Shed Buying Guide

Shed Buying Guide
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This post was last updated on October 11th, 2022 at 07:06 pm

Before you rush out and buy a shed, give some serious thought to how you could use it and what you could store in it.

For example, will it be used just for general storage – garden tools and sundries, paint cans, and wood off-cuts? Or something more individual?

Do you need it to store specialized equipment such as a sit-on lawnmower or motorcycle?

Would it be helpful to have enough room to work inside whenever the weather is poor?

When you have adequately assessed all your storage needs, there are several other factors to consider:

  • Where and how will it be located?
  • How big does it need to be?
  • What design style do you want?
  • Do you have a preference for the type of material?
  • How will you build it?

Shed Location

If you intend to have some form of a storage building in your yard, and before you go out and buy one, you should check that your plans comply with all the local building codes.

Failure to get a proper permit could result in you having to dismantle the structure at some stage if you have not complied with the rules.

Here are some tips about where to build a shed:

  • When you consider the spot where you intend to install your shed, ensure it can be accessed easily by all who intend to use it.
  • Locate it in the best possible position for its planned use. Summer house or greenhouse usage would require it to be situated where it would get the most sunshine. If you intend to house small pets or use it as a workshop, you would probably need to ensure a location with more shade. 
  • Consider any drainage issues. Locating a shed at the base of a slope or where surface water collects is ill-advised. It would require you to raise it higher off the ground with suitable run-offs for the water to disperse, and to provide adequate ventilation beneath, to minimize wood rot or mold.
  • Don't erect a shed where cables or pipes run underneath.
  • It is best to avoid locating it beneath overhanging branches as these can eventually cause surface wear and a build-up of leaves, which could cause damp.

Ask yourself a few questions about the planned location:

  • How easy will it be to move heavy items to and from the shed?
  • Will the lawn mower get from shed to lawn without having to negotiate garden obstacles?
  • Will the shed block a view or conceal a drain cover?
  • Will there be adequate access around the shed to do routine maintenance?
  • If an older person needs access, will it be convenient for them?
  • If young children play in the shed, will you have a line of sight to where they are?

Shed Size

The size of your backyard might determine this, but when considering the size of the shed to buy, think ahead. It is easy to underestimate the amount of space you will need or the headroom required.

If you want a ‘working shed’ with a worktop and space for tools and equipment, as well as storing other items, factor this all in.

Remember also that local area building codes may influence the size of shed you can build on your property.

Shed Design Style

If you have a large yard area to locate your storage shed, then budget aside, you will have a lot of choice over the size of the structure you build.

If you have a limited amount of space in which to locate your shed, the design of the building can take on added relevance depending on how you wish to use it.

For example, a traditional backyard barn design with a small footprint can provide a lot more overhead storage space in the roof void. It may not be suitable for some heavy items, but you can store a lot more this way with careful planning.

Some other basic design features for you to consider:

  • Do you want windows? If so, how many, and should they be hinged or fixed?
  • Do you want a skylight? And what about doors? Would you prefer single or double opening doors?
  • Do you plan to use your shed as an office, an artist’s studio, or a craft area? If so, you will probably appreciate installing some insulation to make it more comfortable year-round. You will also need to run a power source for lighting.

Which Shed Material?

The common materials used in shed construction are wood, plastic (sometimes called vinyl or resin sheds), and metal. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Wooden Backyard Sheds

Wooden shed built on a firm base on a sloping garden

Wood is the traditional material used to build sheds and has been the most popular. It is a natural material that blends well in a garden or backyard environment.

You can paint or stain a wooden shed and match it to your yard's personality. Wood is generally easier to work with than metal or plastic types, and most people have the tools needed for working with wood.

It can be a heavy material to work with, especially if you buy a prefabricated shed – four walls, roof section/s, and base. You would generally need at least two people to assemble it correctly. And it will probably take longer to assemble overall.

There will be more maintenance required with a wooden garden building, though. More waterproofing and pest prevention, but you will be dealing with a natural material that looks good.

Wooden storage buildings are also easier to fit out as you can insert screws and nails almost anywhere. If any custom design is needed, wood is much more natural to work with than plastic or metal.

Plastic Sheds

Lifetime 60138 Outdoor Storage Shed, Desert Sand, 15 x 8 Feet

These have gained immense popularity in recent years due to their quick and easy assembly, low maintenance, and lightweight.

Advances in plastics technologies have created materials that don’t get damaged by sunlight or heat and do not give off toxic vapor, as could happen in the past.

Plastic sheds can also withstand harsh winter weather, such as snow and heavy rainfall.

Weather damage is minimal as parts do not rust or rot, as can be the case with wood or metal buildings, and they are incredibly waterproof due to the snug-fitting of components.

They are lightweight, which makes them easy to assemble. The only downside to this is that some models may require more adequate anchoring to the ground in areas of high winds. Some sheds are supplied with anchoring kits, but not all. Bigger sheds will have an integral floor.

Some sheds are expandable by adding shell modules, and a variety of storage accessories are available - corner units, shelving, hook racks, and so on. But, plastic sheds are not as customizable as wooden ones, due to their construction method.

Smaller plastic sheds are often used indoors – in garages, utility areas, and on a patio as they have a pleasing appearance and can easily be kept clean.

Metal Sheds

Arrow 10' x 8' Newburgh Eggshell with Coffee Trim Low Gable Electro-Galvanized Steel Storage Shed

Metal garden sheds are a robust alternative to wood and plastic. They are good value for money, durable, and don't require much maintenance, which mainly involves dealing with corrosion.

They handle temperature extremes well and don’t warp. Roof strength is an essential factor, though, and you will need to consider this if you live in an area of heavy snowfall.

Cosmetically, they are better looking than in the past, and the galvanized or vinyl coated panels last longer. They are cheap, which makes them a popular buy - you get more shed for your money, but they have some disadvantages.

Depending on size, they can be more complicated to assemble and can take two or more people to put them together. Also, metal is not a natural material to work with for many people if you need to modify the shed in any way.

To appraise the quality of these sheds, you should consider the metal thickness and their corrosion resistance guarantee.

Common Factors When Buying a Shed

preparing ground for a shed base

Ground being prepared for a shed base

Your shed will require a base on which to be assembled. You could make it of wood or concrete. Go by the recommendation of the shed manufacturer.

Not all sheds come with a floor, and you may have to buy one separately or make one yourself as well.

Whatever shed material you choose, check its thickness, durability, and manufacturer's warranty.

Shed Building

You have three ways to go about building a shed.

Work from shed plans and build everything from scratch.

If you buy from a reputable supplier, you will have a plan, a list of materials you need to buy, a lumber cutting list, and detailed assembly instructions.

Wood is the material used here. Ideally, you would have a good understanding of woodworking and have a range of suitable shed-building tools to complete the project.

This option gives you the most choice over how your shed will look, but it will take the most time as you have to do everything yourself. You may still require an extra pair of hands to help with some construction parts.

Buy a shed framing kit.

EZ Shed 70187 Peak Style Instant Framing Kit

A shed framing kit is a simplified version of the above. In addition to a plan, materials, cutting lists, and building instructions, you get a supply of custom-made connectors. This last item is what makes the building easier - you don’t have to cut lumber to many different angles.

You need to straight cut the wood - no expensive tools needed for this. Then you use the special connectors to provide a quick and easy way to erect the shed's shell. You don’t need to be an experienced woodworker, but you will need some help putting it all together to avoid parts twisting out of shape.

Prefabricated Shed Kits.

build a shed from a kit

Assembling the panels of a wooden shed kit - on a concrete base

This option gives you the widest choice of wood, plastic, or metal materials. All parts and materials are supplied either pre-cut or assembled and need bolting, screwing, and or clipping together. 

By far, the majority of sheds are bought this way. Specialized tools are often not needed,  and a basic understanding of DIY is all that is required. You will need to have help assembling the parts, but they can generally be put together in a few hours.

Shed Buying - In Conclusion

Your choice of a shed will ultimately be based on your needs, wants, and budget. Your decision might also depend on where you live due to any relevant local building codes or restrictions.

Consider everything your shed could be used for before you make a purchase. Plan it well, and get the best use out of it. 

Finally, buy the best shed you can afford - it will be better for you in the long run.

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