If your lifestyle demands a bit more storage outside of your house and garage, you are in need of either a good purge or a good shed.
Seriously, many homeowners, especially those who want to actually park their cars in their garages, need an additional workshop space or spot for lawn and garden tools and equipment, bicycles, pool and patio paraphernalia, and other outdoor-related possessions. If a metal or vinyl prefab utility shed suits your needs and your budget, any home improvement center will have several from which to choose. But if you are looking to go a more custom route to add character to your outdoor space, please keep reading.
DIYers are in luck, as there are many tool shed kits and plans available. But regardless of whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a contractor, options abound for sheds that are not just functional but visually appealing. These small outbuildings – usually at least 6-by-6-foot – are best placed where conveniently accessed , not visible from the street, and where they avoid blocking sight lines or access to other parts of the property. To avoid overwhelming your property, depending on its acreage, of course, you might not want to build too much larger than an 8-by-10 or 10-by-12-foot structure.
Corners of yards often work well for placement, but avoid low-lying areas, as drainage can become an issue. A dry, level area slightly elevated from the surrounding terrain is ideal. If drainage poses a concern, surrounding the shed with a bed of gravel or even building the shed on top of gravel is wise.
Sometimes gravel-filled trenches with pressure-treated 6-by-6’s to which the joists are attached are all the foundation that is needed. Other times, a floor built more like a deck with footings, posts and a wood frame is desirable, or even a concrete slab. If your shed is large, say, more than 200 square feet, foundations become a bit of a different ballgame requiring permanent foundations that extend down to the frost line. Clearance of some 3 feet around the shed keep it exposed to air and sunlight, which can help avoid issues with moisture and mildew.
Before becoming married to a location – or even to a shed, for that matter – check building and zoning codes, as there are regulations about size, property line setback and more. Before you call, have a general size for your structure in mind so that the information you obtain is specific to your project. Similarly, homeowners’ associations often have their own sets of rules and guidelines, so be sure your plans are in compliance to avoid conflict and potentially costly redos.
In terms of style, your shed certainly need not mimic the architecture of your home, but it should at least be complementary to your house and the surrounding neighborhood. That is easily achieved typically in one of several ways: mimicking your home’s roof profile – pitch, hip, gambrel, etc.; replicating roofing and siding materials; repeating colors, not only of siding and roof but of the door and trim; adding windows, including dormers; and incorporating other architectural features like columns, brackets and cupolas, maybe even a weathervane. Incorporating recycled materials and architectural salvage can really infuse your shed with charm.
Homey touches like a covered porch, a lamp and/or sconces, and a walkway are not only appealing, but practical. Fencing, potted plants, trellises with climbing vines (with room for air circulation), and other foundational type plantings help integrate the structure into its setting. Bird baths and feeders, “yard art” and decorative wall-mounted objects, door mats and furnishings – maybe even a gravel, brick, or paver patio – add the finishing touches.
On the inside, most sheds are highly utilitarian with unfinished framing and enough shelving, pegboards, hooks and bins to hold whatever needs held. Electrical outlets are a nice extra, especially if your shed is going to be used as a workshop but also in case you need extra lighting or, perhaps, a fan. Plumbing may or may not be a luxury, as a utility sink may be necessary for the function of your shed.
If your riding lawn mower will be housed in the shed and your shed is elevated, you will need a ramp. Both hinged and sliding doors work well in sheds, but if using the former, be sure to allow for the narrowed opening that hinges create so that your mower, wheelbarrow and other larger items fit through.
Photos of impossibly inventive and attractive sheds are rife on the internet. Peruse as many as you can so that you achieve the shed of your dreams from the get-go. Though sheds are one of the least expensive structures you can erect on your property, you still want to get it right the first time.
Chris Ettel is founding partner of VB Homes. He serves on the Tidewater Builders Association board of directors, served as past chairman of the TBA Remodelers Council and is a longtime board member of the Virginia Beach Public Schools Education Foundation. For more information, contact Chris@vbhomesliving.com or go to www.vbhomesliving.com.