Everyone wants a shed to last, and part of getting longevity from your next shed project includes keeping it on a solid, level foundation. Creating a level foundation for your shed is arguably the most important part of your shed construction, and there are several ways you can do it.
Below we’ll take a look at how to level a shed on a new shed construction. For those of you who already have a shed that looks a little tipsy, we’ll go over your options for how to level an existing shed.
Does a Shed Need to be Level?
Yes, any structure that you want to last and function should be level. Without getting too far into building engineering, understand that the lumber, metal, or plastic supports in your shed are meant to function only in a level position.
Once a structure is out of level for a sustained period of time, it’s structural integrity becomes more and more compromised. That also includes the nails, screws, or other fasteners holding it all together.
Will an uneven shed collapse while you’re inside it? Most likely not, but it will mean is that your doors won’t shut properly, the roof will have a reduced load capacity, and the entire structure will be prone to collapse.
How to Level a New Shed
Leveling a new shed will take some time because it depends on the solidity of your foundation. Since a level structure depends so much on the type of foundation it rests on, we’ll go over how to level a shed on all the different types of shed foundations, below.
If you are going to use concrete blocks to support your shed, then leveling it is fairly straightforward. As with a gravel base, you’ll want to prep the ground that your blocks will be sitting on before placing them down.
Providing a bed of gravel of at least 4 inches will give your concrete blocks more stability when you place a load on. If you cannot make a gravel bed, you’ll have to level the earth as best you can.
Place wooden stakes, or just sharp sticks, at each corner where your building will go. Connect a string to one stake a run it around the other three until you get back to the original and tie it off again. Use a level to make sure each length is level.
The longer your level is, the more accurate of a reading you’ll get. At a minimum, use a 4-foot level.
Now put your concrete blocks down where you want them to support your shed foundation. Adjust the string, so it is level with one of the blocks. Go around and see if the other blocks are level. If not, you’ll need to either add or remove earth or gravel beneath the block.
Once you put your shed base on the blocks, check for level again using the edges of the base. Again, if it isn’t level you’ll need to add earth or remove it, from beneath a block. If you can’t move the base, use a car or floor jack. A 2-ton floor jack is more than enough. If it’s a small shed base, you can get a friend to lift it while you quickly add or remove material.
Adjustable Foundation Supports
Another option for leveling your shed is adjustable shed foundation supports. As you can see in the pictures in my post about shed foundation on deck blocks, these supports are brackets that your shed floor joists or skids sit in.
The bracket then moves up and down courtesy of a large nut on a threaded rod beneath the bracket. The bottom of the support, on which the nut and rod sit, has a small plate that can sit in either a deck block or patio stone.
If you choose this option, you would first layout your foundation with deck blocks or patio stones. Your adjustable posts sit on the blocks or stones, and you run your floor joists or posts through the brackets.
Leveling using the posts is a breeze. Simply use a large wrench to gradually turn the bolt on the support, which will raise or lower the shed based on which way you turn it.
A shed that rests on a gravel foundation is more than likely, over time, going to get out of level unless you live in a very dry and warm climate. Freeze and thaw, or lots of moisture, will play havoc with the ground and any structure on top of it – particularly a shed on gravel.
Before you start dumping gravel, remember that a gravel pad should be at least 12” wider than all sides of your shed. Gravel can wash out or fall away over time, so 12” is a good buffer to ensure rocks are always underneath your shed.
After you make your gravel base, use a long level – the longer, the better – to check for a level pad. You can use a metal rake or shovel and tamper to adjust the material to make it level. Once the gravel is level, your shed base will also be level.
If your backyard is a giant slope, you can still build a very stable shed. Location, in this instance, is everything. You are likely going to have one side resting on the ground and the other side propped up on blocks or concrete piers.
When located your shed on uneven ground, make sure it isn’t in an area that is prone to moisture. Then, backfill the area with gravel. If possible, backfill until you have a level surface. Then follow the above instructions.
If the slope is too great for backfilling, then your next option is to put down a layer of gravel and use concrete blocks to level the side of the shed not meeting the earth. Run a string on a stake from the side of the shed that will touch the earth to the side that won’t. Make sure it is level.
Then, build up your blocks to that level. Install your shed base. If it seems too high to stack blocks, you’ll want to use concrete piers or wood posts on deck blocks.
Leveling a shed on concrete piers requires using a string line and level to ensure all the piers are level. Concrete piers require the use of sonotubes. To install the tubes, you need to dig holes. Once the holes are dug and sonotubes are installed, you can run strings across all the tubes in a grid pattern, ensuring strings intersect the top centers of each tube.
Once you’ve made sure your strings are level and where you want your shed base to sit, you can adjust the sonotubes to make sure they are all sitting just beneath the strings. Pouring your concrete to fill the tubes at that level will ensure you have a level base.
How to Level an Existing Shed
Leveling a shed might seem like a daunting, even impossible, task as it requires you to lift a shed. Rest assured, lifting a shed is a achievable task for anyone with a sturdy jack.
Below, we’ll take a look at how to jack up an existing shed on various shed foundation types.
If you have a shed on a concrete pad, you’d think it would never get out of level. However, concrete pads can dip, rise, or torque, just like any other foundation type.
A wood shed on a concrete pad is likely bolted into a concrete pad. You’ll first have to go into your shed and unbolt the bottom plate of your framing from the pad. Once done, you have to pry up your shed on the side that needs to rise.
Prying up your shed can be done in a variety of ways, but you’ll need a large lever. I have a 6’ pry bar that is great for jobs like these, but a 5 or even a 3’ pry bar might be sufficient depending on how much space you need.
Once you get an edge off the concrete pad, you can use wood or plastic shims and hammer them under the bottom plate. Once you have one or two in, you can work your way around the bottom plate to achieve a level shed.
After you’ve finished, you might want to shim the structure from the inside and remove the outside shims so that you can cover the framing with your siding and avoid water issues.
Use a floor jack to lift your shed. A floor jack is typically used to lift cars and has a large handle that attaches to it, giving you lots of leverage to easily lift very heavy objects.
Using a jack is simple. Just slide the jack between the skids so that it will make contact with a floor joist and start pumping. You can then add either gravel, pressure-treated wood or plastic shims between your skids and joists to level your shed.
Another option is sliding asphalt shingles between the skids and joists. These are potentially a longer-lasting solution than treated wood, and many of you already have some lying around your basement or shed.
On the other hand, if your shed’s base is on the gravel pad without skids, then you may have to dig a hole to get your floor jack underneath so that it can make solid contact with a floor joist. Adding a patio block or piece of treated lumber to level out your shed is an option. Plastic or treated shims may also work if the shed is only slightly out of level.
When leveling your shed, you are potentially dealing with some pretty serious weight. Take care to lift, pull or push properly. If it seems too dangerous to you, then it probably is. Always do work with a partner or call a professional if you still aren’t sure.
While most leveling issues can be taken care of with treated wood shims or some asphalt shingles, these can sometimes only be band-aid solutions. Consider the causes for your out of the level shed and see if you can’t get to the root of the issue.
As always, thanks for reading this article. I hoped it gave you some new ideas for leveling your shed – best of luck making your shed straight again!