(Last modified on March 4th, 2020)
Continuing on with the wonderful world of sheds, let’s talk about the building details! No matter what size your shed is or what purpose you use it for, these instructions walk you through everything you need to know. Want to figure out foundations? I cover that. Want to learn about the legal stuff? I already talked a bunch about that in this article, but I do go over the basics here! Want to reduce the cost of your shed or figure out how much they typically cost? You’re in the right place. No matter what, if your questions went unanswered in any of my other posts, then this post has everything you need!
Even if you know nothing about building, I walk you through what tools you need, the terms you need to know to use your shed plans, and how to make a DIY shed. Check what tools you need, get them ready, and prepare to build the best shed in the neighborhood! Always follow the directions in your shed plans. If you deviate from them, you could risk losing materials, collapsing your building, or getting injured. Obviously, I can't help you with that. Stay safe!
The biggest factor in whether or not you can build a shed is not your ability. It’s your money. Building a shed when you can’t afford it is disastrous, and any corners you cut come back to haunt you in the future. Here are some quick questions to ask yourself and memorize before you begin gathering materials. If the prices in these answers sound reasonable and affordable, then you’re prepared to build a shed. If not, wait until later to build. Look at this post if you want to know more about saving time and money.
On average, it costs $3,000 to buy a storage shed. High end sheds get up to $10,000, while low-end sheds are less than $500. The cost changes depending on your area.
By building a shed yourself, you cut out roughly $50 from low end sheds or shed kits. For high-end sheds, you cut out a whopping $3,000 or more! So subtract that amount from the price averages above to get what you would roughly pay for a shed. Keep in mind that instead of paying with money, you will be paying with time!
12x16 sheds are incredibly popular since they can be used as a small (single) car garage and fit basically whatever you want inside. They cost about $3,000 to buy, but you can shave some of the price off by being thrifty and building it yourself.
Keep in mind that portable sheds, pre-made sheds, and shed kits also affect how much you spend. They tend to be pricier, but they also take far less time to build. Some companies even offer (relatively) cheap contract work to set them up. These prices assume you build from the ground up!
The easiest way to reduce the cost of your shed is to do the work yourself and find discounted materials. If you have no lumberyards in your area and have a home improvement store (which is a weird conundrum to have), look in their clearance section. Stores often carry materials with tiny nicks and scratches that are just fine for an outdoor shed to have. All you need to do is ensure it still has all its structural integrity!
The cheapest way to gather materials is to search the net. No, I’m not talking about ordering from random companies. I mean going to Craigslist and other trading sites to see who has a surplus of building materials! Many people abandon their projects and would love for you to take it off their hands for something of equal value—which isn’t always money! Others may pay you for ‘disposal,’ so you can do whatever you want with the wood you were paid to take away. These materials can be severely damaged or contain pests, so inspect them thoroughly ahead of your purchase.
For the last way to reduce costs, look no further than local businesses. If you have a lumberyard in your area, go there and check out all the cheapest materials. They may even cut everything for you according to your shed plan and ship all the wood to your doorstep for free. This is truly the best and cheapest way to get quality wood. Now that you know how to afford it, let’s talk about setting your plans into motion!
For a whole lot of detail about legal restrictions, permits, and materials, check my post here. Otherwise, here are some commonly asked questions!
This depends on where you live. Make sure to check your federal, state, county, city, and (if applicable) HOA guidelines. If you live in the country, no one really cares what you build on your property. If you live in the suburbs, you’ll probably get reported by stupid neighbors even if you do everything right. So, look it up! It changes according to very specific locations, so I can’t even give you a general idea.
To avoid disputes, pick a place that is at least a yard within your property. Figure out how close to buildings or fences you can build it. Make sure you have a solid foundation. Treat your wood properly to avoid rot. Avoid building beneath power lines, and if you have no other choice, check how high your shed can be. Refer to my other article for everything else you need to know!
I supply several free plans down below with instructions on how to build them, but for complicated designs, you’ll need to look to paid stuff. You find the best wood shed plans in large collections like this one. They offer all the plans you need—from gambrel shed blueprints, lean to sheds, and even to small barns! They also include directions for furniture, if you want to keep your DIY instincts going after the build.
Bookstores and online retailers like Amazon sell smaller and specialized collections. Simply avoid the self-published stuff on Amazon, since you don’t know if they properly did their math in any of their designs. Stick to tried and true brands like Black & Decker, Creative Homeowner, and any publishing companies you’re familiar with and trust. My building instructions help with all types of shed plans, so keep reading to the end if you’re new to building.
If you’re interested in building your own shed, you can find hundreds of plans with this collection. If you just want something free, don’t despair. Lots of free shed building plans cover the basics and let you build your own shed without a lot of experience. You won’t find spectacular plans, but if you only need simple woodshed plans, these ones will work fine! The ones I picked out for the section below all look great, cover all the basics of what you would need them for, keep costs down, and are freely available for you to use!
Please keep safety in mind while building. I am not responsible if you are injured while making a shed. Remember to take as many precautions as possible when working with large machinery, sharp saws, and heavy materials. Deviating from a plan without understanding the mechanics of how that plan works can lead to structural instability—and, therefore, the potential for destruction and injury. I can’t emphasize enough that you need someone to spot you while you work and you need to take as many precautions as you can. You are the one responsible for your injuries, so look out for yourself! Each plan I link below has a similar section—that’s how important your health and safety is!
Do you want to find a safe and secure place to store your car that isn’t exposed to the street? This free 16’ x 22’ garage plan is from Rona.ca and does just the trick. It tells you all the materials you need and gives you full blueprints for the project. It takes about ten days to build. Due to the presence of a garage door, you’ll want to have previous building experience to make this look good. It also has a unique roof plan that adds a bit of extra work. It looks great, so I’m not complaining. Along with the garage door entrance, it includes a small side door and a window.
Along with the normal framing and roofing instructions, it helps you finish the exterior, install the garage door, throw in the windows and doors, and even apply the asphalt shingles. That’s pretty good for a free DIY garage shed plan! You can see the other images here.
This incredibly useful shed plan collection contains the following sizes: 10x16 shed, 8x10 shed, shed plans for 10x12, and even 10x20 shed plans. Since it contains over a dozen sizes, you can use the collection as a base to build stranger sizes, like 10x14 sheds and 8 x 15 sheds. Make sure you know what you are doing any time you make modifications to backyard shed plans.
The one I want to show you out of all of these is the typical outdoor shed plan they provide. The gable-style shed is very large and can even shelter people if you prep it according to code. Throw some carpet, a couch, and a TV in there and you have a simple man cave. It takes between one weekend and one week to build, depending on your experience level. If someone is helping you during the build, it will definitely be closer to one weekend. You can download the plan pdf here.
A lean-to shed serves as a storage shed that goes up against another building. It normally has shingles and matches the general appearance of the house. The backing doesn’t have to be fancy since no one sees it. This free lean-to shed plan is advantageous because of its low price and fast build time. The detailed instructions also help tremendously. The door takes up most of the main wall, although you can adjust the size as needed.
When placing a shed next to a building, take care to keep the bottom of the shed ventilated (just a raised foundation helps with airflow). The ground around the shed should also be raised, and the single roof slope needs to point away from the home. This is all to keep water from eroding the base of the main building. You can choose to make the lean-to shed a standalone building and use it for wood storage, although you’ll want to waterproof it a little more.
To maximize the amount of space your shed can hold, you want to pick a shed plan with a gambrel roof. Gambrel roofs are more complicated to construct, so make sure you have everything on the list of tools I put below. Instead of having one peak with two slopes like a gable shed, this one has three points that add just a bit of extra space. When you have particularly tall or large things to store, this makes a huge difference. You can also build in a loft at a later point to make full use of that space.
These shed plans give you the blueprints and materials for a 10x12 gambrel shed. Pay close attention to the instructions for the shed truss and rafters—if you mess up the angle too much, your shed will look strange at best and have some serious structural problems at worst. The last thing you need is for that giant roof to come crashing down on you! Despite its slightly increased difficulty, you don’t need that much experience to build one of these. Just follow the instructions to the letter and make sure your measurements are perfect.
These free shed plans come straight from the University of Iowa. They include up sizes going all the way up to a 40’ tilt-up concrete utility building. It includes both frame buildings and post-and-beam plans. The designs themselves are not to aesthetic, but they get the job done. After all, something this big needs to put purpose over appearance to justify its cost!
The barn shed plans are free because they benefit so many different types of people. You can use them as a stable, storage place for large machines, office, lumber or food storage, and even a meeting hall for a small town. Since these plans are so large, I would advise against altering the plans in any way. The margin for error becomes smaller the heavier your roof and materials get! These plans will also take more cash, more people, and more time to build…but it’s well worth it.
Besides building a large utility shed or barn, your best bet for building a large shed is to find colonial shed plans. The sample plans on this product page are more than enough to get you started. Of course, for the full details, you’ll want to purchase…but you don’t need to. You can follow my building section below here to fill in any gaps in your knowledge that their free plans leave behind. If you do get the collection, it contains many size and door options. If you're buying shed plans, I would go with this collection instead—you get more bang for your buck.
In general, colonial sheds look like little homes on the outside. With white trim, quaint windows, and desaturated exterior paint, they perfectly match that classic colonial fill. On the inside, you can make them look like any other shed. You can also go the extra mile and make it livable. It’s all up to you! This style of shed plan is especially attractive because of its natural lighting.
These plans are called an assortment of things. Whether you want to find free studio shed plans, free modern shed plans, or free office shed plans, you will generally find them in the same document. Since modern shed plans are, well, modern, you won’t find any classic designs for them. That’s why I’ve included this blog from design milk that talks about converting an old shed into an office shed. They tear down the old shed and replace the floorboards. If you scroll down to my next section, you’ll find out how to build the foundation. After you get that done, you can follow along with their blog.
The blog gives you an accurate representation of how much a shed costs and how to make it look nice and livable. The author cuts down on costs by staining the floor instead of covering it with carpeting. The interior looks even better than the exterior and nine small windows fill it with natural lighting. This is absolutely crucial if you want to get office work done in a positive environment! Read more here.
This free shed plan is made available by 101construct.com (it’s also not the only one featured on this page by this site, so you know they’re hot stuff). These 10 x 12 shed plans work great if you want a shed you can walk into and work in. You can convert it into a small man cave, playroom, workshop, storage shed, and even a garage if you attach a ramp and create a solid foundation. Build your foundation ahead of frame and anchor the floor frame on top. The rafters are the most complicated part of the build, but using my directions below, it will be a piece of cake to get all the cuts done.
This shed looks great and uses aesthetic side panels and a shingled or tiled roof. It doesn’t give very many details on finishing the exterior, so refer to my ‘Finishing Touches’ section for that. The double doors accommodate large machinery and furniture, so this is particularly useful if you plan on putting any of that in your shed. You can find the full shed plans here.
This small DIY storage shed contains all of your equipment. Machinery like your lawn mower still needs to go in the garage, but this helps you store your saws, rakes, weed whackers, shovels, and so on. The mini shed only takes one weekend to build and it has 2 x 8 floor dimensions. These storage building plans are made available by Black + Decker, and you can find all of the extra information on the storage building plans here. I go over in detail how to make sheds in the next section.
The shed is fairly light and you can even construct it in your garage and move it later if you want to. It’s not necessarily portable, but moving it once or twice won’t hurt. To create the shed, start by building the wall frames. Raise the walls and use bracing as you work on them. Fasten them together, make the roof rafters (which are fairly simple in this build), and then install the roofing quickly and easily. Attach the side panels, make that door, and bam! You have an incredibly affordable storage shed.
Your work is only as good as your tools. Make sure you have all of these essentials on hand before you begin building so you don’t run into a problem halfway through. On top of these important tools, check your shed plans to see if you need specialized tools. In example, some tools require an air compressor to run, but you won’t need pneumatic tools for every type of shed building operation.
Have your tools? Let’s keep building.
Now that we know all about shed storage, let’s focus on building the shed itself! Your shed plan gives you the details on what to cut and where, but this section will guide you through any holes in its information. It also helps those of you who want to design their own shed or can’t be bothered to follow directions that are set in stone!
The only part of building that requires serious planning is the stability. With enough nails, anything can be stable—but do try not to make your roof too heavy. Also, set aside at least a weekend to put up your shed (more if your shed is on the larger side). Grab a spotter from your friends or family to keep things safe for everyone involved. Now get out your tools and let’s begin!
Having trouble reading your plans? Does my building section below confuse you? I use all of these terms frequently, so if I say something confusing, check this list. As long as you learn these terms, then the instructions should be clear enough for even a complete idiot to build a shed! I also added in words that come up in shed plans often, even though I don’t use them here. If something seems unclear in your shed plan, use this architecture word guide to figure out what they mean!
You need to start your work with a solid foundation…literally. A building with no foundation floats away or rots any time it sprinkles outside. Even if you live in an incredibly dry area, an uneven building poses a huge structural risk. The last thing you need is for your storage shed to collapse as you’re building it. The cost of a foundation is included in any quotes of a shed, simply because it’s essential to construction. It’s also pretty easy to do, and you have your choice of two affordable types of foundations.
These are rules you need to follow no matter what sort of shed or foundation you are building. First, make sure your foundation is on top of raised ground. If your property is on a slope, that means building a foundation up out of the ground. For flat areas, bring in some soil and create an artificial hill that drains water away from the building. If your shed is next to another building, everything (including the roof) should slope away from the pre-existing building. Lean-to sheds are best for this.
On top of this, keep it above the typical water level during heavy rain. Even if your shed is three inches above the ground around it, it’s not going to save it if you built it in a dry creek bed! You need to keep your shed high and dry in order to prevent the foundation from rotting away. This applies to any kind of foundation you build. For windy areas, secure your foundation firmly to the ground. As with any other construction project, make sure your materials and the type of foundation match the classification of the building you are legally able to build (the slab foundation section mentions the reason for this).
For the cheaper option, you want to use concrete bricks to create a raised foundation. Combined with pressure treated skids, this offers a ton of airflow and prevents rotting wood at the base of your building. First, choose if you want to set your building on top of gravel to further found it and protect the soil underneath from eroding. Next, making sure all of the bricks are on level ground, line them all up. A taut string helps immensely for making sure everything is in order. Sometimes, you’ll want to stack more than one concrete block to prevent moving as you build. Never use hollow blocks for a foundation. If it’s all you can find for whatever reason, fill the insides with concrete to make them whole and secure.
For a more simple approach, use long 6 x 6” skids to create a level surface and an area to build on. This is the most temporary type of foundation possible, but it’s more than enough for a small shed. It also lets a small amount of air flow beneath the building to prevent rot and mold. Pier blocks are another great type of raised base, although it can be a hassle getting the wood lined up properly with them.
The more expensive option is a concrete slab. Use a simple frame to outline the area you want your base to be. Try to make the ground as level as possible before you put down the frames, but don’t worry too much about it if you plan on having a raised slab. The top of the frame does need to be level, so measure that part out for sure. Pour gravel into the frame and allow it to sit for a few days. Make sure none of the gravel pokes out over the edge. When the gravel seems settled and the ground is dry, pour concrete into your frame and level that off as well. Once it sets, remove the frame around the concrete and start on the next section!
While I call this the more expensive option, it’s still kind of cheap compared to other types of foundations! Some people recommend a pure gravel base for the foundation, but because this inhibits airflow and concentrates moisture, it’s generally a bad idea. The only disadvantage to the slab option (which is designed to weather the test of time) is that it changes the class of building in some places. It goes from a temporary building to a permanent structure, which means you might need to find an inspector or apply for a permit.
If you live somewhere it freezes, neither a slab foundation nor a raised foundation will work. The frost will destroy your foundation slowly but surely. Go ahead and dig post holes four feet apart from each other. Pour concrete into each hole, stopping at the frost line. Next, set your post in there and pour concrete up to the top of your hole. The post must be straight and plumb, so you’ll want a brace while the concrete sets.
Saw the posts at the height that you would like your floor. Take special care to make sure these are level and spaced evenly. Use four feet spacing if you’re building 12x16 shed plans, 8x12 shed plans, 8 x 16 shed plans, 8 x 12 shed plans, 12x24 shed plans, 12x20 shed plans, 16x4 shed plans…and you get the picture from there. Use 4 x 4” runners to finish off the foundation. You build your floor according to your shed plans on top of this.
Using 16d galvanized nails, connect the floor according to your shed plan. Always make sure that your joists are perfectly aligned with the length of your decking (IE, for a shed length divisible by four, place your joists perfectly centered at each 4’ mark). This makes it very easy to attach your decking! Once you finish laying your decking down, anchor it to your foundation. Proceed with floor sheathing and you have yourself a floor!
For people who went with a concrete slab and have no building restrictions in place, you only need to worry about attaching the walls to the foundation. You can leave the concrete as-is, cover it with carpet, or install hardwood tiles. It all depends on how often you plan on entering the shed and what purpose you’re using it for! Generally, a plain concrete floor works best for storage sheds and saves you money.
Once again, your shed plans are the best tool for creating a stable shed frame. Mark out where each opening is so that you don’t forget during construction and accidentally place studs there. Every room needs a door, and sheds that you plan on inhabiting or spending time in needs two doors…or at least a window. As you build, you may have to brace your walls as you go along. Use a double-layered wooden frame to top off load bearing walls and make your roof more secure.
Before you begin on that roof, though, you need to complete the walls! Even if you don’t plan on adding rooms, you might need to treat your walls according to laws of the area. This applies doubly so if you needed a permit to build your shed. For most buildings, you want to build your frame on the ground before raising it into position. This helps immensely with measurements and makes the building process safer. Place the wiring and ventilation system in the area now. Insulate the room with a fire-retardant material. Once that’s done, you can cover up the studs, wires, and fluff.
The shed roof is, by far, the most complicated part of the build. If you mess this up, you’ll run into quite a few big problems. Your roof and building could blow away. Your shed might start tilting from uneven weight. It might even collapse if you didn’t build your load-bearing walls correctly or didn’t measure the weight correctly! That’s why it’s especially important that you pay attention to what your shed plans say for this section of the build.
In general, you make one set of rafters that serves as a guide for the rest. This way, you only need to do all of your measuring and calculating once. By setting up two end rafters and running a string along them, you can ensure that all of your rafters are even. You build every rafter on the ground since it’s difficult to balance them while they’re vertical. Once you finish, put them all up at once and cap it with a ridge board. Secure each rafter as you go along to prevent catastrophe. Whenever you put the rafters down, take care not to lay them diagonally over non-load bearing walls—that could cause a collapse.
From there, use large wooden sheets to construct the roof. Caulk seals any holes you might have left. After that, cover it with waterproof paint. Some people choose to make a multi-layered roof—check to see if your shed plan is one of those types of buildings! Your tiles or shingles go on top of everything when you’re done. If you fail to waterproof your roof properly, you will get mold and rotten wood issues in your shed. Plus, any leak gets all your stuff wet.
Of course, if you want to go the cheap way, feel free to use flat metal sheets for the roof. Take extra care that both the roof and building are securely founded, since this type of roof allows a lot of air and water through. You don’t want a piece of metal blowing around in a windstorm. A crooked shed doesn’t look that great, either.
What you do on the inside of your shed is up to you, but for the outside, you need to use specific finishing touches to ensure the durability of your shed. First, if you didn’t do it as you installed your windows and doors, put caulk around any open places. Take special care when dealing with horizontal joints, where water tends to pool the most. They actually sell paintable caulk if you want it to look spectacular.
All of the outside wood should be coated with an exterior wood primer. After that, paint it with a finish or stain it as you please. The type of paint doesn’t really matter, although you should save the label of the can for repainting in the distant future. If you use oil paint and then change to latex paint later on, you’ll have to apply a primer on top of the oil paint so that other types of paint can stick.
Use whatever trim your shed plan calls for or improvise on your own. If you do improvise, try to keep things lightweight so that it won’t affect the integrity of your shed. Another thing to think about as you handle your exterior trim is the direction of the trim. Horizontal trim has a habit of building up water and mold over time, even with careful treatment. Use them in shaded areas or a little beneath the roof eaves. With all of that done, you have a wonderful shed to show off!
Now that you have your shed, do you need ideas for how to use it? Check out my storage shed post, man cave shed post, two story shed post, and the rest of my site for all kinds of ideas. I go over how to decorate inside and outside and how to make the space yours! If you’re having trouble picking a type of shed, you can also check out my in-depth article on shed architecture. You never know which one suits you most until you see it in front of your eyes!
Now that you know everything about building and materializing your dream shed, go ahead and browse the rest of the site to learn about all kinds of construction and design projects. I wrote this post to help you make your property your own. Nothing feels better than looking at something spectacular and knowing that you made it happen. With these shed plans, that’s all the easier.
No matter how you build your shed, decorate your home, or make your space your own, I want you to walk away with more knowledge and skills than you had before. Confidence is key, and determination is the deciding factor. Can you stick to your plan? Can you pull through like a real man? It’s all up to you! Happy building!