How to build a shed - a DIY guide

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Ten tips to help you build the perfect shed - DIY or hire a service provider

Let’s face it, in this new normal; sometimes it’s hard to catch a break. Backyard dwellings are all the rage right now. Homeowners are expanding their space in creative ways that bring them the solitude they often need. 

Tips to help you build the perfect shed, DIY or hire a service provider

Step 1: Make sure you can build a shed

Before you build anything on your property, you need to get permission. Head to the local building department and obtain a building permit. While you’re at it, you should check to see if you need approval from the inland wetlands commission, health department, and the zoning board. In many towns, the building department might ask you to get all of those permissions first before they grant a building permit.

Want to get approved faster? Be sure you include your shed plans. You can draw up the plans yourself, have your service provider draw up plans, or buy a plan online.

Next, the building inspector will review all of your plans, make sure your structure meets ALL the requirements, both local and national building codes.

Don’t worry if you get a code violation the first time around; the building inspector will tell you how to fix it, and then you can resubmit.

Step 2: Where will the shed go?

It’s time to find the exact spot to place your shed. We’re going to help you find the spot because if you pick the wrong spot, you will have a useless shack that has to be removed.

Stay away from the bottom of a hill or incline or where ever water tends to collect. You don’t want extra moisture when it comes to any wood structure. You’ll find your wood will rot; hinges will rust, the paint will blister. Not to mention, you don’t want a flooded shed.

Keep it in the sunshine. You don’t want to build your shed where there is a lot of tree cover. You want to stick to a spot with the right amount of sunshine and airflow. You will also want to avoid overhead trees where branches could fall; pine needles could shower your shed roof.

Follow all of the required setback distances. The building inspector you work with will tell you how far away your shed needs to be from all sides of your property. This is called “setback distances,” They vary greatly from town to town, so even if you’ve built something in your backyard one city over, it doesn’t mean you can follow the same standards.

inside of a shed crafting studio

Step 3: Get the right tools if you are DIYing it.

If you are a regular DIY-er, you probably have most of this on hand. If not, well, get ready to build your tool collection!

Here is what you'll need (important tools to have on hand)

  1. Drill V20 Cordless Drill/Driver
  2. 20V MAX Impact Driver PORTER-CABLE
  3. DEWALT Table Saw for Jobsite, Compact, 8-1/4-Inch (DWE7485)
  4. 7-inch Speed Square Layout Tool SWANSON TOOL Safety glassesCleanTop Particulate RespiratorCleanTop Particulate Respirator
  5. 15-Amp Circular Saw Skil
  6. Compound Miter Saw

If you want to build a shed, it’ll require a full assortment of carpentry tools and power tools. You want to line up all of the tools you need so you don’t get a quarter way through, and all of a sudden realize you don’t have a drill, and whoever is helping you just has to stand there, on a ladder, holding up the thing you need to drill while you run to Home Depot for curbside pickup.

The basics:

  1. Hammer
  2. Tape measure
  3. Framing Square
  4. Combination square
  5. 2 foot and 4ft level
  6. Chalk reel
  7. Handsaw
  8. Flat pry bar
  9. Toolbelt

Power tools:

  1. Cordless drill
  2. Impact driver
  3. Extra battery so you don’t have to recharge as often
  4. Jobsite table saw/Circular saw
  5. Miter saw

Safety first!

  1. Safety glasses
  2. Gloves
  3. Mask
  4. Construction helmet

Step 4: Strong foundation

If you build anything on a weak foundation, it’s bound to fail at some point. Often, sheds can be supported by an on-grade foundation, which means concrete blocks or pressure-treated wood that sets into the ground. The blocks will have to be level and placed close to the floor of the shed. You’ll need to set them on a 4-inch deep bed of compacted gravel. If you have a bigger than 8x10 feet shed, you should rent a plate compactor that will do the work for you.

Pro-tip!

If your shed is bigger than 200 square feet, your building inspector is probably going to make you install a permanent foundation that extends down to the frost line. For this, you are looking at poured concrete piers. You will want to check with your building department to get all of the code requirements and find the frost-line in your area.

Are you building a prefab shed? Make sure you are done building your foundation before the Amazon guy pulls up with it.

Step 5 - Don’t let the floor fall out from under you!

Your sheds floor frame includes the mudsill, floor joists, and the permanent band joists. The frame is going to be close to the ground, so it’s in danger of wood rot and insects. You must build the floor frame out of pressure-treated wood. Never. EVER buy a prefab shed that has a floor frame made with untreated wood. Returning that to Amazon will be a hassle.

For the flooring, you want to use ¾ inch exterior grade plywood. Do not go any thinner than that, and you’ll run into trouble with the joists.

Step 6: The Roof

The most challenging part of building a shed is framing the roof. Why? It requires a lot of exact measurements of angled cuts. To make this a little simpler, our service providers recommend that you assemble the rafters and ceiling joists into roof trusses, which you’ll be able to raise and set on top of the walls. Doing this is quicker and safer than attempting to build the roof frame, one board, at a time.

Talk to a pro!

Step 7 - Doors

You’ll find two types of doors when it comes to sheds; hinged and sliding, and both are great for any kind of shed. Pros of the hinged doors; they take up less room and close more securely. Sliding doors are easier to put in, and they glide out of the way. Just keep in mind, if you go with the sliding door option, you’ll need more wall space.

Step 8: Add a skylight

Adding a skylight to your shed will provide some much needed natural light. Workshop shed has a great DIY tutorial and tips to follow!

Step 9: Electric

Running electric to your shed is a doable but complicated process. We highly recommend hiring an electrician when you do any kind of electrical work. If you want to try DIYing it, we’ll direct you to the great people at This Old House!

Hire an electrician.

Step 10: The interior!

This is where the fun begins! Unless your idea of fun is wood floorboards, which it totally can be, we don’t judge.

For most, the interior is what you’ve been pinning on Pinterest. We’ve been pinning as well if you want more ideas to check out!

You can make your interior anything you want it to be. DIY studio? Reading lounge? Homeschool space? Zoom call away from the family? It’s up to you to make it the space that you need.

Get advice from an interior designer.

Looking for a prefab shed? Here are some you can order to make this project a little easier:

  1. Shed with barn roof
  2. Modern Studio Shed
  3. Barn-style shedarn-style shed
  4. Large wood shed kit
  5. Basic outdoor shed

Are you ready to create a backyard dwelling? Our service providers can help. Reach out and start a conversation to get the ball rolling!

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