Materials for Building a Shed

When you are building a shed yourself most of your money will be spent on buying materials. And not just money - the quality of your outdoor construction depends just as much on the materials used for building it as on your skills.

So, let's see what kind of stuff you may need, how to choose it, how much does it cost, and where you can find it.

Materials for the foundation

For deck piers foundation:

  • Small quantity of gravel and/or concrete. Required mostly for stabilizing the deck piers. In some cases you may want to throw some gravel under the grid as well.
  • A beam for the deck piers. Pick a solid beam, something like 4" X 4" and cut it in equal parts.
  • Beams and joists for the foundation itself. These can be thinner - 3" X 2" for the frame and 2" squares for the grid.
  • Plywood or OSB for the flooring. Usually water-proof plywood is used. Some builders prefer laminate or just wooden boards.
  • Plenty of nails and/or screws.

Learn more about building a deck piers foundation.

For concrete slab foundation:

  • Cement and sand or ready concrete. The foundation should be at least 4" / 10 cm thick, so for 1 m2 you need at least 0.1 m3 of concrete.
  • Gravel. It should be laid out on the flattened ground before pouring the concrete
  • Possibly a finishing material like paving slabs. You can as well use linoleum or just leave it with concrete on the floor.
  • Plywood or boards for the shuttering. Use lower quality wood for this as it won't be much usable after that.

Learn more about building a concrete shed base.

Materials for the walls and doors

For a wooden shed

  • Wood boards or panelling. Paneling (groove and tongue boards) is much easier to work with and build walls without holes. Using regular boards might be a bit cheaper however.
  • Nails and screws. Your sides will be more robust if attached with screws. But it's time consuming and rather hard work to screw hundred of screws so it's best to mix them with nails.
  • Hinges. There will be at least one door in your shed so pick good stable hinges to hold it. More info on types of hinges.
  • Primer. Wooden walls need finishing or they won't last long. Use a good primer and maybe lacker.
  • Paint is optional and may improve the look and durability of your shed walls.

See here how to build a wooden shed wall.

Alternative wooden wall materials:

  • OSB is cheap but not easy to work with. It's not very durable when placed outside and will consume a lot of primer.
  • Water-resist plywood is a good choice except that it's far more expensive than the other option. Also, working with large panels of plywood is harder. And one mistake in cutting can screw a whole panel of the expensive material.
  • Wood branches or thin logs. This is a nice eco-friendly option. This material can come free if you collect the wood yourself. However finding branches that are straight enough to be used for building a wall can be quite a challenge.

For metal shed:

  • Sheet iron. You need 1mm or 2mm thick sheet iron. The 3mm thick one is too hard to work with.
  • 2mm or 3mm thick steel angles.
  • Primer
  • Paint is optional but strongly recommended.

Materials for the windows

A shed can go fine without any windows but having one will ensure more light during the day. At the same time it's occupying space for shelving. So think well before building window.

  • Glass. Lasts virtually forever but easy breaks and is hard to work with.
  • Plexiglass. This is usually a better choice for sheds. You don't need crystal views from this window, just some light to come in.
  • Polycarbonate is similar to plexiglass and lighter, and provides better insulation. It's also easier to cut.
  • Wood joists or steel angles for the window frame.

Materials for the roof

The materials listed below are interchangeable except the joists for the roof construction.

  • Shingles are a bit expensive and you need a burner to install them properly. More info.
  • Onduline is slightly cheaper and easier to work with. The main disadvantage is that it's easy to damage it if you ever want to walk on the roof (happens commonly with owners of attached sheds).
  • Sheet iron might be the cheapest option for a shed roof. Think twice however - its R value is very low which means your shed will be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. If you plan installing a sheet iron roofing you may prefer to build the roof construction from metal as well.
  • Tiles. People usually don't use tiles on sheds because they are heavy and require strong supporting construction. Nothing stops you to be different though.
  • Straw is cheap and natural material to cover your shed roof. It has to be replaced once per year or so.
  • Beams and joists or metal profiles are always required to build the roof rafters.

Here's a simple guide on building a gable shed roof.

Materials for the ramp and shelves

  • Steel angles. These will be required to support your shelves. Steel is best in this case regardless of the materials you'll use for the shelves. Still you can build the support from battens if you wish.
  • Sheet iron if you want to make metal shelves. It's cheap but hard to work with and bends if not thick enough.
  • Wood material. This can be MAP, OSB, boards or any other lumber. It's good idea to reuse lumber from old furniture like tables, bookstore units etc.
  • Screws. I prefer them to nails.
  • Primer to finish the shelves.

Here's a minimalist guide to building shed shelves yourself.

Materials for insulation

Shed insulation may be important if you store temperature sensitive stuff inside - food, electrical equipment etc. Waterproofing is important regardless of what you store inside.

  • Roof insulation can be oilcloth or liquid insulation that's placed under the roofing material (tiles, shingles etc).
  • Foam can be used on the shed walls and under the roof as thermal insulation.
  • Rockwool has better R value than foam but it has to be closed with a layer of hardboard or lumber.

See more about shed roof insulation.

Tools you need

The tools that are required for building a shed do not differ much than these for any other woodwork project.

This page may be extended over time with new links to reviews and related advice. I recommend you to bookmark and share it before you start building a shed.

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