21 Considerations & Questions To Ask When Buying a Shed - Ultimate Guide
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
Buying a shed for your backyard can be a significant investment. However, with so many design styles and ideas to choose from, finding the right one can be a challenge for many homeowners. Having a shed means you’ll be able to keep things clean and tidy, but apart from practical uses, it can also be a spectacular feature. You can use a shed for storing garden tools, garden equipment, or outside tables and chairs. It can also serve as an artist’s studio, home office, or somewhere for the kids to play. If you’re looking to buy a quality shed now or sometime in the future, there are several considerations and pertinent questions you should address. By understanding how you can make your shed suit your needs, you won’t be disappointed with your choice. This article will look at price considerations and shed buying tips for homeowners, including specifications, materials, whether you need foundations, planning permission, design, insulation, and many more critical things. Read to the end of this buying guide to be be in the best possible position and armed with all the information and ideas you need to go shopping for a premium quality shed.
What to know before buying a shed?
Before you start looking for a shed to buy, there are some essential things to know.
Do you need a permit to build a shed?
Before worrying about what shed you want in your garden, you must get in touch with your city, town or local county zoning department and find out whether you have to follow any code requirements for sheds. Building codes tend to vary depending on the location. Still, it is your responsibility, as the homeowner, to obtain any construction permits before the new shed is installed in your backyard.
In most locations, a shed building permit is not a necessity as long as storage sheds are small. Ideally, that means no more than 6x8 or 8x10.
If you’re looking at sheds larger than 6x8 or 8x10, you may have to comply with zoning restrictions in your area.
For example, in many places, you can only install a shed in your backyard. There may also be limitations concerning the shed footprint. That footprint might have to be no more than a certain percentage of the size of your lot.
Failing to meet local building codes could result in a hefty fine, costs for relocating your shed, or possibly even removal. Here are some general guidelines you can refer to.
You may need to apply for a permit if you want to have an electricity supply in your shed or if your shed will be a place of business or living space.
There may be rules relating to how close the storage shed will be to any fencing, trees, other storage buildings, and property lines. In some areas, you’re not permitted to attach a shed to your home.
Size and height restrictions may be mandated, or you might have to use a particular type of foundation for the storage shed.
Local homeowner associations often have their own regulations relating to outdoor storage buildings. Any homeowners who lives in HOA-regulated houses should clarify covenants and community rules.
What is the purpose of the shed or storage building?
What you plan to use the shed for can have a massive impact on the type of shed you purchase. However, this is possibly one of the easiest questions you’re going to need to ask yourself. Homeowners use storage sheds in various ways, but thinking about how you plan to use your shed will determine its size and what features it needs to have.
Do you need to use your shed for storage space, or will it be a home office?
If you are planning to spend a lot of time in your backyard storage unit, you might want to consider adding shed ventilation and lighting. The height of the roof is also going to be something you need to think about.
Sheds come in many shapes and sizes, and the addition of features such as skylights, windows, sliding doors, shelving, and even window boxes could be something you need to give thought to.
If you’re only going to use the shed for storage, you’ll need to kick around the different types of shelving. Will you be storing bikes, pool equipment, or outdoor toys? Or will the items be things like clothing that you can keep in large containers?
Should there be wall space storage, space overhead, customizable shelving, or would hooks be more suitable?
How you use the shed will also determine what type of doors will work best and how they should be placed. For the storage of large equipment, double doors would be more appropriate.
It’s possible to choose from a range of standard shed sizes, and in some cases, you can customize the size of your storage shed to match your requirements.
It’s always a good idea to plan on purchasing a bigger shed that you need. That way, you should always have some extra space, and the shed will accommodate your changing needs.
Anything under 80 square feet is considered to be a small storage shed. This size is ideal for storing garden supplies or lawn equipment, such as gas cans, pots, bags of compost or fertilizer, or a push mower.
Medium storage sheds tend to be between 90 and 120 square feet. You can store slightly larger items in this size garden shed, for instance, snow blowers, bulky equipment, or riding mowers.
A large garden shed could be anything between 144 and 288 square feet, or possibly even larger. In a large shed, you place any number of things regardless of their size.
Large sheds are ideal spaces for turning into a hobby space, workshop, office workspace, studio, man or she cave.
It’s also possible to purchase expansion kits if you need to add additional storage space to the storage building you’ve already got on your property. And the assembly instructions of such kits are easy.
If you order a large garden shed, check that the door space will be able to accommodate the largest item you’re going to store inside.
When comparing different sheds, also check whether it includes a floor. Floor kits are available for certain types of sheds. Foundations can also function as a floor if needed.
Consider how much space you need in your storage shed
One of the most common mistakes people make when buying a storage shed is underestimating how much storage space they need.
Making a list of the items you’re going to put in your garden shed will help determine the correct size. A good rule of thumb is to roughly evaluate how much space you’ll need and add 25% to the dimensions.
However, don’t forget to take into consideration any covenants that might apply to your neighborhood. You might, for example, be unable to build a storage shed that’s taller than the current fence line. It’s always a good idea to double-check the rules in place.
What is the most popular garden shed size?
It is difficult to answer this question without first defining the purpose of the garden shed. For example, if the purpose is an enclosed space that is used to store tools or other gardening supplies, then the most popular size would be 10'x12'.
If you want to protect your garden shed and its content, proper shed foundations are vital. Leave out this critical feature, and you could be faced with many problems further down the line. Moisture damage, instability, pest infestations, and rotten wood are just some of the issues you might have to face.
When you locate a storage shed on level and stable ground, its structure will be structurally sound, and the windows and doors will open and close easily.
Water drainage is essential wherever you decide to install your shed. It will help it stay dry and minimize the transfer of moisture from the soil. Ideally, your shed should be installed off the ground by a few inches.
There are several options when it comes to building a stable foundation for your storage shed. Masonry blocks on a bed of gravel or sill plates that rest on a slab of concrete, compacted road base, or compacted pea gravel are the best options.
However, if you live in an area where the ground is liable to freeze, a frame installed on concrete footings that have been set below the frost line is more suitable.
It’s better to wait until you’ve purchased your shed before you build the foundation. Often, the shed manufacturer will include instructions on building a foundation that is the perfect size for your shed. Don’t worry if instructions are not included as there are plenty of resources available online.
Roofing and Siding Materials
It might be tempting to choose a shed with a cheap price tag, but this could be a false economy. Whatever materials you choose, they should be durable and long-lasting. You don’t want a shed made from poor-quality siding or roof materials that will deteriorate quickly because of the weather. For the roofing and siding materials, you have several options.
Wood sheds are very stylish and sturdy. When lumber and plywood sheathing are used for the framework, it can withstand loads from snow and wind and can also support hangers and several shelves. If the timber used in constructing your shed siding is engineered, it will resist rot and termite problems.
You can paint wood siding to blend in with the landscape or match your home’s décor. Wood sheds can also be customized to create unique and attractive buildings.
Maintenance is necessary with wood sheds. Wood siding tends to involve re-staining or repainting regularly, and you’ll also need to keep the siding and roof in good repair.
If you’re looking for an economical option, steel is one of the cheapest shed building materials. You can find it in a range of different colors. There is also the choice of galvanized steel with an enamel finish or vinyl-coated steel siding.
Both finishes are very resistant to rust and scratches.
With a metal shed, you’re guaranteed years of maintenance-free service. However, it will not be quite such an attractive addition to your backyard or garden as a resin or wooden shed.
There are a few downsides to a shed with metal siding. The choice of size and shape for such structures is not as varied.
You can purchase them in a range of different colors if you prefer.
But frequent repainting of the siding will be necessary if you want it to stay looking fresh.
Many metal garden shed kits do not include any type of floor, which means you need to consider the type of foundation materials you use carefully. If you’re going to use gravel, a metal shed is better for storing garden and lawn equipment.
One last factor to consider is that metal sheds can be complicated to construct. Customization and accessorizing like window boxes are also a little more complex than other types of sheds.
Sheds made of resin, vinyl siding, or plastic are the easiest type of garden shed to put together. Other defining features include their resistance to insects, mold, rust, and rot. Vinyl, resin, and plastic siding are also straightforward to keep clean. For a more solid construction, it’s best to choose double-wall panels, although these are a little more expensive. There are also plenty of color choices.
It may be possible to purchase this type of garden shed with steel-reinforced doors for added security and peace of mind. These will also increase the service life of your shed.
For added illumination and ventilation, you may be able to find models that include skylights and windows.
A vinyl, resin, or plastic shed is almost maintenance-free and relatively easy to clean. It does not require much attention in terms of maintenance. In addition, it will be able to withstand most extremes of weather.
Board and batten
Board and batten sheds are made using narrow wooden strips (batten) alternated with wide boards. It’s a method of construction that’s popular across the US for homes and garden sheds.
When correctly cared for, a board and batten shed can last for decades. It’s also possible to stain or paint it to complement your home.
On the negative side, a board and batten shed is high maintenance. As well as using a wood sealant, you’ll also need to power wash it regularly. The color stain or paint will also need refreshing regularly.
As for the shed roofing materials:
Examples of popular roof shingles in the U.S. are asphalt shingles, cedar shingles and clay shingles.
Asphalt: It's a good choice for those living in regions with dry climates because these shingles can resist water damage better than other materials. The downside is that asphalt shingles absorb heat, which means they're not as cost-efficient as an insulating material. They also wear out over time and need replacing often (usually after 5-25 years).
Cedar: Cedar shingles also reflect heat well, but the installation is more difficult.
Clay: Clay roof shingles tend to be more expensive than metal roofing but may last up to four times longer. It depends on how they are installed as well as the geographical location. They also protect against termite infestation much better.
Of course, if you want to protect the environment, you could choose to build a shed from recycled resources to avoid using new natural resources such as wood.
Have a proper plan
Whatever outdoor structure you choose, it’s likely going to be a space that’s used for more than just a storage building.
For your shed to reach its full potential, there are certain key features you need to consider. Your imagination can guide you, but it pays to have a plan to follow, especially if you’re not purchasing a ready-made kit.
Building a shed from scratch means you’ve got control over its design and can create a custom building that is unique and functional.
Let’s look at some of the things you need to compare.
Choose a design and style
How your shed looks can be just as important as what you plan to store in it or use it for. Your shed style and type can also make a big difference to the overall appearance of your property. Ideally, you’ll want a structure that complements the style of your home and doesn’t look too out of place in the neighborhood.
If, for example, your home has a more formal feel about it, you need to look for a shed with matching formal features. Similarly, a more country-style home is going to be complemented by sheds with rustic styles.
There might also be certain features in the design of your home that you want to emulate in your garden shed. Arched doors or windows could carry a theme from your home to your outbuilding.
You might want it to blend into the landscape too. Plants can help smooth out the straight lines of any type of building.
Also, consider establishing garden beds and plant them with perennials and annuals. Wooden sheds lend themselves very well to trellises and growing plants up against the walls.
Manufacturers of top-quality sheds can accommodate all of the above if you need.
Foundation and Flooring
Some sheds come with flooring, and some without. Usually, a wooden shed will have plywood flooring that comes with standard framed floors. Metal and plastic sheds tend to have the flooring sold separately.
You can build your own or choose the manufacturer’s shed flooring system. However, you’ll probably need to pay extra, which can be as much as an additional $100.
Whatever material your shed, installing it on a foundation will protect it from moisture and make it more secure and stable.
The foundation of your shed should also be raised and well-draining, as this will help prevent corrosion or rot.
DIY or PRO installation
If you want to save money and have a bit of DIY know-how, there’s no reason why you can’t build your shed yourself. You can purchase ready-constructed kits, which make assembly quicker and easier.
A wooden shed requires a certain level of carpentry skill and the right tools. On the other hand, plastic and metal sheds are easier to assemble and much quicker to build.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer someone else to construct a shed for you, it’s simply a case of purchasing a shed online or from local home improvement stores. You arrange for it to be delivered and their team of professional installers to assemble it for you. This option, of course, will be more expensive.
Prepare your site
You might already have a pretty good idea where you want to locate your shed, but there are some things it’s better to double-check before you get too involved in making space and preparing a level pad for it.
Keeping space for upkeep and maintenance is a sensible idea because it’ll make it easier to keep the weeds and grass down and the area looking tidy. Make sure there’s enough room for you to mow around the building.
Check what’s just below the surface because you don’t want to place your shed on top of any utility lines, water lines, or a septic tank.
Now you’ve checked the final location, you can get the pad for your shed ready for delivery. To increase the shed’s durability and protect your investment, make sure that you know v.
There are several options and pricing varies, but the most common shed pad types are:
Concrete blocks: This is the most budget-friendly choice. You need first to clear the area and lay out the blocks ready for laying the floor runners. One downside is that the blocks can shift over time. This means your shed won’t be level, the frame will be under heavy strain, and the shed doors might not close so well.
Concrete pad: This is a good choice if you want a pad that’s larger than the footprint of your shed. You can use the additional pad space for a patio, for example. Concrete lasts a long time and will provide your shed with a solid foundation.
Gravel pad: This tends to be the foundation of choice because it will last a long time and provide a secure and level foundation. The gravel also allows water to drain away and reduces the risk of rot. It does take more investment and energy, but you’ll be paid back in full in the long run.
One last tip, to make sure everything is ready for the delivery of your shed, is to take a tape measure and walk along the delivery path of the shed.
Visualize how it’s going to move along the route and make sure there are no obstacles. Don’t just look in front. Make sure you look up, down, and all around.
Door placement - Hinged vs. Sliding Doors
A door is a vital feature of your shed, but is a hinged or sliding door better? The answer depends on the available space and opening size.
A hinged door swings outward, with a range of motion that can be 180 degrees. With this type of door, you’re guaranteed complete access. If you need to get large items in and out of your shed, hinged double doors are what you need. Hinged doors work equally well on a smaller shed, but it would typically be a single door.
Sliding doors have a side-to-side operation which makes them ideal when there is limited access.
Insulating a shed is an affordable thing to do, and as long as you do it correctly, it will also be very effective.
Insulation will allow you to build a warm garden office, protect fragile equipment from temperature extremes, and make sure your man cave is warm and toasty whatever the weather outside.
You can use many types of insulation, such as cellulose, fiberglass, breathable membranes, expanded polystyrene or foam, bubblewrap, plywood board, Rockwool insulation, and more.
Which insulation is best depends on what part of your shed you want to insulate, what you use the shed for and your budget. Some sheds come with insulation, so that is also going to affect your choice of insulation.
If the walls and roof sheathing of your shed are pretty thin, it’s probably best if you look at insulating everything, from the doors and windows to the roof and floor.
However, if funds are limited, you should focus on those areas where heat is lost. This would be the roof sheathing. Insulating the floor is also vital because this is where cold rises.
Consider heating, electricity, and lighting
You’re going to increase the flexibility of your shed if you add heating, electricity, and lighting. Having windows in your structure will provide a certain amount of natural light, but if you add lighting to your shed, you’ll be able to use it day and night.
Similarly, adding a power supply will mean you can do virtually anything in your shed. Heating also means you’ll be able to use your shed throughout the year.
However, it’s important to install insulation, or the warmth will quickly dissipate from the shed.
Do you need a portable or a static shed?
The answer to this depends on what you want to use your shed for. Whether you plan to move house sometime in the future is also important.
Choose a portable shed, and you’ll be able to take it with you when you move or relocate it in your backyard.
On the other hand, a static shed will be a permanent fixture and, therefore, safer and more secure. You’ll also be more inclined to make it a feature of your property and spend time and effort making sure it’s right and has all the required extras.
What interior features you will need?
A shed is simply just a box you can use for storage, but it has the potential to be so much more, with a few added interior features. We’ve already mentioned adding heating, lighting, and electricity, but what other features will spruce up a shed?
Here are a few ideas:
French doors will increase the amount of functionality
Windows, whether fixed or opening, will help improve the layout of your shed
Partition walls will allow you to create separate areas
Hooks and shelving will provide storage space and maximize the amount of floor space
What makes a good quality shed?
A good quality shed has a well-fabricated and robust framework. The quality of a shed is also affected by the vinyl siding and wall materials used.
It should be spacious enough to accommodate your needs and have adequate access. Weatherproofing is another crucial quality as it will improve the longevity of your shed.
Is it cheaper to buy a shed or build a shed?
This is a common question for anyone looking for a shed. Many factors can affect the final answer, so we’ve put them all together in a comparison table.
Buy a shed
Build a shed
Much quicker as the shed is already built. All you have to do is prepare the foundation.
Time can be a significant disadvantage. It could take a few weeks or several months.
You don’t need to stress about where to place the windows, the dimensions of the floor, or any other details.
You can build exactly what you want, take advantage of space in the rafters, include underfloor storage. and choose the placement of the doors and windows.
You may need a screwdriver, but that’s all.
A range of power and hand tools.
If there is a defect, you can return it to your store. There is likely a warranty from the manufacturer that will cover the shed repair cost or replacement.
Any defects are your responsibility, but you have ultimate control over the quality of your shed. Building something yourself is also a matter of pride.
A top-quality shed can be very expensive.