How to build a shed from a kit
A veteran builder takes a quick route to a great shed with a pre-cut kit. Here are the step-by-step plans to get it done.
© Joshua Lutz
For years, there have been three ways to get a shed: Build it yourself, hire someone to build it or buy a prefab model. A new method — constructing a shed from a kit — combines the sweat equity of building from scratch with the simplicity of using factory-cut components. All that's required are basic tools and novice-level carpentry skills. It's like doing a jigsaw puzzle with instructions: Fasten the parts together in the right sequence and voilà — a shed is born.
I teamed up with Connecticut carpenter Tim Law to build this shed from Better Barns. The compact 6-foot-by-8-foot building has red-cedar vertical siding, two barn-sash windows and a transom window above double doors. This kit costs about $4,800, not including shipping. The small kit joins the company's eight stock kits ranging in size from 10-by-10 to 10-by-16 feet, and in price from about $4,300 to $8,300. All are available with either pine or cedar siding. (Bing: Find shed kits today)
Our shed came with everything except the concrete-block foundation, roof shingles and fasteners. It included plans, necessary to obtain a building permit. Local governments often have shed-specific forms detailing the rules for "auxiliary structures." The permit application fee is typically $50 to $100 — and it's a lot smarter to pay up and follow the rules than to be penalized later.
Shed kits are structurally sound by design, so you shouldn't run into roadblocks. There are just two major details to get right. First, follow setback guidelines when you're deciding where to build. Second, choose the right kind of foundation. This will be dictated by the building's size. A frame of pressure-treated landscape timbers staked into the ground may be all that's required, or you may need to pour a concrete pad. In our case, the rules permitted a concrete-block foundation.
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Tim and I built the foundation, then installed roofing and trim on the shed in a day. The parts fit perfectly, and the finished kit was indistinguishable from a scratch-built custom shed. I packed up my tools and headed home feeling just a bit tired and sore, but proud of the building we'd left behind.
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Classic, attractive, built-to-last exterior details can have an outsize visual impact, but their cost may be prohibitive when scaled to fit an entire house. Shrink the upgrades to a shed, though, and the costs are much less formidable. Here are four details that will add distinct character to an outbuilding, whether you are building a shed from scratch or assembling a kit.
Copper gutters: Properly installed, a copper gutter can last 50 years. (Aluminum-gutter warranties typically last 20.) Half-round styles in 5- or 6-inch-diameter sizes cost about $10 per linear foot, often sold in 10-foot sections.
Window shutters: Functional shutters aren't cheap, but on a shed with a single large window, only one stately wooden pair is necessary. Consider Timberlane; with mortise-and-tenon joinery and hand-forged hardware, these shutters are the real deal. Match the iron tieback hardware —aka shutter dogs — to the shed's door hinges.
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Flower boxes: Build window boxes of rot-resistant cedar or paint stock lumber with an exterior-grade acrylic. Build the box in the shed and hang it outside as a test container for new plantings.
Special shingles: For a small roof, asphalt isn't the only economical option. Slate or copper shingles have old-fashioned appeal and a rich aesthetic. They also age well. As a modern option, new synthetic roof styles can offer a lifetime of performance. DaVinci Roofscapes pulls off a convincing replica of cedar shake and slate.