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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Horning

How To Level Ground For A Shed - 5 Steps

Updated: Jun 6



Shed set on crushed stone base with retaining wall
10x18 Modern Shed on crushed stone base


Storage sheds are everywhere. Some are set on concrete blocks, some on crushed stone and some on concrete pads. Which one should you choose and how do you level the ground properly for a level foundation for your new storage shed?






Is It Important To Level The Ground Before Building A Shed?


A shed is only as solid as the foundation that it is set on. Sustainable sheds require a level surface. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but getting the foundation for the shed correct will make construction of the shed simpler.

Without preparing the correct foundation for your shed, it will put unnecessary wear on the structural elements of the shed and will likely shorten its usable lifetime.



What Are The Different Ways To Level The Ground For A Shed?


Let's look at a few ways to prepare your area for a shed. You'll need to figure out what works best for you in terms of budget, durability, and ease of installation.


Concrete Blocks


Concrete blocks are one of the most widely used shed foundation options. It's easy, it's economic, and it allows the ground underneath to be off level but still create a level foundation to set the shed on. Blocks have been used for many, many years and have served countless customers with a solid base for their new sheds.


Crushed stone


A crushed stone shed foundation is another straightforward way of leveling a shed foundation. What is needed for this is an area that is already close to level. If you have an area that is more than a few inches out of level you will need to add a retaining wall as a border to your crushed stone on the lower side of the shed foundation.


Crushed stone is a great option with great aesthetics and excellent drainage.


Concrete Slab


A concrete slab for a shed foundation is used a bit less than the previous two options. Concrete is used in many of the same conditions as crushed stone but is usually selected when someone plans to drive heavy equipment inside the structure or repeatedly dropping heavy weights(in a gym experience).


Piers


Using a pier system is almost exclusively kept for leveling shed bases when dealing with a steep surface. Similar to the concrete blocks each pier can be adjusted so that they all support the weight of the shed floor evenly. Piers can be used comfortably for shed sites that are 3+ feet out of level.



What Is The Easiest Way To Level Ground For A Shed Foundation?


Using either a common level or something more expensive like a laser level you can assure that whatever option you choose is going to be a solid base for your shed. The two simplest options across the board is the concrete blocks and the crushed stone.

With the concrete blocks you have little to no ground to move out of the way and can simply start positioning your concrete blocks.

With the crushed stone you will need to remove the sod/topsoil and install your plastic or wood border before you then fill it in with the crushed stone.


What Are The Tools And Equipment You Will Need?

Level

When building a foundation for small or larger sheds on uneven ground, you'll need a few tools to get it right:

  • Shovel

  • Pea gravel

  • Wooden planks

  • Spray paint (optional)

  • Measuring tape

  • Level

  • String

  • Mallet

  • Rake

  • Tamper (optional)

  • Square

Step-By-Step Instructions


Remember! Before you start building a shed foundation on your property, ensure that you have met all the zoning requirements of your state.


1. Plan and Prepare Everything


Planning and preparation involve selecting the best location to build a shed. When choosing a location, you need to consider factors like aesthetics, ground slope, etc.

What will you be storing in the shed? Do these things need easy access to the driveway? Will you need space in the shed to park a vehicle? Answering these questions will be helpful in choosing the right location for your shed.


Avoid locating your shed in an area that pools water when you have heavy rains..


As we mentioned earlier, make sure that your state's building codes and HOA laws permit you to have a shed. If you have any questions reach out to your building/inspectional department in your area to find out these requirements.


2. Staking and Squaring


After choosing the location to lay your shed foundation, it's time to mark out the area. Using a stake at each corner, run a string between each corner to mark the area, and square the corners. The shed pad will vary in size depending on the foundation you choose.

  1. Start by placing the first two stakes at the first two corners. Try to keep them straight to avoid errors in measurements.

  2. Next use the 3,4,5 rule also called the Pythagorean Theorem. You can check out this link to better understand it.

  3. Using the markers that the 3,4,5 rule will give you, you can then stretch a string to your last two corners.

  4. To verify that it is square you can measure across the corner both ways and make sure that it is the same measurement.

  5. Once square, stretch a line tightly around all four stakes, and use your spray paint to mark the footprint of your shed base, so you can remove the string before excavation.

3. Excavation


Know what's underneath the ground, such as sprinkler lines or utility wires and start digging.

You can request your utility company to mark out the utilities in the area before you are ready to dig but this shouldn't be needed if you are only digging down a few inches.


After this has been taken care of, you can proceed with removing the sod/topsoil in the area that's marked. Removing the topsoil is necessary because it has a soft texture and can affect the quality of your foundation. Plus, it'll be too fragile to support the weight of the shed. Usually taking out a total of 3 to 4 sod/topsoil is all the further you need to dig down.


TIP: Don't dispose of the excavated topsoil because it's rich in nutrients and can be used for other ideas or projects in your garden.


After you have cleared the area of grass and trees, use a 2 by 4 plank to see if it's level. Put a level on top of the plank and move it from one end of the excavation to the other. If you notice a higher area, you can dig again while checking the level.


4. Install A Perimeter


This process is optional, and you can choose to avoid it, and it won't cause any problems in your shed foundation. However, it'll help you achieve a neat finish.

  1. Begin the first step by cutting lengths of 4 by 6 wood for the frame and laying them in place. Ensure each is firmly installed at the edges. Join the 4 by 6 lengths with screws, and use a measuring tape to measure across the corners and square the frame.

  2. Drill holes for pins, and place two pins approximately 4" away from the ends. Double-check to ensure that the 4 by 6 frame is not on uneven ground, and make the needed adjustments.

  3. For those who love to get creative and use the 4 by 6 perimeter as a retaining wall, add extra courses until the wall is high enough. Cover up the outside edges around the 4 by 6 frame with soil.

5. Fill In The Shed Base


You can now fill your shed foundation area with 4" to 6" of 3/4" crushed stone. You can again use the 2x4 lumber with a level set on top of it to make sure that you have a level surface when you are finished. Crushed stone can be bought in bags at any Home Depot or Lowes but for the amount that you may need you can also check with a local landscape supply store to see if they are able to deliver in a small dump truck.


Some homeowners prefer to lay landscape fabric before pouring the pea gravel into the hole. This is to prevent weeds from growing into the shed base.


Alternatively, you can use a concrete pad.


Conclusion


Finished shed with landscape

Generally, level ground is the first move to having a long-lasting shed floor. It doesn't matter what location you place your shed, if the shed base isn't on an even surface it can cause problems later.


Note that whether you choose to use concrete blocks, a pier system, or another method for your shed foundation, a level base is essential to build a shed that lasts.


In conclusion, leveling the ground and marking out a shed foundation in your yard is not as difficult as it may seem. With a little bit of planning and some simple tools, you can easily create a level foundation that will provide a stable base for your shed. If you decide not to do it yourself Urban Sheds can help you with most of your site preparation needs.






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Jeremy Horning has a passion for efficient and smooth running systems. He values beauty and  craftsmanship. When he’s not too busy building business, you’ll find him on the job constructing sheds or resurfacing hardwood decks.

After moving to Medford Ma. in 2014 he was a co-founder of  Alpha Omega Property Services, a handyman business, out of which he started Boston Hardwood Decks and Urban Sheds.

Jeremy started Urban Sheds in 2017 with the vision of connecting local craftsmen and homeowners around great shed designs, sustainable production and straightforward purchasing.​

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