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Hardscaping 101: Garden Sheds


Hardscaping 101: Garden Sheds

July 7, 2016

Yearning for an outdoor storage closet? A garden shed can offer that and much more. From the simple to the sublime, garden sheds serve up space, solitude, and a work or play room with a view. Is a garden shed in your future?


Above: Seattle-based SHED (members of our Architect/Designer Directory) designed an unassuming backyard wood-clad shed with barn doors that roll open, allowing it to double as a well-appointed gardener’s retreat and bike storage. See A Stylish Garden Shed with a Secret.

Do I need a garden shed?

The question may seem obvious. But how you answer it will help determine shed size, location, and design. Consider:

  • Will you use a shed as storage space, a work space, or a hideaway? (Or all three?)
  • What will you store in a shed? Garden tools? Or large outdoor furniture in the winter?
  • How frequently will you use a shed.


Above: Shed as writer’s studio, with a wood burning stove, in a London backyard. Photograph by Wai Ming Ng.

What is the best location for a garden shed?

Within the parameters of your local zoning laws, you will want to situate a shed near where you need it most. Put it near garden beds if you are an avid gardener. Alternatively, you may want the shed as far as possible from your house if using it as a retreat. Proximity to power and plumbing are also considerations. Do you want to hide or highlight the shed?

From a structural point of view, a level site is recommended for stability and drainage. Sheds should have a foundation of some sort, depending on size, structure, and weight. Foundations can range from crushed stone to cinder blocks, or from concrete piers to poured concrete slabs. Consult with a professional and check local building codes and zoning restrictions before getting started.


Above: A slim shed with an unobtrusive profile sits against a cypress fence at Shed in Healdsburg. For more, see Steal This Look: A Garden Courtyard at Shed in Healdsburg.


Above: “The Shelter” by Maggie Anthony Design in Nashville was the winner of this year’s Gardenista Considered Designs Best Shed or Outbuilding Award.

Consider a location where the shed will easily fit into the landscape. Installing trellises against its facade, planting beds next to the shed, and or installing a green roof can make a shed look like part of the garden.

What size shed do I need?

This takes us back to the big question. First, what are you planning to put inside the shed? Equipment, supplies, storage bins and shelves, and work surfaces? Get out the measuring tape. Not only do you want enough space for your belongings, it also is essential that the shed entry be wide enough to accommodate your biggest piece of equipment and furniture.

Second, what are you planning to do in the shed? Allow enough head and elbow room to move around.


Above: Remodelista Editor Julie Carlson’s compact garden shed is the perfect size for her gardening tools and supplies. Yes, it is also beautifully organized (see Steal This Look: Julie’s Garden Shed for organization tips). Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

What garden shed design is best?

After you’ve come up with the ideal size and location of your shed , it’s time to turn your attention to the design. Functionality and aesthetics are at play. Ideally you will select a design that fits into your existing architecture and landscape. How important this is will depend on whether the shed’s location is concealed or in plain sight. Adapting the facade is the easy part. It is important to get the structural components right from the start:

Entrance. The shed door should allow easy access for you and your equipment. Consider wide, double or sliding doors. Do you want a threshold, ramp, or step-up entrance?

Windows. If the shed is solely for storage, windows may not be necessary (if the shed is concealed). But if you plan to use the shed as a work space? Windows are your source of light.


Above: A tiny freestanding shed can be customized with add-on modules. For all the configurations, see Storage Solution: A Customizable Shed from Germany.

Material. Our favorite choice is natural wood for garden sheds. It is attractive, fits into any surroundings, and is durable. This is especially true of cedar with its rot- and insect-resistant qualities. Roofs can be cedar shingles, asphalt, corrugated plastic, metal, and even green roofs. Experts advise that the subframe of your shed should be made of pressure treated wood to prevent rot.

What about interior design?

The interior design of your garden shed is equally, if not more important than its exterior design. As storage and compact work are often the two primary purposes of the shed, the efficiency of the interior space is key. You don’t want to have to move a 50-pound bag of gravel to get to your garden gloves. Take stock of all the items you need to store and figure out the best way to organize them: shelving, hooks, or floor bins. Loft storage for light or infrequently used items can save space. Consider the placement of work surfaces, furniture, and shelving. Do you want to divide storage space from the work space? Or do you need to get creative with a fold-down potting table?


Above: For an all-in-one shed storage kit, a Gabrielle Garden Shed Set is $469 from Pottery Barn.

DIY, prefab or custom garden shed?

There is a garden shed for nearly every location and every budget. DIY plans and projects proliferate the internet (See How to Build A Garden Tools Shed from This Old House). Shed kits are available for beginner to expert, and makers of prefab sheds offer a variety of services from delivering a kit to full onsite assembly. The range of offerings is huge, from simple cedar storage sheds to modern sheds with colored panel siding.  Custom-built sheds are at the higher end of the cost spectrum, but offer seamless integration into your architecture and landscape design.


Above: A kit for Cedarshed’s Bayside Lean To Garden Shed, with an 8-by-4-foot footprint, is $1,229.

For ideas on designing the interior of a garden shed, see Steal This Look: My Mini Potting Shed in a Garage. Meanwhile, if you are considering repurposing your tiny shed into a studio retreat, see one woman’s effort: Artemis Russel’s Tiny Garden Shed.

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