Building your own shed may seem like a Herculean task, especially if you don’t have much experience with carpentry and the like. However, if you’re interested in saving money, building your own can really be the way to go.
This is especially true if you don’t need a large shed, just something to store a walking mower, some long-handled yard tools, lawn chemicals, and those things that just don’t belong in the house.
The best way to build a cheap shed is to do it yourself and use pallets or other types of used lumber. Or better yet if you can find some old structures that you can take apart for free and use the material for your shed.
Hiring somebody to build a shed means labor cost. Even with the contractor’s usual discount on building materials, there is a material markup, and the labor costs can add up quickly. Pre-built sheds usually have a large price markup. In addition, unless the shed is really small, you’ll have to pay for someone to deliver it and set it up, and that service isn’t free.
Even with a prefabricated shed, you’ll still be responsible for the shed foundation. Unless you are pouring a concrete slab foundation, that’s something most people construct themselves, so you’ll likely still be doing some of the work yourself.
While you don’t want to skimp on materials that need to stand up to the weather, it’s certainly possible to build a cheap DIY shed.
How Much Can You Save Building Your Own Shed?
How much you can save depends on the pricing of both materials and labor in your local market. However, as we mentioned, contractors often get a discount on building materials, especially if they buy materials for more than one project at a time. However, they add a markup on those materials, so you’ll still be paying the retail price for them or more.
Labor costs can add a lot to the cost of building a shed, sometimes as much as 50 percent. Even with a pre-built shed, you can usually build a shed for less than $3,000 that’s much the same as a similar, pre-built model costing $4,000. Delivery and set-up of a pre-built shed will probably cost more than delivery of lumber.
Can I Build a Cheap DIY Shed Out of Pallets?
You certainly can build a cheap DIY shed out of pallets. Pallets can be had for free much of the time. Industrial areas are good places to look. Businesses will often have pallets put out by their garbage dumpster. Since these are probably damaged, ask the owner or manager if they have any extra pallets you can have.
Also, ask at the big box stores and home improvement stores. They often will have pallets they will let you have free or at a small price. As long as you have a pickup truck to haul them and are willing to load them yourself, you can get a good number of them.
Try to stick to the same size pallet. The standard size is 48″ x 40″ with three main skids on the bottom, but there are a few other sizes. It will be easier to work with them if they are all the same size. Also, don’t be put off by pallets with broken slats. You can remove the good slats and use them for siding. The skids can be put to use as extra wall studs to make the shed sturdier.
The pallets, of course, have spaces between the slats. Some people just leave the shed like that, with the openings. However, you can use slats from pallets in between to fill in the spaces or use a good, exterior grade pressure-treated plywood for siding. Even with expensive-grade plywood, it still saves money over some other types of siding, such as wood boards or vinyl.
What is the Cheapest Style of Shed to Build?
Probably, the cheapest style of shed to build, and also the least complicated, would be a shed with a flat roof. However, this just invites rainwater and debris to stay on the roof and deteriorate it. The traditional gable roof or a roof with one slope along the whole width will keep that problem at bay. Even a low-sloping roof is better than one with no slope.
How to Build a Shed on a Budget
Your cheapest shed support would be using pressure-treated 4 x 4 skids under your sub-floor or floor joists. You’ll need to do some excavating to provide a solid foundation with good drainage. Some people advocate digging a trench for each skid and filling it with gravel. Check out my article How to Build Your Shed Floor on Skids for complete details on building a shed on skids.
A more thorough drainage system would be to level the whole shed area plus a foot on each side, digging down about four inches. In other words, for a 10 x 10 shed, you’ll provide a 12 x 12 foundation.
Put down some landscape fabric over the area and up the sides of your excavation. Then fill the space with crushed gravel, tamping it down firmly every two inches of gravel you pour. This will keep the rain draining away from the shed and off your skids.
Using deck blocks is another inexpensive base. They come with slots to hold your floor joists. Be sure to provide a good gravel foundation under the blocks. Since you’ll need enough to hold your frame and support the centers of the joists, it may make more sense to put in a full gravel foundation rather than a separate small one for each block. It will ensure far better drainage as well, preventing your blocks from eventually sinking.
When sourcing materials, remember that sometimes it’s better to spend a little more rather than risking having a flimsy shed. For instance, you’ll want pressure-treated lumber meant for exterior use on your floor joists, skids and framing. You’ll also need the same grade of plywood for your roof sheathing.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, keep in mind that if your shed starts rotting or coming apart, you’ll have to spend a lot more money and labor to fix it than if you had used decent materials to start with. Even if you don’t plan to live in your house for more than a few years, a shed built with cheap materials that looks like it hasn’t stood up well to the weather is not a good selling point.
One good tip is to talk to independent lumber yards. You can often dicker with them a bit on price, especially if you buy all your supplies from them. The big box stores often utilize universal pricing and won’t bargain. However, if you can find one that offers a senior citizen discount, you can get a deal getting an older relative to put the materials in his name.
Buying used windows and doors that are in good shape is another way to save for a cheap DIY shed build. Some charities that make money selling used items accept various building materials. Some of these come from homes that just underwent a design renovation. In other words, the door was replaced with an updated design, not because it was falling apart.
The cheapest roofing is probably the standard, three-tab asphalt shingle. Some people just roof their sheds with tar paper or roofing felt, but this has to be replaced so often that it’s usually not worth the savings. Corrugated metal sheets can often be a good deal. Some people just nail them to the rafters, but it’s best to put at least some kind of underlayment underneath to deaden sound and keep any moisture from seeping onto your wood even if you don’t want to use roof sheathing. Get more information on roofing in my article How to Choose the Best Roofing Material for a Shed.
Framing for a roof can be made easier by building the rafters and ceiling joists into trusses before raising them. Of course, you’ll need some help to raise them, but this method is faster and cuts down on the time spent working on top of the shed. There are plenty of ways to form trusses. You can find all sorts of ideas with a little time on the internet.
Can You Build a Shed for Under $1,000?
It is possible to build a shed for under $1,000, even if you don’t use obtain a lot of free materials. Of course, you can’t build a big one, but something like a 10 x 10 or smaller is certainly feasible.
For instance, one plan consisted of building a 10 x 10 with 32 2 x 4s, 20 2 x 6s, 10 sheets of OSB, 10 sheets of T1-11 siding, a door, concrete blocks, tar paper, and asphalt roll roofing. After the ground was leveled, the concrete blocks were used as a base. Again, be sure to provide a good gravel base, even if it’s just under the blocks or they will eventually start to sink or lean as water runs down or puddles around the shed.
Use the 2 x 6s for a frame and set it onto your blocks. Make sure it’s perfectly level, then nail in the floor joists 16″ on center. The OSB gets put on next for the floor.
It’s easier to build each wall with studs and frames rather than to build it in place. Making a slanted roof usually means making the back wall shorter than the front and building the tops of the side walls at a slant, which can get complicated, as the studs need to be sawed at an angle to fit the roof frame.
An easier way is to build a one-foot-tall riser that is nailed to the top of the front wall and leave the tops of the side wall frames level. Plan and build your door and any window frames before raising the corresponding walls. Next goes the siding, which will be slanted on the side walls to match the roof slant. A good tip is to put on the siding before working on the roof. The siding will add stability to the walls, which you’ll appreciate once you start on the roof.
Use 12-foot long 2 x 6s for the rafters. A good idea is to notch them to fit across the walls. By extending the extra length over the front of the shed, you have some protection against rain coming I the door. Then OSB is nailed onto the rafters. A layer of tar paper goes next, then the asphalt roll roofing. Start from the bottom and be sure to overlap both roofing materials as you go. Then, all that’s left is the painting.
Where to Find Cheap Materials to Build Your Shed
You’ll need some detailed building plans. There are a surprising number of free plans available online for downloading. This is the first place to save money.
We’ve already gone over how to find pallets. For other materials, you can visit home building sites. Many contractors just burn what is left over. You can score some good lumber from some of these sites. If you find a new subdivision with several houses going up at once, you can usually get a truckload quickly.
Another source is old barns and other outbuildings that are being torn down. While much of the lumber may not be in good shape, chances are there is still some usable material there, at least for siding. Some people will let you have it for free while others will charge a little bit. You can usually get it for free if you offer to tear down the building for the owner in exchange for materials.
The cost of nails and screws can add up. By doing a little online research, you can often find sources for these that have better prices than your local lumberyard or big box store. Tools can be another place to save money. The minimum for tools is a hammer, saw, drill, tape measure, level and speed square.
Don’t forget extension cords. You can use a miter or circular saw, but if all you have is a hand saw, see if you can rent a power saw if you have no other use for it that would necessitate a purchase.
While it’s not the simplest project you can do, building your own shed is quite doable for most people who have at least used a saw, hammer and drill. Having a helper will be a great aid, especially for getting materials up to the roof and helping you raise the wall frames. Take some pride in your work and keep in mind which parts need the most protection from weather and ground moisture, and you’ll have something you and your friends can admire that will serve you well for years to come.