Build It

Build a back­yard re­treat

Timber Home Living - - Contents -

Un­less you’ve been liv­ing un­der a rock, you know that back­yard sheds — both func­tional and down­right fun — are all the rage. And it stands to rea­son. No mat­ter how or­ga­nized you are or how much stor­age space you have, there al­ways seems to be an over­flow of out­door items to house, from tools to land­scape sup­plies. For­tu­nately, by adding ex­tra stor­age to your back­yard or gar­den with a cus­tom­ized shed, you can con­ceal all that ex­tra stuff while boost­ing your home’s curb ap­peal and charm.

On the other hand, if you’re one of those lucky fam­i­lies that ac­tu­ally does have ad­e­quate stor­age space thanks to a smart de­sign, a shed can serve as a great re­treat, work stu­dio or play area for grownups and kids alike. Af­ter all, with a busy fam­ily, who doesn’t need an ad­di­tional se­cluded place to un­wind, work on hob­bies or en­ter­tain?


You may have def­i­nite plans for your shed, or you may de­cide to build with no spe­cific pur­pose in mind. Great ideas for your shed, be­side lawn equip­ment stor­age, are as var­ied as your imag­i­na­tion. Here are just a few of the typ­i­cal, and not-so-typ­i­cal, uses for your shed:

Home Of­fice Man Cave “She” Shed Sum­mer liv­ing room Guest House Green House Gym

Pool House

De­ter­min­ing a fi­nal use will help fo­cus the de­sign. For ex­am­ple, a stor­age shed needs fewer win­dows, but per­haps an over­sized door. Your home of­fice or stu­dio will ben­e­fit from spa­cious win­dows to bring in lots of nat­u­ral light.

If you plan to use your shed year­round, you may want to in­clude in­su­la­tion and a way to heat and cool the struc­ture. Mini-splits, which are heat­ing

and cool­ing sys­tems that al­low you to con­trol the tem­per­a­tures in in­di­vid­ual rooms or spa­ces, are an ef­fec­tive, eco­nom­i­cal and space-sav­ing way to heat and cool your shed.

De­ter­min­ing the use up front also helps in de­ci­sions like run­ning elec­tric­ity and plumb­ing. If there’s any doubt, putting th­ese in place dur­ing con­struc­tion is far less costly than retrofitting af­ter the build­ing is com­plete. Don’t for­get to add an out­side elec­tri­cal out­let for con­ve­nience. A 2-by-2-foot sky­light is a great way to get some light into a shed with­out giv­ing up valu­able wall space. A loft can in­crease floor and stor­age space by as much as 50 to 75 per­cent.

You’ll also want to think about all the items you plan on stor­ing or us­ing in your shed. Mea­sure them and con­sider your need for growth over time. Lots of folks try to min­i­mize their costs by build­ing small, only to find that a few years later they have run out of space.


Ev­ery mu­nic­i­pal­ity has or­di­nances on

out­build­ings. They will cer­tainly dic­tate your shed’s lo­ca­tion with re­spect to prop­erty lines and may im­pose size lim­its that in­clude square footage as well as height.

You may or may not need to pull a per­mit and sub­mit a de­sign for ap­proval. You may also need a sur­vey of your prop­erty line. This may be avail­able with your clos­ing doc­u­ments for the pur­chase of your land, or you can have it sur­veyed.

Adding a shed to your prop­erty is not only a great way to add ver­sa­tile liv­ing or stor­age space for you and your fam­ily, it can en­hance your home’s value and add an at­trac­tive fo­cal point to your yard or gar­den. De­sign­ing your shed with an eye to­ward fu­ture use can be a cost-ef­fec­tive way to reap the full ben­e­fit of your shed as your needs and pri­or­i­ties change.

Brice Cochran is the founder of Tim­ber Frame Head­quar­ters (tim­ber­frame, cre­ated to ed­u­cate and spread the word about tim­ber fram­ing.

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