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Storage Shed Buying Guide

Storage ShedsWith all of the sizes and styles available, it's easy to be a bit overwhelmed when buying a storage shed.  Sometimes it can even be a challenge to figure out exactly what you might need.  So if you're feeling a little lost, the following guide will help you identify your storage requirements and pick a shed that can satisfy them.

Part 1: Determining the Right Size

Trying to figure out how much storage space you need can be one of the most difficult parts of selecting a storage shed, in part because the amount of things you own isn't going to remain the same.  But that doesn't mean you have to guess at what to buy.  Here's a simple way to get a rough estimate of how big your shed should be:
  1. Decide what you'd like to store. 
  2. Measure each item (at least the large ones) and add up the dimensions.
  3. Add a few feet to those totals in order to allow for new purchases.
  4. Use the new totals to calculate an approximate height, width, and depth for your ideal shed.
There are also a few other things you should consider when determining what size storage building to buy.  The most important one, and one you've probably already thought of, is location.  You need to make sure your shed will fit comfortably into the area you've chosen for it.  An oversized shed can easily make your yard feel cramped and might even make it difficult to access your belongings.

Then there is the matter of interior height.  This dimension is, of course, important because you need to make sure your tall items will fit inside your shed, but it also has a major impact on your comfort.  If the ceiling of your shed is too low you're not going to be very happy working in it.  Your shed's peak should be high enough to allow you to stand up straight without fear of hitting your head.

And, finally, you need to pay attention to the size of a shed's door opening.  Make sure that you pick a shed with an opening big enough to accommodate the largest item you want to store.

Part 2: What Material is Right For Me?

There is no single best shed material.  The one that will be the best choice for you is going to depend on your priorities and personal preferences.  Use the information below to help you determine what kind of building will be most suited to your needs.


If you're interested in a storage building that emphasizes aesthetics, wood may the best choice for you.  It offers a natural beauty that other materials just can't match.  It's also easier to customize since you can paint or stain it to match the rest of your property.

But all of that beauty comes at a price - both literally and figuratively.  Wood sheds are amongst the most expensive outdoor storage structures available.  They're also the most difficult to assemble and require a fair amount of maintenance in order to keep them in good shape.  If you're not willing or able to commit to regular painting, staining, and weather-proofing treatments wood probably isn't going to be a good choice for you.


Plastic sheds are known for their durability.  They're completely waterproof, making them ideal for locations prone to extreme weather, and are extremely resistant to insects and decay.  You really won't find a tougher type of storage building.

Nor will you find one that's more user-friendly.  Available mostly as do-it-yourself kits, these shelters are extremely easy to set up and even easier to maintain.  Most models require only a quick cleaning to keep them looking like new.  The only real downside to buying a plastic shed is the price.  They're often comparable to wood models when it comes to cost, so plastic may not be a practical option for you if you're on a tight budget.


There are actually two type of vinyl shed.  One is made entirely with vinyl and the other is constructed with metal, usually steel, that has been given a vinyl coating.  

Solid vinyl buildings are very similar to plastic sheds.  They offer excellent weather and insect resistance, and are generally designed to withstand a lot of abuse.  They're also easy to assemble and maintain; occasional cleaning and waxing are typically all it will take to keep your shed in good condition.  However, vinyl is still a fairly expensive material so you'll find that these structures cost only slightly less than wood and plastic ones.

Vinyl-coated buildings, though, are a different story.  Because they feature more cost-effective metal frames and only use vinyl on the exterior, this type of shed is much more affordable.  They're not quite as strong as the solid models, but they still provide very good weather protection.  And they're just as simple to set up and maintain.  Many people find that they offer a good balance of economy and durability.


The most appealing aspect of metal sheds is their price.  Because metal is generally less expensive than the other construction materials available, these buildings can often be found for a fraction of the cost.  They aren't as durable as buildings made with wood, plastic, or vinyl, but that doesn't mean that they are flimsy.  A high-quality metal structure can offer reliable weather protection, and most of them can defend against insects and rodents better than ones made of wood.

In terms of ease of use, metal sheds are fairly comparable to plastic and vinyl sheds.  Almost all of them come in convenient kits and are specifically designed to be easy to set up.  The do require a bit more maintenance, but they're still a lot easier to care for than wooden storage buildings.

Part 3: Should I Build My Own Shed or Hire Someone to Build it For Me?

The answer to that question lies in how much work you're willing to personally put into assembling your shed.  If you're more apt to hit your thumb than the nail you're aiming at, hiring someone to get your shed ready to use may be the way to go.  A professional installer will definitely be able to set up your shed more quickly than you would and they'll bring all of the necessary tools.  Your hardest task will be to decide where you'd like your storage building to go.  Be warned, though, that this is going to make a significant impact on your outdoor storage costs.  If you're looking to keep spending to a minimum you're probably going to want to do all of the building yourself.

Fortunately, assembling a storage shed isn't as difficult as it sounds.  There are quite a few do-it-yourself kits specifically designed for the average homeowner.  They don't usually require any complicated construction and can often be assembled in just a couple of days.  Of course, if you've got a challenging installation the amount of money you're saving might not be worth the time and effort you have to spend getting your shed ready to use.  Ultimately, the decision you make about this issue should be based on what you're comfortable with and what you can afford.

Part 4: But What If I Need More Flexibility?

If you've looked at all of the different shed types and none seem to have the versatility you're after, then you may need something other than a traditional storage building.  Instant canopy storage sheds, with their ability to be set up and taken down as necessary, are a good choice for individuals with storage requirements that change regularly.  They're particularly handy for temporary and seasonal work.  Here are a few of the most common types:

Traditional Shed Replacements - This kind of portable shelter is intended to be used in place of a regular shed.  They come in similar sizes to their permanent cousins and can be used for the same kinds of purposes.

Open-Ended Shelters - These structures are geared more towards industrial or farm use.  Their open ends make them ideal run-in shelters for livestock, but you can also use them to store large equipment and supplies.  Most of them are significantly larger than your average shed.

Specialty Storage EnclosuresYou would never confuse these with traditional storage structures because their form is so closely linked to their function.  The overwhelming majority are designed to provide temporary protection for cars and motorcycles.

Part 5: Accessories

Shed AccessoriesThe kind of accessories you'll have to choose from will vary greatly depending upon the type of shed you select, so it's a good idea to consider what extras you might want before purchasing.  Most accessories will fall into one of two basic categories:

1. Decorative - The items in this category are primarily intended to add to the aesthetic value of your shed.  Some of them, like windows and flower boxes, can also serve a practical purpose, but most are purely for display.  Common examples are cupolas, gables, and shutters.  These kinds of options are typically only available for more expensive sheds, such as those made of wood and vinyl.

2. Functional -
All of the accessories in this group are intended to enhance the structure of your shed or its usefulness. It includes items like time-saving anchor and foundation kits, shelving units, and access ramps. Though you won't be able to find each type of accessory for every model, you can find functional add-ons for almost every variety of shed.  Shelving is particularly easy to obtain, since many kits are designed to fit buildings of a specific size, not style.

Part 6: Things to Consider

Now that you know the basics of how to pick a shed, there are a few other things you should keep in mind while you search.

Building Codes and Permits

Before investing in a shed you should check your local building codes regarding outdoor structures.  There may be restrictions about where you can place your storage building as well as what materials it can be made of.  And there's also a good chance that you'll need to get a building permit, particularly if you're interested in providing your building with electricity or plumbing.  If you fail to adhere to local laws your town may force you to relocate your shed or, worse yet, take it down completely.  You should be able to get all of the information you need by contacting your town's municipal building department.


Because a shed is first and foremost a practical purchase, many people fail to consider the impact getting one will have on the value of their property.  However, building even a small storage structure can increase the value of your property so you should be sure to notify your insurance company that you've added one.

Site Preparation

All storage buildings must be placed on a flat, level surface so you're going to have to do some kind of site preparation regardless of what kind you buy.  A shed's installation manual will almost always tell you what kinds of foundations are acceptable.  Below are a few of the most common types.

  1. Crushed Stone Foundation - This base is popular because it is relatively inexpensive and provides good drainage.  A shallow hole, usually one to two feet larger than the shed's footprint, is created and then filled with crushed stone or gravel.  Sometimes a frame is used to hold the stones in place.
  2. Concrete Block Foundation - This is one of the simplest types of shed base.  It uses a combination of concrete blocks and timbers to level a building and keep it off the ground.  Some manufacturers and installers recommend against this type of foundation because the blocks can settle over time and cause the shed to stop being level.
  3. Concrete Pillar Foundation - Also known as a concrete pier foundation, this base uses buried concrete cylinders to elevate your shed above the ground and keep it level.  Some areas actually require a pillar-style foundation so you should check local regulations before investing in any materials.
  4. Concrete Slab Foundation - Often regarded as one of the best kinds of shed base, it's also one of the most expensive and time-consuming to set up.  If you decide to use a concrete slab you're most likely going to need to hire professional to pour it.
  5. Wooden Floor Frame - Many DIY shed kits list a wooden floor frame or platform as an appropriate building base.  Each building's instruction manual will usually provide information about the materials you'll need as well as assembly guidelines.
  6. Pre-Made Kit - Quite a few shed manufacturers also produce ready-made floor or foundation kits. They're usually designed to fit a specific size or brand of building and are quite easy to assemble.  A lot of people who buy pre-fab kits opt to use this kind of foundation simply because it is so convenient.

Read the Manual

Whether you're shopping online or at a store, it's usually possible to obtain a copy of a shed's instruction manual before you purchase it.  Do it!  It may sound tedious, but reading a storage building's manual is the only way you'll be able to learn exactly what will be involved in setting it up as well as what you'll need to do to maintain it.  By looking at it before you buy, you'll ensure there won't be any unpleasant surprises once you get your shed home.

Part 7: Don't Be Afraid

A shed is a major investment, but there's no need for the selection process to make you nervous.  Now that you've got a better idea of how to determine what you need, finding the right storage building can be a stress-free experience.  If only the same could be said about cleaning out your garage or basement.