How to Buy Outdoor Storage Sheds

Price, Construction Material, and So Much More

Baby blue and white outdoor shed near flower garden

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

If you are looking to buy a new outdoor storage shed, there are several 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. Our comprehensive guide can help walk you through some things to consider when it comes to buying an outdoor storage shed.

Before You Buy an Outdoor Shed

Before you buy an outdoor shed, you should think about a few things to ensure you are getting the right shed for your belongings. What area are you going to place the shed, and how large is it? What will you be storing in the shed? What is it going to be used for? Outdoor sheds typically store lawn equipment, tools, bicycles, and outdoor toys and games. It can also become a place to get away and enjoy time alone, such as a man cave, a she-shed, or even an artist or crafting studio.

What type of material do you want it to be made out of? Do you have a design or style in mind? How much can you afford to pay for an outdoor shed? Ask yourself these questions as you start shopping. Deciding what you will be using the shed for can help you on your journey to finding one that will work best for you.

Make sure to also check on the zoning laws in your area and with your HOA association to ensure you can put an outdoor shed on your property before buying one, as some jurisdictions have size limitations.

Buying Considerations for an Outdoor Shed

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 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 distance from your property line. Some local zoning laws in some places require a shed to be at least 3 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 snow blower 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 personal touches, such as window boxes, shutters, or weather vanes. 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.

Types of Outdoor Sheds

There are several types of outdoor sheds available on the market. Once you've figured out exactly what the shed is going to be used for, you can better decide on the type and look you want.

Lean-to Shed

This type of shed typically butts up against a pre-existing structure, such as a house or garage. It has a slanting roof, and the average size is 4x8 feet, making it a good choice for storing garden tools, a bicycle, a grill, or a push mower. It can also be built as a free-standing shed if you desire. A lean-to shed is one of the least expensive types of outdoor sheds.

A-Frame Shed

A popular and classic style of an outdoor shed, an A-frame has a roof that slopes, usually from side to side. It typically sports double doors, offering optimal space for moving larger equipment in and out with ease. They come in many sizes, including 8"x10", 10"x16", and 12"x24", and can be built in wood, metal, or plastic, plus have windows or no windows at all. These can be used for storing lawn equipment and tools or can be dressed up for a she-shed or man cave.

Barn-Style Shed

Picture a miniature-size barn in your backyard, and that is what a barn-style shed looks like. These types of sheds offer the most headroom, and you can easily put an overhead shelf unit up. Like the A-Frame, the barn-style shed comes in multiple sizes and materials, has double doors, and can have windows in them or not.

Studio Shed

Elaborate, more costly, and great for a home office, art or craft studio, and more, the studio shed can be used as a separate living space from your home (if both zoning and your HOA allow it). There are many options and customized styles for this type of shed that you can select from.

Cost

Expect to pay anywhere from $200 on up to as high as $20,000 for an outdoor shed. Most stores have stocked the latest shed models in the spring, especially in the months of April and May. Watch for sales during the springtime and around holidays, such as Memorial Day. You might also find some deals in the fall as retailers are getting rid of the current year's stock to get ready for the upcoming year's new models.

The cost of an outdoor shed will vary from the type of material it is made out of, the size, and the style. A shed that has a cottage design, for example, will be much higher in cost than a plain metal shed with just a door.

How to Choose an Outdoor Shed

Choosing an outdoor shed is not only a personal preference in the design and style, but other factors come into play. When selecting one, the amount you can afford to spend, what it will be used for—storage or additional space, what will comfortably fit in your yard, and the zoning and HOA regulations are factors, too. Ask yourself these questions, but also try to look into the next few years to see if the shed will continue to work as you and your family grow.

Will it be large enough to accommodate a few more things if you're using it for storage? Or what about turning it into a playhouse for your children? Are you buying one for long-term use or getting a less expensive one since you're not planning on staying in the home? These are just a few more thoughts to consider as you go about choosing the outdoor shed that fits your needs.

Where to Shop

An outdoor shed can be a very costly purchase, depending on which one you choose. Many people prefer to see them in person so they can look over how the shed is constructed. Most home improvement stores sell outdoor sheds. You can also find them at online retailers, supercenters, warehouse clubs, or stores that specialize in selling outdoor sheds. There is not a lack of options to choose from when shopping for one.

Make sure to take a moment to do some research and read reviews on the type of outdoor shed you're considering buying to ensure you are getting a reputable brand and well-built one. Select one that will function well for you, fit within your budget, and is in the style you like. An outdoor shed is something you'll see and use in your backyard for many years.

FAQ
  • How far should the floor of an outdoor shed be off the ground?

    Usually, the floor of a shed should be up off the ground to help keep the moisture from creeping in. You want it to be around 6-inches off the ground. Check and follow the manufacturer's instructions as you build your shed.

  • Do you need to anchor your shed?

    Anchor your shed to a wood or cement base or to the ground to help protect your shed against severe wind and weather. Auger anchors or concrete anchors are used depending on what you're anchoring your shed to.

  • What is the ideal foundation for your shed?

    A pad made with gravel or cement are good foundations for your outdoor shed. The foundation must be level for the shed to be built and installed properly. Check and follow manufacturer's instructions, as most include the information on building the right foundation for their shed.

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