How to Build a Shed

Learn how to build a shed with these easy-to-follow directions and illustrations.

  • 139-055-01
    Build a backyard shed to hold garden supplies, sports equipment, and all those other things that need a storage home.
    Illustration by Laurie Grace
  • 139-056-02
    Setting Blocks: Dump half a bucket of concrete mix onto tamped gravel in each hole, spread it out, and then set blocks in mix. Use level to make sure the edges of each block are lined up.
    Illustration by Laurie Grace
  • 139-056-01
    Foundation: Run taut cord between stakes, and tie foot-long loops at ends for easy adjustment.
    Illustration by Laurie Grace
  • 139-058-02
    Door-Size Suggestions: Make the single door wide enough to admit a tiller, and the double doors wide enough to admit a tractor.
    Illustration by Laurie Grace
  • Fasten the floor joists between front and back sills; attach the flooring atop joists.
    Illustration by Laurie Grace
  • Fasten roof sheeting to rafters with nails, alternating between sheets.
    Illustration by Laurie Grace
  • When unrolling roll-roofing, make sure the edge is square to the long edge of the roof ply.
    Illustration by Laurie Grace
  • Tap shim shingles between the jack stud and box frame. Use a carpenters' level to make sure that the frame is square.
    Illustration by Laurie Grace

  • 139-055-01
  • 139-056-02
  • 139-056-01
  • 139-058-02

Summer's getting long in the tooth; rain is scarce and leaves are beginning to show color. The family vacation is over (if not paid for), the garden is tending itself, the fish have quit biting and pro football hasn't yet kicked off. Weekends drag, it's time to find something to get you out of the house. What better project than learning how to build a shed to store your gear?

In just such circumstances some years back, I responded to a magazine ad for storage shed plans that promised a pretty shed "anyone could build." But the plan proved to be nothing more than a single sheet of paper with a crude drawing, a materials list written in shorthand, and instructions that began "Anchor sole plate..." What's a sole plate? Don't ask me, the plan didn't say.

Storage Sheds Are Always Useful

As luck would have it, our little country town took up recycling that year and I got to carry boards for a carpenter as he built us an open-fronted recycling shed. I still have a mind's-eye picture of him with his deliberate but steady pace, measuring twice, cutting once and then setting nails with a whack. Thus instructed, I built a scaled-down version of the recycling shed, closed in the front, and made a wood-plank door and sliding window. You can use this DIY shed to store garden tools or wood, to garage your lawn tractor and attachments, to house a few goats, sheep or chickens, or for a combination of uses. (Just be sure to put a dust-proof partition between the laying hens and your work or storage area.)

The storage shed is a few inches short of 16' long, 8' high and deep. It's designed for mistake-proof construction, using economical, standard-size materials. Unlike many backyard sheds, it's made to last, with ground-facing floor beams of pressure-treated (PT) lumber to resist decay and insect damage, and a frame more closely spaced than you'll find in many new homes. The siding is T-1-11 plywood, which is weather-proofed and grooved on one side to simulate barn boards.

With careful shopping, all new materials should cost less than $600 (at 1993 prices). Finish it to match your house with prehung doors, windows, and clapboards or shingles, and the cost can more than double. But if you shop wisely, use recycled lumber, and build your own doors and windows, the cost can be less than what you spend for seed and soil conditioners each year.

What followed are my instructions on how to build a shed that'll last for decades. You'll find these directions detailed enough to complete the shed, even if you barely know a hammer from a saw. Construction entails a lot of "tacking" (temporary fastening with fasteners sunk part way) to eliminate errors. I've even included tips on compensating for the type of amateur-builder mistakes I've made myself.

2/21/2014 10:41:04 AM

I recently built a backyard shed as a weekend project. It was fun! It took me approx. 6 hours and I used a prefab metal shed kit. It was a tough decision between wood and a metal shed kit, but the price for the kit was much more affordable than a wood shed package from Lowe's or Home Depot. My outdoor storage shed size is a 10 x 12 and it really offers a lot of space for my tools, lawn mower, kids bikes, and some other household items. I looked also at the 10x10 and the 10x8, but wanted a little extra room. The warranty on my shed kit is 12 years and I made sure to go with the best name brand shed kit manufacturer Arrow storage products. I purchased my 10x12 outdoor shed at Original Shelters and also received free S&H.

2/19/2014 10:10:20 AM

Why are those pictures so small ? It's impossible to see anything. Please, make them bigger !

Chuck Brodeur
4/19/2013 10:14:26 AM

Are there any actual plans archived for this shed? Thanks.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters