10 Considerations When Buying Outdoor Storage Sheds

Plus Tips for Installing Them

Green shed set in a garden with plants, wall, and fence.
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Are you looking to buy a new outdoor storage shed? There are a number of factors to consider before making your purchase, including size, price, materials used, and design. Narrow down your options to find the right choice for your specific situation. 

1. Price vs. Quality in Outdoor Storage Sheds

Don't let the price of outdoor storage sheds be the determining factor for you. Some shoppers, once drawn to the cheapest price, immediately thereafter put blinders on and ignore alternatives.

Outdoor storage sheds sided with cedar and vinyl (the highest quality sidings) are only a few hundred dollars more than outbuildings sided with lower-quality materials. Consider how much those few hundred dollars are buying before rejecting the cedar or vinyl.

2. Design of Outdoor Storage Sheds and House Design

Remember that these structures are not merely for storing things away. In addition to their usefulness, the appearance of outdoor storage sheds affects the overall appearance of the property on which they are installed. As such, the unit you choose should be of a design that complements your home. Select one with a rustic design (for instance, board and batten) for a country-style house. If your house’s style is more formal, select an outdoor storage shed with formal features to match (for instance, if your house has an arched window, carry the theme over to your outbuilding).

3. Outdoor Storage Sheds as Part of the Landscape

Integrate your outbuilding into the surrounding landscape.

Plants can help outdoor storage sheds blend into a yard, rather than sticking out like sore thumbs. Establish garden beds around your unit and plant them with annuals or perennials. You can also install trellises up against the walls of outdoor storage sheds and adorn the walls with vine plants.

4. Comparison of Siding Materials for Storage Units

Natural wood is considered by many the most attractive siding for storage units.

But wood exposed over time to water usually rots. Some woods, however, contain natural resins that make them relatively rot-resistant. Cedar is such a wood and very popular as a siding choice for storage units. But even cedar siding is not maintenance-free. Coat cedar with a UV-inhibiting sealer/preservative every other year to protect it from ultraviolet solar radiation. Apply a clear stain, as well, to help preserve its natural beauty.

For nearly maintenance-free storage units, vinyl is the preferred siding. Vinyl lacks the visual appeal of wood, but if you own a house with vinyl siding, why not select a storage unit that is also sided with vinyl? However, vinyl will get dirty over time, making it even less attractive. Mold is often the culprit. Take into account the maintenance required to clean the vinyl periodically.

Due to their susceptibility to rust, steel storage units should be avoided. Among metal storage units, rust-free aluminum is usually the most sensible choice in siding. Metal siding is hardly the most visually appealing choice.

Particle board and plywood are composed of pieces of wood products that have been pressed and glued together. Although they are popular siding materials for storage units, they are not most people's first choice in regions where it rains a lot.

For if water does work its way into these products (a possibility enhanced by their composite nature), then you're lost.

5. Before Installing Storage Units: Building Codes and the Like

Become acquainted with zoning ordinances, deed restrictions and building codes. Depending on your area, you may need a building permit. Building codes may determine how far storage units must set back from property lines and what materials are acceptable for siding.

6. Site Preparation for Storage Units

Before installing storage units, lay down cinder blocks, concrete piers, a concrete slab, or at least crushed stone. But don't stop there. Make sure the supports underlying the floor are made of pressure-treated wood.

7. Do-It-Yourself Outdoor Storage Buildings vs. Professional Installation

If you’d prefer that most of the work be done for you, then just select a shed from your local home improvement store and ask that it be delivered and assembled by the pros.

But those who are handy may wish to save some money and order an outdoor storage building kit that comes with assembly instructions.

8. Will Your Outdoor Storage Building Be Big Enough?

Make sure the entry to the unit is wide enough to accommodate your largest piece of equipment, such as a gas snowblower, with room to spare. Many outdoor storage buildings that are at least 8 feet x 10 feet come with double doors, which usually eliminates this concern.

9. Accessories

The small touches make a difference. Some outdoor storage buildings come with French doors or cupolas. You, yourself can add touches such as window boxes, shutters, or weathervanes. Remember, you’ll have to look at this outdoor storage building every day of your life for the foreseeable future: Your attention to detail could make the difference between eyesore and eye-opener. On a more practical note, purchase or build a pressure-treated ramp for easy access to your outdoor storage building.

10. When One Outdoor Storage Building Isn't Enough

If the clutter on your property says one unit isn’t enough, but your wallet disagrees, supplement your main unit with one of the less expensive, smaller models. There are three main types of such units, all of which go by descriptive names. “Corner sheds” are made to fit precisely into a corner and run about 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep. Meanwhile, either a “vertical shed” (5 x 3 x 4) or a “horizontal shed” (3 x 5 x 4) may be just the handy outdoor storage building to fill your need for additional space.

Buying an outdoor storage building with a loft greatly increases storage capability, allowing you to store rarely used supplies overhead.

For the exterior, build your own lean-to and attach it to the outdoor storage building to form a sheltered area for firewood.

Outdoor benches are sometimes made to be dual-purpose, offering a compartment to store tools and a cozy spot for taking breathers while mowing the lawn.

Potting sheds and small greenhouses are a boon to the true landscaping enthusiast.

Some outdoor storage buildings come with large skylights and virtually function as greenhouses in their own right.