shed ready: six ways to buy them

Congratulations! You have decided to buy a backyard shed, as a new personal office and hang-out area. It should be easy on the eyes, and wired for lights. You are considering adding heat and air-conditioning.

Yet there’s a major hurdle: you recoil at the idea of assembling children’s toys and furniture, let alone a full shed. Someone else is going to have to build this structure for you, while you somehow pay and support their efforts.

Let’s start by looking at pre-fabs, one of six ways to buy a shed. Here are three Modern-Shed examples, pretty much the same structures with different siding and placements. Pretty sweet, no?

Is this the shed of your dreams? This Moraga, CA owner had been thinking about a shed for years. (Modern-Shed)

Is this the shed of your dreams? A Moraga, CA homeowner had been thinking about a shed for years. (Modern-Shed)

In the San Juan Islands, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, one couple uses a cedar-clad shed. (Modern-Shed)

In the San Juan Islands, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, one couple uses a cedar-clad shed. (Modern-Shed)

In Seattle, a felt artisan was fed up with working in her family kitchen and this craft shed fits perfectly. (Modern-Shed)

In Seattle, a felt artisan was fed up with working in her family kitchen and this craft shed fits perfectly. (Modern-Shed)

Six ways to buy sheds

With only a little tongue-in-cheek, we identified six approaches to buying and building your shed. Your decision naturally depends on trade-offs of time and money. The list is ordered from priciest, sky’s the limit to perhaps a couple grand. Which approach would you take?

  1. The Ultimate:  Get an architect who will deal with everything, along with their hired construction crew. It’s your dream, fulfilled.

  2. The Practical:  Go to a garden place where you see nice sheds and gazebos built. Talk with the builders, place an order and await delivery and set-up.

  3. The Possible:  Pre-fab and kit sheds look awfully nice, and get shipped to your door. You pay extra for their assembly team or hire someone local.

  4. The Good Enough: You head to a place selling sheds and gazebos (see #2) and pick something that’s already built. It is good enough for now.

  5. The Active:  You find a great set of plans online and buy them! Now turn to friends and family to get materials. Hire someone local to build it.

  6. The Almost DIY:  You have plans in hand, hunt for salvaged materials, widen your circle of friends and family, and arrange weekend-only work parties.

sheds are for people, not things

Backyard sheds have been going upscale, as they transform into extra living space for their owners. It turns out that sheds are used more frequently for space rather than storage purposes.

This 100+ square foot garden office, called the Alexander MKII, may be ordered as a kit or be fully built on site. (Dunster House)

This 100+ square foot garden office, called the Alexander MKII, may be ordered as a kit or be fully built on site. (Dunster House)

Today, research from shed manufacturer Dunster House (UK) revealed that over half of sheds get used for hobbies or relaxation. Only 43% are for storage and 4% are for aesthetic, garden appeal. Alex Murphy discussed his company’s findings with the UK Independent:

“We all know that sheds have a practical use, but hadn’t realized so many people were using them as a bolthole from the stresses and strain of their everyday lives, either to grab a bit of peace and quiet, or to relax and enjoy their favorite hobbies.”

Let’s assume similar backyard shed uses in the USA. While sheds keep getting nicer, there’s a limit to adding creature comforts because they would run afoul of local zoning and codes. Tiny houses on wheels may be a solid alternative, as they are legally able to access plumbing, water and electricity.

It will be interesting to see how the demand for traditional sheds versus more elaborate tiny houses evolves over the next few years.