DEAR TIM: I am in desperate need of shed plans, because the clutter in my garage has become unbearable. What should I be looking for when I consider storage-shed plans? Is it really necessary to have detailed shed building plans if I am going to do the work myself? How would you construct the shed to be both easy to build and long-lasting? Johanna C., Woodbury, NJ
DEAR JOHANNA: Three years ago, I took back ownership of my garage for my vehicles. When I first moved into my home, we could easily park my truck and our car in the spacious garage. But over time, we accumulated too much stuff which forced the cars outside. When I showed my wife a set of shed plans that matched our Queen Anne Victorian home in every detail, her only question was, "How soon can you have it completed?"
The first thing you should consider when looking for wood-shed plans, garden-shed plans or any storage outbuilding plans is function, not form or looks. In other words, you need to make sure that the building is going to be big enough for the things you need to store. You can make the outside of any storage shed look like any style you desire. It is easy to make a storage shed match the style and character of your existing home.
The most basic component of your shed plans is the two-dimensional floor plan. This tells you how long and wide your shed will be. All too often people think a storage shed will be large enough on paper or when they see a pre-built one in a home-center parking lot. But reality soon sets in when they start to cram all of the things in the new building. The way to ensure your new shed will be large enough is to take the things you want to put in the shed outside on your drive or lawn.
Once all of the things are outside, arrange them in a way you would like to see them in the shed. Be sure there is enough room around the items so you can get to each thing without having to crawl over other something. If you make a mistake and make your shed too small, you will be grouchy each time you have to pull out three or four things to get to something way back in the shed.
The needed detail on the plans is a function of what may be required by your local zoning and building department. Some communities have strict rules as to how a shed must look, the size of the building with respect to the size of your home, and even which direction doors must face. You should absolutely visit your local government offices to discover what guidelines you must follow before you purchase shed plans or even draw your own.
I feel it is a good idea to have detailed storage-shed plans even if you plan to build it yourself. The plans will help you produce an accurate material list so you only buy as much material as you need. Another benefit of well-thought-out shed plans is minimal waste. By taking the time to think through modular design and economical building, it is possible to build a shed with virtually no waste. This is a green-building practice all should do no matter what the project might be.
For ease of construction, you should probably lean towards using wood. Masonry storage sheds require a unique skill set as does working with metal. Many people have the simple tools to cut and assemble wood.
The floor of the shed can be made just like a wood deck that hugs the ground. Use treated-lumber for the support posts, floor joists and the actual floor. You can buy treated-lumber plywood. This is what I have in my own shed, and I never have to worry about driving my wet or snow-encrusted tractor into the shed.
Water is the biggest enemy of a wood storage shed. There should be at least 6 inches of space between the soil and any wood that is not treated for rot. Water that splashes on the sides of the shed can cause rot over time. The best way to minimize this is to create generous 16-inch overhangs on the roof and use gutters and downspouts to collect and redirect roof water.
Instead of using cumbersome swinging doors for access, consider purchasing a 6-foot-wide overhead garage door. These are economical, practical, attractive and easy to assemble. Traditional swinging doors can be problematic on windy days, and they can be difficult to build from scratch if you are a rookie do-it-yourselfer.
It is a good idea to install several skylights that allow abundant natural light to stream into your shed. If possible, try to incorporate a steep roof. This will allow you to create some bonus storage space above the floor of the shed. You can't have too much storage space in a storage shed!