Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

How to Design and Build a Storage Shed for Your Yard

By: Danny Lipford

Every home needs a storage shed in the yard to keep tools, lawn equipment, and gardening supplies organized. Watch this video for information on:

  • Shed Design: How to decide on the use, location, size, style, and placement of windows and doors for your shed.
  • Shed Building Codes: How to determine property line setback requirements and neighborhood covenant restrictions for a shed.
  • Types of Sheds: Sheds are available as prebuilt units, ready to assemble kits, and custom built designs.
  • Building a Shed: Tips on how to build the foundation, walls, and roof for a storage shed.

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This week Today’s Homeowner is on the road in Connecticut to check out some cool sheds. But we’re not just looking, we’re going to help out a local company that puts together some beautiful buildings, and give you some great tips to use at your house if a shed is in your future.

Welcome to the show this week. If your garage is like most American garages, it’s probably full of a lot of stuff other than your car or your truck. That’s why so many homeowners are looking for alternative ways of storing things like lawnmowers, bicycles, and different seasonal items you may have around the home. Now you can load all that up and take it to a storage unit and pay that rent each month or you can do what these homeowners have decided to do and hire a company to come in and build a storage shed onsite.

This week we’re in Litchfield County, Connecticut working with a company called Better Barns, who specializes in onsite storage sheds like this one. And also, we’re going to talk with Joe Truini, who joins us each week for our Simple Solutions, but this week he’ll also join us to talk about different ways of positioning sheds on your property and some of the guidelines you need to consider. He knows a lot about it because he just completed a book on that very subject.

Now, Joe’s not one to sit around and watch guys do the work, he’s right in the middle of it. Hey, Joe, you’re probably slowing them down! Come here and we’ll talk about this.

Joe Truini: Well, you’re slowing us down now. How are you doing Danny? Welcome to Connecticut.

Danny Lipford: Hey, thank you. Boy, what a beautiful day here, we’ve got about 50 degrees, sun shining, beautiful colors everywhere. Not bad.

Joe Truini: Great day to be working outside.

Danny Lipford: Not bad working conditions at all. Now, when someone makes a decision, a homeowner makes a decision they need that extra storage space, what are some of the considerations?

Joe Truini: Well, first thing you want to consider is how big of a shed do you need. I mean it seems pretty obvious but you’d be surprised how often someone will build a shed and then they’ll go to store their ladder or some lumber and of course it doesn’t fit, and it still ends up outside which kind of defeats the purpose. So the first consideration is how big of a shed do you need.

Danny Lipford: OK, so what about the design and the look of the shed itself?

Joe Truini: Well, there’s a misconception that sheds should look like the house. And you certainly can, there’s no reason you can’t make the shed painted the same color, maybe use the same shingles and the siding but regardless whether it’s close to the house or not it can be, it could look like the house if that’s what you like but it can certainly look completely different than the house which kind of gives you a chance to, if you have a contemporary house maybe put a colonial style building or something more architecturally interesting perhaps.

Danny Lipford: Right. Now this one is positioned right at the end of the driveway but heck these homeowners got a nice big lot, why not position it somewhere else?

Joe Truini: Well, you could, you see here we put it at the end of the driveway, because it makes it real easy to get things in and out to the house whether it’s a ladder, paint. This way you don’t have to go across the yard. But in a case like this, where we’ve got you know probably four or five acres to work with, they could have certainly put the shed in the back corner of the lot and often you’ll see homeowners they’ll build a shed in a far corner up against the woods, and it looks really nice but it’s not too practical if you using it, if the kids are using it for their sporting equipment or their bicycles. You really can’t expect the kids to put the bike, they’re going to leave it in the driveway. They’re not going to put it away. So if it’s a workshop or something like that and you’re not going to be bringing things to and from the house that would be fine, but in a case like this I think this is a much better location.

Danny Lipford: And I guess a consideration there is like running, either power or water. Or say if you had a workshop or were using it for some other use the closer to the house would make those expenses go down a lot.

Joe Truini: Absolutely. Especially with power, because you’re going to have to dig a trench, probably bring power from the house. So in a case like this you only have about 20 feet to go.

Danny Lipford: OK. I guess codes and different covenants that govern different things like that. You’ve got to check that out, huh?

Joe Truini: Right the very first thing you have to do is go to the local building department, and ask them if you can even build a shed because in some neighborhoods you’re not allowed to. And then apply for a building permit. There’s a misconception that if a shed is smaller than a certain size, I’ve heard 100 square feet, you don’t need a building permit. That’s untrue here and in most municipalities. If you’re building anything you need to submit a set of plans, and get an approved building permit.

Danny Lipford: And I hear a lot about setbacks, too. That a lot of them, a lot of people will position these buildings right up against a fence and you really usually have to have those setbacks.

It’s typically 25 feet from a side lot line and 15 from the rear lot, but then again every town can change that. And if you need to build closer than that you need to apply for a variance. And if the neighbor doesn’t mind you being 10 feet from the side lot line then they give you permission to build that.

Danny Lipford: OK. Now, what about the foundation, this is all a wood subfloor and all. Why not concrete on this?

Joe Truini: Well, here in this case, this is pretty typical, it’s the quickest easiest way to build it, particularly if you’re doing it yourself. Pressure treated foundation, so there’s no problem with rot and in this case we’re using what’s called an on-grade foundation, meaning the solid concrete blocks sit right on the ground. We haven’t dug them down, there’s no concrete poured and we’re allowed to do that, and again it differs from town to town, but in this part of Connecticut you can go up to 200 square feet with an on-grade foundation. Anything larger than that you have to put in a permanent foundation which means digging down to the frost line and pouring concrete footing. In this case we just use solid concrete blocks, you notice that we just have shims or just leveled it up, up front there’s only two blocks, back here we have three or four block, we use four inch block and one inch block, solid concrete. And make sure you don’t ever want to use hollow block, like wall block because it would crumble, and this is solid.

Danny Lipford: And I notice a tie down there, that’s another regulation?

Joe Truini: Yeah. I don’t know if you can see that but there’s a cable and a spike and it’s a ground anchor and again this is for local building codes because wind might tip over a shed. A shed this size would never tip over but a metal shed would be subject to the wind blowing it over, so in this case we have it tied down to the ground.

Danny Lipford: Now, what about the preassembled units you see a lot of them, of course this is too large to haul down the road. But what about some of them that are only eight foot wide, would there be any advantage in getting one brought out on a trailer and rolled right out?

Joe Truini: Well, there’s not really a disadvantage, but the big advantage of building a custom one is you can build it any size you want and you can pick and choose the finish and the materials.

Danny Lipford: OK. Well there’s a lot of different types of sheds, a lot of different types of design but wait till you see this one once they complete everything and we’ll do that in this week’s show. So stay with us.

Joe Truini: Tools typically have at least one design purpose. And that’s never good enough for me and it shouldn’t be for you either. There’s always at least one way to increase the versatility of the tool, even something as simple as a wheelbarrow. It’s great for hauling around materials but let me turn around here and show you what I did on the back of it. I made a simple shelf for carrying extra goods.

Now this is just a piece of 3/8-inch plywood that I set in place, then I marked the underside position of the handle so I’d know where to cut it. Then I also took a couple of 1 by 2 cleats and I screwed them to the backsides so now when I set it in place the cleats will prevent the shelf from sliding off. Now if you have enough weight on here it probably wouldn’t move anyways but I thought that was nice extra protection. Then I also drilled a hole in the shelf, which is great for setting in hand tools, and you can see there’s plenty of room for more holes if you want to put three or four more tools.

So now with the shelf in place, I’ve got room to put in a couple bags of fertilizer or potting soil and with that one simple shelf I’ve doubled the capacity of this wheelbarrow.

Danny Lipford: Welcome back to the show. Now, these guys are really cooking on the assembly of this shed, and they’ve only been out on the job for less than three hours, and they already have the decking on the roof. Now one of the reasons they are able to move along so quickly on this is that they have developed a system of assembling certain components of the shed and bring it out on the job in order to minimize the amount of time they spend actually out on the job site.

Now, one of the guys that’s instrumental in really putting this system together and the owner of Better Barns is Pete Charest. He’s out on the job right now making sure everything is going together right. Pete you guys really have a good system in putting these building together. On a typical building like this about how long does it take to put it together?

Pete Charest: Probably takes a three man crew about four and half hours.

Danny Lipford: Oh that’s quick.

Pete Charest: It is.

Danny Lipford: I guess all these years in this business you’re about to get the hang of it?

Pete Charest: Well, over 20 years we should be good at it.

Danny Lipford: Now, as far as the work in the shop, that really helps in keeping the quality up and certainly reducing the time out on the job.

Pete Charest: It really does. We work in a controlled environment. Our tables are set at waist height so you’re not bending, and eliminate a lot of extra motion.

Danny Lipford: Right. And during those cold Connecticut winters you’re able to keep things rolling along there.

Pete Charest: That’s right, much better.

Danny Lipford: We spoke with Joe Truini earlier about the foundation situation and how that changes you know in different areas of the country, but here we have the blocks down and as soon as they got the blocks down and then shot the level on them. Boy, they went to right to work on that wood subfloor.

Pete Charest: That’s true. We use pressure treated floor joists, sixteen inches on center, and we use a three quarter inch plywood tongue and groove plywood deck which makes a really good strong floor.

Danny Lipford: That sounds great. And then the walls right after that, the walls went up in no time at all.

Pete Charest: The walls are all preassembled. It’s just like a big jigsaw puzzle, which you make everything and you’re careful with the measurements it all goes together very nicely.

Danny Lipford: You know a lot of times when people are building storage buildings they’re not using the best materials for the exterior, but boy this cedar looks fantastic.

Pete Charest: We really like the cedar most of our customers also appreciate the fact that it’s rot resistant, it’s insect resistant. It looks good, it takes the stains rather than paint so you don’t have any problems down the line, and you can still see the character in the wood with a stain as opposed to a paint.

Danny Lipford: It really does, it really is a good appearance after it’s all up and you know your roof you had on all those trusses preassembled so unload them off your trailer and that went together real quick.

Pete Charest: Very, very fast.

Danny Lipford: Pete, it was great the you had even the gables preassembled with the siding in place, even some of the decking and then of course your guys didn’t take long for them to put those in place on either end of the storage shed, then filling in between with the roof trusses that you also had preassembled and even the plywood was precut which is pretty impressive. Didn’t take long for them to put that in place and ready for the dimensional shingles that they’re starting to nail on now. What’s left to finish up here?

Pete Charest: Well, we’ve got to hang the doors, we’ve got to put the windows in, put the window trim around the windows, we’ve got a transom window going in, we’ve got some corner boards, some final trim work. The trim is really basically all it amounts to.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. You even have the corner boards preassembled here, so just another piece here and that goes together, you’re not far away from finishing this one.

Pete Charest: Not at all.

Danny Lipford: And you’ll be able to see all those finishing touches when we come back.

Jodi Marks: I know you’ve probably heard this saying. You have to spend money to make money. Honestly when I was younger I really didn’t get that. Of course it makes perfect sense to me now and this is a great example. This is the Work Sharp 2000, and it’s one of the best home sharpening systems I’ve seen.

You’ve got almost 28 square inches of grinding surface, so you have a greater control over what you’re sharpening. Even things like shovels and lawn mower blades. My favorite feature is the chisel port. You get a perfect 25 degree beveled edge every time And here’s something really unique. By using these special slotted sanding disks, you can actually look through the wheel and see the cutting edge while you’re sharpening it.

The special design uses air to keep things cool which means you don’t need to worry with any oil or water to keep any heat from damaging the tools. Now here’s where the moneymaking comes into play. You’ll spend about 130 bucks for the Work Sharp, but within one hour you can sharpen every tool in your workshop and make them all look just like new.

Not bad, huh? A brand new tool every time you use it.

Danny Lipford: Just look at the detail on this window. You know you don’t see this very much on storage buildings because it can take quite a while for all of the trim pieces to be put in place. But since they fabricate most of this in the shop it took very little time for them to trim out around the window, install the screen, and put the wood sash in place. Also they finished up the transom window that Pete mentioned earlier. It went right in place, a little bit of trim work, it was complete.

Up on top they’re finishing up the woven ridge venting that goes right under the shingle caps there on the top. Now this will allow fresh air to exit out of the top of the building that is introduced by the ventilated soffit that they installed earlier, right along the eaves here. Well you know a lot of other details even include the strapping here on the strap hinges and the little cast iron cups under it really gives it kind of an old world look. Now this is just one of many styles that Better Barns routinely build. Now earlier today we looked at several other styles with Joe and Pete.

Danny Lipford: Pete, this is just a perfect way to display the buildings but they look so nice people have to be using these for more than just storage.

Pete Charest: Well they certainly do, this little, our adirondak cabin here, is a good example. This is quite often used as a writer’s studio or just a little getaway where people really want a nice place to just have some peace and quiet. This particular model has got some unusual details, we have the antique door track and rollers here, we’ve got a circular window inside, the roof is actually made to look like a wood shingle roof so it has a real rustic charm inside. It has a post and beam look also. Very unique building.

Danny Lipford: And instead of plywood you actually used a plank floor there that kind of has a nice appearance on it.

Pete Charest: That’s correct. It’s more, it’s a tongue and groove decking that’s more traditional.

Joe Truini: Another type of use for storage buildings is as a child’s playrooms or kid’s play house that kind of thing. And we saw a shed recently where someone built a slightly larger building it was about 12×16, they put an interior partition dividing the space, and they put two sets of doors, one on the side wall for the children to go in out with their bicycles and their toys and then on the end on the gable end they put another set of doors where the husband and wife could store some of their tools. So it was really a nice use of one building for two different, completely different purposes.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, that makes sense, instead of getting two separate buildings for those two different uses. You know talk about kids playhouses, man I would have loved to have this one when I was a kid. That’s really nice. Pete what do you call this one?

Pete Charest: Well, this is our, we call it our English potting shed but you’re right it would make an excellent playhouse. The nice thing about that is when the kids grew up and went on their own it’d make a nice potting shed for mom or you know just a nice little studio.

Danny Lipford: Almost has the look of a little chapel too, you know a little New England chapel.

Pete Charest: It has a very gothic look to it yeah.

Danny Lipford: Now, tell us about some of the other models that you have here.

Pete Charest: Well, actually this 10×16 is one of our big sellers, it’s less expensive because the siding that we use on that is not the cedar it’s a rough sawn plywood product. So we can build that for less and this barn goes out mostly for storage.

Danny Lipford: I see.

Pete Charest: Yard storage. It has the double doors which gives you an actual 5 foot opening so people who have large riding mowers can you know drive right in.

Danny Lipford: And the other one here, you actually have the double doors on the gable end.

Pete Charest: That’s very popular also, a lot of people really like the little transom window that we put in over the doors. They also like the black iron pot racks that we use for the flowers display.

Danny Lipford: That’s nice and this one is just a little smaller then?

Pete Charest: That’s a nice little building, we get a lot of people that they want a smaller barn because their lot is small, or it is a city property, they just don’t have the room for one of our bigger structures.

Danny Lipford: While Pete shows us some more of his handy work, check out this week’s Thinking Green.

Danny Lipford: You can’t actually see what this is but I have a single grain of sand here on the tip of my finger. If I put it on this table no big deal but if I keep putting down a single grain at a time at a steady pace eventually I’ll have a pretty impressive pile of sand. If you put the same principal into effect with water then you’re talking about drip irrigation, and it’s one of the most cost effective watering solutions you can put into practice at your home.

Drip irrigation minimizes water use to a fraction of normal watering by slowly delivering water in various slow drips or with micro spray heads. It’s perfect for gardens, flowerbeds, and even hanging plants. You can even combine drip irrigation with harvested rain water and the benefits are healthy plants and hundreds of gallons of water saved every year.

Danny Lipford: This week we’ve been looking at a backyard solution to many of the storage and space problems that homeowners face. The shed. We’ve seen some great examples put together by a Connecticut company called Better Barns. And besides the obvious logistic advantages that any shed offers, these things can be a real asset to the landscaping because their designs are interesting and attractive. Just because you only need four walls and a roof doesn’t mean you have to settle for that. But we’ve also uncovered some important information about adding a shed to your lot, whether you choose one of these custom built models, or you simply select one from the parking lot at your local home center.

Remember that it’s important that the shed be positioned on your lot so that it works for the whole family but it also has to comply with local building and zoning regulations. Those rules that may stipulate a maximum size for the shed or even prohibit building one at all. While you’re choosing one, you should also consider how you will use it. Do you want windows to add natural light? How big should the door be? And where should it be positioned? Then you’ll want to establish a solid level foundation so that the shed you end up with will be secure and able to meet your needs for years to come.

It’s just hard to believe they assembled this whole thing in less than five hours, and the level of detail around the windows and the doors and the corners is just unbelievable. And you can really see the real strength of this building by looking inside at the plywood used around the roof trusses and the Z-supports on the back of the doors, the steel straps in the corner, now this building’s not going anywhere. And for the storage needs for the homeowners the loft overhead will provide them all the storage that they can possibly use.

Hey, we want to thank the guys—Pete and the crew from Better Barns and our old friend Joe Truini for joining us for this show here in Connecticut. Thanks for being with us, we’ll see you next week. I’m Danny Lipford.

Bathrooms come in all shapes and sizes. Next week, tips to renovate one on any budget.

Joe Truini: In this case we’re using what’s called an on-grade foundation meaning the solid concrete blocks sit right on the ground. We haven’t dug them down, there’s no concrete poured. And we’re allowed to do that and again it differs from town to town but in this part of Connecticut you can go up to 200 square feet with an on-grade foundation, anything larger than that you have to put in a permanent foundation.

Danny Lipford: Pete this is just a perfect way to display the buildings but they look so nice people have to be using for more than just storage.

Pete Charest: Well they certainly do, this little, our adirondak cabin here, is a good example.



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