Authored By: Joel Bird
Our resident shed building expert Joel was the 2014 winner of Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year having beat over 10,000 applicants to win. He returned to the show the following year as a judge.
Building a Shed a simple step by step DIY guide
OK, so this page is dedicated to showing you in a general way what you need to do step by step to build a DIY shed. It’s a how to build a shed guide for the typical person that has not built a shed before. All sheds MUST have a strong base, if you want to read our guide on how to build a shed base then that would be fine starting point before you read this guide. Over the years this page has been live, a few of our readers have emailed us and asked us if we could provide some more specific step by step instructions that would help them build a more sophisticated shed. In response to that we have teamed up with the professional carpenter and pro shed builder Ryan Henderson. The plans for sheds Ryan uses are ones that many “professional” carpenters currently use when building bespoke sheds.
The below guide, while not as in depth as those we talk about above, it should however be fine if you are just looking at building something that is fairly simple and basic. If you feel like you would like to add more depth to the step by step guide (so if yo want detailed instructions to add a window or siding etc) then we can’t recommend the MyShedPlans highly enough. OK, so on to the WhatShed step by step guide on how to build a shed.
Step by Step Guide – How to Build a Shed
Step One: Getting the shed build started
Though the actual building of the garden shed/workshop will take more time than the construction of the foundation, it’s without a doubt the much more enjoyable part of the construction process. Watching your very own shed rise up from the ground offers a thrill rivaled only by gazing upon the finished product in its entirety. As you read this guide you will need to decide if you want to add fancy siding or pit in a window.
Keeping everything simple, this how to guide will assume that the shed being built will have a concrete-slab foundation. Though there are other sorts of foundation—including sunken pillar and wooden skid—we have a concrete slab foundation guide already in place.
Now, for those completely uninterested in the laborious endeavor it takes to build a shed from scratch—never fear!—there are several pre-fabricated kit options available. These kits typically come with step by step instructions and all the necessary construction materials pre-cut and pre-labeled. Sure, these kits take some of the fun out of it, but they can be a great time saver for those unaccustomed to working with their hands.
Still, it’s hard for anything to top the sights, smells, sounds and memories that come with the from-scratch build.
Step Two: Tools for the build
Before going any further, the acquisition of several basic tools are absolutely paramount when successfully building a shed.
- Measuring tape
- Cross-Cut Saw
- Jab Saw
- A level
- An electric drill with various bits/attachments
- Clamps—C-clamps preferably
- Claw hammer
- Framing square
- An array of fasteners—nails, screws, etc.
- Carpenter’s pencil
- Good pair of work gloves
Although they’re great from the convenience standpoint if already in your toolbox, things like a nail gun or a jig saw are not absolute necessities, so don’t feel the need to go out and spend money on elaborate power tools.
Step Three: Lumber/wood
Unless working with a massive budget and a great-deal of construction experience, the chances are this shed will consist of wood more than any other building material. Sure, steel and composite materials are great if you’re building a skyscraper, but for the purposes a small backyard structure it’s just a tad excessive for most circumstances.
Having said that, choosing the right lumber can make or break a project before it ever gets started, so examine this lumber guide to fully understand the finer points of your main construction material.
More than anything, just ensure the purchase of straight, tight-grain wood and make sure anything touching the concrete slab or surrounding ground has been fully pressure treated, specifically for ground-contact. Long-term, it will be worth the up-front cost.
As for how much lumber will be necessary, that’s difficult to say.
Depending on the size of the structure, it could be quite a lot, so take the measurements of the foundation to the local lumber yard and talk with them about the details of the project. In all likelihood, they’ve helped customers with similar builds before and will be able to provide accurate estimates.
Additional Perk: If you know the measurements of your foundation and the desired height of the shed, your lumber provider can cut all of your boards and headers to length, which will massively shrink down on prep time. Having already sized wood makes doing sections like roof panels and window areas much easier during construction of your DIY shed. Also, expect to purchase mainly 2×4’s and 2×6’s assuming your project is of relatively basic size.
Step Four: Laying the Base of and Raising the First Wall
Since the beautiful concrete foundation—complete with anchor bolts—has already been poured and set, it’s time to resume the build.
Start by laying your mudsill (sole plate) next to the anchor bolts sticking out of the foundation.
With the measuring tape and carpenter’s pencil, make a discernible tick mark 1 ½ inches from the end of the board, continuing the marking every 16 inches until reaching the end of the board. These marks will serve as indicators for the studs.
Also take care to highlight—using a different mark or indicator than used for the studs—where the anchor bolts line up with the mudsill.
Take your studs and—using the marks you’ve made as directional indicators—fix them to the mudsill by driving a galvanized nail or screw through the board and into the center of the stud bottom.
As they are fixed to the baseboard, go ahead and lay the top plate (the ceiling’s version of the mudsill) across the opposite end and fix it with nails or screws. The finished result should look something like this:
At this time, also drill holes into the mudsill for the anchors. The holes should be large enough to let the anchors to pass through, but not gaping.
Now complete, align the drill bored mudsill on top of the anchor bolts and set down onto the slab. The raising process can be particularly difficult if working alone with a large wall frame, so it may be necessary to get an extra pair of hands to help.
Step Five: Wall How to build and Plan for a Door
Though it would be easy to say “repeat the above process for the remaining three walls”, one of those walls will need to have a door if you ever want to actually go inside of your shed, so at least one wall cannot identically adhere to the instructions above.
Much like a shed, the avid builder can happily build his own doors, but often times it’s quite a bit easier to go with the manufactured door from the local hardware store. The only problem is, manufactured doors only exist in specific sizes, so proper planning and measurement are critical when setting about construction of that fourth, final wall.
The insertion of the door will mean the loss of at least one support stud. To compensate for the structural loss in the wall, installing a header immediately above the top of the door will help bear the weight of the roof.
The header can either sit on jack (trimmer) studs—additional boards secured to the framing connector (like a post anchor or joist hanger), though jack (trimmer) studs are more common and easier to install. A cripple stud—usually a pair of 2×2’s or a 2×4—will run between the header and the top plate.
Pro Tip: Also when considering doors that are best suited for sheds make sure the basic opening for any manufactured door is ½ inch larger (in width and length) than the purchased unit. The extra room will allow breathing room for any necessary adjustments and helps to ensure the flush fit during the DIY installation. Additional window or siding can also be added at this stage.
Step Six: How to build the Walls
With all four walls raised and set on the anchor bolts, create a few temporary buttresses to keep them upright and undamaged. As this is temporary bracing that will eventually come off, don’t use expensive lumber—cheap greenwood or even damaged boards are fine. Secure the brace to the wall with a screw or nail and to the ground by weighing the free end down with a heavy weight like a bag of concrete.
Pro Tip: For those up to going the extra-mile, secure the free end to the ground by driving one wooden stake into the Earth and nailing it to the brace board siding.
The wall frames now secure and semi-sturdy, check the squares. Rather than measuring the diagonal from the top corner of one side the bottom corner of the other, use the 3-4-5 rule to check for 90 degree angles.
Assuming square corners and level measurements all the way around, take the washers and nuts for your anchor bolts and secure them.
Though the shed seems solid at this stage, don’t remove the extra bracing just yet.
Lock the corners where the wall frames touch with extra framing, usually in the form of 2×4 blocks fastened to the two end studs. Install an extra corner stud to the filler block for added security if desired. Keep it all level, thats how to best stop misalignment later.
Double the top plate by taking additional boards measured to identically fit the existing top plates and secure them with nails or screw inserted every 8 to 16 inches this will ensure the siding boards are extra stiff. The addition of a booster plate helps to create the stronger, stiffer structure for the eventual support of the roof and roof panels.
Step Seven: Framing the Roof
Speaking of roofing, someone should probably address that.
Yes, there are various kinds of roofs, but if this is your first shed, it’s probably best to go with the most simple gable roof. Many types of gable roof exist, some with complex siding, some with a window. Whatever sort of roof gable you decide to add the one thing we would stress is that the more complex the roof the harder it will be to align all the roof panels. We have found the simpler the build the less problems you are likely to have later down the road.
For the unfamiliar, the basic gable roof consists of evenly spaced rafters secured to the top plates and the ridge board—which essentially serves the same purpose as a keystone would in a stone structure. The rafters will extend beyond the walls to form an overhang which will help protect the siding from excess moisture during the rainy season.
Although there are three main sorts of rafter, in the interest of simplicity this shed will only deal with common rafters—boards of equal size and length placed at common intervals—normally 12 to 16 inches—along the length of the top plates and ridge board. If possible, set up the rafters so they sit directly over the wall studs.
While the helpful hand at the lumber yard will probably mention this, it’s good practice to mention it again—make sure the ridge board is at least one size larger than the common rafters. For instance, if using 2×2 rafters use a 2×4 ridge board.
Know that the potential pitch of the roof (rise over run) is completely customisable. The steeper the pitch, the more challenging the construction—BUT—the more usable space the shed will ultimately have.
Again, as this guide is for a basic shed construction of modest size, there will be no joists. However, it’s important to note joists are absolutely indispensable for structures of more pronounced size—for example a shed that could house a mid-size car should have at least a couple of joists running across the top plates.
To properly install the roof frame, cut the common rafters—or have the lumber mill people do it—so the board fits flush where the wood meets the ridge board. Also notch cut the rafters with a 90 degree slot so they can stably sit on the top plates.
Pro Tip: Measure, cut and test a single rafter. Once confirming the test rafter properly sits on the top plate and fits flush with the ridge board, use it as a model for the rest of the common rafters. This will ensure that all cut placements and depth are identical.
Step Eight: How to add the Roof
Take the first two rafters and fix them with nails or screw to the first end of the roof ridge board. For those confused by the language, at this stage one end of the roof ridge board will still have nothing attached to it while the opposite end will have the basic slant-frame of your predetermined pitch.
Repeat this process with the opposite end of the roof ridge board.
Once complete, have someone help to lift the four-rafter roof panels onto the plating and then check for an even level along the set ridge board.
Assuming everything looks good, begin installing the remaining rafters at their predetermined intervals.
Don’t forget to safely fix the rafters to the top plates with framing connectors.
Once the rest of the rafters are installed, climb down of the ladder and take a look at the handsome handiwork. This super structure is the backbone of your homemade garden shed.
Common questions you might have on how to build a shed.
of the rafters are installed, climb down of the ladder and take a look at the handsome handiwork. This super structure is the backbone of your homemade garden shed.
How much does it cost to build a 12×14 shed?
How much do you want to spend? Honestly you get what you pay for an we think that anything from £1,000 up for materials would be a sensible starting point.
Is it cheaper to build your own shed?
If you want a stronger shed that will last longer then building your own can work out best. It also makes adding a window in the location of your choose much easier. A fantastic comparison of the backdown of a purchased off the shelf shed and a home made one was done by Ben over on wood-create.com, its worth a look at if you a seriously weighing up the two options.
How much does it cost to build a shed on your own?
That depends on how complex you want to make it. The addition of a window if you decide to go for cheap horticultural glass can be fairly cheap. If the window you add is double or triple glazed then obviously the cost will go up. Using the shed as as workshop
Do you need a permit or planning permission to build a storage shed?
That all depends, we have a guide on UK planning regulation that you might want to read.