Pick the right shed for your yard

When it comes to sheds, the possibilities are endless–a humble building just big enough for a lawnmower and a massive, garage-wannabe shed can often be found on the same neighbourhood block. So how do you choose the right shed for you?

The first thing to consider is your shed’s purpose. Is it a place to stash your lawnmower, or do you need to squeeze outdoor furniture, bikes and tools in there, too? Do you only need it for storage, or do you want to transform it into some type of workshop?

Once you have a good idea of how you’ll be using your shed, you have a choice: build your own shed from your own design or buy a pre-fab shed kit.

Pre-fab sheds

Pre-fabricated shed kits are the easiest way to get some extra storage without too much time or hassle. While your options may be limited (most models are gable roofs and pretty small), you will be able to assemble the shed in less than a day. The other advantage of choosing a pre-fab shed over building one yourself is portability; a pre-fab shed can generally be moved around the yard, whereas a DIY shed is generally a more permanent fixture.

How to design a shed

“Since they’re small, sheds are one of the few things that almost any homeowner can afford to lavish first-class care and materials on,“ says Steve Maxwell, Canadian Home Workshop’s technical editor. And while many homeowners may scoff, ‘It’s just a shed,’ quality of design and materials is crucial to building a shed that not only stands the test of time, but also looks at home in your yard: “No matter how well you build it, your shed will still be an eyesore if it looks like something cooked up by Red Green,” Maxwell cautions.

The easiest way to design a shed is by using graph paper and setting a scale. For example, each square can equal one square foot–or something to that effect. Another method is to use software to design your shed. Once you’ve sketched out your plan, use the scale to determine the materials you need; it also wouldn’t hurt to look at books dedicated to building sheds or other buildings, to make sure you are designing the shed with enough structural support for the roof or other features.

Sheds can range in size from tiny to massive, but most backyard sheds will be a medium size, 10’ x 10’ or thereabouts. Once you have a rough idea of what you’ll be using it for, you’ll have a good idea of what kind of building materials you require.

When designing your shed, there are many things to keep in mind. We’ve broken down the myriad choices for you:

Roof style

Given the small size of most sheds, the roof you choose can add more than just panache to your creation.

 

Gable This is the most common type of roof, as it is the easiest to construct. This roof consists of two sloping sides that meet at a peak.

Best for: Storage. Limited headspace makes this a perfect model for organizing equipment and tools against the walls.

 

 

 

Gambrel This popular roof type resembles a barn, with either five or more sloped sides forming a domed roof.

Best for: Mixed use. The addition of a loft doubles the storage capacity or allows more floor space for a work area.

 

 

 

Lean-to This shed type is often built against the side of an existing structure. The roof is simple, consisting of a single side that slopes downwards.

Best for: Storage. Lean-to sheds are often small and don’t leave much room for anything other than parking equipment.

 

 

 

 

Saltbox Much like a gable roof, a saltbox roof consists of two sloping sides. In this case, the sides are uneven in size and pitch, with one side being smaller and at a higher pitch than the other.

Best for: Mixed use. The difference in headspace allows the shed to function as both a storage area and a work area.

 

Foundation

A solid base is important and foundations are another aspect to consider when choosing a shed. The recommended foundation options are concrete blocks, concrete pillars or a poured concrete floor, but depending on the shed, you might be able to take advantage of a wooden floor constructed with floor joists and plywood.

Maxwell’s preferred shed foundation is a mixture of the two options. Construct a frame for your shed with pressure-treated, lap-jointed 6 x 6s (or 8 x 8s for sheds longer than 16’). By setting the frame in a shallow trench half the height of the wooden frame, then filling in the floor area under your plywood flooring with paving bricks tamped into sand, you get a solid floor for your shed that isn’t a permanent (or expensive) feature.

The choice of foundation depends on the size, materials and function of your shed. As always, check local by-laws before starting construction.

Construction materials

Sheds come in almost as many materials as they do designs and all have pros and cons. Before you build, take into consideration what kind of beating your shed will take.

Metal: Metal sheds are made from metal sheathing attached to a metal frame. Common metals are galvanized steel, aluminium and corrugated iron.

Pros: Resistant to rot, fire, termites and last a long time

Cons: Rust; can be easily dented or damaged by snow and ice.

Plastic: Plastic sheds are made of molded plastics like PVC and polyethylene.

Pros: Generally cheaper than metal; stronger, lighter and more durable than wood. Do not dent, rot or fall prey to termites.

Cons: Not a renewable resource; don’t blend well into a backyard; can be expensive, depending on the kit.

Wood: Wooden sheds are made from wood, such as cedar, and are a DIY favourite.

Pros: Renewable resource; easy to work with; easy to modify finished shed.

Cons: Requires lots of maintenance, susceptible to rot, warping, splitting, mould, mildew and termites. Cedar is considered the best wood for outdoor use as it naturally resists many of these problems.

Vinyl: Vinyl sheds are constructed from wood framing, OSB board and vinyl siding.

Pros: Never needs to be painted; stronger than plastic and metal.

Cons: Must meet local building codes; most expensive shed type; not eco-friendly.

Whether you choose to build your own or bring home a pre-fab kit, choosing the right shed can make a world of difference in your yard. Once all the backyard paraphernalia is organized and tucked away in your new shed, you’ll finally have room out there for all the outdoor projects you’ve been dying to start.

Shed photo courtesy of Home Depot


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