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What is a Utility Shed?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

A storage or utility shed is a handy place to keep garden tools and miscellaneous items for working around the house. Some people erect a utility shed to relieve the garage or even the house of clutter. A large enough shed can also serve as a virtual garage for hobby equipment, bicycles, motorcycles, jet skis, a modest boat or a vehicle. Made from metal, vinyl or wood, utility sheds come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit every purpose, need and budget.

The smallest variety of storage sheds more closely resemble utility closets or locking cabinets whose main purpose is to provide a weather-free space for the mower and other gardening tools. These units are typically made of durable vinyl and like all models, come in modular kits that the buyer assembles. The utility shed may allow for a pegboard-like system or other method of hanging clippers, shears, and similar hand tools.

A utility shed may be used to store hobby equipment.
A utility shed may be used to store hobby equipment.

More substantial vinyl sheds can be as large as 10 x 13 feet (3x4m) or bigger, depending on the model. Sheds should be used with a foundation kit for anchoring the unit, not always included. A vinyl utility shed is considered to be the most maintenance-free type of unit because it cannot rust or rot, and requires no painting.

Metal sheds are another option, with some models being wide and deep enough to use as a virtual garage for an extra car, truck or trailer. Higher end metal sheds have enamel finishes or vinyl coated steel to add strength and durability, making them rust-resistant. Like vinyl sheds, metal sheds require a foundation kit that might have to be purchased separately or constructed as a do-it-yourself project.

Some utility sheds sit atop concrete slabs.
Some utility sheds sit atop concrete slabs.

Wood sheds are among the most popular models because they are aesthetically pleasing and are the strongest. A wood utility shed typically sports trim, windows and styling that can make it look as if it was part of the original property plan. Some models include a handsome railed porch deck, and wood sheds can be painted to match the house or estate. Whether Gable, Barn or whimsical Playhouse style, a wooden storage shed can add to the charm and value of property while withstanding heavy snow loads and substantial winds. Kits come with wood panels pre-cut and drilled. A foundation kit is required and might be sold separately.

When a foundation kit is not included with the storage shed of choice, there are two types to consider: skid or concrete slab. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A skid foundation is a frame upon which plywood can be laid to raise the shed off the ground by two or more inches (>51mm). The space beneath the shed floor allows air circulation to keep the floor dry. Heavy steel mesh screening should be used at vents or openings to prevent animals, including bees and wasps from entering. This type of foundation is handy for the typical garden shed because it can be moved if one decides to relocate it.

A concrete slab foundation is optional for smaller sheds, but necessary for sheds that will be holding substantial weight too great for a skid foundation. Other circumstances or conditions might also call for a slab foundation, and buyers should ask for advice from the vendor, particularly when a foundation is not included with a kit.

Before deciding on the exact size and type of utility shed desired, it is a good idea to call local county offices to inquire about permits. Regulations differ between cities and townships, but in many cases a permit is only required if the shed's square footage exceeds a given threshold. Additional restrictions might also apply, such as a minimal distance from other free-standing structures. Severe weather regions might also impose codes for sustained wind resistance ratings.

All sheds come with plans for assembly and some manufacturers maintain hotlines for assisting customers in the assembly process. Except for the smallest models, the general recommendation is that a two-party team assemble the product, which can take anywhere from several hours to a couple of days depending on size, complexity, and the skill set of the assemblers. Kits are heavy so be sure to take shipping charges or delivery fees into account when pricing products from online or local retailers.

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    • A utility shed may be used to store hobby equipment.
      By: mparratt
      A utility shed may be used to store hobby equipment.
    • Some utility sheds sit atop concrete slabs.
      By: Mitchell Knapton
      Some utility sheds sit atop concrete slabs.