary storage comes in a variety of forms. They can range from fabric tents, canopies, or sheds to metal sheds and garages. Small trailers meant as an office or space for a security guard office for a building site qualify. Temporary doesn’t have to mean flimsy. Indeed, many metal buildings are used as temporary storage sheds or offices. Sometimes even empty metal shipping containers are used. Some are used for seasonal storage on farms.

Some greenhouses fall into the definition of temporary if they can be dismantled after the growing season is over. Some temporary buildings are even used to live in while the main house or business building is being constructed. Other choices can include such things as trailers and shipping containers. The main distinction is that these buildings are meant for temporary use and can be dismantled when their use is at an end.

Are Temporary Buildings Exempt from Building Codes?

While some may not require a building permit, if you live in an area that has building codes, you may well need a permit, or at least permission, to erect a temporary shed. You may well need to adhere to some building codes that are in place for safety reasons at least.

There will most likely also be zoning code restrictions governing your shed type, possible foundation, or placement. It’s always best to check with the local building inspector and/or zoning code authority to see what is allowed. Explain your plans and they can tell you where your plans fall in regard to the possible need for a permit, size and placement restrictions, and how long your shed will be allowed to stay. They can also provide information on just what defines a temporary structure in your jurisdiction.

Homeowners Associations usually have their own restrictions. They may put further restrictions on the type of structure, possible location and time limitations. Some may outlaw temporary structures altogether. Some have really specific restrictions on the appearance of your home and yard, even to the colors of paint you can use on the home.

These types of HOAs are more likely to tell you that you aren’t permitted a temporary shed, even though many HOA covenants may not specifically address temporary structures. You may even need an individual decision from the board of directors for permission to have a temporary shed and the period you are allowed to have it.

Do I Need a Building Permit to Use a Temporary Storage Shed?

You won’t need a building permit to use one, but you may need a building permit to erect a temporary shed. Zoning restrictions also may limit the placement of your shed. You may have limits on size restrictions as well. The building inspector will want to know what kind of foundation, if any, you plan for your shed, as this could possibly change the rating of the shed from temporary to permanent. You may have restrictions on the type of shed you are allowed to have.

For instance, your shed may need to follow strength requirements as to the roof being able to hold up under heavy snow or high winds, even though it is meant to be temporary. You may need to take care to place it away from utility lines or at a certain distance from lot lines and other buildings.

Even if you find you don’t actually need a building permit, it’s very important that you find out just what you are allowed to have, where you can have it, and for how long. If you violate a building or zoning code, you may be subject to increasingly large fines, and your shed may become a lot more temporary than you had expected.

Can You Rent a Temporary Storage Shed?

You certainly can rent temporary storage. Some companies have even started up recently featuring temporary storage for various reasons. Perhaps you are moving and want to store your current shed’s contents until you move to your new place and get another shed built there.

Some have antique furniture they don’t want to trust to movers and would rather keep it in a secure facility until they have completed their move. Some want to store items until they have completed the renovation of part of their home.

The company will deliver a storage container to your home. Once you fill it with whatever you want, you call up the company and they will take it to their secure storage facility. You can call them later to deliver it to your new home or to return it to your renovated space.

It’s very handy if you have large items and no vehicle suitable for carrying them to a conventional storage facility or a lot of smaller items and don’t want to make several trips to store or retrieve them.

In addition, many temporary sheds can be rented. These are great for people only renting their homes, perhaps for just an expected period while you are looking for a house to buy. Some use them to store items while their home is being shown for a potential sale.

Getting seldom-used items out of sight and out of the way makes it easier for the homeowner to keep the house “show ready.” Shed rental companies feature different sizes and rental periods. Having this storage right by your house means that your items are easily and quickly accessible, and you save fuel by not having to drive to a storage facility.

Do Temporary Storage Structures Come with Floors?

Fabric-covered structures and many metal structures don’t come with flooring, depending on the shape and construction. Many plastic sheds as well don’t include flooring, although some do or may have features enabling the construction of a floor later.

In order to decide whether or not you need a floor in your temporary shed, you need to decide what you will store in it. If you are storing a lot of outdoor equipment, you probably don’t need a floor. If you are storing a lot of items packed in cardboard boxes or store other soft goods such as rolled-up rugs, you probably will need a floor to protect your items from dampness.

Your climate and the time of year you will utilize your shed should be considered as well. Will your shed be on a slope, potentially allowing water to seep inside from the bottom during heavy rain? Will the ground be damp much of the time? Flooring need not be expensive. There are products such as plastic grid blocks that will raise your items off the ground and help give the interior a more level walking surface.


Many people find the need for temporary storage at various times in their lives. Whether buying a shed for temporary use and selling it later or renting one, a shed will keep your items readily available and within your sight. You also won’t have to fit things into your vehicle to haul them to or from a storage facility and waste fuel to retrieve just one or two items. They are becoming a popular choice for homeowners and renters alike.