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Building a shed step by step

Last Updated Apr 16, 2018 · Written by Rob Schneider


Building a shed can be a DIY project, but it needs to be done step by step to be a successful project. What steps do you need to take to build a shed? This rough guide will tell you what you need to know, but different types of sheds are built differently. Start with a good plan or find one online and study it first. Then you will be ready to start building a DIY shed.

If you feel you're not up to the job, consider buying a kit shed or get a builder to build it for you or help you build the shed. Many retired builders would love to help you and may charge less than a builder who is working full time building houses.

  1. Start with a plan
  2. What tools do you need to build a shed?
  3. A strong foundation is the first step towards a sturdy shed
  4. Building the walls and roof of the shed
  5. Cladding and the finishing touches

Start with a plan

A shed can be a simple structure, but you need to start with a plan to calculate the materials you need. What size do you want the shed to be? Do you want windows or a large door to access the things you keep inside? A shed can also be a retreat, so do you want to add a shaded patio for relaxing or perhaps some planter boxes to make it more attractive?

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What materials do you want to make the shed out of? Aluminium sheds are available or you can build one from timber or even brick or stone if you prefer. A shed doesn't have to be an eyesore in the yard, so use your imagination and come up with a shed that looks good in the backyard. For some ideas, have a look at our Shed Design Ideas pages.alt

(a kit shed on a slab)

You can make your own plans or look at kit sheds, which will include plans. Kit sheds (or prefabricated sheds) can be a good option because all the materials come with the kit and some can be customised to suit your needs. Both timber and steel sheds are available as kits. If you're undecided about which material to use, read Timber vs Steel Garden Sheds and compare their advantages and disadvantages.

If you want to build a shed from scratch, draw a plan and then make a list of all the materials you need and any tools you may need to purchase. Buy everything ahead of time so you don't have to stop construction to purchase something you've forgotten. And don't forget the roofing materials. The materials you use will depend on what you want to use the shed for. If it's for storage only, an aluminium roof may be a good choice. If you are going to be working in the shed, consider getting insulated roofing material and also consider insulating the shed to help keep it cool.

Before you start building the shed, check with your local council. You may need a permit to build a shed, especially if it is a larger shed and is not used just for storage.

What tools do you need to build a shed?

If you've done some building before, you may have all the tools you need to build a shed. If you only have basic tools, you may need to buy more. Some tools you will need include:

  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Cross cut saw or power saw (or both)
  • An electric or cordless drill
  • Clamps to hold things in place (a variety of C clamps are a good choice)
  • A hammer
  • A framing square
  • Fasteners, including nails, screws and other fasteners (a good hardware store can help you with these)
  • A carpenter's pencil

Also use good quality gloves and think about using eye protection.

Find a local Sheds Suppliers now

A strong foundation is the first step towards a sturdy shed

While you're in the planning stages, think about the type of foundation your shed will have. You can pour a cement slab or you may want to use piers or timber and make an elevated shed. A cement slab can be a good idea for a storage shed, but you may want to use piers and have steps to the shed if you want to use it for more than just storage.altIf you've decided to elevate the shed, you can use cement piers or timber, but make sure the timber is rated for inground use. Treated pine can be a good choice, but the timber that goes into the ground should be H5 grade, which protects against termites, decay and borers. Use H3 or H4 grade for the rest of the structure to protect against rot, termites and other pests.

If you're building a kit shed, all the necessary parts will come with the shed. If you're building from scratch, you will need timber and galvanised bracing materials. Ask a hardware store what bracing materials you need and use screws instead of nails on the foundation to make it more stable. As a general rule:

  • Piers should be 1.8m apart in one direction and 1.2m apart in the other direction
  • Joists should be 150mm by 50mm and 40cm apart. Use metal straps to secure the joists and use screws instead of nails
  • Floor joists should be about 67cm apart and use blocking between the floor joists to keep them from twisting later
  • Flooring can be 20mm thick plywood and should be waterproof. It can be nailed to the joists

Once the slab or foundation is built, you can start building the shed.

Building the walls and roof of the shed

If you're building a timber shed, you will have to build the walls of the shed. It's a good idea to measure the walls and build them first before you erect them. The standard spacing between uprights is between 40cm and 41cm and you will be using 90mm by 45mm treated pine. Don't forget to place blocks between the uprights to help support the structure.

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You can leave the walls unclad until you fix them into place or if you're using plywood, you can attach the plywood before you put them into place. If you want windows, you will have to frame them in and you will need to frame the door in, too. Leave the doors and windows until after you have finished the roof.

After you've built the walls, erect one and use bracing to make it level. Then move on to the next wall and finish all four walls before you build the roof.

The roof can be the hardest part of the job and you may need help with it. A skillion roof is easier to build than a gabled roof, but you will have to make the walls of the shed angled to accommodate the roof. A gabled roof is harder to build, but it's mostly a matter of getting the angle right and using the right fixing materials. You may need help with a gabled roof because it needs to be held in place as you erect each section of the roof.

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(a skillion roof)

At this stage, you will have built the shed's skeleton. The next step is to finish building the shed.

Cladding and the finishing touches

Once you've erected the walls and roofing trusses, you will have a shed skeleton and the next step is to finish building the shed. If you have built an aluminium kit shed, most of the work will be done, but if you're building a timber shed, you still have to clad it, install the windows and door or doors. It may be a good idea to install the roof before you clad the shed because you never know when it will rain and a roof will help keep the interior dry.

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If you're installing overlapping timber or Hardiplank cladding, start at the bottom and work your way up. Install the cladding first and then the windows and door or doors. Finally, you will want to seal or paint the shed if it's timber.

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The finishing touches will make an ordinary shed extraordinary. They can be anything from decking and a patio cover to decorative features to brighten the shed and make it look like a magical sanctuary rather than just a shed in the backyard. Consider doing some landscaping around the shed and think about paving outside and other details that make a shed more than just a shed.

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