Price and Considerations: A guide to a better shed or studio

There are many different things to consider in regards to price when building a shed. The components to consider are: its use or purpose, foundation, structure, building envelope, roofing, insulated vs non-insulated, lighting and heat, and the interior finish. Let's start from the bottom-up, or shall we say, from the foundation-up.

Studio or Shed

What is your shed's primary use? This option is going to affect most of the choices below as it will determine many of these considerations. If the shed is just going to be used for storage, then basic lights will be all you need. If the shed or studio is going be used as a year round work space (office, workshop, retreat, hobby shed, etc) then you will need to spend a bit more as you will want to have insulation, lighting and heat, as well as the interior of the shed finished. To get a better idea of some of the benefits of a shed or uses, please view our benefits of a shed page. Another major consideration will be whether or not you want your shed design to match your home, which may increase the cost of the project.

Foundation (Pier blocks vs Concrete slab)

The foundation question really comes down to two main choices: pier blocks or a concrete slab. There are other foundation options for sheds, such as 2'x2' patio stones, 6x6 pressure treated skids, or plastic pallets. Let’s learn about the two most common options.

  1. The Pier Block Foundation. The shed is essentially built upon a small deck supported by 8 or more 12x12 concrete pier blocks. The pier option is the cheapest but does have some major disadvantages. Over time in some ground conditions the pier blocks, which are actually point loads, will sink. This sinking of the pier blocks leaves the shed uneven or more prone to rot as the shed foundation is now closer to the ground. The space underneath all four sides of the shed must be kept open so the wind can blow through to discourage rats, raccoons, or skunks from making a home underneath. We have run into situations more than once where a contractor who did not think about wildlife considerations ended up building an excellent home for a skunk family. The main problem with a skunk living underneath your shed is that everything in your shed will soon start to smell like skunk, including you every time you go to the shed to get something.
  2. The Concrete Slab Foundation. This is a poured concrete slab similar to what is called a "slab on grade", which is found in many older homes in Richmond and Vancouver. Building a shed on a concrete slab is much like building a house on a slab; the slab is stronger, the slab functions like a big snowshoe and will not sink into the ground like pier blocks, the shed will last longer, and is not as susceptible to the cold because there is no wind blowing underneath it. You may have once seen old shed with rotted floor;  with concrete this will not happen simply because concrete does not rot. A concrete foundation is worth the additional cost as it makes for a longer lasting shed or studio. The only time we would not recommend a concrete foundation is if the shed is being built on a rental property and may need to be moved in the future. Also, if the shed is going to be built over a city 'right of way' that might have the potential to be dug up in the future for the replacement of city sewer lines, water lines, etc., we would not recommend a concrete foundation in that case either. For large and established companies like us, a concrete slab foundation will likely add only between $2,000 and $2,500 to the cost of an 8 X 12 shed because we own an excavator and all the tools and equipment needed to build the foundation. If you break down the cost of your shed over 15 years, $133 or $167 per year really is a small amount more to spend to gain a longer lasting shed. Of course there are other factors that will affect the life span of your shed.

Structure

Most quality shed builders are using 2x4 construction, which is more than enough for any shed. However, many kit sheds use inferior materials that can lead to problems, such as premature roof failure or floor failure if the wooden floor warps or rots out sooner than it should.

Building Envelope

As previously mentioned, the foundation will affect the longevity of a shed, but one other major consideration is the quality of the building envelope. Many kit sheds don't come with building paper or roofing felt. A well-built shed that has a sealed building envelope like a house will outlast a kit shed several times over. Like a house, using building paper behind the walls and using roofing felt underneath the roofing materials gives the shed or studio a second line defense. This second line of defense gives you time to repair the first line of defense before severe rot or water damage occurs. Another major item that helps extend the life span of a shed is the use of exterior grade doors and windows. Exterior grade doors and windows help keep moisture from entering the building envelope and also stop mice and rats from entering the shed or studio. Using these additional materials as well as using better materials such as exterior grade doors and windows will add more cost to your shed, but will also add more value.

Roofing (Metal vs Shingles)

As you may have noticed, we are really big on metal roofing. We’ve been in construction for many years and two of the most common reasons for premature shed failure are: (a) poorly done roofs that use wooden shakes or asphalt roofing shingles without roofing felt or (b) rotting wooden foundations.

Metal roofs can take much more abuse than asphalt roofs, especially when the shed is built under a tree. When leaves and debris from an overhead tree fall on an asphalt roof, (cedars are worst), they tend to collect and if not removed will cause the asphalt to break down faster than it should. In contrast, leaves or debris on a metal roof will at worst discolor it but will not have a lasting effect. In fact, due to the slippery nature of metal roofs, most of the time the majority of the leaves and debris will be blown off the roof by wind or a good rainstorm. However, north or east facing roofs may experience some algae or mold. This will not harm the roof and is more of a cosmetic issue. Since metal is not porous, a pressure washer can easily remove algae or mold. That being said, metal roofs last longer, by far, and require much less maintenance than asphalt roofs.

As mentioned above, metal roofs have advantages over asphalt roofs. However, we often install asphalt shingle roofs for customers who want the roof on the shed to match the roof on the house. In cases like this we often match the siding and fascia on the shed to the house as well.

For us, a typical metal roof is actually cheaper than an asphalt shingle roof because of the volume of metal roofs that we install. However, if you would still like an asphalt roof on your shed or studio we will do it for you because after all, it is your money and we are working for you! We feel it is our job to give you options and then let you make the decisions that best suit you and your family’s needs.

Insulated vs Non Insulated

This option is most often determined by the proposed use of the shed. Most storage sheds are not heated, and thus are not insulated, unless they are storing items that are sensitive to temperature changes or humidity. Storing items in Rubbermaid bins will often provide enough protection for most items making shed insulation and heat unnecessary. However, if your proposed use of the space is an office or studio, then heat and insulation is highly recommended. All commonly used fiberglass batt insulation must be covered/protected by either drywall, plywood, or other solid paneling. Therefore, if you insulate a shed, you also have to clad the walls on the inside with a material to protect the insulation. It costs between $1,000 and $1,500 dollars to insulate and install plywood the inside of one of our sheds.

Lighting (Ambient and Electric)

  1. Ambient Lighting. If your shed doors and windows face south or west, then regular daylight may very well provide you with enough light to use in your shed most of the year. However, if the shed faces north or east we highly recommend you consider better lighting options, such as a 12 or 120 volt lighting unit. If you are using your shed as a work space, you will definitely need additional lighting no matter which direction your shed doors and windows are facing. Good lighting means the space has more options for future use and a well-lit workspace is always more efficient for any type of work.
  2. A 120 volt AC System. This system can provide both light and heat via a baseboard heater. The electrical system is the same as the one in your home, so you may have as many lights and outlets as you like... within reason, of course! We often add outdoor lights and a plug to the shed as well as interior plugs and lights. With this system we dig a trench from the shed to the electrical panel in your home. The wires will be run by a certified electrician. The wires will be safely secured under the ground – out of sight and out of the way of lawnmowers and would-be soccer players. This option provides the most benefits, and naturally costs the most. On average it costs between $1,500 and $3,000 to add a 120 volt AC system to a shed, depending on how far the shed is from the house and where the main panel is located in the house.
  3. Lighting Layout. The main lighting choices are 4-6 individual pot lights, one central light, or a track light mounted in the center of the shed with multiple lights attached to it. We recommend dimmer switches for all lighting layouts as they allow you to adjust the amount light in the office /studio at any given time, which opens up the number of uses the space can be utilized for.
  4. A 12 DC Solar System. These systems are cheaper to install than 120 volt AC ones, but will not provide enough power for heat. They also use a battery that must be replaced or maintained every so many years. A typical solar DC system will cost between $500 and $1,000.

Interior Finish

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Most of our sheds have some form of interior finish, however, some of our storage shed interiors are left unfinished in order to save on costs. Our storage sheds that are insulated are often finished with 3/8 plywood to protect the insulation. Our studio sheds can be finished with a range of materials including drywall, wood paneling and T&G pine for the walls. Floor options include vinyl, cork, hardwood and laminate, to name a few. Our studios can be as finished just as any room in your home would be and the space will be every bit as functional.

Size

This component will probably have the most impact on the cost of your shed or studio. There are several things to consider in terms of the size of your shed. As mentioned in other parts of this website, sheds under 107.5 sq feet often don't require a permit.

When you factor in the cost of materials, labour efficiency, non-permitted size restrictions (108'sq), and the most bang for your buck, there are two sizes that make the most sense, in our opinion.

  • 11'10" x 9' (Interior Size:  11'4" x 8'). (Maximum size not requiring a permit according to bylaws.)
  • 12' x 8' (Interior Size:  11'4" x 7'4"). (Most cost efficient use of materials and labour.)
  1. Dimensions:  As dimensional lumber is sold in 2 foot lengths and plywood is sold in 4x8 sheets, certain dimensions such as 8x8, 8x10, 8x12 will be more cost effective to build than, say, 5x10 or 7x12 as they will waste less material and may require fewer cuts. However, the amount a labour does not decrease substantially when the shed or studio gets smaller as our carpenters still have to frame the same number of walls, door and window openings and a roof no matter what size of shed you choose.
  2. Permits: Sheds under 107 sq. feet often don't require a permit. If you build a shed larger than this, you will have the added cost of not only the permit, but the drawings that will be required for the permit. In some cases the city may even require a survey before granting a permit to build a shed greater than 107.5 sq. feet.
  3. Function: What is the main function of the shed or studio? How much space is required for this? Will the space you have planned allow for any growth of your hobby or activity? If you think you might require more space in the future than what you are currently planning to build, consider building a larger shed from the start. This way your shed will likely save you money in the long run. Most of our clients have no trouble filling up their shed or finding additional things to use it for once we’ve built it. We have never had a client complain that their shed is too big.

Some of our sheds are based on standard designs, but most of our work is customized for our clients. Whatever you need or can dream up, we can build! Give us a call today for a free, on-site consultation and estimate at 604-277-5572 (Vancouver Sheds, The Indoor Outdoor Guy Renovations)