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Price and Considerations: A guide to a better shed or studio

There are many different things to consider in regards to the price when building a shed.    The components to consider when building a shed are: it's use and purpose,  foundation,  structure,  building envelope,  roofing, insulated vs non insulated,  lighting and heat, and the interior finish. Let's start from the bottom up, or shall we say from the foundation up.

Studio or Shed. 

What is your shed's primary use? This option is going to affect most of the choices below as it will determine many of these considerations.  If the shed is just going to be used for storage, then basic lights will be all you need.  If the shed or studio is going be used as a year round work space (office, workshop,  retreat, hobby shed, etc) then you will need to spend a bit more as you will want:  insulation, lighting and heat, as well as an interior finished environment.  To get a better idea of some of the benefits of a shed or uses please view our benefits of a shed page.   Another major consideration will be whether you want your shed design to match your home, this may or may not add some additional costs. 

 

Foundation (Pier blocks vs Concrete slab)

Forms and rebar for a concrete slab foundation.Forms and rebar for a concrete slab foundation.

The foundation question really comes down to two main choices, pier blocks or a concrete slab.  There are other foundation options for sheds, such as 2'x2' patio stones,  6x6 pressure treated skids, or plastic pallets.  However, I am going to focus on two main options:

  1. The pier block foundation: the shed is essentially built upon a small deck supported by 8 or more 12x12 concrete pier blocks.  The pier option is the cheapest but does have some major disadvantages.  Over time the pier blocks, because they are really point loads, in some ground conditions will sink leaving the shed uneven or more prone to rot as the shed foundation is now closer to the ground.  All space underneath all fours sides of the shed must be kept open, so the wind can blow through to discourage rats, racoons, or skunks from make a home underneath the shed.   I have run into this more than once where a contractor who did not think about, lets say wildlife considerations made an excellant home for a skunk family.  The main problem with a skunk living underneath your shed is everthing in your shed soon starts to smell like skunk, including you every time you go to the shed to get something.
     
  2. The concrete slab founcation is a poured concrete slab similar to what is called a "slab on grade",  which is found in many homes in Richmond and ground level Vancouver specials.   Building a shed on a concrete slab is much like building house on a slab, the slab is stronger, the slab functions like a big snowshoe and will not sink into the ground like pier blocks,  the shed will last longer, and is not as susceptabe to the cold because there is no wind blowing underneath it.  Many people have seen an old shed with floor rotted or rotting out,  obviously with concrete this will not happen because concrete does not rot. All in all a concrete foundation is worth its money as it makes for a longer lasting shed or studio.  The only time I would not recomend a concrete foundation, is if the shed is being built on a rental property and may need to be moved in the future or if it is going to built over a city right of way that might have the potential to be dug up in the future for the replacement of city sewer lines, water lines, etc.  For us,  because we own all the tools & equipment needed to make foundations, in most cases a concrete slab foundation adds between $2000 and $2500 dollars to the price of an 8 x 12 shed.   If you cost your shed out over 15 years this really is a small amount more to spend to gain a longer lasting shed.  Of course there are other factors that will affect the usefull life span of your shed.  

Structure 

Most quality shed builders are using 2x4 construction,  which is more than enough for any shed.  However,  many kit sheds may use inferior materials that can lead to problems, such as premature roof failure or the floor if wooden warps or rots out sooner than it should. 

Building Envelope

Shed showing roofing felt before metal roofing is installed. Shed showing roofing felt before metal roofing is installed.

As mentioned above the foundation will affect the longevity of a shed,  but the other major consideration is the quality of the building envelope.  Many kit sheds don't come with building paper or roofing felt.   A well built shed that has a sealed building enveloped like a house,  will out last a kit shed several times over.   Like a house, using building paper behind the walls and roofing felt underneath the roofing materials gives the shed or studio a second line defence give you time to repair the first line of defence before severe rot or water damage occurs. Another major item that helps extend the life span of a shed is using exterior grade doors and windows.  Exterior grade doors and windows help keep moisture from entering the building evelope and also stop mice and rats from entering the shed or studio.   Using more and better materials, exterior grade doors and windows will add more to the cost of your shed, but in the long run are actually better value. 

 

Roofing

As you might have noticed we are really big on metal roofing.  Let me tell you the main reason, I have been in contruction for many years and two of the most common reasons for premature shed failure are: (A) Poorly done roofs that use wooden shakes or asphalt roofing shingles without roofing felt or (B) Rotting wooden foundations.    

Finished shed with metal roofing installed. Finished shed with metal roofing installed.

  1. Metal roofs, can take much more abuse than asphalt roofs especially when the shed is built under a tree.   When leaves and debris, from an overhead tree fall on an asphalt roof (cedars are worst) they tend collect and if not removed will cause the asphalt to break down faster than it should.   While leaves or debris on a metal roof, will at worst discolor it but will not have a lasting effect.  In fact, most of time because a metal roof is slippery most of the leaves and debris will be blown off the roof by wind or a good rainstorm.   However, north or east face roofs may expereince some algae or mold, this will not harm the roof and is more of a cosmetic issue.  Since metal is not porus, a pressure washer can easily remove algae or mold.  That being said, metal roofs by far last longer and require much less maintenance than asphault roofs.

  2. As mentioned above metal roofs have advantages or asphalt roofs.  However,  we often do asphalt single roofs for customers for certain situations: the customer may want the roof on the shed to match the roof on the house (in this case we often match the siding and facia on the shed, to the house, as well)


A typical metal roof adds between $300 - $500 dollars to the cost of a shed or studio. However,  if you would still like an asphault roof on your shed or studio for any reason or no reason at all we will do it for you because after all it is your money and we are working for you.    We feel it is our job to give you options and then let you make the decisions that best suit you and/or your families needs.  

Insulated vs Non Insulated

This option is most oftern determined by the proposed use of the shed.  Most storage sheds are not heated, and thus not insulated, unless they are storing items that are sensitive to temperature changes or humidity.  Storing items in rubbermaid bins will often give enough protection for most items and insulation and heat will not be needed.  However,  if your proposed use is an office or studio, then heat and insulation is highly recommended.  All commonly used batt insulation must be covered / protected by either drywall, plywood, or other solid panelling.  Therefore, if you insulate a shed, you also have to clad the walls on the inside with a material to protect the insulation.  It costs between a $1000 and $1500 dollars to insulate and plywood the inside of one of our sheds.  

Lighting (Ambient Light, 120 volt AC, 12 DC Solar, or Battery LED Light)

There are four main lighting options for sheds with vastly different costs.  120 volt electric is the best as it allows for lights and heat, but is the most expensive of the four. 

  1. Ambient Lighting:  if your shed doors and windows face south or west, then regular daylight will probably provide you with enough light to use in your shed most of the year.  However, if the shed faces north or east we would recommend you look at the other options.  This option works well for alot of our clients. 

  2. As mentioned above 120 volt AC can provide both light and heat via a baseboard heater.   The electrical system is the same as the one in your home,  so you can have as many lights or plugs as you would like within reason.  We often add outdoor lights and a plug to the shed as well as interior plugs and lights.  This system requires a trench to dig or excavate from the shed to the electrical panel in your home and wires must be run by an electrician from your house to your shed.  This option gives the most benefits, but costs the most.  On average it costs betwen $1500 - $3000 to add 120 volt AC to a shed, depending on how far the shed is from the house and where the main panel is located in the house.  

  3. 12 DC solar systems are cheaper to install than 120 volt ac,  but will not proivide enough power for heat and incorporates a battery that must be replaced or maintained every so many years.  A typtical solar DC system will cost between $750 and $1000.  Unlike to battery option this system will provide enough power to work in the shed or studio for long periods of time.  

  4. The cheapest option is often used in conjunction with option one.  A column LED camping light will work fine and provide ample light power for quick visits to the shed.  This option works great for a storage shed, but not well for studio or hobby shed if you are planning on working in the shed for long peiords of time, because the battery will of course run out. 

Interior Finish

Photo showing a shed with drywall installed. Photo showing a shed with drywall installed.

Most of our sheds have some form of interior finish, however some of our storage sheds in order to save costs are left unfinished on the interior.   Often, our storage sheds that are insulated are fininshed with 3/8 plywood to protect the insulation.  Our studio can be finished with a range of materials including drywall, wood paneling, T&G pine for the walls and vinyl, cork, hardwood, or laminate to name a few for the floor.  Our studios can be just as finished as a room in your home and just as functional. 

Size

Of course, this component will probably have the most impact on the cost of your shed or studio.  There are several things to consider in terms of the size of your shed.  As mentioned in other parts of this website, sheds under 107 sq feet often don't require a permit.  

  1. Dimensions:  We have all heard the old saying, "the larger they are, the harder they fall.  Well in sheds a simliar thing is true;  The larger the shed, the more it will cost.  However,  As dimensional lumber is sold in 2 foot lengths and plywood is sold in 4x8 sheets certain dimentions such as 6x6, 8x8, 8x10, 8x12 ect will be more cost effective to build than say 5x10 or 7x12 as they will waste less material and require fewer cuts.      

  2. Permits:  As mentioned in other parts of this website, sheds under 107 sq feet often don't require a permit. If you build a shed larger than this,  you will have the added cost of not only the permit,  but the drawings that will be required for the permit.  In some cases the city may even require a survey before granting a permit to build a shed greater than 107 sq. feet. 

  3. What is the main function of the shed or studio? How much space is required for this?   Will the space you have planed allow for any growth of your hobbie or activity.  If you think you might require more space than what you are currently planning to build, building larger than what you currently need now will likely save you money in the long run.  Most of our clients, once they get there new shed, have no trouble filling it up or finding additonal things that they would like to do with it.  I have never had a client compain that their shed is too big. 

 

In Conclusion

Some of our sheds are standard designs, but most of what we do is custom or customized for our clients.  So whatever your need or can dream up we can build it.   Give us a call today for a free onsite consultation and estimate at 604-277-5572 (Vancouver Sheds, The Indoor Outdoor Guy Renovations)