The Ultimate Storage Shed Buying Guide
Need some extra storage space, but unsure of how to go about it? Getting yourself a storage shed, otherwise known as an outdoor shed, can help. You'll have more than enough space to store everything that's making your garage or attic overstuffed. Whether it's family memorabilia, auto tools, pool supplies, yard furniture or gardening tools, whatever you need space for, a storage shed can serve the purpose.
However, given the fact that a storage shed is a big investment, which you'll definitely be relying on for a long time, it's important that you make careful considerations before deciding to build one that meets your specific needs. Besides the obvious price and size factors, there are many other factors to consider. Below are some criteria you'll want to consider before deciding on your new shed.
Type of Material
Choosing the type of material that meets your specifics is probably the most important decision you'll make. The prefabricated shed materials used will determine the cost range, strength, maintenance, longevity, quality, and many other factors.
Once you know the answer to what material you want to choose, you'll be able to narrow down your search quicker and make better buying decisions. Let's get started with these options!
1. Metal Sheds: These are the most common sheds you'll see around most neighborhoods. The reason for this is because they are the lowest priced sheds, available in many color options and styles, lightweight, easy to ship or haul, and easy for anyone to assemble. However, assembling this shed type usually involves 100's of screws and can take some time to complete. Two people are recommended for assembly.
Metal sheds are usually made out of galvanized or vinyl coated steel. This extra step in today's manufacturing helps them resist scratches and rusting, unlike the old rusted metal sheds you'll see in older home backyards. Sheet metal sheds require little to no maintenance and they can retain their look and functionality for many years.
The metal is quite thin though and can get dented easily if the members of your household do not take care of the building. Extreme winds or heavy snows can also take their toll on a metal shed and it is always recommended to take extra care in anchoring the shed down.
- They are very affordable
- There are many color options to choose from
- They are lightweight/easy to haul or ship
- Easy assembly for novice builders
- They are galvanized or coated to prevent rust
- Low maintenance
- Some models include vents.
- They need many screws to complete assembly
- They are easily dented
- Susceptible to damage from extreme weather
- Windows and shelving are typically not included
- Flooring is also not included (floor framing kits available).
2. Vinyl Sheds: The next step up from a metal shed in cost and durability will be the vinyl sheds. This shed type keeps the steel framing for the walls and roof truss system while replacing the metal panels and doors with vinyl. The vinyl panels are resistant to all the things metal panels are not!
They are dent resistant, fire retardant, and they will not rust, scratch or peel paint over time. PVC vinyl sheds are heavier than metal sheds, however, they are still light enough for hauling and shipping making them easy to maneuver. The vinyl panels slide in between the steel framing posts rather than being screwed together. So you get to reduce the number of screws used, which makes for an easier assembly, unlike the metal sheds where you utilize a lot of screws. At least two people are recommended for the installation of vinyl sheds.
These vinyl panels, however, are only single layered and fairly lightweight making them slightly better than metal panels but still susceptible to damage in extreme weather situations. Most vinyl sheds are rated for 60 to 115 mph winds and 20 pounds per square foot snow loads on the roof. You'll need to check each specific shed for this rating if the weather in your area may pose a problem. The ratings will be higher for larger sheds and lower for smaller sheds.
- Low to mid-range cost
- Dent resistant
- They will not rust over time
- Single-walled vinyl is lightweight for easy moving
- Faster assembly than metal sheds
- Higher wind and snow load ratings than metal sheds
- Some models include windows and vents
- Some models include molded vinyl floors.
- Single walled vinyl is lightweight
- Vinyl panels susceptible to extreme weather
- Shelving not included
- Flooring not included in some models (foundation framing kits available).
3. Plastic Sheds: If you have the budget and would like to get a shed on the higher end, plastic sheds might be the perfect fit for you. Most plastic sheds are constructed of a double-wall plastic wafer pressed together with steel reinforcements lining the inside. They use a heavy-duty steel frame and steel roof trusses strong enough for small adults to hang from! The trusses can serve as extra overhead storage in most cases. They are heavier than metal and vinyl sheds, so you can expect to move some very heavy boxes.
Plastic sheds usually include a thick plastic floor inside, windows, skylights, vents and lots of shelving to help you get organized. The polycarbonate plastics are impervious to rust, insects, mold, and rot. You are guaranteed to enjoy this shed as they are long-lasting and tend to last for many years and generations. They are super low on maintenance and only require a simple hosing off annually to keep them clean.
Due to the included flooring, you'll be required to install a level foundation base built from concrete or wood decking to give it a flat surface to stand on. Foundation materials are not included. Plastic storage sheds are usually fairly easy to install for most novice DIY builders. Two to three people are recommended for proper installation. Most plastic sheds can withstand some of the toughest weather scenarios you can throw at them. If a heavy-duty plastic shed with steel framing can't hold up to your weather than nothing can outside of a true wood building. We'll discuss wood sheds next.
- Double-walled plastic wafers make them super heavy-duty
- Heavier truss system
- Low maintenance
- Will not rust or rot
- Most include plastic flooring, windows and skylights, and shelving.
- Higher costing
- Concrete or wood foundation required.
4. Wood Sheds: Unless you opt to buy lumber locally, measure, and cut all of it yourself, wood sheds usually fall around the same price as plastic sheds in the same size, or slightly higher depending on the brand and quality. You can find cheaper wood sheds built from 2x3 studs, but if you want the kind of strong durability you get from your home, you'll want to buy a 2x4 stud shed.
There are lots of companies now that prefabricate wood shed kits that are all pre-cut, boxed, and delivered to your home ready for you to do the DIY assembly. These can be assembled by most novice builders but there is a slight increase in skill level needed since the installers will be hammering a lot of nails. Two to three people are recommended for efficient assembly.
Wood sheds will give you the most durable building on the market capable of standing up to even the worst weather areas. They also give you more customization options using home windows and doors. With a wood shed, you can paint it in any color you desire, use any shingles (match your home for a professional look), add custom shelving built into the walls, turn it into a garage, man cave or she-shed - your options are really limitless with a wooden shed!
You'll be able to choose from any size and style you can imagine. Choose a barn style shed or pick from many more modern designs. You will, however, have to do a little maintenance. Paint does not last forever and you'll need to re-paint the shed every 3-10 years depending on the quality of paint used and your personal preference. You'll also need to spray insect repellents around the base of your building, specifically for termites prevention. A foundation base of concrete or treated wood decking is also required to build a wood shed correctly. These materials are usually not included.
- Customizable to your exact needs with real home windows and doors
- Withstands even the toughest snow and wind weather areas
- Can be made into a man-cave or she-shed
- Can match your home's color and shingles for a professional look
- Pre-cut kits available (no cutting required)
- Shelving can be built into the walls
- It can last for generations if properly cared for.
- High cost
- Concrete or wood foundation required
- Needs painting every 3-10 years
- Susceptible to insect damage
- Termite treatments recommended
- Requires a higher skill level to assemble.
Note: Before you decide on the type of storage shed material you want, ensure that it meets your area's requirements, including building codes, zoning laws, and homeowner's association covenants. This is because there are areas that do not allow some specific types of sheds. Follow your codes and covenants to avoid problems later and keep your neighbors happy!
Also, your region may require you to obtain a building permit and allow inspections of the area where the shed is to be constructed prior to your building. You'll want to make sure you have any needed permits before you make any purchases. Read our Shed Permit Guide for more detailed information on what you need to know about permitting. You should also be wary of your area's restriction on shed size, the distance between your shed and property, the type of foundation you need, etc.
Finding the Right Size
Storage sheds come in many different sizes from small storage boxes and small sheds to giant barns and garages. The most common size shed is 10x12. However, this size won't work for everyone of course and you'll need to find the perfect size for your needs. Below are some general descriptions that can help you understand the size to look for.
Small Sheds: Outdoor sheds are considered to be small when they are generally 60 square feet and below. These sizes range from the smallest sheds around 4x4 to 8x8. Sheds in this category are great for storing push mowers, trash cans or garden, and lawn supplies.
Medium Sheds: Storage units in this category are usually between 70 to 100 square feet. These sizes range from around 8x10 to up to 10x12. If you want a shed where you can store larger garden equipment such as snow blowers, riding mowers, and other bulky equipment, this might be the best shed size for you.
Large Sheds: Sheds in this category fall between 110 to 180 square feet in size. These sizes range from around 10x14 to 12x16. They are perfect for really large equipment, tractors, recreational vehicles, ATVs, and much more. You can really utilize this size for all of your overflow storage needs that don't fit in your home.
Extra Large Sheds: Sheds in this category usually start around 190 square feet and can be built much larger. The largest size in our store is 1200 square feet. These sizes range from 12x10 to up to 30x40. You'll want an extra-large size if you are really in need of a garage or a workshop. With an extra-large shed, you'll have room to store anything you want, even cars!
Note: Always ensure that your shed's door opening can easily accommodate the largest equipment, vehicle, or item you intend to store. Also, ensure that you add about 25% or more space than you need. This can come in handy in the future and it also allows you enough room to access everything in the shed.
Not all sheds come with flooring. This is a factor you need to keep in mind if not having a floor may damage your items. Certain sheds allow floor kits, thereby allowing you to create your own floor. Also, there are sheds that allow you to add expansion kits to them. This allows you to get more storage space just in case your initial space isn't enough. If you think your storage needs might expand over time buy a shed that can be expanded later.
Whether you intend to use your outdoor shed as a storage shed, playhouse, man-cave, she-shed, workshop or office, it's appearance is one important consideration you can't overlook. This is because the appearance of your storage unit can have an effect on your property's appearance. Since you most likely intend to make your home look exceptional, the ideal storage shed should complement your home's natural design.
For instance, if your home has arched windows, you can replicate the design on your shed's window too. If your home is white, it may look better to have a white shed. Or if your home has a country-house look, a shed with a rustic design or a barn style shed would compliment it quite well. Keep it in mind that your new shed should blend with its surroundings in order to improve the look of your yard.
Flooring and Foundation
As we noted earlier, not all storage sheds come with a floor. Most wood sheds are designed with optional standard framed, plywood floors. Metal and vinyl sheds, on the other hand, do not normally come with floors. Instead, their flooring is sold separately by way of a floor framing kit or foundation framing kit.
You can either choose to create your own floor or purchase the kit made by the shed's manufacturer. Most plastic sheds will already include a non-slip plastic flooring inside. For those that include floors, you can expect to build a foundation of concrete or wood under the floor for support.
Whether your shed comes with a floor or not, getting the best foundation is really important. You need to ensure that the foundation on which you're installing your shed is solid, leveled, and well-built. It should also be built to raise the storage unit off the wet ground and soil.
Shed foundations can be done with different materials, including concrete slabs, concrete paver blocks, wood timbers, or compacted gravel. It's important that you create a well-draining and elevated foundation following the owner's manual guide of your particular shed to help prevent corrosion and rot of the shed materials.
Professional Installation or Do-It-Yourself (DIY)?
This depends on how much time you have, how handy you are, and how much you would like to spend. If you are capable and you wish to save yourself some money, you can purchase a shed kit and assemble it yourself with the help of a friend or family member (most sheds require 2 people to assemble).
Prefab sheds come with simplified instruction manuals that would be easily understood by any novice builder. Anyone with household tools can assemble the smallest metal shed up to the largest wood shed with a little bit of patience and a friend.
However, if your health dictates that a shed project might not be suitable for you or you're very busy and don't have time for it or you just don't enjoy assembly projects, there are professional installers in every area. Most people will buy a shed online and have it delivered to their home then search locally for a builder or handyman that can come and do the installation.
Be sure to negotiate your total cost with them before accepting the bid. Go through the instruction manual and make sure there will be no surprises. For instance, your shed might require the building of a wood-framed foundation under it prior to assembling the shed. You don't want the shed installer to come out unprepared for that step then surprise you with a huge bill you did not anticipate.
We also want to make a special note here about hiring someone to build your shed for you. Let's be honest, nobody cares about your things as much as you do. In our experience since 2006, we've seen a lot of assembly issues and believe it or not, most of them happen when someone hires someone else to build their shed.
Installers sometimes don't take care and install things wrong and then blame the product. If you can install your shed yourself, this will usually give you the best end result. If you must hire a professional installer, make sure they are just that, a professional. Don't go cheap on this, you may regret it later.
Building A Shed
This section is for those who would like to build their sheds themselves. Plastic and vinyl sheds are typically the easiest shed type to build. However, that doesn't mean you can't build a wood or metal storage building yourself.
Once you've made your design and type decision, carefully follow the assembly manual provided by the manufacturer. Below are some tips that will help you get the ideal building:
- Ensure that the area you choose to install your shed has a good water drainage setup.
- Choose a level area or an area that can easily be leveled when constructing your shed. A level surface is required and without it, your shed can become a nightmare to assemble.
- If excavation is required, before you begin excavating the site, call 811 to help you check for underground utilities.
- Sheds stand to gain a lot from a good foundation. Therefore, ensure that your shed's foundation is built following the instruction manual and perfect for the area where you want to install it.
- Get all the necessary parts you need before you start assembling or building your shed.
- You may need an extra pair of hands when building a large shed. You'll need help with heavy lifting as well as help holding walls and trusses up during assembly.
- Check local codes and covenants and make sure you have all the needed permits and approvals checked off your list prior to ordering a shed.
We hope that you've found this information informative and all your questions have been answered. If you have more questions about selecting your new shed or you need some other assistance, our expert staff is available 7 days a week to serve you by phone at 1-877-30-SHEDS, email or live chat. We love helping our customers find the perfect storage shed to meet their needs while maximizing their savings. Let us help you next! Thank you for your business and support.