Building Your Own Shed: What You Need to Know and How We Made Ours
Shed lots seem to be popping up all over the place! You may have seen a bunch of sheds, garages, or mini barns sitting in an abandoned parking lot or on the corner of an intersection.
These buildings can serve a lot of purposes and many of the manufacturers will build to suit your needs. Some will even finish the interior for you. If you have always wanted some extra space—perhaps for a craft room, office or home gym—a shed can give you the space you need. Read on to see how we turned a shed into a home office!
How Much Does a Shed Cost?
Costs can range widely depending on the size of your building, your location, the builder and how much of the work you want them to do.
When we priced materials at a local building supply store, we found that it was cheaper to buy a shed and have it delivered than it was for the materials alone! Though we are big do-it-yourselfers, it certainly made sense to us to save ourselves the time and effort and just buy a shed.
Many shed lots have discounted buildings. These buildings may have been used as a model, repossessed, or traded in. Ask the dealer if he has any discounted buildings for you to consider. If you live in town, be sure to check your local zoning and HOA laws before purchasing a shed.
How to Recognize a Quality Building
Sometimes prices are similar between one builder and another, but the quality of the products and workmanship are very different. It is good to be vigilant and really inspect the models on the lot before you decide which builder to use.
Here are some tips to help you spot quality craftsmanship:
- Are the windows single pane or double? Are they insulated? Do they slide easily up and down? Do they flip down for easy cleaning? Insulated, double pane windows are higher quality.
- How far apart are the studs? Are they 2 X 4s or 2 x 6s? 2 x 6s are stronger. 2 x 4s are fine as long as they are good quality.
- Is the lumber straight and of good quality or twisted and knotty? The 2x4s should be straight and not full of knots and holes.
- Did they use nails or screws? Screws are best, but nails are more common. Check that nails are pounded in all the way and not sticking out.
- Did they use metal plates to secure joints? These plates make the building stronger.
- What is the quality of the floor? Does it feel secure? How thick is the flooring material? Does the floor sag when you walk on it? Do the floor boards fit tight together, or is there space between them? A tighter, thicker floor is best.
- What is the thickness of the siding and floor material? The thicker the better here. Plywood generally holds up better than OSB (oriented strand board). Marine-grade plywood is very good. It can be easily recognized by its dark green color.
- If they are insulating the building for you, what is the R-value and type of insulation used? The higher the R-value the better. The builder may use fiberglass batts or spray foam insulation. Spray foam is a good option for the underside of the building, as batts would hold moisture. Spray foam tends to be more expensive. Batts are good for the walls and ceiling. You might also see a thin layer of shiny foil when looking at the ceiling. This is good. This reflective material helps with heating and cooling as well.
- Spend some time in the shed and see how it feels to you. If it doesn’t feel right, keep looking.
Important Questions and Points to Ask the Dealer About
- How long are the materials and workmanship warrantied?
- What options are there, and how much do they cost? This might include adding additional windows, upgrading materials, or finishing the interior. (Note: This would be a good time to ask about a leveling service and see if there are any additional fees for delivery and set up.)
- Most shed lots will have samples of their materials and colors for you to look at in the office. Ask to see them.
- Sometimes it is helpful to visit several shed lots. Viewing different products and options will help you decide on exactly what you want.
Make Sure You Fully Map Out Your Plan Before Starting
Visit several shed lots and look at lots of different products. Sample many different materials and colors. Consider the costs of potential upgrades like windows, insulation, and various interior elements.
Why We Needed a Shed
In our case, our little 1930s bungalow gets a bit tight, and we needed an office that afforded more quiet and privacy than our home allowed. We visited several shed lots and happened upon this little 8 ’x 10’ metal building. It already had a door, two windows, and a slider, which saved quite a bit of money.
The building had been used as an office for a dog boarding facility. People would enter through the smaller door and sign their dog in. Then the dog would be taken through the slider, which opened up to the kennels. The owner traded the building in for a larger one.
The interior was finished but poorly done, and it lacked insulation. It was a little smaller than what we had been hoping for, but the price was right. So, we bought it.
The Hard Part: Tips for Finding, Transporting and Arranging Your Materials
Sheds are built on skids, but they need to be set on a level surface of stone. With smaller sheds, it is OK to place cement blocks underneath to level them up—2” thick square patio pavers are good for this.
With larger buildings, however, it is better to set them right on the stone. You can use crushed stone 53s or road pack. Your stone should be 2” thick at the lowest point and should be at least a foot wider than your building on all sides.
Calculating How Much Stone You'll Need and Where to Find It
You can find a calculator online that will tell you how many yards or tons of stone you will need for your pad based on the footprint size of the shed and how high you need to build up the stone.
Then you need to find either a place that sells stone, or a local hauler. I recommend looking for a local hauler (AKA, a guy with a dump truck), because he might know where the cheapest place is to get the material you need.
Moving and Setting Up Your Stone
Stone is not easy to move. So if your dump truck driver can spread it as much as possible as it comes out of the truck, that will save you a lot of back-breaking work. You can use a stiff rake to move the stones around.
Depending on the size of your building, you may need to buy or rent special tools to make sure your stone pad is level. Some shed places offer a leveling service. In our case, the pad was small enough that I could use a long 2 x 4 and place the level on that. I built up places that were low and knocked down places that were high. I had to move the 2 x 4 and measure in several places and different directions, including diagonally.
The Easy Part: Tips for Having Your Shed Delivered
Once your stone pad is ready, your shed can be delivered.
Do note that if you plan on running plumbing or electricity to your shed, you may want to have that roughed in first as well. In our case, we ran plumbing and electric next to the shed, but not under it.
You also want to leave room for the delivery driver to place your shed. The trucks and trailers they use to deliver these buildings are amazing! They’re like transformers. I’ve never seen a truck and trailer bend, move, and come apart in so many different ways! The driver had something that looked like a game controller to make it do its magic. It was very interesting watching it be set into place.
Delivery and set up are usually free, or included in the price of your shed, unless you have special circumstances that make it harder to place.
Questions to Consider Before Transporting Your Shed
Before you arrange to have your shed delivered, be sure to look around your property and consider questions such as:
- How will the driver get the shed to the location?
- Will a fence need to be taken down?
- Are there trees or limbs in the way? What about low power lines?
- Do you have a driveway gate that is too small to fit the building through?
If you have concerns, you can ask the dealer to come out and take a look at your property to see how everything will fit.
Get a Professional to Take a Look at Your Space
You might want to ask the dealer or another professional to come out and take a look at your property to see how everything will fit.
Why We Had to Gut Our Building
Now that your building has arrived, you can get to work!
If you had the builder finish the inside, you are closer to done than we were! If you did not have the builder finish the inside, you are still closer to done than we were! You see, we had to gut our building.
We removed the panelling and saved it to reuse. We ripped out the floor. With all those dogs, it was not salvageable. We cut an access in the ceiling so that we could insulate the attic space. We added foam insulation to the walls and floor. We added wiring. Then we put it back together. The panelling went back up, and we added trim. Now we were ready for the finishing touches.
Placing the Finishing Touches
The ceiling got a new coat of paint and a new light fixture. The walls and trim got painted. We installed laminate flooring. We placed a large white board on one wall.
Did you know that you can buy white board panels that are 4' x 8’? We just cut it down to the size we wanted. We chose insulated curtains for the south-facing slider and hung shades in the other two windows.
My husband found a pallet and added boards to make a little deck off the slider. And some little flowers volunteered to come up in the window box all on their own. Our office was finished and ready for move in.
Some of the Challenges We Faced
- When we removed the panelling, we found that the studs were not equally spaced. This made cutting insulation to fit a real challenge.
- Heating such a small space has been easy with an electric space heater. But it does get mighty hot in the summer. We hope to remedy that next year.
- The space is small. We really could have used the extra footage of a larger building. But sheds are fairly modular, and we could add another one and attach it to the existing. Or we could finish off the back porch to add space.
- Insulating the floor did not leave us much clearance under the door. Over time, changes in humidity caused the floor to warp a bit and the door catches.
Customize Your Shed to Your Desire
Overall, we are quite happy with our little shed! It is a great way to add that extra room you wish you had. And it doesn’t have to look like a shed in the end—you can make it look quite nice!
We are currently embarking on our next shed project: a much larger building that will serve as an exercise room, a quiet get-away, and added space for entertaining company. Stay tuned for updates on that project!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Amanda Buck