What Is A Shed 101 - A Complete Guide for Beginners
Updated: Jul 12
If you’re thinking about buying a shed, you need to do some research as there are so many different types and styles to choose from. Your shed could be a significant investment, so it’s vital you get the right one.
There are lots of questions you can ask yourself, for example, what size do you need or what material it should be made from? It’s also important to make yourself aware of everything there is to know about garden sheds. We have prepared this shed guide to ensure that you make the best choice for yourself and your garden.
What is a Shed?
In the broadest of terms, a garden shed is a single-story construction that is usually found in the backyard.
They vary in style, size, construction, and design. You can find pretty much any lean to that suits your requirements, from a lean to or compact metal structure for storing your garden tools, to a much larger building with a shingle roof that you use as a man cave, artist’s studio, or playroom. Wooden sheds are what spring to mind at first, but sheds can be made from plastic and metal as well. Ultimately, a garden shed is meant to provide a stable, waterproof, and secure place for storing gardening supplies and equipment, outdoor furniture, vehicles, and various other items. However, it can also be the perfect building for a work space or additional room for your family.
History of Sheds
From the moment people started settling into villages, there developed a need for storing large quantities of stuff they’d accumulated. Out of that need, the storage shed was born. Going back to prehistoric times, people usually built their sheds from whatever was available.
Over the centuries and right up to fairly recent times, people tended to find different ways to create a roofed structure that was separate from their homes. Ancient Egyptians chose to store things underground in silos lined with reeds, while Eskimos use igloos.
The origin of the word “shed” comes from an Anglo Saxon term, with many spellings: Shad, Shedde, or Shadde. The meaning of the word is division or separation.
It is thought that the shed as it’s known today in America, owes its heritage to the British. Strongly built shed-like structures were often found in England and they were known as follies.
They don’t really resemble the typical small storage shed we see today, but they are very similar to some of the more luxurious storage shed spaces, such as she shed or man cave. Follies didn’t seem to serve a particular purpose, but they were trendy among wealthy landowners around the 1500s.
Around the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, lean to sheds became more common in the backyards of the average home. Shed owners customized them to match their style and home. Artistic windows, painted patterns, new roofing techniques, and more were explored and the shed became much more than just additional storage space.
Between 1965 and 1985, the idea of sheds became so popular that they influenced the architecture of the time. The “Shed Style” was adopted by people building homes. Similar designs were used for the placement of windows, type of roofing, and siding materials. However, they fell out of favor because they were costly to maintain in terms of time and money. The modern shed is built to last and be attractive at the same time. You don’t have to be a wealthy landowner to have one either. The vast range of affordable and durable materials means almost any homeowner can have a storage shed built for their backyard.
What is a Shed Used For?
A shed is a small building you can use for almost anything. Traditionally, it would have been used to store garden equipment, outdoor furniture, the lawnmower, various other tools, and just things. They can also be used as bike sheds.
Let’s look at some of the most common shed uses:
Potting shed: It provides somewhere sheltered to work and for your plants to get started.
Garden tool sheds: Keep all your garden tools accessible and in one place in tool sheds so you don’t waste time wandering around looking for them.
Dog kennel: Turn a shed into luxurious accommodation for your favorite four-legged friend. It’s also an option for whelping and raising puppies.
Chicken coop: A storage shed can provide a secure space and provide protection from predators for all kinds of farm animals.
Wood shed: Leave an open front and you can use a storage shed to store firewood. It’ll be protected from the rain and well-ventilated so the wood dries out.
Art or writing studio: A shed can be a quiet space where you can let your creative juices flow.
Backyard office: You can move your operations outdoors to a backyard shed when your business has outgrown your home.
Bicycle shed: A bicycle shed will free up space in your garage.
Pool house: Locate your storage shed near the pool and you can use it for storing all your pool toys and furniture.
Patio furniture storage: When your patio or garden furniture isn’t being used, a shed will protect it from the weather.
Lawn tool storage: If you haven’t got room for your lawn equipment in the garage, a small shed can be used for storage for your garden and yard tools.
Children’s playhouse: Give your kids a dedicated play space they can call their own.
Recording studio: Insulate and finish your shed on the inside and it can create the right acoustics for a recording studio.
Trash shed: Hide away all that unsightly trash in a trash shed.
What are the Different Parts of a Shed?
When you’re buying a shed, there are many things to consider when it comes to the various parts.
The siding is how the walls of your shed are constructed. There are many different shed siding options and materials, for example:
Vinyl: This is a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that’s available in a wide range of colors, textures, and styles. It’s very budget-friendly and extremely durable.
Metal: Metal will leave you with a very industrial-looking shed. It’s very easy to install and is pest, fire, and weather resistant.
Wooden siding: Wood will give your shed a very classic look and blend in well with its surroundings. Various types of wood siding are available including engineered wood, LP Smartside, bevel siding, grooved plywood, board, and batten.
Shingles: Shingles are another very attractive material to use for the walls of your shed. Cedar shingles are popular, but they can be very time-consuming to install.
Fiber-cement: This is a material that can be made to look like wood, but is heat, water, fire, and insect-resistant.
The roof is the most critical part of the structure as it is what protects the contents of the shed from the weather. Ideally, you want a shed roof that’s durable, reliable, attractive, and cost-effective. Again, you’ve got lots of shed roofing materials you can choose from
Shingles: Shingles can be made from felt, metal, asphalt, wood, or rubber, each with its pros and cons.
Wooden shakes: Shakes are very beautiful to look at, but they are not as waterproof as wooden shingles.
Asphalt shed roofing felt: Roofing felt is relatively waterproof, but you must install it correctly.
Corrugated shed roofing: Corrugated roofing isn’t particularly attractive, but it requires no maintenance and is very waterproof.
Clay tiles: While very aesthetically appealing, clay tiles are not great at keeping out moisture.
A floor in your shed is essential because it provides a stable surface to walk on and for items to stand on. The most popular shed flooring types and materials are:
Concrete: Concrete is one of the most durable materials for your shed floor. It requires minimal maintenance and isn’t easy to damage.
Pavers: Pavers can be very attractive and are also very strong and durable. However, there is a risk of them sinking.
Plastic: If your shed is plastic, it will most likely have a plastic floor. It’s not ideal if you’re planning to store heavy items in your shed.
OSB: Oriented strand board is made from scraps of wood. It’s water-resistant, strong, and very affordable.
Tongue and groove planks: This flooring creates a warm and inviting space while also providing a stable and strong surface.
Configuration of doors and windows
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
Do you want single or double doors?
How will your door or doors be secured?
Do you need windows in your shed?
Do you want the windows to open?
What are you going to glaze your windows with?
What will be the position of the doors and windows?
You should install your shed on a level and reliable surface. If you don’t provide a stable base, your shed will likely move, causing the doors and windows to misalign. The integrity of your shed will also be compromised.
There are various optional extras you could include in your shed design, for example, guttering to collect rainwater, shelving used for storage and to maximize organization, solar lighting, insulation, and utilities.
Different Styles and Types of Sheds
Sheds come in all different styles and types. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular types:
Studio shed/backyard studio: Are you looking for somewhere comfortable, quiet, and spacious where you can be creative?
She shed: A place all the women can call their own. It might be a bolt hole to get away from the kids or somewhere to relax with friends.
Office shed/backyard office: A dedicated workspace in your own backyard where there are no distractions and you can be more productive.
Modern shed/contemporary shed: A shed you can customize to suit your own needs, whatever you need some extra space for.
Man cave shed: A space where you can relax with the guys and enjoy a beer or two while watching a game.
Storage shed: A shed is the perfect storage solution when you’ve run out of space in your home or garage.
Corner shed: Designed to sit in a corner of your backyard, but really only used for storage.
Lean-to shed: Leans up against a more solid structure such as your house and is the perfect option if you’re low on space.
Different Shed Sizes
There are three main shed sizes:
Small: Small sheds are generally used for storing garden tools and various other supplies. Usually, they are no more than 80 square feet in size.
Medium: A medium shed is typically used for storing slightly larger equipment. You could use them as bike sheds or for storing lawn furniture, and garden tools. A medium shed is no larger than 120 square feet.
Large: You can store almost anything in a large shed or turn it into something special such as a fitness room, playhouse, or home office. Large sheds can be as much as 288 square feet or larger.
Sheds come in different sizes and dimensions based on their purpose. Here are the most common ones:
When choosing a shed size always consider what you will use it for and your budget, including further maintenance. The larger the shed the more costly the maintenance and the repairs over the years will be.
Sheds are often categorized by the material they’re made from. The most popular shed types are wood, metal, and plastic. Each has its pros and cons.
Wood sheds are very popular and there are a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors to choose from. Most often a wooden shed is softwood, often pine, sometimes referred to as redwood, or spruce. You’ll also find sheds made from larch, or Douglas fir and these tend to be more resistant to rot. However, the most rot-resistant of all is cedar, but this is a very expensive material. Wood sheds require regular treatment, to keep them in good condition and free from any rot. Alternatively, if you pick a pressure-treated shed, such regular treatment won’t be necessary.
Very versatile material
Repair is easy
Stays cool in summer and warm in winter
Typically requires regular treatment
Metal sheds tend to be made using galvanized aluminum or steel and they can differ in quality considerably. Cheaper options tend to be very flimsy and not secure. Higher quality sheet metal will be stronger, more secure, and less prone to rust. Very little maintenance is required once they’ve been assembled. Metal is not the best choice for a working shed or home office because it can get very warm inside.
Budget-friendly options available
Requires zero maintenance
Challenging to assemble
Not too sturdy
Temperature inside changes with the weather
Customization is not really possible
Condensation can be an issue
Plastic sheds are very light because they are made from vinyl. This is a great feature if you ever need to move the shed around your backyard. However, if you live somewhere that gets very stormy it can be an issue. Anchors will be essential in certain locations. A plastic shed is easy to assemble, durable, and maintenance-free.
Light yet very durable
Zero maintenance required
Assembly is quick and easy
Resistant to rot and rust
Difficult to customize
Not friendly for the environment
Internal temperature changes with the weather
Limited options when it comes to size and shape
Do You Need a Permit to Build a Shed?
There are lots of things to consider when you’re buying a shed, but before you start thinking about the different types of material, how many windows and doors, and whether you need insulation, shelving, and other extras, check do you need a building permit for your shed. As well as a building permit, you might also have to navigate zoning restrictions, property lines, HOA guidelines, and various other permissions. Regulations vary considerably, depending on the location of your shed.
However, generally, you’ll need a building permit if you plan to build a shed that’s bigger than around 6’ x 8’ or 8’ x 10’.
Pros and Cons of Owning a Shed
Sheds come in all sorts of sizes, materials, and configurations, and they have many uses. However, there are some pros and cons that apply to whatever kind of shed you want to buy. Pros
You’ll be left with more room in your crowded basement or garage
Your outdoor equipment and tools will be protected from the elements
You can add a nice accent to your yard
It’ll provide shade on a hot summer day and shelter from the rain
You could use it as a dog-house all year round
Perhaps your kids would like a playhouse
Bicycle sheds are great places for keeping your bikes accessible.
Your shed can be an office or studio
If you add the right accessories and features, you could use it as additional living space
You can take a lean to or portable shed with you when you move
All your tools will be easily accessible
Additional storage could improve your home’s value
A small building is not as secure as your home
Some shed types lack strength and sturdiness
Some sheds require a lot of maintenance
There are so many options, choosing a shed can be an overwhelming experience
How to Maintain Your Shed
A shed is an excellent investment but there are things you need to do to protect that investment. Here are some top tips for maintaining your shed:
Check for breaks and leaks: Fix any problems as soon as you find them to prevent more serious issues further down the road.
Keep your shed as pest-free as possible: Be proactive with your pest control.
Keep handles lubricated: Oil your handles to keep them functioning and if it's broken, replace them immediately.
Examine workbenches and shelving: If your shelving is sagging or your workbench is leaning, put them right.
Take an inventory of equipment and tools: Make sure all your tools and equipment are working correctly. Repair and maintain when necessary.
Give the floor a once over: Give the floor a good sweep and help your shed stay tidy.
Keep your shed organized: If everything is in the right place you won’t waste time looking for things.
Prepare for each season: Make sure your winter tools are accessible when you need them and the same goes for those you need most in the summer.
Wash the exterior: Wash the outside of your shed at least once a year. It helps the life of your shed if you remove dust and grime.
Repaint siding: Some sheds need repainting every couple of years.
Organizing a Shed
If your shed has become a bit of a mess there are some things you can do to get it organized. If your shed is well organized and has plenty of storage space, you won’t waste time looking for things you want.
Take everything out of your shed: If you take everything out you’ll be able to see what you’ve got and what you need to tidy away.
Declutter: With everything laid out in front of you, spend some time getting rid of the things you don’t use or need.
Group similar belongings and items together: You might group them by size, purpose, or time of the year.
Make a plan: Check out storage options so you make the most use of the space.
Label everything: With a simple labeling system, you’ll save time and effort.
Make good use of shelving and accessories: There are a wealth of solutions you can buy or get your imagination working overtime with some DIY storage ideas.
What to Consider When Buying a Shed?
If you’re looking for a new storage building anytime in the future, there are some important shed buying considerations you need to keep in mind.
Price vs. quality: Price shouldn’t be the only determining factor. A shed that’s made using high-quality materials and has solid construction will last longer and also look better.
Design: What your shed looks like is just as important as its usefulness.
Integrating into the landscape: Ideally, your shed should blend into the landscape rather than stick out like a sore thumb.
Siding and wall material: Wood, metal, and plastic are the three main options.
Zoning laws and HOA rules: Find out what the official rules are for sheds.
Flooring and foundation: Some sheds have floors while others have nothing. But whatever the floor type, all sheds require solid foundations.
Access: The entryway must be wide enough to accommodate the largest items.
Decorative details: French doors, cupolas, shutters, window boxes, or weather vanes are little details that can make all the difference.
Urban Sheds is a company with many years experience of building sheds and providing associated services. We can help you build the perfect space whatever your needs.
Our sheds are constructed by excellent craftsmen and come with a 30-year structural warranty.
Now we’ve answered the question “What is a shed?” you know all there is to know about garden sheds it’s time for you to make your own decisions. Before you know it, you’ll have a fully functioning and attractive addition to your backyard.