Before you buy or build a garden shed, these tips will help you determine the best size and design for your needs. You may also need apply for a building permit and arrange for things like electrical lines and running water before you get started.
Want ideas from other home gardens? See 50 Garden Shed Ideas (With Pictures).
Before You Buy a Shed
Sheds can serve so many purposes from garden storage to a private work space but the design needs to fit the use for everything to work.
With some advance planning guided by the tips and checklist below, you can save yourself some headaches and regrets later on.
I’ve seen all sorts of expensive blunders including doors not wide enough for a lawn mower to get in and out or ceilings so sloped there was little room for shelving. And who wants to work in a tiny shed without heat or air conditioning during extreme weather? Some thoughtful planning goes a long way.
But, before you do anything, check local bylaws (and/or your homeowner’s association) for any regulations regarding outbuildings and find out whether a building permit is required. This is usually the case for any building projects that go overhead for obvious safety reasons.
If your shed will need plumbing or electricity, you may need to arrange that first in case there is a wait time. The same for getting a concrete floor poured—your build may be delayed if contractors are booked up.
Also consider whether you’ll need security items like window and door locks or a security camera system.
And, when the shed is complete, be sure to add it to your home insurance policy so your new investment is protected.
Shed Buying Tips
Here are some things to consider before buying or building a shed.
What will you use your shed for?
Once you know the purpose, it’s easier to narrow down designs to find something that can accommodate your needs.
Storage (limited time spent inside)
- Storage 🡆 shelves, hangers, floor space
- Potting shed 🡆 potting bench, shelving, bins
Work & Play
This is where you may need windows or lights, insulation, electricity, heat, air conditioning, and Wi-fi.
- Office 🡆 desk, chair, shelves
- Playhouse 🡆 table, chairs, sofa, toys, books, art supplies
- Crafting or art space 🡆 work table, chair, storage
- Sleep 🡆 bed, nightstand, books
- Music practice 🡆 chairs, amps, sound proofing
2Size & Storage
- How much room do you have for a shed?
- How much can you afford?
- How much room do you need inside?
Are there specific garden supplies or furniture that will need to fit inside?
Unless you’re very good at visualizing these things, actually measuring the stuff you have will help with space calculations.
A lot of the prefab sheds at home improvement stores look really sweet but have very little floor space. Don’t be fooled by an empty 6 x 8-foot sample at the store.
What options are available to you? How long do you want the shed to last?
Do you have a preference for wood, metal, plastic composite, or some other material?
Climate, budget, and other challenges like termites may all steer your decisions.
For structure and costs, think about:
- Siding | wood, vinyl, other
- Roof | flat, pitched, sloped – Can the structure support a green roof?
- Paint | wood stain, color(s)
- Flooring | dirt, wood, concrete, other
- Do you want a barn shape, traditional, modern, farmhouse or eclectic style?
- Do you want it to match or blend in with your home or other buildings in the garden?
- Are there plans or kits at your local home improvement store that you like?
This gallery of sheds has all sorts of ideas.
Beware of narrow shed doors! If you are storing a large (wide) lawn mower or building materials, be sure the doors are wide enough for easy entry and exit.
If you have a ride-on mower, you’ll need a ramp and double doors.
Also think about any furniture going inside—the door needs to be wide enough to get that sofa inside.
Ceiling height is also important: will you be able to stand inside without bumping your head?
6Windows & Door Lights
How important is natural light for your shed?
Adding windows reduces some indoor storage space but provide natural light and makes a shed seem more like a studio instead of a big box.
You could also choose a door with a window (a “door light”).
And, on a practical note, is it important that the doors and windows lock?
7Heat, Electricity, and Water
Will you need power or water at the shed? Or how about Wi-fi?
If so, plan for these before building.
If you’re hiring an electrician or plumber, they will need to put in the lines before you pour a floor and start building. Plus, as mentioned, a building permit may be required first along with one or more inspections along the way.
Is this a fair-weather shed only or will you want to use it year-round?
If you’re turning the shed into a cabin, office, or bunkie, depending on your climate, it will likely need insulation, flooring, heating, and cooling.
If you can’t manage everything now, at least get the infrastructure roughed in so you can add it later.
What’s the best place in your garden for your shed?
The best location may depend on what you’re using it for.
Perhaps you want a handy location central to the garden for accessing garden tools.
Or you want the shed far from the house where you’ll have your own art den.
Also consider strategic placements that can add privacy by blocking a neighbor’s view of your yard.
If you want to save on materials, a lean-to shed next to a house wall can be a clever option.
Or build a lean-to greenhouse next to your shed.
Will your shed have a foundation or flooring? This can be essential if you want to prevent animals from getting in.
A dirt floor is the cheapest option, of course, but no matter what, the ground will need to be levelled before you build.
If you want something else like poured concrete flooring, you’ll need to get that figured out first—but not before the plumbing or electricity are added, and after you’ve submitted a plan and obtained a permit (if required).
So many things to consider! But, considering the investment in time and money, it’s worth it to get it right the first time.
Frequently Asked Questions
The cheapest option will depend on the shed style, materials, plus delivery and labor costs. Buying a kit may be a little more expensive than buying the same building plans and materials separately but can save shopping and prep time because the pieces are already cut to size. For labor, consider whether you have the skills and time or it’s better to hire it out. You can also buy prefab sheds that vendors install for you. Additional costs may include a building permit, concrete flooring, electrical and water lines.
There are numerous shed plan books, shed plans online (free and paid), and plans available at home improvement stores. Proper plans may need to be submitted when applying for a building permit.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛