How to build a storage shed

Shed building basics: A floor, four walls, a roof and a door

What’s the easiest way to build a storage shed? In Upstate NY, all you have to do is pick up the phone and order one, complete with paint, from the local Amish or Mennonite builders. That doesn’t really qualify as a Do It Yourself project, though, does it?

For many aspiring carpenters, erecting a new storage building makes a fine journeyman assignment. All you need are good basic skills and tools, a simple set of plans, and some commonly available materials. With a helper, one weather-friendly weekend should provide plenty of time to put together your new outbuilding.

This page offers tips and tricks for buidling a storage shed. If you have questions, you can ask them here, too.


Step 1

Pick a place, size and budget

Before you can build, you have to choose a good spot for your new storage shed. Your choice may dictate the size and budget. The two are closely related. You can get a good idea of how much you might spend by looking at ready-built sheds. When you build your own it should cost less, of course.

Step 2

Buy or make your building plans

Storage shed design isn’t rocket science. More space for your money is key. Choose from gable, gambrel, hip-roof, or salt-box styles. Use plans from the lumber yard, the Internet, or your own imagination.

Step 3

Apply for a Permit, if needed

Your local zoning board may require a Building Permit. Don’t try to sneak your shed past them; sooner or later you’ll get caught. Take your plans in and pay the fee. You’ll avoid problems later, and discover any construction issues before you hammer a single nail home.

Step 4

List and buy your materials

Using your shed plans and some scratch paper, make a list of all the materials you’ll need. This is called «doing a take-off.» Wander off to the lumberyard or make some phone calls to re-check your project budget. Adjust as needed. Don’t be afraid to pay extra for an on-site delivery.

Step 5

Build a sturdy and level floor

Your might form and pour a concrete floor, or choose instead to use pressure-treated floor joists and plywood. Strong, square and level are the key goals. Get the floor right, and the rest of the job will be easier.

Step 6

Build your walls, flat, on top of the floor

Your floor makes an ideal work surface. Frame-up your walls with top and bottom plates and studs cut to your plan dimensions. Once framed, cover each wall with plywood (or similar sheathing) and stand them in place one after the other. Start with the largest walls first. Secure wall plates to the floor perimeter with nails or bolts (for concrete). Use corner-bracing to hold the walls perfectly plumb.

Step 7

Optional: Build your door(s) and pre-install them

Typical «barn-style» shed doors can be built at this stage and installed while your entry wall is flat on the floor. This fascilitates hardware installation and makes measuring easier. Prehung or roller-doors should be installed after the walls are secured, during the trim phase.

Step 8

Match and secure all four corners

Once all your walls are upright, carefully match-up each corner. Adjust earlier bracing as needed for square, level, and plumb. Nail or screw your corners together, remove bracing, and add a second top-plate, if desired, for strength.

Step 9

Add gable ends, ridge, and rafters

If your storage shed uses gable ends (the triangles below the rafter peak), build them on the floor, too, and lift them in place. Connect two gable ends with a strong ridge board for rafter construction, or with a tight stringline for truss designs. Use spare boards to brace gables perfectly plumb. Add rafters (be sure to trial-fit first) or trusses. 16″ centers are best, but 24″ centers are often acceptable. Brace trusses with scrap wood.

Step 10

Be square or beware: Roof plywood is next

Align your first sheets of plywood with your shed’s ridge (or the trusses’ peaks). Allow a small overhang on each gable end. Use the true-square of the plywood to tweak your gables and rafters into alignment. Once your roof is square, install sub-fascia or trim fascia boards (per plan). Use spacers if recommended, and add any lower row(s) of plywood. Overlap the outer edge of the fascia by about one inch.

Step 11

Add paper, drip-edge, and shingles

Follow the instructions on the shingle package for level-1 roofing installation. If you are using other roofing materials like cedar or metal, read and follow installation instructions for those. Consider adding roof ventilation, especially in hotter climates and/or if your storage building will be heated. The TexAir Company offers ready-made solutions, exhaust pipe for ventilation, supply ducts with varying cross sections.

Step 12

Gimme some trim!

With all the harsh nailing complete, it’s time for trim boards and siding, if desired. Add corner-boards, soffits and cove for overhangs, gable trim and finish fascia boards. Trim-out your door opening and install the door at this point (if you haven’t already). Any planned windows can now be inserted, too. Add siding and/or paint after trim.

Step 13

Optional: Add an entry ramp

To provide easy access, you may want to add a ramp leading to your shed doors. For heavy equipment like garden tractors, use solid construction or stone build-up. If your building is only a few inches above grade, you can use simple pavers instead.

Step 14

Add shelving, wiring and lights, and a weathervane

With your buidling weatherproof, you have time to carefully consider shelf construction and other storage-organizing steps. If possible, run UF (direct-burial) wiring to your new shed for lighting and power. Add flower boxes, weathervane, plant hangers, and other deocorative items as desired.

You will Need
• Plans
• Floor joists
• Plywood for floor, walls, roof
• Studs and plates for walls
• Rafters or trusses
• Fasteners
• Shingles or metal roof panels
• Trim and door framing
• Door hardware
• Paint, stain, or siding
• Window optional
• Weathervane?

Tips & Warnings
• Build the largest shed you can afford
• Build the best foundation you can handle
• Consider adding ventilation or windows
• Don’t skimp on door hardware
• Get a Permit!
• Remember to budget for shelving
• Paint or stain your walls ASAP
• For T 1-11, be sure to seal endgrain


Comment: 10
    Start  04.12.2015 14:10

    Thanks, Lizzy. As with your guide, it always helps when you speak from experience. All modesty aside, I’ve built things far more complicated than a storage shed, so this one was just plain fun. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the great advice you posted in your How To Guide.

    Kaley  22.12.2015 10:46

    Great guide, Jim! I’m no builder, but this guide is very comprehensive and easy to follow.

    Verity  04.01.2016 22:02

    Thanks so much, Kathleen. Raymond helped me find some of these, including a couple of his own pics. To me, pics make the guide — I’m a «visual» person thru and thru. Thanks for dropping in!

    Baskerville  12.01.2016 11:01

    This is a wonderful how-to guide, Jim. Especially love the photos!

    Blick  04.02.2016 09:39

    Wonderful job, Jim. You really are a pro and not just at making great how-to guides.

    Taplin  22.02.2016 20:55

    Thanks, Raymond. Some of my earliest carpentry projects were sheds. I even have 20-year-old pictures here somewhere. To answer your submitted question (since Answer It doesn’t work) — you can use a floating slab (expensive), deep gravel bed, or solid-block piers for smaller sheds. This last provides an air space, and is very reasonably priced.

    Saulter  07.03.2016 18:55

    This is a very good guide Jim! It offers logical instruction, well-chosen articles, great pics, and the overall look is professional. GREAT job!

    Copping  20.03.2016 00:03

    Lots of detail, great job!

    Fare  05.04.2016 05:28

    Thanks for your feedback, Raven! I’m so pleased with the pics I found via Flickr, they really add something creative to a zone page like this.

    Spray  14.04.2016 02:37

    Nicely done! Very up-beat and practical. I like how the photos you chose show that sheds can be beautiful as well as useful.

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