The Perfect Fit: Choosing the Right Shed Plan

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Sheds are becoming more and more popular, whether used to stow away lawn mowers and gardening tools or simply to offer some extra household storage. Sheds are being constructed to house home studios and hobby shops as well as home offices.

One of the most important steps in building your shed is to choose the right plan to fit your needs, budget, and property, says Dave Malcolm owner of Regardless of your shed’s intended use, any plan you settle on should have the following features:

  • Step-by-step instructions. No matter your skill level, the instructions accompanying the plan should be clear enough for anyone to understand, even without prior construction experience. Look for cross-section diagrams that track with the step-by-step directions as well as multi-angle depictions of the shed upon completion.
  • Comprehensive material and cutting lists. Look for a plan that includes detailed material and cutting lists. You’ll appreciate having a labeled materials list that tells you exactly how many of each piece you will need when you go to buy your lumber, hardware, roofing and other supplies. You’ll also be glad you didn’t end up running short of lumber because you wasted pieces by cutting something too short.

With those two stipulations in mind, here are the questions you should ask yourself before settling on a plan for your new backyard shed:

1.  How will you use your shed?

The way you plan to use your shed will obviously play a big role in selecting the right plan. It will help you determine not only what size your shed should be, but also what type of lighting, ventilation and roof clearance you may need. If you are going to use your shed for a hobby or office, you will need to consider sources of artificial and natural light, for example. You’ll also need to consider ventilation, cooling, electrical and heating needs, depending on your climate and how much time you plan to spend inside the shed.

If you’re simply using the shed for storage, then lighting and ventilation may be much less an issue. Windows can impact the amount of shelving space, while skylights won’t. You’ll have to consider whether you will need overhead storage, shelving or special flooring. How you plan to use your shed will also determine what type of doors you need as well as their placement.

2. What size should your shed be?

There are many factors that figure into the size of shed you need, including function, budget, and property restrictions.  If you’re using it for some type of storage, estimate the amount of space necessary to address your current needs, then add an additional 25 percent for future requirements. In addition to length and width, height is important if you plan to spend time inside your shed.

3.  Are there city or neighborhood restrictions?

Some communities and neighborhoods have covenants or restrictions that could impact the type of shed you can build, as well as the size. This is also a good time to investigate what building permits you may need from the city and whether you need to submit your plans to your neighborhood home owner’s association for approval.

4.  What type of foundation do you want?

It’s important to know what type of foundation you want before you choose a plan. You have a number of options, from gravel to concrete. Decide on the size of your shed first, since larger, heavier sheds will need a stronger foundation. Some shed plans will include instructions on building a foundation. If yours does not, you’ll need to do some research ahead of time. No matter the foundation, choose a level spot and avoid low-lying areas that may cause drainage problems.

5. What kind of roof is needed?

Choose a plan with roofing materials that are well-suited to your area’s climate, whether sun’s heat, soaking rains or snow and ice. Avoiding leaks may be a higher priority if you are storing household items versus lawncare tools, and an even greater priority if you are using your shed for your favorite hobby or as an office. Research the cost of roofing materials as well, but keep in mind it may be worth spending a bit more to avoid a leaky shed.

6. How challenging is it to build?

Plans vary greatly in their degree of difficulty. Some plans take no prior knowledge or experience to successfully complete the structure. Other plans are considerably more complex and require more technical knowledge. If your desired shed features and design outpace your carpentry skills, consider seeking advice or help from a professional. It’s important that your shed be sturdy enough to withstand years of weather as well as use.

7. What style do you envision?

As backyard sheds have grown in popularity, so have the number of available designs. From the simplest toolshed to elaborate units with overhead storage, skylights and double doors, shed designs come in an array of styles to fit a variety of needs and budgets. Have a vision of what you want your shed to look like when complete before settling on a plan. Of course, your budget and shed’s function will play a big role in determining the style.

8. What is your budget?

As you consider all the features you may want to include in your shed plan, it can be easy to lose sight of your budget. Comparing material lists among plans you are considering will help you see how various features can impact your budget. You may find you need to prioritize desired features and forgo those that are not necessary.

When deciding on a shed plan, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. A well-designed shed can enhance your property value while offering years of convenience and use. Look for a detailed plan with plenty of visuals to help guide you through the construction process. Keep the final vision in mind and don’t hesitate to enlist the help of an expert for best results.