Building a shed from scratch

Building a 12'x16' shed from scratchThis project, like the basement project, started in 2004 when I began digging out the dirt from my basement. I realized I had no place to store everything that was in the basement and the old 8'x6' shed in my backyard was already full of stuff (and not very organized I might add), so I really had no where to store anything. Since I started purchasing investment properties and maintaining them myself, my collection of tools grew. I realized I needed a nice big area in which to organize and store everything. As usual, I looked into what I could build to fix that problem.

What really slowed down this project is when I dislocated my ankle (again) while I was building the floor of the shed. That put me out of commission for at least a month. And by the time I was ready to start building again, it was the middle of the winter and there was snow everywhere. Postponing the shed project also postponed the basement project from 2004 until 2005.

To create a solid base in which to build the 12'x16' shed floor, I dug six holes, 1' in diameter and about 3' deep. I then used the circle cardboard forms and poured high strength concrete inside each one. Now the most difficult part about this process was making sure each of the six footings were level with each other. The site was slightly sloped, so this process was even more important. If you look at some of the pictures (looking at the front of the shed), you can see the left footing sticks out from the ground about 12" and the right footing is level with the ground. That shows how much the land sloped. I used a laser level to make the footings as level as I could and then shimmed the joists on the footings where it was needed to make it level.

Note: There are more pages to this post. Scroll down to see the rest of them.

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  1. Awesome job there… I too built my shed. Purchased at Home Depot and screwed it together (vinyl shed) :p I wish I had the time and know-how to do something like that.




  3. Thanks Zip!

    I left about 3′ of space between the fence and the shed on the neighbors side, so it was easy to get access to that side (though it was difficult to get on a ladder with only 3′ of space!).

    If you’re building a shed this big, I wouldn’t recommend trying to put it right on the property line — you should at least be able to walk all the way around it.

    You’ll notice I did build the shed a few inches from the smaller, older shed that was already on the property. To do this, I needed to finish that entire exterior wall BEFORE putting the wall up. Finishing the wall nearly tripled its weight and it was a lot more difficult to stand up.

  4. Hi Rick,

    I simply lifted the walls into place (human muscle power) and temporarily secured them using 2×4’s diagonally attached to the shed floor (note that you should nudge the wall into the correct place before doing this).

    As you can imagine, the first wall was the most difficult, especially since I did it by myself. Even the smallest amount of wind made controlling the 16′ wall very difficult. I used a sledge hammer to nudge the wall into place before securing it to the floor. If you have one or two people help you, it will make raising the walls that much easier.

    I also made sure to build the walls oriented on the shed floor so that I could simply lift them up. This meant I didn’t need to maneuver the wall very much once it was stood up.

    After the first wall is secured, you can secure the second wall to the first wall as well as the floor, which gives it a lot more stability.

    • a trick i learned to frame gable enda on garages finished off with siding – to stand by myself ( 24′ with 10/12 rise!) i chained of bothe side 1/2 way up with log chain long enough to lean the wall back (outward) slightly then slowly and carefully moved in to place. This negated wind factor as well as allows one to rest if needed without fear of loseing the wall. – Be careful out there!

  5. Just to repeat everyone else, awesome job. Thank you so much on the detail description. One question. Do you recall the amount of materials you used on this project. Thank you, you mightve given me enough confidence to try and tackle it myself.

    • You’re very welcome, Mike!

      I don’t recall the amount of material I used, but estimating what you need shouldn’t be too difficult. For example, the walls require 8′ 2×4’s spaced 16″ apart, so just figure out the length of your walls, convert feet to inches, then divide by 16. You’ll also need longer 2×4’s for the top and bottom of each wall, and extra 2×4’s around the door

      It’s a good idea to overestimate, since you can normally return whatever unused, un-cut material remains (check with your local hardware store first).

      Good luck!

  6. Let me know if your header sags over time. You are supposed to build your header to sit on top of jack studs. I didn’t see any jack studs.

    • Hi Joe,

      I assume you’re talking about this picture. If so, you’re absolutely correct. The header should be supported by a stud underneath it. A measuring mistake on my part was the cause of this mistake.

      I sold the house in December of 2008, so unfortunately I won’t know if it sags over time. I can tell you that as of the sale of the house, there was no sagging.

      Thanks for pointing this out! I’ve added a note to the page with that picture so other visitors are made aware of it.

  7. Great job!! I’m building a shed too and trying to follow what you are doing, but hard to follow, but just looking at your pics. but my shed is not as big as yours….I am building an 8×10.

    I am struggling right now with the trusses and I was trying to get a 22.5 degrees angle, but did not know how to cut the angle for the trusses. What angle is your rafter? is it 45 degrees?


    • Hi George,

      I completed this project many years ago, and unfortunately I don’t remember exactly what angle I cut my trusses. I seem to recall it being around 45 degrees, but I can’t be certain.

      If this is your first project, I really recommend reading some books at your local bookstore. They contain answers to many of those more detailed questions.

      Good luck and thanks for the comment! 🙂

    • use a carpenters square – they come with degress marked – you can even get ones with set srew clips to make sure the marks / angles you lay out are the same on each – OR use a chop saw or radial arm saw set to the correct angle to make cuts.

  8. I am a women trying to build a small shed but does it have to be build on concret can’t I just lay a foundation on top of the dirt of course after i have dug it up and have it level

  9. I am a women trying to build a small shed and I would like to ask if I could just lay my wood on top of the dirt not on concret or does it have to be on concret

    • Hi Sandy,

      It’s a very bad idea to put the shed directly on dirt. The dirt will cause the wood to rot (given enough time, even pressure treated wood starts to go bad after sitting directly it the dirt) and because the ground shifts over time, the walls and roof of the shed will get ruined (they will start to come apart).

      For a smaller sized shed, placing it on four or more cinder blocks (big bricks) should suffice. Otherwise, pouring a solid concrete slab or digging holes and pouring footings (like I did) would be a more permanent solution.

      Good luck!

  10. My county raises your taxes if the shed is built on concrete as it becomes a permanent structure (improvement). I used cinder blocks for my first shed but decided to use compactable stone (CR6) and stone dust for the shed I’m building now. You don’t have to level the soil, just put in and level form boards [same as used for concrete]. Put the CR6 in first to form board level and compact it [hand tamper is fine for this]. This will lower the surface some. Then put on “stone dust” and compact [can use a rental compactor if desired] This gives you a firm, stable surface which doesn’t allow water in or weeds/bugs up.

    I’m building a 12′ x 20′ Dutch Barn type shed. It is too wide to drop a pre-built in place [site constraints], so I had the shed built in panels [2″x4″ wall sections with sheathing, window cut outs, etc.]. The wall sections are very, very heavy. The sheathing also extends down 3-1/2″ past the wall toe plates to cover the perimeter floor joists and flooring. I’m looking for input from anyone who has moved, raised, and set wall sections this big and heavy.

    The building materials, wall panels, trusses, siding, doors, etc. were placed in half of a double wide driveway. I used 2″ PVC pipe [schedule 40] to move the panels to temporary storage. I plan on using the PVC pipes and extra 4’x8′ plywood sheets to move the panels over grass and then electrical conduit [or EMT] to move the panels on the shed floor [already built]. I was going to mark the centerline and 3-1/2″ line on the floor to mark the desired “lift location”. I’m concerned that I’ll [even with help and using the smaller diameter conduit] have difficulty moving the panels to the lift location. If short of the mark it can pull the sheathing off when lifting. If over the mark the panel can flip off [can’t brace from the back]. The panels have to be rolled on their top sections because of the sheathing overhang. Thanks in advance for any suggestions / comments.

    • Thanks for the info, Bob.

      Regarding your problem of moving the heavy pre-built walls: If they weren’t already built, I would suggest building them on the floor of the shed, as close to where their final resting place as possible. That’s what I did when I built my 16’x8′ walls. As you can imagine, they were very heavy. I was doing this alone, so I needed to lift up and position the walls by myself (I could have asked for help, but I like challenging myself to figure out ways of doing things alone)! I built the walls on the shed floor (including the exterior plywood) and when I was finished, I stood them up and immediately nailed 5′ 2×4 braces to the studs, that could then be nailed to the floor once the wall was in place. I used a sledgehammer to bang the wall into position so it lined up with the very outside edge of the shed floor and then immediately nailed my braces into the shed floor. One of those braces can be seen in this picture.

      If you have someone help you, it will definitely make the whole process much easier. Your ideas for moving the walls around sound like they’ll work. Of course, it would have been better to built them on the shed floor itself, but things don’t always work out the way they should. 😉

      Good luck and let me know if I can answer any other questions!

  11. This awesome. I wish I have the determination, patience and hardwork to be able to build a shed like this. Hmmm…An excellent job!!!!. I wish you can give us how much will it cost for us to build this shed and what are the materials needed inorder for us to work our own..An awesome thanks and good illustration…

    • Thanks for the comment, Eric! I don’t have exact numbers but the entire project cost me roughly $2800 at the time. Of course that isn’t counting labor (since I did everything myself). Recently, I’ve seen similar size sheds at Home Depot for around $6,000, but nothing beats building it yourself. You get to customize everything to your needs, learn a lot along the way, and have the satisfaction of having built it yourself!

  12. I have a cement mixer in good condition an antique built just like the heavy old sears style.
    It is trailer mounted on a much newer trailer than the mixer about 9-10 cubic ft electric powered color is red with black fenders.
    Good for some real serious work. asking $1500.00
    end a reply of interest in this machine and I’ll e-mail a picture.
    [email protected]

  13. I am getting ready to build a 16×16 building, for storage and a workshop, i had everything planned to do a single slant roof, front at 10′ and rear at 8′ with a shelf inside in front at the 8′ mark and rear at the 6′ mark to store stuff with the price less than $1,500.
    Now that I seen your idea on the trusses, I may do something like that, except i would put a 4×4 post at the beginning of the loft so i could put storage up there and it would support more weight.
    i will let you know how it turns out,
    Great job on the shed it must of took you several weeks to build it,


    • Hey Steve!

      Great idea on using the 4×4 for extra support. The entire shed project took me about two weeks, but I was working on it by myself. If you have some help, you can probably get it done quicker.

      Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your project!

    • I built this myself, so the cost was considerably less. This shed was a 12’x16′ shed and it cost me roughly $4500 to build from scratch.

      • I just built my shed in the back, just did a metal home depot shed because of time restraints but i have it ready for a wooden one when i get more time to build. 8x 10. I used all wolmanized wood and i leveled the ground pretty good before i placed the shed on top. I did not place any ground covering below the base so its sitting on the dirt. I dont plan on living in this home for more then 5 years anyways but I had a few people make comments like it will sink or the wood will rot. The rotting I believe is b.s. because i have built many things into the ground without cement and never did the wood rot in 11 years. the base as you probbably know is about 200+pounds and the shed is about 200+lb then there will be wieght in the shed. I would assume it will settle without any issues since it is good so far. what do you think?

        • It’s hard to say if it will rot. I think it really depends on how much water you get. Here in the Northeast United States, the rain + snow causes things to deteriorate pretty fast. But if the wood you’re using is pressure treated, then you should be good for quite some time… I’d say at least 5 years.

          • Yea thats what i thought, my dad and i built a shed about 20 years ago and its just sitting on dirt. Its still like it was when we built it besides of course we had to strip shingles twice since it was built. he does not believe in layers lol.