Storage Sheds – Building, Designing, and Mastering

August 1, 2018
Robert Manziel

(Last modified on March 4th, 2020)

Storage Sheds – Building, Designing, and Mastering

Storage sheds serve as far more than a place to put your extra stuff. They make your yard look spectacular, give you building experience, give your kids or pets a place to hang out, and sometimes house unexpected (but welcome) visitors. Convert them into a man cave or a tiny cabin to get the most out of your shed without building an entirely different structure! DIY sheds are cheap, go up in about a day, and finding the materials is easy compared to more complex structures. The sheer diversity of shed plans is astounding, allowing you to customize your storage shed.

So, how do you set about building your own storage shed? Why would you want to build it over other structures, what rules do you have to follow, and how do you choose your shed plan? This article goes over those things and more. Sit tight if you want to learn more about finding materials, building your shed, and using every nook and cranny of your storage shed to your advantage! This comprehensive guide goes over everything you could ever want to know—even if you’ve never built a home in your life! Without further ado, let’s begin.

Why a Storage Shed?

Storage sheds offer a whole array of versatility when it comes to long-term usage. You might build it for storage, but down the road, you can convert it to a workshop, playpen, or even a man cave! Trust me on that last one, I’m an expert. The shed adds value to your house and looks great once you finish building. It helps you utilize space in your yard and saves you just a little time mowing.

Their main advantage might be to keep your house and garage clean. You can put random knick knacks or seasonal stuff in the storage shed and keep your home looking great. No one likes a cluttered attic or garage, and keeping your stuff exposed in the yard just looks trashy.

So, why choose a storage shed when there are many other kinds of buildings to pick? Well, first of all, anything labeled as a storage shed can be repurposed as a different type of building. Secondly, storage shed plans are the most popular type out there, so you actually have the largest amount of diversity as you build your shed. Large barns and second homes take many more resources and a long time to build. Sheds on the other hand take barely a day to build, unless you decide to make a cement foundation! Then it takes two days of work. That’s still nothing compared to a large construction project.

Making Outdoor Buildings

I’ve briefly mentioned the legal to-dos for shed building in this article, but I want to touch on it in full detail here. Before you build any type of outdoor building or shed, check the legality of the shed plan. Building laws have many layers, and you need to check each one to ensure your hard work pays off in the end. Tearing down a storage shed is the last thing you want to do after you build it!

For most areas, you want to obtain something called planning permission. Your building has to conform to a certain code in order to get that planning permission. Not every county has building codes enacted into law, but it helps a ton to plan ahead and build something that weathers the years easily. Here are some typical restrictions that apply to sheds:

  • Distance from Other Buildings
  • Must Build a Proper Foundation
  • Must Minimize Risk of Fire
  • Needs Proper Ventilation
  • Needs Resistance to Natural Disasters
  • Number of Exits and Their Location
  • Restrictions on Materials Used
  • Type of Roof Restrictions
  • Restrictions on Types of Walls

Zoning laws also determine the type of buildings you are allowed to build, so check those ones in particular. If your plot of land is in the center of a city, that city might have designated the area for transportation or business, rather than personal storage or buildings. If you owned the property before your zone changed, you can grab a lawyer and use the old zone codes. Once you’re sure your shed plans match requirements, get your building permit and start your project.

Guidelines of a Building a Great Shed

With those basics away, let’s look at which rules you should follow, no matter what the law requires! First and foremost, the foundation can make or break the worth of a shed…literally. Keep your shed well above the water table and then some. The area around the shed should slope away. If you build close to another building, make sure it is level with the building and then slopes outwards to prevent water from wearing away the foundation of the original building. Also make sure that the roof of a shed close to a building diverts all water away from the building (lean-to sheds are good for this).

Obviously, you want to use materials that are safe. Don’t fill your shed with asbestos. If you use insulation, pick a fire retardant. Treat your wood properly so it doesn’t rot. Ensure your roof tiles or tarps are firmly attached so that they don’t blow away in a windstorm. If you live in somewhere hot or humid, provide proper ventilation—unless you want a bunch of mold. If you live in a colder climate, ventilation only matters if you are a smoker or plan on having people spend time in the shed. Sheds typically stay insulated against the cold unless conditions become extreme for extended time periods.

To elaborate on a dwelling that you plan on using for social stuff or relaxation, you’ll want to take special safety precautions. You don’t need to keep a fire extinguisher nearby (although I encourage it), but you will want to provide multiple exits. Something as simple as an extra window gives the shed some nice, natural lighting and makes it that much safer.

Now that you know this, some of the weird laws and regulations make more sense, right? The only thing to watch out for now is a Home Owners’ Association, if you’re unlucky enough to have one!

Choosing Your Shed Plan

If you want to check out a whole slew of plans and styles, I made a dedicated post here. If you just want the summary, let’s go over how to quickly choose your shed plan now! Beyond the stipulations I outlined above, think about what sort of features you want for your shed. Will you need a large door to get machinery in and out? Do you need a garage door for a car? Or maybe you just need a simple door to keep things nice and secure? In any case, the door’s a great place to start, if only because it’s the first thing you interact with in a building!

After you narrow down the designs based on that, think about the size and style of shed you want to build. If size is of no legal concern, consider building it as large as possible, without taking up the whole yard. Why? It greatly improves the value of your home, plus, you might have the funds down the line to upgrade your shed into something livable. Not bad for a weekend project, right?

If the exterior is also a free-for-all, check out all the neat architectural styles out there. Instead of building a typical shed, you could have a colonial shed with a patio, or an impressive Tudor-style shed! These alternative designs look amazing and elevate it from a simple shed to a true addition to your home.

Lastly, choose a shed design that matches your skill level. That doesn’t necessarily mean going with the most simple design if you have no building experience. Different designs contain varying amounts of instruction, so find the instructions that work for you! I recommend using this design collection, but you can find several other types of shed plans on Amazon, the rest of the net, bookstores, and so on. Specialized shed plans are just a bit difficult to get your hands on unless you buy from a collection.

Finding Materials for Your Backyard Shed

The obvious location for backyard shed materials is a home improvement store. They have a huge range of pre-cut sizes of wood, every type of nail and hammer under the sun, and basically everything you would want for your shed. However, these stores have two big disadvantages. The first is that they overcharge for their wood. Granted, their nails and other utilities are competitively priced, but most of your money will be going into your actual building materials. Another disadvantage is the quality of this wood. Wood that goes through too much shipping and handling shows the wear and tear of its journey through small defects.

To circumvent this, purchase all of your wood from local lumberyards. They have a wider variety of wood types, sizes, and everything they sell simply has a higher quality than what you would find in a store. The workers there know exactly how to handle these types of wood and can pass that knowledge on to you. Some even offer special services with custom cutting, letting you build a shed from any type of shed plan!

Backyard Sheds and Yard Sheds

When it comes to outdoor sheds and backyard sheds, make sure you treat your building properly. This might seem strange to talk about so early, but if you mess up during the building process, it can be a pain to fix these things. Outdoor storage sheds should have an elevated foundation and floor, ensuring that water doesn’t creep in. Use a sealer to cover any nooks and crannies to insulate the shed further and keep out pests. Start with the roof and move down, taking care to do the corners properly.

After that, make sure to prepare good materials for a roof. Any shingles or tiles should be firmly attached to the roof or a strong breeze would blow it away. Gutters help mitigate swamping in certain areas of the yard, so if one side of the shed will receive more water than the other, think about installing some of those. If you neglect your insulation, you’ll get a bunch of bugs and water in the room. I guess that’s fine, if you’re okay with mold on the walls and black widow spiders in the boxes. To each their own, right? However, I highly recommend doing things the proper way with backyard sheds!

Wood Storage Sheds

When you make a storage building out of wood, picking the wood ends up just as difficult as finding your materials. If your shed plan doesn’t list a particular type of wood, use this guide to determine which type of wood works best for your storage shed. Always choose construction grade wood! I also talk about wood sheds in this post.

Cedar Wood – This is very lightweight and resists both decay and insect infestation. It is dense enough to stand up on its own at the same time. Cedar wood has a distinct aroma that will stay in the shed for the duration of its life…so make sure you’re not allergic to it ahead of time!

Cypress Wood – Cypress wood stands out thanks to its amazing resistance to water. Even if you submerge it in water for months, it shrugs off the water damage. Since these trees are native to the American south’s coastlines, they are built to withstand all the flooding that comes with living in a swamp.

Elm Wood – A beautiful tree that offers a lot of shade, you rarely see this in yards nowadays thanks to a very proliferous disease running around the nation. Despite this, it works spectacularly well in construction projects and other things that require hardwood.

Fir Wood – This is the most common type of building wood out there. You will run into several varieties that have unique attributes, so be careful which ones you pick. Spruce trees, Douglas Firs, Hemlock, and a few other types of trees will be labeled as whitewood alongside pine. This is generally a bad choice for outdoor building, since it rots fairly quickly. It at least works well for furniture.

Of course, these hardly represent the full range of woods you can use. There are also manufactured types of woods that are cheaper and just as durable. Here are the types of engineered wood that you’re likely to run into:

Cross-laminated Timber – By stacking sheets of wood on top of each other and gluing them, you can create an extremely strong type of paneling. It is good to use if your area is prone to fires, since it has a great heat resistance. This works so well that people are starting to build insanely tall wooden buildings with it! The only disadvantage is that it’s difficult to find.

Glulam – By fusing various sizes of wood together with phenol glue (which is a tiny bit toxic), you can create very large and strong beams. You normally see it used in roof work—and keeping it up there instead of in your walls or floor boards helps a little bit with the air quality of your home!

OSB – You’ve probably seen this type of wood before. It’s not as durable as plywood and doesn’t stand up to rain as well, but that doesn’t matter as much when it’s in a covered place where no one will see or stand on it.

Plywood – Yep, it was only a matter of time until you saw this! Since this resists a lot of wear and tear, plywood works great for floor beams, floor boards, roof supports, and studs.

Small Storage Sheds

By choosing to build a small storage shed, you drastically reduce the costs needed for your project. You can even buy them preassembled and have them shipped to your door, if time is the most expensive part of a shed for you. Simple shed kits provide all sorts of styles and you can make your own shed according to a plan in just a day…provided you have all your materials picked out and bought. The disadvantage of a small storage shed is, of course, the small amount of stuff it can store. However, sometimes you only have a small amount of space to use! Let’s talk about how to maximize this space.

If you plan on hanging out in the shed, keep any decorations thin and make sure the room is brightly lit. The shed should have windows to make it look even larger. The better your view, the better you feel in the shed. Small furniture is hard to find in America, but some antique shops and places like IKEA offer you a few options.

If you plan on using it for its actual purpose of storing stuff, make sure you know how much it can hold before you build. Don’t assume that you can fit everything in the yard in that small space without doing a little math. Try to include extra vertical shelves and use the tips I talk about in the Tool Sheds section to avoid catastrophe.

Tool Sheds

For tool sheds, use hooks, shelves, and gambrel roofs to maximize the amount of space you use. Pent sheds plans or lean-to shed plans offer the most space for the least amount of money and building expertise. Since tool sheds never end up becoming domestic, feel free to fill the space with ways to store and organize things. You also have no need for windows or ventilation. Let’s get into the specifics of creating the perfect storage shed now!

DIY Tool Storage

By building your own tool storage, you ensure that even your specialized tools have a home to return to. You no longer need to shuffle through your own storage shed to find that one ruler that slid to the back of the shelves. When building your own tool storage shed from scratch, your only concern is the size of the shed. You want it to store everything you need—both for the house and the yard. Yard tools tend to be bulky, while home tools tend to get lost in the cracks.

Purchasing a tool shelf or using pin boards for the small tools helps mitigate the lost tool issue. However, the only thing that helps your large tools is foresight and good planning. I find a typical lean-to shed to be the perfect size for a tool storage shed, plus, it doesn’t cost a fortune. It goes up quickly and all of the work is easy, even when you build from scratch! You can read about making your own in this dedicated article, or you can follow along with the general shed building instructions I put further down!

Utility Sheds

A utility shed is simply a shed where you can store your yard and building materials for a time you need them. A tall and thin shed does the trick, but a lean-to shed also served the job and lets you store larger things like bikes and lawn mowers. When your man cave, kitchen, or attic starts to overflow with what I call ‘one-trick-items,’ you throw them in the utility shed. These items are quite useful, but maybe only once a year, and for one thing only. They offer utility, but not often enough to warrant a place in the home.

Anyways, make sure that your utility shed is nice and organized! If things go missing inside it, you might as well have never built it. Use pegboards to store all of your small tools. Put all of your large tools at the bottom of the shed and incorporate shelves that become gradually smaller the higher up they go. And, of course, keep a stepstool or a ladder handy so you get a good view of those upper shelves. With this method of organization, your utility shed gains a lot more…well, utility!

Here are a few ideas on what you might want to store inside the utility shed that people often overlook. Saws, hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers are a given. Throw in masking tape, duct tape, a leveling tool, a tape measure, a triangle ruler, a protractor (which is a godsend during any building tasks), and enough markers to last a lifetime. You only really need one marker, but they tend to go missing. If you live in a very warm place, replace the markers with some large pencils so that the ink doesn’t burst and stain everything vanta black. A fire extinguisher, flashlights, ice scrapers, picks, work gloves, pressure gauge, and bike pump also serve some niche needs that might present themselves.

Portable Storage Sheds

Sometimes, your backyard storage needs to be movable. You may only need it for a temporary event, or perhaps to protect your car from hail, or you might want to move it when you get the time to build a patio, or maybe you want to live on the go for a while and keep it in tow. There’s plenty of possibilities. Whatever the case, portable storage sheds help you make that happen. Portable storage sheds are universally small (they have to sit on the back of a truck, after all), and it’s not worth it to build a proper foundation for them. Portable sheds tend to cost more than permanent sheds, so if you just need a shelter for some of your stuff, I recommend…

A canopy or a garage tent. These large tarps use a shed-like frame to create a small garage or storage space for your stuff. Sometimes labeled as greenhouse tents, they don’t serve as a secure location for storing goods, but they do protect your stuff from the weather and keep it all in one place. If you live in a good neighborhood, one of these is more than enough for your needs. Plus, they cost less than $400…compare that to the thousands you would spend on a portable shed!

Cheap Sheds

If you want cheap storage sheds, you have to put in some extra work. Good storage sheds range in price from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the features you want. And, honestly, a $1,000 shed doesn’t cut it for most things. Of course, there are ways to cut down on these typical price tags without chopping the trees down yourself. This section guides you through building on a budget and helps people in every financial situation stow away a little money for things to put inside your shed!

Finding Materials for your Storage Shed on a Budget

The best way to find materials for your shed on a budget is to check out discount and clearance sections of big box stores. You’ll find all kinds of materials marked down for little things like a scratch or some unappealing patterns in the wood. Since you’ll be building the shed from scratch, these types of problems will likely go unseen in your finished product. As long as your materials look structurally sound and the price looks good, go for it.

Another great way to find cheap materials is to browse online trading sites like Craigslist. Many people give up on their projects or just find themselves with extra lumber. They really want to get it off their property. You can score a bunch of stuff just by trading some junk from your garage. Or, you could be lucky enough to get your materials for free! Always make sure these materials are properly treated and in a good condition before you start to build with them.

The last way I recommend saving money—and the way to go for people who don’t like buying used stuff—is to go straight to a local lumber yard. This cuts out the shipping and upcharge that big stores give you, plus it saves you the potential damage the wood would receive as it changes hands. Lumber yards carry all kinds of sizes, wood types, and may even cut some custom stuff for you if you show them your shed plans. Ultimately, they charge far less than any other place for brand new and fresh materials. No matter your financial situation, consider this your best option!

Pre-made Sheds

Sometimes, the most expensive part of a shed is the time it takes to procure materials and build one yourself. Of course, hiring contractors is out of the question if you want to save money…but how do you build a shed without spending time or extra cash making it happen? Quite simply, you don’t. You purchase a pre-made shed! Lots of online and retail outlets offer pre-made sheds that they ship right to your door and place in your backyard. Since everything is built, any extra money is more like a delivery fee than a contractor fee. The building gets finished the moment it touches your yard.

The main downside to pre-made sheds is their small size. Obviously, a pre-made shed needs to fit on the road in order to get shipped around the nation. You might be able to find a very wide shed that looks more like a trailer, but that still hardly functions as a proper shed. They look a little more like storage closets. Another big disadvantage is their materials. They usually contain a lot of cheap wood and plastic to cut down on prices, which means more repairs in the long run.

If you dole out some extra money, then you can find some high-quality pre-made sheds to save yourself some time. If you don’t care about saving time and simply want the most cost-efficient method, skip the pre-made sheds.

Storage Shed Kits

From simple garden shed kits to huge two-story sheds, storage shed kits save you the time of finding materials and help you build your shed quickly and efficiently. They cost less than fancy pre-made sheds or contract work, plus they look great. A few companies even allow for customization! Building from a storage kit takes very little time and the instructions provided also speed things along for people new to building. This is by far the best option for people who want to cut down on the price and the time spent without lowering the quality or building everything from scratch.

Furthermore, if you have a shed plan, it’s quite possible to get your own custom storage shed kit from local lumberyards. I’d be lying if I said all of them offered this service, but some of the more professional ones will gather your materials and cut some custom pieces of wood if you give them a list. That definitely saves you time and gets you exactly the sort of shed you want!

When a storage shed kit arrives at your door, simply check the quality of the materials. Then, set aside a day to get everything done. Storage kits typically come with walls pre-assembled, so it’s just a matter of picking out a spot and nailing everything together. Siding and roof tiles usually come separately, so you can pick out what sort of decoration (if any) you want the shed to have. No one can really tell the difference between a shed built out of a kit or a shed built out of scratch, especially if you choose a nice design. Definitely go with storage shed kits if you want to save some time without breaking the bank!

Storage Shed Ideas

Do you have an old storage shed laying around and have no idea what to do with it? Maybe you have plenty of room in your garage, or perhaps you moved into a brand new property that contains a shed. Clearing out the shed to make room for the new also opens up possibilities. In any case, these shed storage ideas help you figure out what to do with that space. After all, you can use a shed for far more than storage, especially the bigger ones!

Man Cave Shed

Hey, look what site you’re on. Clearly, I have a bias towards building man caves. Man cave sheds give you space all your own, separate from the house, and let you customize the room in ways you can’t do inside a home. For example, setting up a surround sound system is far easier when your ceiling opens up into the rafters. It gives you way more space to maneuver up there! Building a second story doesn’t fill the home with sawdust, plus, you can create a loft to make the man cave that much more impressive! For more ways to convert a shed into a man cave, check out my post here.

Garage Shed

When you find the perfect home…minus a garage…don’t despair! Use a simple storage shed plan to create a garage of your own. Most storage sheds take up very little space and a ton of plans exist to ensure you stay within building codes of your area. You can opt for a single car garage or go all-out with a two-story four car garage shed! If you do make your garage two stories, make sure to include excellent ventilation and insulation. The fumes from the cars below can collect on the upper floor if the cars are left running.

Workshop Shed

Building a workshop inside a house is just asking for trouble. Sawdust, paint splatters, loud noise, and grease stains are just a few things that ruin the coziness of a home. On top of that, any damage done by an active workshop detracts from the value of your home. By building a storage shed to serve as a workshop, the opposite is true—your home goes up in value and feels much more peaceful. The benefits of hosting your workshop outside include letting you mess up the room with the filth of dirty work and customizing it to suit your needs—even if it goes against a few building codes or your wife’s wishes!

Gardening Shed

By adding in windows or skylights, your shed quickly becomes the perfect gardening environment! The warmth of a shed during winter keeps your plants safe. You only need to cover them if temperatures get extreme for long periods of time. During the summer, it’s easier to control the sunlight your plants experience. They won’t wilt as frequently if you can easily cover the windows or move them into the shade. Watering becomes easier and your shed just looks better.

You can continue to use portions of your shed for its original purpose—as a workshop, storage area, or otherwise. The plants filter out the air and keep it from getting to dusty or musky. It benefits you in the long run to have nice clear air to breathe as you use your shed. The only disadvantage of a gardening shed is that they get a little muggy at times. With a proper ventilation system and a few humidity and temperature monitors, you can negate that entirely.


The biggest shed of them all, a barn actually fits the bill for a jumbo storage shed! To convert a shed into a barn, grab some extra lumber and divide the room as needed. Stalls or small rooms help keep it organized. While a storage shed deals with storing items, a barn deals with storing animals! Keep in mind that the health and happiness of the animals should be on your mind as you build the barn. Even one extra foot of space in the stable makes the difference between an aggressive stallion or a tame horse.

Another integral part of building a barn is making it easy to clean. Keep the floors smooth by using large boards of wood or loose gravel. Taking things in and out of the barn should not be more of a chore than it is already! Typically, you want to make the door as large as possible to accommodate your animals. Huge machinery needs an equally huge entrance. For more information, check out my dedicated post on building barns.

Making the Most Out of Your Storage Shed

Ultimately, your little storage shed helps you out with some big life problems. Whether you choose to house your cars or bikes with one or convert your shed into a man cave, these storage sheds provide some essential shelter and seclusion in a world that’s becoming busier by the moment. The effort you put into its function and appearance determines whether you created a mere shack or an essential addition to your property.

Hopefully this post helped you learn everything you need to know about building storage sheds and using them. Cutting down on material costs, finding the perfect plan, gathering the proper tools, and figuring out how to construct everything proves tricky the first time for everyone. If you have any questions about building a storage shed, please let me know in the comments section. I can help you and everyone else who has the same question!

Once you build your first shed, you store all of this knowledge. It comes back to you naturally with your next building project. My goal in writing this was to give you as much knowledge as possible. Next time, you'll be able to improve all on your own! Good luck, and get building!

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