How to build a storage shed
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.