There are many ways to build a shed on a permanent foundation, but if you know how to build a shed base and floor on skids, it may be just what you’re looking for.
Not sure where you want to build your shed? You need storage now, but if things change you might want it elsewhere? Can’t get a permit to build?
There’s always a solution. We have a 9’x24’ shed that’s been moved 3 times! My great grandfather built it as a cottage on one property and then moved it across the lake to another.
My grandfather moved it, and then my father and I moved it. No wheels, just 2 log skids.
- What is a Skid Foundation?
- Do You Need a Foundation for a Shed?
- Main Considerations When Building a Shed on Skids
- How to Build a Skid Foundation
Image courtesy of Shed to House
What is a Skid Foundation?
A skid foundation is a foundation that is portable. Usually a floor structure built on and attached to 2 or more large pieces of lumber that are used to pull or skid it from location to location, and then leveled.
In the old days logs were used but today we use 4×4, 4×6, 6×6 or larger milled lumber for skids; depending on the size of the structure. The skids act as beams to support the floor structure and are often cut on a 45-degree angle at both ends.
A skid foundation is built to move and withstand the stresses of being moved. There are no permanent attachments to the ground.
It can be used for tiny homes, cabins, or sheds and has more flexibility for changing needs than other foundations. Plumbing, septic and electrical hook-ups can be flexible too.
Many jurisdictions don’t consider a shed on skids a permanent structure. That means you don’t need a building permit or any inspections.
You also don’t have to follow the building codes, but for safety it’s wise to. Check with your local jurisdiction to be sure.
If a shed on skids isn’t a permanent structure, then you can build it on easements and setbacks instead of on prime yard space. If the local utility needs to do work, you don’t have to demolish it; just move it out of the way. When they’re done, move it back again.
A shed on a skid foundation is not a permanent structure so you can move it. You may want it in one location today, but several years down the road you want it elsewhere.
It’s not fixed to the ground; it can be skidded to a new location, or loaded on a flatbed and moved. A properly built skid foundation can support garden equipment, quads and snowmobiles. You may want to remove the heavy items before you move it though.
If you’re planning to live in your shed as a tiny home, being on skids has many advantages. Not a permanent structure so taxes are different or don’t exist.
Want it looking south instead of west, no problem. Want to pack up and move 1000 miles, easy.
A building with a skid foundation does have a few limitations. To be moved on a trailer or truck it needs to fit on one. If you want to move it on the road without special permits there are height and size restrictions to keep in mind too.
If the skid foundation sits on the ground, it may be susceptible to frost movement, but the skids allow for easy re-leveling if needed.
The skid foundation works well on fairly flat ground, but the uneven ground isn’t impossible. My great grandfather’s move was down a granite slope, across a frozen lake, and then up the other granite shore; all the pulling was done by a team of 4 horses. It was then jacked-up at one end and leveled for use. With a skid foundation, nothing is impossible.
Do You Need a Foundation for a Shed?
Most sheds require a foundation. However, a shed with a skid foundation offers a variety of possibilities depending on its size, location and use.
The skids are its foundation. It can sit on the ground, on a gravel or concrete pad, or off the ground on posts; and still be movable.
Remember though, wood that sits directly on the ground will eventually rot.
Main Considerations When Building a Shed on Skids
- Is the ground suitable?
- The ground should be free of rocks, stumps and other obstructions that would make skidding or moving your shed difficult or impossible.
- It is always easier to build on the flat ground. However, since the skids act as beams for your shed, they can be jacked up level and supported for use on uneven ground. A slight slope will help drain water away from your shed too.
- Marshy or wet areas are poor locations for wooden buildings. You want good drainage to keep the ground dry and reduce settling and rot issues. A skid foundation often sits closer to the ground than other foundations so good drainage is important.
How to Build a Skid Foundation
Step 1: Plan and Skid Foundation Design
The size of your shed determines the skid dimensions and the floor joist plan. Use pressure treated lumber or cedar for the skids.
The skids usually run the length of the shed so the narrower frontage is being pulled. This makes pulling easier and usually fits better on a flatbed or through gates.
A small lightweight 6×8 shed will have smaller dimension skids than an 8×12 shed. Another consideration is what you plan to use the shed for. The skids sit on the ground and support the shed and everything you put into it.
The heavier the shed and contents, the heavier the skids should be too.
It is always better to check with your local government to see if a permit is required. One key advantage of a shed on a skid foundation is that it usually isn’t classed as a permanent structure so a permit isn’t needed.
It isn’t tied to the ground by fixed piers or a foundation and can be moved. This can have a downside though if it is living space since some areas prohibit temporary living structures, including ones on skids or wheels.
Step 2: Prepare the Building Site
A shed on the skids is only movable if it can be moved. Stake the corners and use a string line to outline and square the site.
Ensure the location for the shed is solid ground and free of rocks and stumps that would interfere with it being moved. The site should be 12” to 24” wider all around than the shed for runoff and drainage.
A slight slope for drainage is good too. The flatter the ground, the easier it will be to level your shed; so rake, shovel, scrape or bulldoze out the rough spots.
Step 3: Prepare the Gravel Base
With the shed site cleared, remove the sod and roll out landscape fabric to help keep it clear of weeds.
Cover the fabric with 4” to 6” of pea gravel, pit-run, or 1” – crusher run gravel; it will compact better. A 10’x12’ shed, with an extra 12” all around, will need 3 cubic yards of gravel for a 6” gravel thickness; about $100.00.
Use a plank to check for level and a power compactor to compact the gravel. This will give you an excellent level base with drainage for your skids to sit on.
Step 4: Prepare and Lay the Skids
The size of your shed determines the size of the skids you need. Pressure treated lumber is recommended and should last longer and support the weight of your shed and contents. 4×4, 4×6 and 6×6 are commonly used for skids, the larger the shed, the larger the skid dimensions.
If you’re having difficulty finding straight skids, then make your own with kiln dried 2×6 nailed together for the desired width.
Cut both ends of the skids at a 45-degree angle like skies so they move over the ground more easily. Drill a 1” to 1 ½” hole about 4” in from the end in both ends of each skid so a pull chain can be attached.
Cross braces of pressure treated 4x4s are attached between the skids to reduce lateral stress when the shed is being pulled. The 4x4s also connect the skids to each other.
Skids usually run the length of the shed and are the same length as the floor. The hole and angled cut at both ends means the shed can be pulled from either end.
All cuts should be painted with a wood preservative to prevent rot.
Place the skids 12” – 16” inside from the edge of the floor. The maximum distance between the skids should be 6 feet at center for 2×6 floor joists.
If the distance is greater, add 1 or more skids between the outer two with equal spacing and move the outer skids under the walls. An 8×12 shed would have two 12-foot-long skids; a 10×12 would need 3 skids.
Step 5: Level the Skids
Leveling the gravel pad may be difficult if you want the pad sloped for drainage. Another frustration can be – skids that aren’t perfectly straight.
The weight of the building may help with the leveling.
Place the skids on the gravel parallel to each other and the ends line up. Begin with the skid on the low side if sloped.
Level the skid by adding or removing gravel along its length. Level the next skid using a plank placed perpendicular from the leveled one to the non-leveled skid.
Ensure the skids are level lengthwise and with each other. Two skids are easier to level than three or more.
With the skids in place, tack planks across both ends and the middle to temporarily secure them. Cut pressure treated or cedar 4×4 lengths to fit between the skids at each end and in the middle.
Use lag screws to secure them between the skids. The 4×4 cross braces prevent the skids from pulling inward when moving the shed and connect the skids to each other.
Step 6: Anchor the Skids
Throw out the anchor skipper, there’s a gale blowing! Most sheds are anchored to the ground by their foundation. However, a shed on the skids is not.
There are a number of reasons you should tie down your shed, no matter how big or heavy it is. Some jurisdictions and insurance companies also require sheds to be anchored.
Ever tried to push something into a box only to have the box move? That could be your shed. Ever seen the winds push a trailer? There goes your shed.
Do you live near water; your shed can float. There are dozens of examples on the internet and news of the power of the winds and waters to move unsecured items and structures. Your neighbor may appreciate your new shed, just not in his swimming pool.
There are many ways to secure your shed so it won’t move unless you want it to. There are anchor kits that screw or hammer into the ground with heavy cables to thread through the holes in the skids so it can’t move, or move far.
Drilling through the ends of your skids and hammering rebar through the skids into the ground is an inexpensive way to prevent movement. After losing a cabin to high water a friend of mine has chained their remaining buildings to trees or anchors drilled into the granite. It may not happen, but be a good scout, be prepared.
Step 7: Build a Shed Floor on Skids
With the skids in place and level, it’s time to build the floor. Your skids act as the beams to support the floor structure. The joists are attached to each skid to ensure everything moves together and stays together when moved.
The skids may be pressure treated for ground use, or above ground use, and the joists may or may not be pressure treated. Fastening your joists to your skids is similar to fastening joists to deck beams. Unfortunately, the new pressure treated chemicals like to eat the zinc in galvanized metal.
Stainless steel is expensive but is the best at resisting the corrosive chemicals in pressure treated lumber. Galvanized fasteners with several coatings of an organic polymer are good too.
It’s recommended that you don’t mix metal fasteners as they may have a corrosive reaction together. Availability and cost may be a problem depending on your local too.
If using pressure treated material, my personal choice is stainless steel to attach the 4×4 braces between the skids and fasten the joists to the skids. It’s more expensive, but when I go to move my shed, I want it to move together and stay together.
Alternatively, you could cover the skids with a self-adhesive bitumen membrane or tar paper where the joist brackets attach to prevent corrosion and use screws that won’t corrode.
If I have a choice, I’ll use cedar lumber for the skids and 4×4 bracing. The cedar is more expensive, but the cost of fasteners is a big saving.
Also, that cottage we keep moving about that my great grandfather built more than a century ago, the skids are cedar. I’d also use cedar for the rim and band joists for added weather protection.
Cut your 2×6 joists, rim joists and band boards to length. Seal the cuts with a pressure treating solution if using pressure treated lumber.
You’ll also want to ensure you use corrosion resistant fasteners. For structural strength and added weight support, my preference is 12” centers for joists.
Attach the joist hangers to the skids based on your layout; unless toe nailing the joists to the skids.
I lay out the joist placement on my two band boards and then attaching the two rim joists to one band board. Make sure all lumber crowns are up, and then attach the rest of the joists and the other band board.
With the joist structure complete, do a final check for square and level; and then attach the joist to the joist hangers. Finish the floor off with 3/4 inch thick plywood and your dance floor is complete.
Now that you know how to build a shed on skids, are you asking yourself why you ever built anything else? I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and found it informative.
Remember the main considerations when building a shed on skids: if the ground is suitable and there’s slope for drainage, you’re ready to build.
Your comments are appreciated. If you know someone who is thinking about building a shed, share with them if you liked it.