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Building Your Own Shed: 6 Tips for a Successful Project

Rob Matthews

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One of the few good things about going through tough economic times is learning that you're more capable than you thought of doing, learning, and building things ourselves. One of the most common home DIY projects is construction of an outside shed. Homeowners like having an outbuilding to store tools and equipment. A shed is usually a one-room structure with a concrete floor, a door, and possibly a window. You may look at a shed and think, Why can't I build something like that?"

The fact is, you most likely can build a shed yourself. Now, there are pre-fab shed kits available, but honestly, if you have enough money for one of them, you probably could get a low cost set of wood shed plans, buy materials, and hire a contractor to put it together for you. Take it one step further: obtain wood shed plans, buy materials, and put the shed together for yourself, and you can not only get a custom outbuilding, you can save a lot of money over the cost of pre-fab kits and contractor built sheds. Here are 6 tips for building your own shed.

1. Get good plans.

Without a good set of plans, it will be difficult to impossible to build a quality wood shed that you'll be comfortable storing your valuable tools and equipment in. Fortunately, with the internet, it is easy to find shed plans free. You can find shed plans free for just about any size and style shed you can imagine. There are also plenty of free plans for other types of outbuildings that might work as a shed for your needs. Chicken coops, for example, minus the laying boxes, can make nice, small sheds for simple storage of bicycles, lawn mowers, and wheelbarrows that don't require much vertical height.

2. Site your shed carefully.

Ideally, you should have at least two or three feet between the perimeter of your shed and any trees, fences, or walls to allow for adequate airflow and help prevent moisture problems. Over time, excess moisture can warp floors and doors and corrode hinges. To ensure adequate airflow, the lowest wood member should be at least 6 inches above the ground to allow air to circulate under the shed too. Another advantage of the two to three foot margin around all sides of your sheds is that it will be much easier for you to access when you need to make repairs or repaint.

3. Buy high quality materials.

Use pressure treated materials to build your shed's foundation. The foundation and the roof should account for the lion's share of your materials costs because they'll take the most beating over the years. While it's OK to economize on some things - like getting your shed plans free - you shouldn't skimp on the building materials for the floor frame, the plywood floor deck, or the roof.

4. Take the time to make a good foundation.

For a backyard shed, a foundation built right on the ground is sufficient. You shouldn't have to pour concrete footings or piers. You can use pressure-treated lumber or solid concrete blocks. A skid foundation is the most common type of foundation used in this type project. Use pressure treated material. The basic concept is simple: two long, straight timbers, or skids are laid parallel, evenly spaced. The floor frame is built on the skids.

Skid foundations are easy to build, and are usually made of pressure treated 4x6s, 6x6s, 8x8s. It's best to lay the skids on a bed of gravel. If you use a bed of gravel, compact it with a hand tamper or a gas-powered plate compactor before placing the skids.

5. Build time into your schedule.

Write shed time" into your schedule just as you would a doctor's appointment. Your biggest enemy in DIY shed building is not lack of skill or ability, but lack of making the time in your schedule for working on your shed. Whether that's a few days off work blocked off, or a few hours blocked off over a few weeks doesn't really matter, as long as you stick with it.

6. Weatherproof to protect your investment.

To keep your backyard shed looking great and to help it last, use a wood finishing product like stain, outdoor paint, or sealer. These products protect wood from water, sun, and insect damage. Wood sealer blocks the wood's pores, but allows the wood to weather and fade naturally. Stain penetrates wood, but does not trap moisture and hence does not blister or peel. Stain will have to be reapplied every other year. Exterior paint protects the wood and comes in any color you want. Your shed must be sanded and primed before applying it.

Stains and sealers can be applied with a spray gun, pad, brush, or roller. Use two coats to ensure the maximum protection for your shed.

Building a backyard shed can be an exercise in self-sufficiency, and can be done very economically if you start by obtaining your shed plans free, purchase the materials, and do the construction yourself. Wood shed plans are available in countless designs to suit every need and taste. And if you can find your way around a lumberyard and hardware store and follow the wood shed plans, you can create something useful that you will be proud of.

// Rob Matthews is a webmaster for where you can learn more information on how to build a shed or make an equipment shed .


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