How to Build a Storage Shed

Day 3 Shed
© 2013 Discovery Communications

­If you've got rudimentary ca­rpentry skills and sufficient motivation -- like a garage so cluttered with gardening equipment and indispensable odds and ends that you dread the thought of trying to squeeze an automobile into it -- you may find yourself heading to the lumber yard and preparing to construct a little out-building behind your house. Yes, a storage shed -- one that serves a multitude of purposes for your every need.

It's a sensible idea for many homeowners. As a way of gaining storage space, it's much easier than tacking a new room onto the house. A sturdy, reasonably attractive shed may even raise the property value of the home it adorns and help you make enough room in your garage for what it was intended -- your car. A skilled builder can complete the project in one day, working solo. And if designed properly, a backyard shed can even serve as a potting shed, home office annex or secret clubhouse. Besides, conveniently storing one's lawn and garden supplies so near to where they're used may make outdoor work seem much more appealing.


­Buying and assembling a prefabricated storage shed is an option, but the prefab structures out of a kit tend to be drab in appearance and limited in durability [source: Truini]. Building your own shed offers more options. A great variety of plans are available to choose from, some of which are free; more experienced builders can also design custom sheds. That way, as the architectural adage goes, form can follow function. If the main reason for building a shed is to house an extra-wide lawn tractor, for example, it may be appropriate to build a shed with a vertical-lift garage door and perhaps a ramp [source: Carter]. The possibilities are endless.

This article will not attempt to describe every step and all the materials needed to build every kind of shed, but just give a quick overview of the process and some of the factors to consider in preparing to build, as there are almost limitless options. Ready to move on? Let's first take a look at the tools and materials you will need.


Storage Shed Building Tools and Materials

Those of you who have successfully built more than one freestanding structure may be able to visualize the project in advance and have a sense of what materials are needed. But the rest of us need a plan. Choosing a plan should be done carefully, and only after thinking through some basic things like what type of building you desire and what the size requirements are. Plans are available on the Internet and at home improvement stores, and each one provides a comprehensive checklist of materials and a detailed breakdown of the steps involved in construction.

As for building materials, it may not come as a surprise to know that you're going to need a lot of lumber: 2x4s, 4x4s, 2x8s, and many other pieces, for the skids, joists, beams, rafters and every part of the frame. It's important to use pressure-treated lumber, especially for the floor and the bottom plate of the walls, because such lumber is resistant to decay and insect infestation [source: Carter]. Use sheets of treated plywood for wood floors and plywood siding for the walls. Needless to say, you'll need a lot of nails, hinges and other types of hardware.


Shed plans vary on the issue of providing a foundation, or footing, for the structure. Some plans call for the shed to be built solely on wooden skids rather than on a foundation, which leaves the building literally unmoored and easier to move should the occasion ever arise to transport it [source: Buildeazy]. Otherwise, you can use cable tie-downs or wooden posts to anchor the shed. Many plans include either a layer of compactable gravel or poured concrete for a foundation.

Then there's the roofing material, which may include roof underlay (a type of building paper that goes over the frame), wood sheathing, a durable cladding material such as corrugated iron or asphalt shingles for the exterior, and metal pieces for the drip edges or flashing.

You'll also need a hammer, saw (circular or crosscut), framing square, screwdriver, measuring tape, stakes, line and level [source: Southern Pine]. Now that you've got your list of tools and materials, move on to learn how to prepare to build your shed.


Preparing to Build a Storage Shed

One of the very first steps in preparing for your storage-shed project is to research the building and zoning codes of your local jurisdiction. You may need a permit in order to build on your property, or to build a structure greater than a certain square footage. You also may need to set back the structure a certain distance from the property line. Find out about the specific requirements and restrictions you must follow in order for the work to be permitted before you select a plan. Then submit the plan to the building department with your permit application. Another important source to check is your Homeowners Association (HOA) -- some HOAs ban detached outbuildings such as storage sheds [source: Gibson].

Other key decisions in the planning process are the size and exact location of the building. The principal factor -- determining the best size for your storage shed -- should be what you intend to store in it. Consider taking all the things you plan storing in the shed and haul them into a square on the lawn; then use the dimensions of that square for selecting a plan [source: Carter]. Bear in mind the equipment you may own in the future. Ideally, sheds should be sited on level turf, in a location that combines relative proximity to the lawn or garden and distance from the sight lines of neighbors [source: Gibson]. You may want to let your neighbors know about your project. Some communities require that you obtain your neighbors' signatures, showing approval your project.


Now let's talk about foundations. A strong foundation like concrete will most likely ensure a longer life for the shed. In colder climates, buildings must be adequately protected from frost heaves, which can cause tremendous shifts in frozen soil. A shed employing a wood-post foundation can be frost-protected by using concrete padding around the posts, rather than a full concrete slab [source: Carter].

Move ahead to the next page to learn how to put together that storage shed you've been planning to build.


Building a Storage Shed

To build a shed, start from the bottom: first the foundation, then the floor, the walls and the roof. The floor rests on two long "members," or pieces of lumber, called skids. On them go the joists that hold up the floor frame. After spacing the floor joists a certain distance apart, nail them to the bands of the frame. Then nail the plywood to the frame.

The wall frames can be measured, cut and built right on the wood floor you've just built. First, lay out wall studs and nail them to the top and bottom plates. Space them perhaps 2 feet (0.6 meters) apart at their centers. That distance would match up perfectly with standard 4-foot (1.2 meters) cladding boards [source: Buildeazy]. Before those go on, though, apply the horizontal members ("noggings") perpendicular to the studs. You can choose either to put on the wall siding at this point, while each wall rests on the surface of the floor, or after the skeleton of the entire structure is assembled. Ask a friend or neighbor to help lift the four wall frames and fit them together, assuring that all walls are plumb (straight upright) and flush with the edge of the floor and with each other. The frames should be nailed together at their corner studs [source: Buildeazy].


Those walls need a roof! A simple roof frame starts with a single-roof beam, placed above two supports sitting atop the middle of the front and rear wall frames. The four end rafters, two at the front and two at the rear, then slope down from the roof beam just over the edge of the corners, creating the angle of the roof. Several more rafters, each cut at the same angle, must be placed in parallel to fill out the frame. (Keep in mind that roofs can be assembled using prefabricated trusses or homemade rafters.) After the noggings go on crosswise, plywood sheathing boards need to cover the roof frame, followed by more lumber members, materials such as underlay and fascia, and the actual roofing material [source: Buildeazy].

Once the roof is on, place the doors and windows into the spaces you've dedicated for them in the walls. Congratulations! You've just built your very own shed. For more information, visit the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Buildeazy. "How to Build a Storage Shed." (Accessed February 24, 2009)
  • Carter, Tim. "How to Build a Shed." (Accessed February 24, 2009)
  • Carter, Tim. "Outdoor Storage Sheds." (Accessed February 25, 2009)
  • Gibson, H.E. "Choosing Storage Sheds: Storage for Garden Equipment and Supplies." Flower & Garden magazine, August-September 1994." (Accessed February 25, 2009)
  • Shank, John. "How to Build a Shed." (Accessed February 24, 2009)
  • Southern Pine. "Storage Shed." (Accessed February 24, 2009)
  • Truini, Joseph. "Beyond the Basic Shed." This Old House. (Accessed February 25, 2009),,218418,00.html
  • Truini, Joseph. "Build a Colonial-Style Storage Shed." Popular Mechanics, June 2002. (Accessed February 24, 2009)