Build or Buy a Shed: Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own?

Whether you always wanted the ultimate man cave or need a place to secure that expensive lawn mower, a shed is an excellent solution for storage problems. Should you, however, buy a pre-fabricated model or build your own? Every situation is unique, and every budget different.

For me, I found it a lot less expensive to build my own shed. I got exactly what I wanted, with all the extra bells and whistles. However, while I found it cheaper to build, you may find it more advantageous to buy a pre-built model.

I put together this guide exploring the advantages and disadvantages of building and buying, and why I found building the cost-effective option.

Build or Buy a Shed

Buying Shed from a “Shed” Company


A huge advantage of buying a pre-built shed is time. It’s already built! All you have to do is prepare a foundation for it to sit on, schedule delivery and fill it up. It may be ready to deliver the day you buy it, or it could take a couple of weeks.

Purchasing a pre-built shed means not buying power tools. The delivery guys usually ensure your shed is level on its foundation. You may need a screwdriver to attach a lock hasp. That’s it.

No Skills Necessary
It’s crucial to understand you need the proper skills to finish the task. Taking on a building project of this size requires carpentry skills, and you should feel comfortable using whatever knowledge you have on the topic.

However, when you buy a shed, you don’t need to worry about knowing how to design a roof or use certain tools. Even if you need to put it together, pre-built models usually only require a basic set of tools such as a hammer and screwdriver that just about everyone already has around the house.

Professional Designs
A prebuilt has already been designed for you. You don’t need to worry about where to place the window, the dimensions of the floor, and similar details.

If there is a defect in a shed you buy at your local Lowes, Home Depot, or online, the manufacturer’s warranty will pay for either repair or replace the entire shed for free.
When you build your own, correcting any defects are your responsibility.


The prices for pre-built shed vary considerably. However, the adage “you get what you pay for” applies. If you want a quality shed, it can get expensive quickly.


Buying a Kit

Buying shed kit


A kit may have all the pieces pre-cut and drilled which saves time. How big and fancy the shed is, adds time. How experienced a DIYer you are, affects time. Expect the kit to take a whole weekend to put together or it could even take a couple of weeks.


You Get What You Pay for
Kits are probably one of the poorest and least cost-effective option if you are not the DIY type. I like to putter around, but my first shed kit took me twice as long as expected and I had to get a friend to assist me.

Quality sheds may require an additional expense: Hiring someone handy who can follow the directions and help you put it together.


Building Your Own Shed

Build your own shed


You have much better control over the quality of your shed if you build it yourself. You don’t have to tolerate the shoddy timber or cheaper cuts of wood, for example, which often come with the pre-fabricated models.
You also don’t need to worry about the sturdiness of the shed or the quality of the extras. By building your own, you don’t have to compromise on materials or the workmanship or final details.

Budget Control
The budget when you build your own remains under your complete control. You can determine how much you want to spend and where that money goes. You can scrimp a little bit on the shed insulation, for example, and add an extra window. Or you can make it a little smaller, add something else like extra outlets, and remain within budget.

Personal Satisfaction
There is considerable satisfaction in being able to say you built the shed yourself. It’s much more rewarding than purchasing a pre-fabricated building.

When you buy a shed, you’re paying for someone else’s labor and skills. When you build your own shed, you can save between 40% and 60% since you don’t normally charge yourself. However, you may have to pay your helpers or provide food and beverages.

You can build something unique
build something uniqueWhen you build your shed, you make the decisions. You pick the size and shape. You decide on 3 sides or 4, shed roof or gable, 1 story or two, even lofts. You choose the finishes, trim, and colors. Your shed will be unique.

Built something of your own design
When you design your own shed, you can plan it with the use and location in mind. You are not limited to the standard box shed. Your imagination and skills can run free. Not only will it be unique, but it will also be uniquely yours.

You can build exactly what you want
One of the benefits of building your own shed, is you build exactly what you want. You can take advantage of rafter space, underfloor storage, placement of windows and doors, even reinforce for pulleys and a hoist. It doesn’t have to be a box.

You can use much better materials
Your materials list is your choice. You select the grade and dimension of lumber you want and even pick it out. Screws or nails for fasteners, not staples, plywood or OSB, shingles or steel, all are your decisions. But remember, you’re to blame for warps, twists and curves in your materials.

You can customize as you want
Having built many sheds, I know you can do a lot of customizing. You can plan it ahead, or customize as you go. Remember to watch your budget. The cost tends to go up as you customize; even doing your own work!

Limited space – you may not find shed of that size
How much space between your house and your neighbors? Depending on the access to your shed site a pre-built shed may not work. The space you have available may not be fit any pre-built or kit sheds. Building your own shed to fit your space may be the only answer.

No one will take as much care of building it as you will
Building something yourself is a matter of pride. The care and precision taken in building your shed are all yours. Even if you build a kit shed yourself, the care and accuracy of the cuts, the quality of the materials, will be someone else’s. You may make mistakes, but they will still be yours.

Family activity – strengthening family ties
Everyone enjoys building something. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Ask your parents, siblings, even other relatives. Children are great gophers and can help hold or steady things; it can even be a learning experience for them. More hands make work go faster. Don’t forget to give your spouse an important task.

You have a great deal of flexibility when you design and build your own shed. You determine where you want the windows and doors, and their sizes. If you want a shed roof or cottage style, a gable window, you choose. The roof height and style aren’t set by the manufacturer. If you fancy hanging rails and shelves, put them in. Add gutters to fill rain barrels for the garden. If you build, you can include or attach extras.

It’s a lot of fun!
Every time you build something, you feel a sense of accomplishment. You may even learn something. But the greatest enjoyment is watching something you’ve designed and worked on, being completed. A big real life puzzle you get to finish. It’s a lot of fun!

Disadvantages of Building Your Own

Time can be a disadvantage if you want to build your own shed. While you have more creative control, building your own shed requires a considerable amount of time and effort. It took me
4 months(!) the first time I built my own shed, although my second shed took 6 weeks.

Careful planning and organization are important, so you can’t expect to have your dream shed overnight.
If you buy a prefabricated shed, you can probably have it delivered and in place within an afternoon.

If you don’t have a standard DIY set of tools already, you may need to spend some cash to buy the right tools for the job. During the planning phase, including a tool list.

You likely will need help when building your own shed. You can enlist the help of a friend (or two like I did). It may require you to trade labor or spring for a six-pack or dinner.
You will, however, be at the mercy of when he or she is available to help you out, adding to the time it takes to complete the project.

Personal Life
Your personal life is the next factor to consider. How will a long project affect your life and how does the rest of your household feel about you working on an extended project?
My wife was probably more pleased than I was when I completed my first shed.


So, is it Cheaper to Build Your Own Shed?

Before discussing costs related to building or buying a shed, let’s discuss what materials you can use.

Wood, Plastic, Metal or Something Else?

Plain Wood
Probably the most popular material used either by manufacturers or home do-it-yourselfers, wood always has great visual appeal. However, wood needs regular inspection and treatment to keep out rot, insects, and wear and tear due to the weather.

Engineered Wood
Engineered wood has been treated to seal out moisture, insects and is more resistant to weather. It can, however, be much more expensive than regular wood. Ensure you check on what type of engineered wood it is and that you are not buying a cheaper cut.

Plastic is extremely durable and probably one of the least expensive materials you can decide on for a shed. Plastic requires no maintenance, and you don’t have to worry about insect damage.
Plastic, however, does not look particularly nice and seems to “exude cheap” as my wife likes to say in perhaps an otherwise nice yard.

Metal sheds, except for rust, resist almost all traditional things that can damage a shed. If you want corrosion-resistance, you will have to upgrade to aluminum or a higher-grade of steel, which can be costly.

Vinyl is not cheap, which is why a pre-built vinyl shed can be one of the most expensive options available. Not only is vinyl more durable than metal or plastic, but it is also much more aesthetically pleasing.
If you are building your own shed vinyl will cost more than most other materials, but it is less expensive than buying a pre-fabrication vinyl shed at a store.


Consider the Numbers

Since we really want to make a cost comparison, let’s look closer at the numbers.
Most construction projects boil down to square-foot cost. Contractors calculate the materials needed and the labor required, as well as business overhead.

DIY shed construction usually runs $17-$24 per square foot – my two averaged $19.00/sq. ft. Constructing an 8×12 shed yourself costs around $2,050. One that is 12×28 can be built for approximately $4,800. A 15×30 square-foot building can be around $7,500.

My friend just completed a 24X38 shed/workshop for $16,300; that’s concrete floor, 6 windows, steel roofing, doors, wiring, and all delivery charges. He still have to insulate, drywall, and do the hydro connection.

A prebuilt wooden shed is usually more expensive, while a steel or plastic shed is usually less expensive. An 8×12 wooden shed can cost between $2400 and $4800, or more.

The largest prebuilt wooden shed I could find was 12×32, it has to fit on a highway trailer. It has a base price of $16,628 (upgrades can add thousands), plus delivery. A plastic 8×10 shed is between $900 and $1,400, and an 8×6 high wall shed sells between $250 and $800.

Prebuilt sheds may also have delivery as an extra cost. You’re paying for someone else’s labor, and you get what you pay for.

Kit sheds are a good bit more expensive than DIY. An 8×8 OSB gable roof shed is $1,600, plus delivery, and an 8×10 kit costs $1,900 to $2,900.

Shed contractors cost even more to hire to build a custom shed. A 12×24 wood shed with a floor is between $6,500 and $10,000; depending on windows and door sizes and finishes. They can take up to a month for delivery and some have added delivery charges.

Homeadvisor estimates that the average to build a shed is anywhere from $800-$4,000 depending on factors like adding electricity. If you must hire professional help, that may cost an added $50-$100 per hour, which is not budget friendly.


Image courtesy:
Siding & doors” (CC BY 2.0) by robinsan
The Shed” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Ben Chun

5 thoughts on “Build or Buy a Shed: Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own?”

  1. I’m getting ready to buy a new shed, but thought I’d investigate building one instead.

    These articles are interesting, but none are from Florida.
    Here in Florida, everything is built for minimum of 140mph winds; and almost all DIY shortcuts don’t apply, and I can’t find a shed in this article that could be built here.

    You can’t build homemade trusses, siding is attached 6″oc, (4″oc on joints) roofing has to include a mind boggling amount of
    hurricane straps and clips, and a very specific nailing pattern for shingles. Concrete pads must be engineered with a drainage design, and the list goes on and on.

    This doesn’t even take into account the detailed blue prints, initial permits, plus, if you want power to this shed, more designs and permits, add in electrical, and the electrician.
    Plus, the literal parade of inspectors that have to stop by after any one aspect has been completed so they can confirm “wind migration” codes have been met, and so on. That alone takes a day just to get an appointment.

    Now that you have all the legal stuff addressed…let’s buy some tools and materials:

    Site prep: 1 Bobcat, 1 operator: +/- $500
    Concrete delivery for 4″ thick, 16×20 pad (5yds) and footings, 24″x12″x72′ (5yds) @ $116 a yard: $1160.
    I haven’t even nailed two pieces of wood together for forms and I’m already at +/- $1700.00??

    I can get a manufactured shed for @ $3800.00 from a local dealer. They pull the permits…their designs have all past inspections, they prep the site, build the pad, deliver shed, clean up and all for +/- $5500.00.

    I’m trying to understand how building my own shed is cheaper.

    Sarasota, Fl

    • Hey AJ,

      My experience may not be the same as yours, especially because I built a tiny 3.5’x6′ garden shed but I was able to do site prep myself with just a shovel and a wheel barrow. I used a boxed in gravel pad for the foundation with steel auger anchors. All of that was ~100$ and for building the actual shed I was at about ~600$ which is about 28$ a square foot. which is close to the article’s estimate. It is also close to the estimate that you got for a manufactured shed!

      One thing the article doesn’t take into account is location and permits! My shed was small enough to not require a permit in PA the only requirement was from the insurance company to anchor the shed.

      In general, I think that making your own shed will save some money. For me it saved ~400 $ from what I could find in my area. For others like yourself it may actually cost more! I think the point of this article is to do the analysis beforehand, as you did, and see if building it yourself will actually save you money or to determine if additional benefits outweigh the disadvantages. I did a full workup of costs between DIY, Kits and prebuilt and in my case DIY was the best option. It won;t be in ALL cases.

  2. Location in relationship to property boundaries is also critical when deciding between d.i.y. and kit or install. Most towns require a minimum of anywhere between 3′ and 5′ from property boundaries. Also height is under code so a two story might not be allowed.

  3. I agree that building a shed is possible with my skills. However, setting a foundation that is reliable 10 years from now doesn’t seem plausible. I could put it on crushed rock or cinderblocks. But, people talk about moisture and insects and cold. Plus there are slabs splitting, or the ground shifting, and frost heaving. I can build the shed, but I worry about it toppling over after winter.


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