10 Considerations When Buying Outdoor Storage Sheds

Price, Construction Material, and So Much More

Green shed set in a garden with plants, wall, and fence
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If you are looking to buy a new outdoor storage shed, there are a number of things to consider before making your purchase. Obvious factors include the size and cost, and maybe the color or style, but you do not want to stop there. A storage shed can be a pretty big investment, and you will be looking at it—and relying on it—for the next 15 or 20 years. Asking a few more questions at the outset will help you make the best choice for the long run.

Price vs. Quality

Do not let the price of a new shed be your sole determining factor. Some shoppers, once drawn to the cheapest price, immediately put blinders on and ignore some important considerations.

Outdoor storage sheds with higher-quality materials and solid construction last longer and look better than the cheapest options. Paying just a few hundred dollars more for an outbuilding is usually a smart investment. If budget is a primary consideration (it so often is), focus on simple, well-built sheds made with basic materials rather than those with fancy details or premium materials.

Design Considerations

Outdoor structures are not merely for storing things away. The appearance of an outdoor storage shed can be just as important as its usefulness and can affect the overall appearance of your property. Ideally, the unit you choose should complement the style of your home. For example, if you have a country-style house, your shed should have a rustic design, perhaps with board and batten siding. If your house’s style is more formal, select an outdoor storage shed with formal features to match. Or, you might want to match specific features of your house, such as an arched window or door, and carry on the same theme over to your outbuilding.

Blending Into the Landscape

Think about how you might integrate your outbuilding into the surrounding landscape. Plants can help outdoor storage sheds blend into a yard, rather than sticking out like sore thumbs. You can establish garden beds around a shed and plant them with annuals or perennials. If the shed has wood siding, you can install trellises up against the walls to grow vine plants.

Wall and Siding Materials

There are three main materials options for storage sheds: wood, metal, and plastic. Wood sheds typically have stud-framed walls, much like a house or garage, that are covered with plywood siding. Upscale wood sheds may have plywood sheathing over the studs with traditional lap siding over the plywood. Wood sheds also have wood roof frames and standard roofing materials, such as asphalt shingles.

Metal sheds typically have a simple metal framework covered in a skin of factory-painted or vinyl-coated metal for both the walls and roof. Plastic sheds often are vinyl (polyvinyl chloride or PVC) or another type of plastic. Their color is inherent to the material so there is no paint or coating to worry about. Both plastic and metal sheds come in kits designed for do-it-yourself assembly.

A woodshed needs about as much maintenance (repainting, repairing damaged or rotted parts, and refastening loose parts) as a house. Metal and plastic sheds do not need to be painted and require very little maintenance. However, metal shed materials will corrode if their paint or protective coating is scratched or damaged, and metal doors and other parts wear over time. Plastic sheds generally need the least maintenance of all.

Zoning Laws and HOA Rules

Before buying a shed or even settling on a shed size, call your city officials to learn about zoning law restrictions for sheds. In many areas, sheds up to a certain size—typically 120 square feet—are allowed by zoning laws without prior approval, but restrictions on shed placement are common.

Also, if you belong to a homeowner's association, check the bylaws concerning sheds. For example, you may be required to keep your shed a certain amount of distance from your property line. For example, local zoning laws in some places require a shed to be at least three feet from the property line.

The overall height of a shed is another zoning issue. You do not want to buy and install an expensive shed only to learn that you are breaking a law.

Foundation and Flooring

Some sheds include a floor while others do not. Wood sheds typically have standard framed floors with plywood flooring. With most metal and some plastic sheds, flooring is sold separately from the shed structure, and you can opt for the manufacturer's floor system or build your own. In any case, a floor can add $100 or more to the total cost of the shed.

Regardless of the floor type, it is best to install a shed on a foundation that keeps the shed off of soil or wet ground. This may be pressure-treated wood timbers, concrete blocks, or simply a bed of compacted gravel. An elevated or well-draining foundation will go a long way to help prevent rot or corrosion of shed materials.

Installation: DIY or Pro?

If you would prefer that most of the work be done for you, then select a shed from your local home improvement store and ask that it be delivered and assembled by their professional installers. But, if you are handy, you may wish to save some money and order an outdoor storage building kit that comes with assembly instructions. Building wood sheds requires carpentry skills and tools. Metal and plastic sheds are designed for easy assembly and can be built by two average homeowners in about a day.

Access

Make sure the entryway to the unit is wide enough to accommodate your largest piece of equipment, such as a gas snowblower or a lawn tractor. And once it is inside, there should be plenty of room to spare. Many outdoor storage buildings that are at least 8 feet by 10 feet come with double doors, which usually eliminates this concern. If your shed will sit off the ground, will you need a ramp or steps to get into the shed? Consider access with heavy equipment as well as everyday foot traffic.

Decorative Details

Small touches can make a difference. Some outdoor storage buildings come with French doors or cupolas. You can also add your own touches, like window boxes, shutters, or weathervanes. Remember that you will have to look at this outdoor storage building every day for the foreseeable future. A few decorative details could make the difference between something that is an eyesore or eye-catching.

Additional Storage

If the clutter on your property makes you feel that one unit is not enough, but your wallet disagrees, you can supplement your main shed with a less expensive, smaller model. There are three main types of units:

  • Corner sheds: Made to fit precisely into a corner and run about 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep.
  • Vertical sheds: Usually 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide by 3 feet deep.
  • Horizontal sheds: Usually 3 feet tall by 5 feet wide by 4 feet deep.

Another option is to go for a slightly larger shed with a storage loft so that you will not need a second unit. If you need a place for firewood but do not want to give up interior space for storing it, you can build a lean-to shelter attached to the outside of one of the shed walls.