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Friday, October 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Home and garden

Ask the Builder: Should a shed look like the house?

The shed is a miniature version of the house. This is first class all the way. (Tim Carter)
The shed is a miniature version of the house. This is first class all the way. (Tim Carter)
By Tim Carter Tribune Content Agency

Q. I want to build a deluxe shed. I’ve just retired and have plenty of time on my hands. I want to stop paying the outrageous offsite storage fees.

First and foremost, what do you think of my shed matching my house? Is this a good idea or a waste of time? In your opinion, what are the best things to include in a shed? What are the biggest mistakes homeowners make when they build sheds? – Daniel P., Lincoln, Nebraska

A. You are not the only person who has accumulated so much stuff that you pay to store it at an offsite facility. If you add up what you pay in a year, you can buy quite a bit of material to build a handsome shed in just a few weeks. Ask most realtors, and they’ll probably say a nice shed adds value to a home.

Most people consider matching the color of the shed to the color of the house, but that’s where it stops. Only a few take it to the next step and consider building a facsimile of the actual house! Yes, you can create a miniature version of your house in almost all cases. It’s not as difficult as you might think – and, believe me, you’ll get a lot of compliments.

The process of making a shed match a house is simple. The first step is to create a simple plan of the minimum size your shed should be. One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is building a shed far too small for their needs.

I recorded a video a few years ago showing how simple it is to create a perfect shed for your stuff. You can view this “Planning a Shed” video on my askthebuilder.com website. Once you have the outer dimensions of your new shed, you need to see how they compare to the shape of your home.

If your home is rectangular, then try to mold your shed dimensions to mimic this shape and maintain a reasonable ratio if possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you’ll achieve the best possible look if you maintain the shape and size ratio.

My sheds have always had electric power in them. It’s so nice to have lights and to be able to plug in tools. A simple 30-amp 240-volt circuit is usually plenty of power for just about anything you’d do inside a shed.

I discovered about 20 years ago that overhead doors offer the most utility getting things in and out of sheds. A 6-foot-wide door allows plenty of room to get a decent-sized lawn tractor in and out of the shed.

If your home is two stories, you get an added benefit. You’ll discover when you do the height ratio that the shed ceiling height will almost always be about 9 or 10 feet tall. This allows you to include a small loft along one or two walls for extra storage of larger boxes.

Many sheds have wood floor systems. You’ll want to use treated lumber for your floor joists, and I’d highly recommend using treated plywood for the flooring. Treated plywood is readily available from most neighborhood lumberyards, and you never have to worry about the floor getting wet.

The last shed I built not only had treated floor joists and plywood, but it also had 4 inches of closed-cell foam insulation in between the joists. This foam was flush with the top of the joists, allowing me to finish the shed at a later date and have a toasty warm floor in winter months.

The biggest blunders made by homeowners shouldn’t surprise you. Don’t forget natural light. You can incorporate simple low-profile skylights or roof windows to let in copious amounts of natural light.

I’ve received countless emails from homeowners who failed to install a normal 3-foot-wide door in one wall of their shed. They want to know how to add one later. Large swinging shed doors are a pain and can be dangerous on windy days. A normal man door in addition to a larger opening is a must.

Don’t skimp on the foundation. All too many sheds I’ve seen are just setting on concrete blocks on the soil. Do this and your shed may start to roll around the neighborhood in the next windstorm.

Your shed may get twisted out of shape without a great foundation system should you live where the ground freezes. Frost heave can lift the shed unequally and contort it so much you can’t open a door or window.

Don’t build the shed too close to the ground. It’s best to have at least a 6-inch air space under wood floor joists for air circulation. You can install decorative screening to keep critters from living under the shed, and install a great vapor barrier under a concrete slab that is the floor of your shed.

Subscribe to Carter’s free newsletter and listen to his new podcasts at askthebuilder.com.

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