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How to Build a Cheap Storage Shed

Modular construction and inexpensive materials make this shed easy to build and easy to afford. We'll show you how to build this shed and provide you with the plans and materials list you need to get started. Don't be intimidated by the size of this project. We use simple construction methods to make the building process as easy as possible.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to Build a Cheap Storage Shed

Modular construction and inexpensive materials make this shed easy to build and easy to afford. We'll show you how to build this shed and provide you with the plans and materials list you need to get started. Don't be intimidated by the size of this project. We use simple construction methods to make the building process as easy as possible.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Save up to $3,000 on this shed

We designed this shed with money saving in mind. Even the dimensions are designed to make the most efficient use of lumber. Here are some of the ways you'll save with our shed design.

OSB siding
Siding panels made from oriented strand board cost far less than solid wood or plywood panels, and come preprimed, saving you money and labor. Since the panels are also structural, you don't need an additional layer of sheathing under the siding. You'll save about $500 over the cost of cedar plywood siding.

Wood foundation
Hiring a concrete contractor to pour a slab for this shed could cost you $1,000, but the materials for this wood foundation will set you back only about $250. Plus, a wood foundation is easy to build even on sites that slope or have difficult access.

Cost-cutting custom door
Materials for this door cost about $140. A similar style prehung exterior door can easily cost more than $1,000. Of course, this door isn't as weather-tight as a prehung door, and it wouldn't work on your house, but it's perfect for a shed. You get the look of an expensive custom wood door without the cost.

Easy arch-top windows
If you've ever priced arch-top windows, you know how expensive they can be. Even windows that don't operate are likely to cost $400 apiece. But you can simulate the look of an expensive window without spending a ton of money. These windows cost about $60 each and are easy to build with materials you'll find at any home center or lumberyard.

Composite trim
Composite trim saves you money and time right away. It's less expensive than solid wood (you'll save up to $160), it doesn't have knots or other defects to work around, and it comes preprimed and ready for paint. And it'll save you time and money in the long run since it holds paint better and longer than even the best-quality exterior wood.

Getting started

Arch-top windows and a custom door give this shed a high-quality look that belies its low cost and simple construction. The panelized construction technique means you could build the parts in your garage on a rainy weekend and then haul them to the site for assembly. Modest finishes like OSB siding and composite trim and fiberglass shingles help keep the materials cost low. And you'll save hundreds of dollars by providing your own labor to build the door and windows. The modular construction and wood platform foundation mean you can construct this shed almost anywhere, even on remote or sloping sites. In this article, we'll show you the basics of how to build the shed and install the windows and doors.

We found all the materials to build this shed at our local home center. Most of the construction is straightforward and requires only standard carpentry tools and a circular saw. To build the windows and door, you'll also need a table saw, power miter saw and router. We used a Kreg pocket hole jig and pocket hole screws to assemble the door and windows. With a helper or two, you could have the platform and shell built in two or three days. Then expect to spend four or five more days completing the siding, trim, doors, windows and roofing.

A few weeks before you start, check with your local building department to see whether a permit is required and to find out how close to the lot lines you can build. Then call 811 for instructions on how to locate buried utility lines. The first step is to set a pair of treated 6x6s on gravel beds as a foundation for the shed platform.

When you've decided on a shed location, dig two trenches 16 in. wide, 12 in. deep and 13 ft. long. Center the trenches 66 in. apart. Fill the trenches with a 3-in. layer of gravel and compact it with a hand tamper. Repeat this process until the trench is full. Use a level and long board to level the top layer of gravel. If the ground is flat, also make sure the gravel beds in the two trenches are level with each other.

Cut the treated 6x6s to 12 ft. and set them on the gravel so they're parallel and the outside edges are 6 ft. apart. On sloped ground, you'll have to raise the 6x6 on the low side until it's level with the adjacent 6x6. Do this by stacking treated 2x6s, 4x6s or 6x6s on top of the treated 6x6 to reach the right height. Use a 4-ft. or longer level to make sure the 6x6s are level and level with each other. Finally, square the 6x6s by adjusting the position of one 6x6. Slide the 6x6 back and forth, not sideways, until the diagonal measurements from opposite corners are equal. Build the platform with treated 2x6s, 24 in. on center, and cover it with treated 3/4-in. plywood (Figure B).

The shed and floor framing plans.

Figures A: Shed and B: Floor Framing Plan

These illustrations show how the shed and the platform are constructed. For larger images that you can print, see Additional Information at the end of this article.

Note: Figures A and B (along with Figures C through G) can be downloaded and printed from Additional Information below.

Build the walls

You can build the walls on any flat surface, but the shed platform is ideal. Snap chalk lines on the plywood deck, 3-1/2 in. from the edges of the platform, to indicate the inside edge of the walls. Measure to make sure the lines are parallel and 89 in. apart. Then chalk a line down the center (Photo 1). You'll use this line to make sure the angled top plates meet in the center.

Use dimensions from Figure C (in Additional Information below) to snap lines for the peak. Then cut 2x4s to fit inside the lines and toe-screw them to the plywood to hold them in place while you fill in the center studs (Photo 1) and nail on the siding (Photo 2). Toe-screw from the outside so the screws will be accessible after the siding is installed.

When you nail on the siding, make sure it overhangs the framing on each side by 3-1/2 in. and that you've trimmed off the top corner to follow the slope of the angled top plate (Photo 2). Attach the siding with 2-in. galvanized or stainless steel ring-shank siding nails placed 8 in. apart along studs and 6 in. apart along the edges of the sheets. You'll have to nail blocking between the studs to support the top edge of the siding and the Z-flashing.

Complete the siding, then remove the toe-screws and move the wall aside to make room for constructing the opposite wall. Use the same chalk line template and process to build the opposite end wall. Figure C (in Additional Information below) shows framing details for the front wall. Mark the curves on the 2x10 header pieces using the trammel setup shown in Photo 12 and Figure G (in Additional Information below). Cut them with a jigsaw. When you're done building the front and back walls, set them aside so you can use the platform to build the roof sections.

Build the roof in two pieces

It's unconventional, but building the roof upside down on the platform has advantages. First, you avoid a lot of ladder work. And second, you can nail the soffit material to the overhangs easily without having to work overhead and in cramped spaces. You do have to take a little extra care to make sure the framing is square and the perimeter 2x4s are perfectly straight before nailing on the soffit, though. Start by cutting out the rafters using the pattern in Figure D (in Additional Information below) as a guide.

Omit the bird's-mouth from four rafters and use these on the ends. Cut the 2x4s for the ridge and subfascia to length and mark the rafter positions on them. Line up the rafters with the marks and nail through the ridge and subfascia with 16d nails to secure them. When the roof frame is complete, line up the subfascia with the chalk line on the platform and tack it in three or four places with toe screws to hold the frame straight while you install the soffit.

Also square the frame by making sure diagonal measurements from opposite corners are equal. Then tack one corner to hold it square. Finally, nail the soffit to the roof frame with 6d galvanized box nails. We used 12-in.-wide fiber cement siding for soffit material. Mount an inexpensive carbide blade on your circular saw to cut the fiber cement. Set the roof panel aside and build the other half of the roof using the same techniques.

Stand the walls

Start by moving one of the end panels into place and resting the bottom plate of the wall on the platform. Tip the wall up and secure it with a temporary angled 2x4 brace. Line up the bottom plate with the chalk line and drive a few 3-in. screws or 16d nails through the plate to hold the bottom of the wall in position.

Don't worry about getting the wall plumb yet. It'll be automatic when you stand the back wall and connect the corners.

Stand the back wall. Then align the corner of the side and back walls and nail them together. With a helper on the outside of the shed to push if necessary, line up the inside edge of the bottom plate with the chalk line and nail it to the platform. Continue around the building, standing the opposite end wall and finally the front wall. Nail the corners together, making sure that the top plates of adjoining walls are flush with each other.

Hoist the roof panels into position

The roof panels are heavy and a bit awkward, so round up three strong helpers for this part of the job. Move the panels into position and lean them against the front and back walls. Then set up ladders inside the building for two helpers and push one of the panels up to them. Slide the panel up the roof until the bird's-mouths drop over the top plate of the wall.

Make sure the 2x4 ridge is perfectly aligned with the peak of the wall. Then secure the roof panel with a pair of toenails through each bird's-mouth into the top plate of the wall. Repeat the process on the opposite side (Photo 6). Complete the roof framing by nailing the 2x4 ridges together and adding two 2x4 collar ties, 4 ft. apart (Figure A).

Build the door

Ordering a prehung wood door like this from the lumberyard could cost as much as $1,000, but you can build one suitable for a shed at a fraction of the cost. We purchased clear pine at a home center and spent $120 for the boards. Photos 8 – 10 show how to build the door and mount it to a trim piece with hinges. The door consists of two layers of 3/4-in.-thick boards that overlap at the corners to add strength. Rip 1x6 boards to 4-1/2 in. on a table saw for the outside layer (Figure F, Additional Information below).

We assembled each layer with pocket screws before gluing the two layers together, but if you don't own a pocket hole setup, you could simply screw through the overlapping boards instead. Complete the door frame. Then cut the 4 x 8-ft. grooved plywood to fit the lower recess, and cut a piece of 1/4-in. acrylic sheet to fit the upper recess. Secure the plywood and acrylic sheet with 1/2-in. x 1/2-in. moldings nailed to the inside. Sand the edges of the door flush.

We've simplified the door-hanging process by mounting the door to a 1-1/2-in.-thick trim piece and then screwing the trim to the wall. An easy way to mark and cut matching hinge recesses in both the door and the trim is to clamp the trim alongside the door, making sure it extends 1/8 in. beyond the top of the door. Then mark the hinge cutout on both the door and the trim at the same time.

If you have a router, use a hinge-mortising bit (or straight bit) to cut the hinge recesses (Photo 10). Otherwise, use a sharp chisel. Screw the hinges to the door and trim. To hang the door, line up a temporary 2x4 with the bottom of the siding and screw it to the wall. Then rest the door on the 2x4 and drive 3-in. screws through the trim into the framing to hold the door in place (Photo 11). Finish the door installation by adding the top and side trim pieces.

Build the windows

This is a good rainy day project since you'll build these parts in your garage or shop. Photos 12 – 14 show how to cut the curved window top and how to assemble the window.

Figure G (in Additional Information below) shows details for the marking jig. Photo 12 shows how to use this setup to draw the curves for the window pieces. Next cut the side pieces (Figure F, in Additional Information below). Set the side pieces in place over the top of the header and mark the angled cuts (Photo 13). Finish the curved trim piece by first cutting the angles on each end, and then sawing the curves with a jigsaw and sanding them smooth. Use the marking jig to lay out the curved brace, too (Figure G, in Additional Information below).

Cut the sill piece and assemble the windows with pocket screws. Using a router with a 3/8-in. rabbet bit, rout a 3/8-in.-deep recess on the back of the window to receive the 1/4-in. Plexiglas acrylic sheet (Photo 14). Set the window frame, recessed side down, over a piece of acrylic sheet and trace the shape with a permanent marker. Cut the curve with a fine-tooth jigsaw blade and the straight sections with a fine-tooth blade in a table saw or circular saw.

Prime and paint the window and let it dry. Then apply a thin bead of clear silicone in the recess and embed the acrylic sheet in it. Secure the acrylic sheet with glazing points. Let it set up overnight. We cut the grid pieces from 3/4-in. x 1/2-in. parting stop and glued them to the acrylic with clear silicone caulk.

A temporary support makes it simple to install the window. Level a 2x4 and screw it to the wall 2 in. below the window opening. Then rest the window on the 2x4 and center it in the opening before driving screws to secure it (Photo 15). Use caulk to fill the gaps left by the grooved siding.

Install the exterior trim

Figure A (above) and Figure E (in Additional Information below) show the exterior trim details. Start by mounting the brackets. Line up the outside edges of the lower brackets with the face of the siding, push them tight to the soffit and screw them to the wall. Center the top bracket on the peak and push it tight to the soffit. Starting with the pieces that go under the brackets, wrap the corners with the corner board. Overlap the front corner board onto the side corner board (Figure E, in Additional Information below).

Get ready for roofing by adding the fascia boards and shingle molding. Photo 7 shows how to notch the fascia boards to fit around the brackets. Keep the 1x2 shingle molding flush to the top of the roof plywood.

Roof, stain and paint the shed

Complete the shed by installing shingles and finishing the exterior. For information on how to install shingles, go to thefamilyhandyman.com and search for “roofing.”

Prime and paint the doors and windows before installing them, then you only need to caulk and fill nail holes before rolling an additional coat of paint onto the flat surfaces. The LP SmartSide panel siding, the composite fascia and corners, and the fiber cement soffit were all preprimed and required only two coats of paint to finish.

Back to Top

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Hammer
    • Clamps
    • Air compressor
    • Air hose
    • Brad nail gun
    • Cordless drill
    • Tape measure
    • Circular saw
    • Caulk gun
    • Chalk line
    • Level
    • Drill bit set
    • Hearing protection
    • Jigsaw
    • Stepladder
    • Pocket hole jig
    • Router
    • Sawhorses
    • Speed square
    • Tin snips

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

See the Materials List in Additional Information at the end of the Step-by-Step section.

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 20 of 28 comments
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July 21, 10:12 PM [GMT -5]

1800 is cheap? I built a not so picturesque twice the floor space for less than half of that amount, including wiring....

July 08, 2:32 PM [GMT -5]

I wanted to build one in next summer and was looking for good instructions, I ma glad I found one. Now I am more confident.
Thank you.

July 07, 11:24 PM [GMT -5]

I actually completed this project last summer with very few modifications. I wish I can upload all the images I took as I built this shed along with my CAD version of the plan. I also added a deck in front. This was an awesome project and an awesome learning experience.

June 17, 10:35 PM [GMT -5]

Materials discrepancy with the plans. Materials list says walls are 92 5/8". Plans say 95 5/8". I believe the materials list is incorrect.

April 05, 11:01 AM [GMT -5]

Love this! The best wood to use for an outdoor storage shed would be white cedar due to its natural preservatives. White and red pine require more maintenance and generally do not hold up well against cracks, rotting, and insects.

October 04, 7:33 PM [GMT -5]

No I didn't start on the shed . I can't find a materials list . Please can you send me a list so I can start.

September 30, 12:28 AM [GMT -5]

The level of articulation and handy tips for this project is the best I've seen. Building arch windows with a homemade trommel, eave install prehang with upside roofing build, bird's mouth roof trusses....ALL on the platform with a pocket joiner for flat door construction. That's beyond awesome. Thank you!

July 28, 1:53 PM [GMT -5]

As I read through the comments below, I saw that there were a number of degrading statements made by people who have not built the project. As a female worker in wood, who has built her own house, (a high profile dome structure, and a teacher of young people who want to learn to work with wood, I chose this project because of its details and the skills they would learn by creating their own windows and doors. In addition, the task of measuring and cutting accurately in order to prefab the sides was infinitely valuable to them. I could have had them just throw something up in a traditional building fashion, but this project taught them so much more. Thank you for offering it. The kids are proud of the shed they created, and although it is not perfect, it will stand for many years as part of a new display and area on the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds as part of a garden dedicated to the founder of the fair.

June 22, 8:42 AM [GMT -5]

You made it very easy and have given detailed information step by step. Thank you . but i 've already buy a shed from http://www.outdoorhomecenter.com company. its was so good. to me and now thing to build one by my own.

May 06, 6:07 PM [GMT -5]

When I googled "how to build a cheap storage shed", I was expecting to find just that. Wow, talk about a misinterpretation! This hardly looks like a "storage shed" - a little girl's playhouse is what my eyes see when I look at flower boxes and bay windows. And "over $500" (WAY over is more accurate) is not cheap on my income. This project is NOT a "cheap storage shed" - I've LIVED in worse places than this!

March 25, 11:21 AM [GMT -5]

This is a sharp plan. To find a kit similar to this it is much more expensive than the cost of materials and so far all I have seen are cheaper materials and cut corners such as 2x3"s for studs. (I have no idea where they even found stock that size)
While I know there are reasons to not share this, if you folks could provide some kind of CAD file that would import into Google Sketchup, that would be spectacular. It would allow very easy tweaking and even test fitting the equipment you wish to store. I hear there is this technology called paper and pencil but I tend to veer away from it.

March 05, 3:12 PM [GMT -5]

Wait, I just looked at the details under the cost, "The materials, not including the optional cupola, cost $1,800." Sorry, but that's plain ridiculous. Not to mention the tools I would have to buy under the tools & materials list such as an air compressor, router, etc. So much for cheap...

March 05, 3:06 PM [GMT -5]

Over $500 in materials is considered cheap? Really? How about putting up a simple shed project without all the frills that really would be cheap.

March 05, 2:18 PM [GMT -5]

This is a very good plan and well documented. There was a suggestion that purchasing a kit would be more advantageous. It would be more expensive; unable to make custom modifications; and final no pride of ownership. Should have some experience working with tools and become familiar with terminology. Next, build your own home. :-)

November 30, 6:25 PM [GMT -5]

I am a complete amateur. Since I needed more storage and wanted to learn basic carpentry I tackled this project. I learned a lot. First, the Hardy board was not available locally in the sizes needed so I cobbled together smaller sizes. Not a good idea. Cost me lots of caulk and seal time on the eaves. I skipped the cupola since I'm under a tree.

Given my lack of carpentry education I build the walls as instructed and then sheathed them. Oops. Lumber from Home Depot curled as it sat around when the siding went on it just froze the walls into a small bow. I compensated and covered the base plate bows but leaving the siding off or fixing the bows would have made things better. Real carpenters don't have these problems. Still a total novice built the shed and got lots of ooh's and ah's from friends.

Would I do it again? Maybe. Just never again the roofing. That's a man's job and I'm too old to do that again (64). Still, I look at the shed with pride every time I walk by it. While a kit may be cheaper, nothing replaces doing things from scratch. If you just want cheap, then there are simpler, uglier plans you can use. This one turns out nice!

October 23, 5:44 PM [GMT -5]

Wow, these are great plans. I have been designing a similar shed with a few differences and these are going to really help me with my own design. Thank you!

August 20, 1:31 PM [GMT -5]

Almost complete!!! So far so good. Will give update once complete.

May 01, 5:11 PM [GMT -5]

My husband wants to build this but has a question. Does the floor of the shed just rest upon the gravel pits or is there a way to secure it better? We live in Kansas and winds can be really strong.

March 09, 10:01 PM [GMT -5]

If you are looking for cheap storage sheds I think it is much cheaper to buy a storage shed kit. You can buy kits from http://www.shedsforlessdirect.com/ that are already pre-cut and pre-drilled. Some of the kits even have half of the assembly done for you. I bought a shed kit from them and was able to get all of it built in about 5 hours saving time and money! :)

February 17, 11:43 AM [GMT -5]

I just started on this shed. I have some carpentry skills, but I wouldn't call my self a carpenter. I just started getting the supplies and I have been having a hard time finding
all the required hardware. A couple of the major hardware stores don't carry galvanized
box nails or ring shank siding nails. One of the stores I went too has a construction dept. and the employee didn't know what a box nail was. I would have been helpful to me, It I knew what the various nails where to be used for. I hope to have all the needed materials so that I can get on with this project.

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