Is It Cheaper to Buy or Build a Shed?

red painted garden shed

If you're wondering if it is cheaper to buy or build a shed, you are definitely thinking along the right lines. It's smart to consider whether you can save money on DIY and how much you can save, but don't forget that your time and effort also have value.

Is it cheaper to buy or build a shed? This depends entirely on how much value you place on your time and effort, as well as how much money ultimately goes into the project either way.

You and Your Shed

Sheds are convenient storage places for gardening items and other stuff you don't want to keep in your main house. Getting a shed is an easy decision.

Figuring out whether you should purchase a shed already built or build your own—that's a different matter altogether. Factor in the cost of the shed and everything associated with it, the amount of time you spend on it, and how much energy it will take from you for it to become a reality.

Taking all these factors together will help you figure out what type of shed you need.

The Permits

You may need to get building permits to add a structure to your property. Call your local housing office to find out where to obtain information about permits and find out how much they cost, as the price varies greatly by city, county, and state.

If you belong to a homeowner's association, you will also need to check with this group to see if you are able to build a shed and if there are any specifications you must follow.

These tasks will add time and money to your project, and you must perform these tasks no matter which type of shed you plan to add to your property.

The Foundation

No matter which option you choose, you must have a foundation for your shed. Even pre-built sheds will not come with a foundation.

If the floor of your shed is the ground, the ground will turn into a soggy mess after every rain and put all your items at risk.

The ground is also rarely perfectly flat. Without prepping a foundation, your shed will simply be sat down on uneven ground, and obviously, this isn't a great construction choice.

You have several options when it comes to creating a foundation for a pre-built shed.

Foundation Options

An on-grade foundation is just that: it goes right on the ground. You can choose a plastic base, lay down patio stone, or choose a block base.

You can even pour gravel to act as a shed foundation. This provides drainage for water to keep the floor of the shed dry.

Concrete pavers and concrete blocks are very easy to install and highly affordable. Placing one of these foundations will typically cost under $200.

Putting down a timber frame and gravel pad ranges in price from about $200 to $400.

Laying a concrete slab takes a good deal of skill and time, and can cost up to $4,000. However, this is a permanent foundation, and it's highly durable and trustworthy.

There are other options available, such as plastic foundations. You can also get foundation kits from manufacturers, and some pre-built sheds may even come with a foundation kit included.

concrete foundation under construction

Prepping the Foundation

No matter which option you're going to choose for your foundation, you need to start by prepping the area where the foundation will go. This means that you need to choose the size of your shed first.

You will also need to pick a foundation type before you prep. The way you prep the ground changes somewhat between different foundation types.

The cost of the foundation will fall upon you, whether you hire a crew to place it for you or you get all the materials together and place it yourself. Remember to factor this cost into the total cost of your shed project.

Pavers and Gravel

Once you know how big your shed is, prepare the ground by excavating the top layer of soil. That means digging up all the grass and removing any rocks and roots you find during this process so that you're left with bare ground.

Use a rake and shovel to smooth out the ground as much as possible, and fill in this area with sand to create a flat base. Add a layer of garden cloth to prevent weeds.

If you're going to use gravel, garden cloth can be put directly on the grass, or you can remove the sod. Place a gravel pad on the ground and cover it with gravel, using a compacter to compact it.

Build a timber frame on top of gravel around the foundation exactly where the edges of the shed will go. Use 4x4 or 4x6 pieces of wood for this frame.

Concrete Blocks

If you're going to install concrete blocks, you don't have to dig up grass or prep the ground. You will need to build a frame, however.

Place between six to eight small-to-medium circles of gravel on the ground where the shed will go. Four of these circles should be where the four corners of the shed will be.

Add extra piles around the perimeter of the shed, depending on how large it is. These circles of gravel are where you will place concrete blocks, which will support the timber frame you must build for this foundation type.

Use 4x4 or 4x6 pieces of wood to build a frame. Check your level constantly, as you need this entire structure to be level.

Skid Foundation

If you choose a skid foundation, you don't have to do much ground prep at all. As long as the ground is level and even, you can place a skid foundation.

Pressure-treated logs or 4x4, 6x6, or 8x8 pieces of wood are used t create a skid foundation. To give this foundation solid support, dig a trench where his foundation will lay and cover this with a layer of gravel.

Concrete Slab

A strong and durable choice, concrete slabs definitely create a solid foundation, and they are tough enough that vehicles can drive right onto them. You will need to dig up about six inches of soil and level this area out to get started with this foundation.

Next, you will build a perimeter frame for the foundation with 2x12 pieces of wood. The four corners must be level and square.

You will use a concrete pad, gravel, and concrete to fill in the frame and create the slab.

The Cost of Buying a Pre-Built Shed

When you purchase a shed that's already been built, there is very little that you have to do. First, you'll pick out what shed you want.

The most common shed size is 8 x 6, though sheds can be built in just about any size, from quite small to very large. The price of pre-built sheds varies greatly by material and size.

For example, a wooden 8 x 6 shed costs around $500, while a plastic resin shed of the same size is about twice as much at $1,000. For a shed measuring 8 x 6 in steel, you will pay $300 to $400.

This is the cost of the shed itself. You will pay additional fees for delivery and set up of the shed, which could range from $50 to $250 on average.

wood shed under construction

The Cost of Building a Shed

When you purchase a pre-built shed, you have the option of choosing a plastic or vinyl design, getting a shed in metal, or finding a storage structure in some other material.

Building a shed means you will most likely be using something like wood, cinderblock, or brick to finish your shed's exterior walls.

According to some estimates, you will spend an average of $800 to $4,000 to build a shed. You could spend anywhere from $200 to $30,000, with the national average cost at $2,500.

You'll pay around $15 to $50 per square foot to build a shed. Factors that change the price include the size of the shed, the materials you choose, the style, and the extras you add.

If you want electricity or plumbing or both, you will pay more in materials, and building permits, and you might even need to hire a professional to complete this work. Expect to pay at least $50 per hour for professional services like these.

To use the example of the most common shed size, 8x6, you will pay about $1,000 total for lumber, roof shingles, paint, plywood, and various materials (like nails) used to finish the shed.

However, you will spend many hours and days framing the walls and the roof, and the floor, placing the plywood, and shingling the roof. You will paint the building, install the door, and see to all the various odds and ends associated with creating an entire building.

This cost does not factor in any windows or insulation, little extras you may or may not wish to add which will add to the total cost of the project.

The Roof

Don't forget about the roof. This is the trickiest part of the project for a number of reasons.

Your roof needs to have a certain amount of slope, depending on where you live, to provide a way for moisture, snow, ice, leaves, and tree debris to slide down off the roof. It is only in very dry, warm climates that this is not necessary.

You will likely want to finish the roof in shingles or another material so that it can withstand the elements and take what nature dishes out. Installing a roof is no small task and it takes a lot of skill and knowledge, though it is a task you can learn how to DIY.

However, it is quite dangerous to install a roof because you are up off the ground. You need to work very carefully, follow all possible safety precautions, and work with a partner.

It is not a good idea to install a roof alone, even a small one, because you want someone there to provide assistance if anything unforeseen happens.

You may wish to hire a professional to complete this phase of the project, which will add a little more to your budget.

The Door

Remember that you must also add some type of door to the shed. If you plan to store a lawn mower or other large equipment here, the door must be wide enough to accommodate this.

Standard self-propelled lawnmowers are 22 inches wide or larger, on average, while even small riding lawnmowers are at least 30 inches wide, and 40 inches is far more typical.

You need to frame out a door and hang the door, which means installing the hinges and all necessary hardware. You will also want to install a knob or some other entry method.

All of this will require making careful cuts into the door using a jigsaw or similar precise cutting tool, screwdriver, hammer, and basic tools such as a tape measure and level.

The In-Between Option

You can also purchase shed kits and put them together yourself, like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle. These kits do not require much more than standard hand tools, such as a power drill and hammer.

Shed kits that require some DIY assembly vary in price depending on how many of your own materials you need to buy. Some kits, for example, may not come with roof shingles.

A shed kit that creates a wooden 8x6 shed with no shingles costs around $2,000. A polycarbonate metal kit will cost about half as much, around $1,000.

Is It Cheaper to Build or Buy a Shed?

You have many decisions to make when it comes to adding a new shed to your property, whether you choose to build it entirely, get a kit to help with the process, or have a pre-built shed delivered and deposited on the spot where you want it.

Factor in the cost of the total project, including permits and the foundation, to decide which option is the best for you. Remember that your time and labor have their own value, as the time you spend on the shed takes away from other projects.

Building or Buying a Shed FAQs

How much does it cost to have a shed built?

If you choose to hire a contractor and construction crew to build a shed for you, expect to pay an average of $20 to $175 per square foot, or about $1,500 to $10,000. The national average cost to have a shed built is around $4,000.

What should you store in a shed?

Sheds are perfect for storing lawn supplies and garden tools, such as rakes, shovels, lawnmowers, and other gear and equipment you use to maintain lawn and landscaping areas.

Does adding a shed add value to your property?

For the most part, adding a shed will not add a lot of value to your property, according to real estate experts. Unless your shed is large and very nice, don't expect this addition to drive up the price of your property by very much.

How do you maintain a shed?

All buildings take damage and wear over time. Give your shed good maintenance to keep it standing for many years so you can continue to get use out of it.

Clean the shed regularly inside and out, remove weeds and debris from around the exterior of the shed, and clean the roof if tree limbs and other debris land on it. Check the shed regularly for cracks and air leaks, and seal these up with caulk.

Good maintenance will extend the life of your shed and keep the items inside stored safely. Maintenance prevents pest infestation, moisture damage, and other problems that can reduce the life of your shed and put your possession at risk.

Further Reading

4 Ways to Waterproof Your Wood Shed

6 Tips for Painting a Metal Shed

Avoid These 5 Shed Building Mistakes

Building a Tool Shed Interior: 7 Ideas

Convert a Storage Shed into a Home Office

How to Build a Bike Shed

How to Build a Brick Shed

How to Insulate a Shed Roof