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Building an Outdoor Storage Shed

By Edited May 28, 2015 5 7

If you are a homeowner, you have probably encountered the situation where you eventually run out of storage space, particularly if you do not have a basement in your home.

Perhaps your garage is filled with lawn equipment or other things you have accumulated over the years, and you cannot even get your car inside.

One option to alleviate the clutter and to get organized is to buy or build a storage shed. 

Different Types of Outdoor Sheds

There are many different types of outdoor storage buildings made with various types of materials, some more durable than others. All of the home improvement big box stores have pre-built shed kits that you can purchase. I say pre-built meaning, everything you need to build that model is included in what you buy, but you have to build it yourself, or pay extra to have someone come build it for you on your property.

However, pre-built shed kits are more expensive than buying the separate materials needed to build your own shed. Additionally, many of the complete storage shed kits you can buy online or at Home Depot or Lowes, don’t include a base that the shed will sit on.

So when determining which route to go, you have to remember that in addition to paying roughly $800 to $1000 for an 8x8 wooden storage shed, you are probably going to need an additional $200 to buy lumber, gravel and cement blocks to build the base.

You can buy sheds less than that, however, if you look at the fine print, or even better, go look at it already built in the parking lot, they cut corners on the type of wood they use. So for instance, in a typical 8x8 model, they use 2 x 3s for the wall studs instead of 2 x 4s. I am not sure why they would do that because there is not a huge cost difference there.

Typically they also use thin OSB board for the walls. There are also the cheaper galvanized steel versions for $500, however, these are not very sturdy in my opinion.

My Personal Building Experience

Several years ago, I was faced with this exact choice. I had built a deck the year before, and I wanted to tackle a storage shed to give more space for all of my outdoor equipment. I looked around at some of the sheds in home improvement lots and I noticed that a lot of them were made with some of the cheaper types of wood.

So I started to price how much it would cost to buy the materials on my own and build it myself. At the very least, I thought I could match the prices I was seeing on the pre-built kits, but use better materials and more bells and whistles to make it look better.

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Drawing the Plans

The first step was to decide how big of a shed I wanted. I decided on a 10 x 10 shed so I drew plans on a sheet of notebook paper for the shed and the base. I estimated the type of wood sizes I would need, then looked at the price of lumber at Lowes. 

I estimated that I would need about $900 worth of wood. Keep in mind this is for a 10x10 shed, not an 8x8 shed. The 8x8’s were running anywhere from $800 to $1500 as a pre-built kit.

Next, I purchased a book on Amazon.com about building sheds. This particular book was not a step-by-step guide with blueprints, but it did give some good ideas on style.

So then came the moment of truth. Was I actually going to do this or not?

I went all in.

Buying the Materials

I went to Lowes and ordered all of the building material that I had estimated from my plans and scheduled delivery within a few days. The delivery for most home improvement stores is around $100.[1]

Also, an added benefit to paying for delivery is that they will gather all of the lumber for you, rather than you going through the store with one of those carts picking up 20 – 7-ft 2 x 4s and multiple 4 x 8 sheets of plywood. You simply go into the store, give them your materials list, pay for it and wait for it to be delivered.

The lumber arrived in a big pack wrapped in wire ties. It took an hour to sort it all out, but I begin to build the 10 x 10 base immediately.

Building the Base

How to build a base for a storage shed
Credit: mjpyro

This is one of the most important things about building a shed so take your time and plan it out. If you get this wrong, the shed will not be level, or sink whenever the ground is moist.

Normally this wouldn’t be noticeable, but you will have issues with your doors on the shed if it settles too much in the months following completion. Basically, the doors will rub and perhaps not even close if you aren’t careful in this first step.

If you have ever built a deck, building a base is a lot like that. You frame a square (a rectangle if you are building a 8 x 10 or 8 x 12 shed for example) then place joists across the span just like a deck. You can either use joist hangers or do what I did, place a 2 x 8 x10 piece of pressure treated wood flat, then build the square frame on it. The flat 2 x 8 will rest on cement cinder blocks and each joist rests on board.

One important thing you want to remember is to order pressure treated wood for all of the materials that are going to be used for building the base. This includes the 2 x 8 or 2 x 10 ‘joists’ and the 4x8 plywood that will be the flooring on top of the ‘joists’ of the base.

  1. Clear out the area and measure the shed on the ground.
  2. Place markers at each corner when cement blocks will rest.
  3. Dig down about six inches where each block will rest, then pack the dirt down with something heavy. This is important because you want to build on settle, compacted ground.
  4. Pour about three inches of gravel into the compacted hole. This is necessary for drainage.
  5. Compact the gravel again before sitting each cinder block on the gravel in the hole. The cinder block should be exposed from the ground about six inches. This gives adequate clearance to prevent the shed from touching the ground.
  6. Frame a square or rectangular base with either 2x10s or 2x8s. I used 2x8x10s for my 10x10 shed and it worked out fine.
  7. ‘Hang’ each ‘joist’ on the frame using joist hangers or the method I used, resting the frame on a flat 2 x 8 under two sides of the frame. Space the ‘joists’ no more than 16 inches on center to avoid potential flex in the floor. What you end up with is something that looks a lot like a deck without the deck boards laid across.
  8. If you are concerned about the ‘joists’ flexing over a long span, such as 10 ft, place 2x8 shorts blocks of wood in between each ‘joist’ to brace them.
  9. Finally, lay the pressure treated plywood across the frame and screw it in. You can nail it, however, nails have a tendency to loosen over time, then you have a squeaky floor.
Storage Shed Base
Credit: mjpyro

You can see how I rested the base frame on eight cement blocks.

Another thing I should point out is that I buried to 4 x 6 pressure treated posts in the ground about a foot in cement, then screwed a 6-in lag bolt through the frame into the post.

This step is not necessary because the weight of the shed will keep it in place on the blocks, but I had some extra wood and cement laying around from when I built my deck the year before, so I used it. That shed is not going anywhere.

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How to Build Walls

The next step is building the walls. You are basically framing four walls just like you would in a house. Simply use the appropriate sized 2 x 4 to build a frame and use a double header at the top of the frame, meaning double up the top 2 x 4 to help support the weight of the roof.

Next, screw 4 x 8 panels to the outside of the frame as the outer walls. You can either use regular pressure treated plywood, or use what I used, the composite 4 x 8 paneling.  

This will also give the frame a solid feel in case you were wondering how it would ever support a roof.

Building the Walls of a Shed
Credit: mjpyro

One thing I should point out. You will probably need someone to help you get the first walls up and nailed into the base.  However, I was able to do it myself, as well as put the panels on the outer walls alone.

I used a temporary ledge made with a 2 x 4 screwed to the outer base, then rested each 4 x 8 panel on the ledge while I positioned it in place against the frame, and screwed it in. It would be easier with two people, but it can be done alone.

Building a Storage Shed
Credit: mjpyro
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How to Build a Roof for a Shed

Building Roof Trusses
Credit: mjpyro

When I got to this part, things started to slow down a bit. I knew this part was going to be tricky so I took my time. There are actually some shed roof plans to can find online, but the basic process for building a roof for a shed is not hard, just detailed. 

The shed roof design was simple. I built seven trusses that would support the roof. I used some spare wood to created the support braces at each angle rather than buying the metal brackets that do the same thing. You want to take your time doing this part because any errors will create low spots in the roof.

I made a template with one truss and simply matched each additional one I build with the template. Again, you have to be precise here or the roof will have dips in it and eventually leak.

As you can see, the triangle trusses will eventually hold the roof. Each truss is braced at the top with a small triangular piece of left over paneling  I used for the wall. I simply cut it to size, then nailed it into the tops of the side of each truss.

Next up was putting paneling on the outer trusses which turned into quite a time consuming task. I ended up have to piece it together with multiple pieces cut to size. I also cut a rectangular hole in the paneling to add ventilation.

Roof Trusses
Credit: mjpyro
Building Shed Roof
Credit: mjpyro

Next up was putting paneling on the outer trusses which turned into quite a time consuming task. I ended up have to piece it together with multiple pieces cut to size. I also cut a rectangular hole in the paneling to add ventilation. 

Here is another view from the side that shows each roof truss in place with the brace piece at the top of each truss and at each side angle for support.

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How to Build a Roof on a Shed

Building the Roof of a Storage Shed
Credit: mjpyro

The last part of building a roof is actually getting up high and laying 4 x 8 OSB panels for roof sheathing on the trusses and nailing them in place. Again, I did this by myself which made it twice as difficult as it should have been. How did I manage to get 4 x 8 panels up 10 feet in the air alone?

Well, I basically just walked the panels up the ladder until I could lay them in place. At that point, I screwed the panels into the trusses.

Honestly, I was moving around on the roof gingerly not know if my trusses were actually going to hold, but that was just my paranoia. They are very sturdy and I could have stood up and jumped up and down and it would have been fine.

I would advise you to get a helper to do some of these tasks, but I didn’t have one so I had to be creative at various parts of this construction process.

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Installing the Shingles on the Roof

Installing Shingles
Credit: mjpyro

Once I got the OSB boards in place, I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. It actually was starting to look like a little house. And since this was the first time I had ever built one of these things, I was feeling pretty good.

I started the shingles on the lower end of the roof and worked my way up. I have to say, this was a pretty simple process. The key is to stagger the shingles and create a double shingle  starter row at the bottom.

Some people like to snap a chalk line across the roof to stay in line, but I did not find that necessary. There are many sources online that show the proper way to lay shingles so I will not cover that here.

At the crest of the roof, I left a gap to allow hot air to escape. I installed a ridge vent along the length of the roof (not shown in this photo above) at the very top to cover that gap. This is common in all houses to help vent the attic.

I also installed some side vents at the base of the roof (the white strips on the side in the photo above) to allow air to flow in and out of the top of the ridge.

How to Build a Double Shed Door

Installing Shed Doors
Credit: mjpyro

At this point in the build, I was feeling great. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had four walls and a roof over my head and all I needed to do was build the doors.

However, my excitement was quickly tempered because the double shed doors turned out to be one of the most time consuming parts of the entire build.

Shed Door Design

I decided upon two double doors that swung outward. This seemed simple enough, but I soon discovered that this had to be just as precise as building the roof trusses. I installed double hinges  with a hinge located at each brace board for support.

Once you select your hinges, follow the directions provided with the store bought hinges and hang your door and attach your latch. I ended up spending two days tinkering with the doors trying to get the look and feel of them just right. I bought some quality hardware to hang the door and it turned out really well.

Completed Shed Doors
Credit: mjpyro

The only thing left to do was paint it to cover up some of the rough edges. It is amazing what a good can of paint can do to anything. I decided upon a gray that matched the color of the house, and a white trim.

And here is the finished product. Not bad for a first try.

Completed Shed
Credit: mjpyro

So What did I Learn?

Shed Building Tips

Well, first off, you definitely get more shed for your money when you buy the materials and build it yourself. I kept every receipt and added everything up at the end.

All told, I spent $1097 on everything for a 10 x 10 ft shed. That included the materials for the base and paint. Keep in mind, I used better wood and hardware than you would get in one of those kits, so I was very satisfied with what I got for my money.

As far as the build process, it was not hard at all. I wouldn't say it is an easy outdoor project, but iit is not as bad as it seems.

There were some trying moment but that had more to do with me doing everything alone and not really knowing how to build roofs or doors. This was my first time on anything detailed like this. I had built a 14 ft x 22 ft deck the year before, however, it was pretty straight forward without any intricate work.

So in conclusion, I definitely would recommend going this route for DIY outdoor storage if you can use a drill and a table saw. Those are really the only power tools you will need. When you are finished, you can take pride in something that you actually built with your own hands that will last for decades.

Completed Storage Shed
Credit: mjpyro


Feb 18, 2014 8:42am
Very impressive. I am in the process of either building or buying a shed and your article was useful.
Mar 3, 2014 8:58pm
What a great job you did building your shed. The details in this article will be very helpful to many people. I am having a local company build and install one for me this spring. I wish my hubby and I could do the job ourselves since I know the quality would be better. Congratulations on being featured. Thumbs Up!
Mar 12, 2014 2:03pm
Great article! It's cool to see insight and the experience from others that focus on quality. I would caution other DIY'ers would be to check with your municipality and home owners association about permits. (Lessons I wish I didn't learn the hard way LOL)
Mar 13, 2014 4:36am
Very useful article mjpyro. We also built one of those sheds, but it was a kit, a bit easier to make. Congratulations on the featured article.
Mar 13, 2014 6:43am
Good point on the permits. This was one of my original articles on home renovations and I forgot to make a note in the article to check with local codes. I will go back and add that in the conclusion. Thanks to all.
Aug 6, 2014 9:29am
Dig the foundation below the frost line in your area. A mistake we made was too shallow holes for the foundation base -- building sank over time!
Jan 7, 2015 10:37am
Good point, however, I left mention of the frost line out because I built the deck base on cement blocks. I dug down a few inches, filled the holes with gravel for drainage, then tamped it down before sitting the blocks on the gravel. It's been out there for 8 years with no issues.

However, if you are building a base with posts buried in the ground, go down at least 12 inches in the southern part of the USA, and at least 18 inches in the colder climates in the north and midwest.
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