Building a Shed - Ten Questions You Need to Answer Before You Start

Before you start building a shed, take the time answer these Ten shed-planning questions. After all, a little preparation can save a lot of time and trouble. Having a clear picture of what you want your shed to accomplish will make construction much easier and ensure that you are building a shed that fits your needs.

The first five questions assess general shed building planning, it is only once you have answered them that you should move on to the details of design and construction.

1. Have you checked local council and community restrictions?

Many local councils have clear restrictions on the construction of outbuildings and sheds. Building a shed or a permanent garden structure can require building regulations and planning permissions. If you plan on connecting water pipes or wiring your shed for electrics, you will need planning permission and building inspections.

Temporary structures, such as sheds, are still subject to various regulations. Research your local council's guidelines on sheds. Sheds must often be placed at a certain distance from neighboring property lines and may not exceed certain height limitations.

Community or neighborhood covenants may also restrict the placement of the shed. Often such covenants state that sheds should not be visible from the road or that sheds must be built behind the house or placed behind a fence.

If you live in a hurricane or tornado prone area, your shed construction guidelines may contain more stringent building regulations, such as clear standards for the number of more nails per inch in roof beams and the use of metal fasteners.

Taking the time to check your local council and neighborhood guidelines can save a lot of trouble in the long run.

2. How much time and energy can you devote to your shed project?

How quickly do you want your shed built and assembled? How much time do you have to devote to your project? What sort of difficulty level do you feel comfortable with? How much money are you willing to invest in your shed? Answering these questions can help you assess what type of shed structure is right for you.

If you don't have the time nor the inclination to start from scratch, then there are plenty of pre-fabricated shed options available.

Building a shed can be a lot of fun, and it can be made even more enjoyable if you have a few eager friends who are willing to contribute a helping hand. That extra pair of hands may be particularly helpful when you are dealing with cumbersome materials, hefting a lot of weight, and need someone to steady awkward pieces. As the saying goes, "Many hands make light work." If you know someone who has a lot of construction experience, they can offer invaluable insights and assistance.

3. Have you carefully assessed your shed location options?

After viewing the council and community guidelines, have you decided where you plan to build your shed?

When building a shed location is important, think about the shed's function. Will you often need to get equipment in and out of the space? Are there clear pathways to and from the shed? If your shed is housing pool toys or firewood, is it in the most convenient location?

Could nearby trees unsettle the foundation? And remember, even small trees may grow into a big problem.

Are there low power lines that could make construction difficult or dangerous?

Have you found an area of the garden that is level or can be made level?

Consider if it important to you that your shed blends in with existing garden areas or are you primarily concerned about the functional aspects? How much of your garden are you willing to devote to the shed? If you don't have much space to allot to a shed, consider a lean-to style that can attach to the garage or house, or a corner shed that can fit against a fence.

4. How do you plan to use the shed? Determine the purpose and function.

Sheds come in many shapes and sizes. Having a clear picture of how your shed will function makes it easier to determine a suitable size and shape.

Are you building a shed to store things that are not suitable for the house, such as pesticides, chemicals, and fertilizers?

Is your shed primarily going to be an overflow storage area for the things that no longer fit in the garage, such as bikes, grills, and seasonal toys?

Do you plan to work in the shed? Will your shed need to have a ceiling height that can comfortably accommodate you and space for a worktable or storage shelves?

If you plan to store things that are unusually long or wide, you may need to consider a custom shed or find a shed with that meets specific length or width measurements. In hurricane regions, sheds are a great place to store hurricane shutters, but shutter panels can be long and may not fit in average sheds. The same may be said for items such as kayaks or building materials such as long timbers. Planning ahead for any special size requirements will ensure that the space functions to its maximum potential.

5. What roof style and roofing material is best for your shed?

Many pre-made sheds come with ready-to-assemble roofs. If you are building a shed of your design, you will need to consider the various options that are available to you.

From single slope roofs to gabled roofs, there are many roof options that may appeal to your tastes and needs. Considering typical wind gusts and snow accumulation in your area may help you determine what roof style is best for your project. Click here to see examples and learn more about shed roof designs.

Once you have settled on a roof style, consider what type of roofing material you will use to cover the roof surface. From clay tiles to corrugated metal to composite shingles, there are many options available. (Click here to learn more about shed roofing materials).

Ready to Start Building....?

Now you should be getting a clearer picture of what sort of shed is best for you, but don't grab your hammer just yet! You should now have a general idea of what style of shed is right for you and how you plan to use it. You've researched local building guidelines and considered if you will build a shed from scratch or if a shed kit is more appropriate. Now let's start thinking about more specific considerations....

6. What sort of base or foundation is best for building a shed on?

Decide whether your shed should be placed on paving slabs, a timber foundation such as sleepers, or a concrete foundation. There are advantages and disadvantages to building a shed on each type of foundation. Weather conditions and shed size may determine what type of foundation is best for your project. Click here to learn more about shed foundations.

Even if you are purchasing a pre-made shed, you may still need to construct a suitable foundation.

This is also a good time to consider if you may want to relocate your shed in the future. If you may want to change the shed location to accommodate a future house extension or patio project, then consider foundations (and structures) that can be more easily moved or dismantled.

7. What type of flooring will you use?

Deciding on the floor covering is often determined by how the space will be used.

Concrete floors are more suitable to spaces that will often store wet equipment and may be exposed to oil or chemicals. Consider if you may occasionally want to hose out the area.

But concrete floors that are not covered can be cold to stand on. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the shed, you may want to consider covering the floor and adding extra insulation.

Garden offices can look terrific with tongue-and-groove wood floors. These floors can give the space a more finished look. It is an attractive option for lower-impact uses.

To learn more about shed flooring click here.

8. What type of door and security do you need?

Consider how often you may move in and out of the shed and what type of door is most appropriate for your needs.

Shed doors often include sliding doors and classic battened door designs.

Double door sheds can be great for moving large equipment in and out of the shed. Click here to learn more about shed doors.

If your shed should be secure, then consider more sturdy door and lock options. Click here to learn more about shed hardware and security.

And if you plan to move lawnmowers or small tractors in and out of the shed, consider constructing a shed ramp.

9. Will you include windows, and how will you finish the walls?

If you are building a shed to be very secure, perhaps you may want to consider fewer or no windows. But if you plan to work in the space, you might want to take advantage of extra ventilation and natural light.

Decide if you will install fixed, sliding, or single- or double-hung windows. If you install fixed windows, the window will allow light into the space, but they will not open. Sliding and single- or double-hung windows can be opened, but they may pose increased security risks.

Consider the local wind direction when planning door and window placement. Wind often comes from one direction so avoid placing windows and doors in the prevailing wind direction, especially if you live in an area with cold weather and snow drifts. Also, if you want to enjoy natural light, think about where the sun rises and sets and the times of day when you will most often be working in the shed.

Think about using recycled windows. Reusing windows when building a shed is a great way to cut down on costs and re-purposing old building materials is a wonderful “green” option.

Since the shed will be in the garden also consider shatterproof glass or plastic options (depending on how many wayward balls you may have in your garden!). If you want increased light, but you worry about prying eyes, obscured-glass windows may be a good choice.

When considering your wall construction, think about using a damp-proof membrane and the appropriate insulation. Also consider if you want the interior walls to have a finished or unfinished look. Think about how you may want your walls to function. Consider adding shelving, hooks, or peg board to maximize the storage and workspace.

10. How will you finish the project?

There can be a lot to consider when building a shed, but don't forget to think about the details. Some of the finishing touches you add to your shed can create a lot of character.

If you have built a wooden shed, consider painting the exterior with a weather-resistant and insect-repellant paint. This can add personality to the shed and an extra layer of protection against rot, mildew, and bugs. Various sealants can also protect your shed, including spray-on and brush-painted options.

A gutter system can be attractive and functional. Think about attaching gutters to carry away water from the foundation. Also consider adding shutters to the windows or interior blinds.

Integrating landscaping to the area around your shed can really add beauty to your garden. Think about using potted plants to avoid roots unsettling your foundation. Decide if you will create a garden area with pathways or a nearby patio area with seating. If you want to hide your shed, consider planting tall shrubs around the structure.

Many trees and shrubs transfer best in the autumn, so the sooner you consider your landscaping plan, the sooner you can get your garden growing!


If you have answered all ten questions, you should have a clear idea about what type of shed is best for your life, your garden, and your needs. So get out your toolbox, head to the hardware store, and start building a shed!

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