How to Build a Shed

June 6, 2018
Robert Manziel

(Last modified on March 4th, 2020)

How to Build a Shed

After reading all the posts on this site about making sheds into man caves, it’s high time that you tried building one of your own! If you have enough property to accommodate a shed, start setting plans into motion to make that shed a reality. Take a seat and prepare to learn everything you ever needed to know about how to build a shed! Whether you use this shed as a storage area, a place to banish your kids to, or as home for the greatest man cave on the planet, this post is for you!

We start with the assumption that you’re building from scratch, but I also talk about alternative options (shed kits, premade sheds, building contractors, and so on) towards the end, so hang in there for some good info. For now, let’s walk through the basics, how to get started from scratch, how to do everything the legal way, how to find shed plans…and, really, let’s just cut to the chase. Time to get started!

Basics of Building a Shed

Budgeting and planning are absolutely critical for the creation of a shed. Too often, I see people grab materials that are the wrong size, shape, or type of wood and end up wasting money that way. Along with that, many people grab all the materials, but find themselves with no time to go through with the building. Constructing only part of a shed, only to run out of funds on the way…really, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with a lack of planning. Try to keep things as organized as possible.

When you plan your shed, think of these basic things first. Do you have enough space for it? Will it be a man cave, a storage place, a playroom, or something else? Which materials would you like to use? Do you want to build it yourself? Can you afford it? What will you use it for? Each one of these questions can make or break your plans. Furthermore, knowing the answers to these questions helps solidify the idea of your shed. The first step to how to build a shed is finding that powerful motivation. With it, you can do anything!

How to Build a Shed From Scratch

To build your shed from scratch, you need to follow a bunch of rules. First, make sure it’s legal for you to build a shed. Second, grab your shed plan and follow all the guidelines for it. Get it approved if necessary and gather your materials and tools. You’re going to need quite a bit of cash, but $2000 is the upper limit of a completely DIY shed.

Take your time on the foundation, get your amenities in order as you build the walls, and top it all off with the roof. Of course, before doing everything, think about what you consider a DIY shed. Would a shed kit work better for your time schedule? Do you want to just plan everything and have contractors build it? Either way, a custom shed that you decided on feels much better than buying a pre-made one.

‘Wait a second,’ you might say. ‘You skipped all of the information I needed!’ Don’t worry, these are just the basics to get you started. A sort of pre-building checklist. Let’s get into the details of every aspect of how to build a shed now!

How to Get Your Shed Approved

It sounds silly, but a lot of cities and neighborhoods prohibit certain types of sheds. They may not want small sheds, or they might prohibit large sheds, or they might outright ban sheds as seen from the street…the list goes on. City building codes also dictate what sort of insulation, foundation, weatherproofing, and so on that your shed requires, if any. If you live in the country, these rules are less stringent, but you should check anyways.

The easiest way to get your shed approved is to submit a plan to the city’s Development Review (or its equivalent). There are lots of shed plans out there designed specifically to meet city and neighborhood guidelines. As a rule, make sure you have solid ground that sits raised above the water table. You may have to build a complex foundation to make that happen, but it keeps your shed from drifting away in a few inches of water, and it’s required in roughly 99% of cities anyways. I go into more detail on city restrictions here.

Where to Find Shed Plans

Rarely, home improvement stores and bookstores will sell booklets that contain some basic shed plans. If you want a large shed plan that accommodates a man cave or some serious storage, you’ll want to look for better designs in actual collections. I find it much easier to grab them online via books or collections like this one, since they are readily available for printing and allow you to quickly search for specific designs. They even contain two story shed designs!

They also have way more project variety for any other woodworking projects you might be interested in. If you have all the tools to build a shed, then you also have all the tools to build tables, chairs, couches, and any sort of thing you want to put inside the shed! It’s quite easy to turn this around and make a profit off the space you are using in the shed, should you choose to go the workshop route.

Finding Materials to Build a Shed

You can always go to a chain home improvement store to grab all the wood, tools, nails, cement, rocks, and materials you need. However, that ends up costing you way more money than it needs to, and even gives you materials of lesser quality. I highly recommend getting the basics and tools at your typical store and then taking a trip to your local lumber yard! These dudes will sometimes cut the wood for you, allowing you to bring them a shed plan as if it was a checklist and purchase the exact materials you need.

Shopping local is, by far, the most effective way of grabbing your materials. Similar to how you picked up the wood, you would be surprised at how much cheaper local rocks and gravel are. It makes a lot of sense since the shipping cost is completely cut out, but a lot of people never think to look! Of course, you can also get your materials as shed kits, which I discuss in more detail below. For more information about finding the right price, check out my post on the cost to build a shed.

How to Build a Shed Foundation

If you want to build a wooden base (which costs a little less than cement), grab some cinder blocks and level your location. Use stones or pebbles to prevent erosion beneath your shed. Your cinder blocks should go at most 59 inches apart. Use your materials to see if the cinder blocks are really level before you build the frame on top. Build the mudsills, add your supports. Make sure to use 8d galvanized nails (or better) to hold everything together safely. The more nails, the better. Follow your shed plans to learn the max distance between nails.

To create a cement base, measure out your area and build a simple wooden frame. When your ground level feels dry and measures level, pour in some rocks. After the rocks settle in place, mix your concrete in and flatten it. You remove the wooden base after the concrete sets. For a large cement base, consider hiring a contractor. They will ensure everything is even and made properly. If you live in an especially rainy area—or an area with lots of mining—a professional foundation makes a big difference.

How to Build a Shed Floor

For wooden frames, cover your base frame (the supports) with plywood. The plywood serves as the base for your floor, simple as it is. You want something sturdy, but if you built your bottom joists correctly, then cheap materials also do the job. For cement foundations, there’s no need to add extra plywood. You may choose to leave the cement floor bare, add in carpet, add in tiles, or even fill it with resin.

Think about the final stage of your man cave shed and its purpose and simply follow through! The nice part about flooring is that you can always change it up later. Don’t sweat it if you can’t think of anything and skip the floor building entirely if you just want your shed done quickly!

How to Build a Shed Roof

If you can build a floor, you can build the walls without any help! Before you start on the roof, construct every partition or division in the shed that you desire. It’s difficult to add walls in after you place the roof. Plus, the walls give extra support to the roof and allow it to weather more years in the long run (not that you will live long enough to see it crumble, but hey, it doesn’t hurt). Make sure the walls are level and completely attached to the foundation (no floating 2x4s allowed)! Once you finish all of that, you move onto the roof.

Simply follow your shed plan to get all of that done without stress. For the roof itself, you want to construct the trusses of both halves on the ground. They should be at exactly a 45̊ angle from each other. Put up your triangular framework to hold the roof and then nail the plywood boards on up there. Make sure you follow regulations when you put your shingles or tiles up, or a windy day could blow them and your hard work away! Once you build the framework, apply all your cosmetic bits, treat the exterior, and marvel at a job well done.

Types of Sheds

Well, you have your shed in place. Now it’s time to put it to work! Depending on the purpose of your shed, use the following guidelines to refine your build and purpose the place. You can generally change your mind later—although specialized types of walls will need to be stripped, and that could cost a little bit. Anyways, let’s talk about some common options!

How to Build a Storage Shed

With storage sheds, you don’t need too much fine-tuning. It’s fine to leave the floor and walls basic, since they’re not for looks or anything. Keep your layout as open as possible if you decide to have any walls at all! Make sure your doors can be padlocked shut. Windows in a storage shed are optional, but I recommend throwing one or two small ones for safety reasons.

How to Build a Workshop Shed

Similarly to storage sheds, a workshop barely needs any extra stuff. You want to make it easy to care for, so little things like access to the hose, a small closet for yard tools, and a specialized wall to hold your work tools all increase your quality of life. Cement foundations are obviously superior in this situation, and covering it with any sort of plywood or carpeting may even be detrimental to your cause.

How to Build a Man Cave Shed

For a man cave shed, you can get quite creative with things! You should have large and accessible windows in the shed, even if you plan on covering them up, to keep the air flow nice in the shed and prevent fire hazards. Without some sort of air circulation, a shed becomes an oven in the summer. Make sure every opening in the shed has a strong lock, since you’re putting some precious stuff into that man cave! Use weather sealing and insulation to keep the man cave shed from getting humid, moldy, and infested with bugs. What you do with the floors, walls, and ceiling is all up to your own preference!

How to Build a Play Shed

Although sheds are rarely subject to the same class of building codes as habitable buildings, I still want to recommend that you look into and adhere to as many of those codes as possible when building a play shed. Why? Well, kids know exactly how to find the worst outcome imaginable in all scenarios of mischief. It’s only a matter of time before you all learn why certain codes were put in place in the first place! Better safe than sorry, right?

The floors and walls should be passable—you don’t want them complaining about splinters from plywood or something. I’m not asking you to put plastic on all the corners because your kid can’t tell where a wall starts and ends. I’m just asking you to make sure they can safely wreck the place. That’s what kids are made for, and it’s what your play shed should be able to handle.

Using Shed Kits

By using shed kits, you can greatly cut down on the amount of time it takes to build your shed! Some shed kits include plans and materials, allowing you to build everything from scratch with an instruction manual. More typical shed kits come with prebuilt sections of the walls, roof, and foundation. Once you receive the kit, you simply nail everything together! Make sure to check over the materials before you build to make sure the wood, plastic, or metal remained in the correct shape during shipping. Also inspect your building afterwards to catch any small things (like missing shingles or slightly wrong sizes) and repair them appropriately.

For the ultimate easy setup, find a place that offers contractors along with the shed kit. This costs a little more than a pre-built shed. Oh, and speaking of pre-built sheds, those exist. Companies can ship a whole shed to you down the highway and straight to your door. It looks hilarious if you ever catch one on its journey home! If you read this article and don’t feel like dealing with the hassle of building a shed, or don’t think you have the time to do so, then consider that as an option.

Finding Contractors

Using online services to find contractors can be pretty risky. For one, plenty of sites will promote good reviews or stifle them, all depending on a fee that the business has to pay! On top of that, it’s difficult to tell whether the reviews are real in this day and age. Companies might review their own products to help boost sales or discredit genuine reviews. However, if you’ve never heard of a good contractor from a friend, the internet and yellow pages are all you have.

So, how do you tell the good from the bad using the internet? First, look at the spelling and grammar of reviews. Fake reviews will always give four or five stars and use the same writing style. They may also be paid reviewers who don’t speak English very well, so watch for broken English and such. Use three star reviews to learn the pros and cons and compare them to other companies’ three star reviews. Decide the best one from there!

Along with hiring a contractor to do your foundation building, plumbing, wiring, roofing, and so on, you will also want to grab an inspector. Once again, these inspectors save you money in the long run by identifying potential problems with any contractor work. They can also tell you about the legal issues of any building with far more poise than I can. Finding a qualified one isn’t as hard as finding a qualified contractor, either. Their job is only to report what they know!

How to Build a Shed Yourself – The Right Way!

After reading this article you now know how to build a shed—and how easy it is! As long as you do all of the proper preparation, planning, budgeting, and time managing, then your shed becomes a reality in no time. You can convert it into a man cave or play shed…or just leave it as a storage shed for all the stuff that can’t fit in the mantuary. Above all, this shed helps you utilize the space that you already own, improving your property value and your quality of life at the same time. Only you know the true potential that a shed offers, so go out there and realize it with some hard work and dedication!

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