Add a Backyard Barn or Shed for Extra Storage

Angie Hicks
Written by Angie Hicks
Updated October 31, 2013
storage shed, barn, garage
To free up space in the garage, consider adding a storage shed in the backyard to house your lawnmower and landscaping tools. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Consider a storage shed to house extra items.

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Homeowners looking to do a little spring cleaning might consider adding an exterior storage unit to house things like lawn and garden equipment, dangerous chemicals and items they don’t always need immediate access to, like seasonal equipment and decorations.

“A barn is a great idea for anyone who has a pool and needs to store pool equipment,” said Meg Gettum, owner of Five Star Industries, Inc. in Indianapolis, which has specialized in barn building since 1994. “Pool chemicals are very flammable. I think it’s also a good thing to keep the lawn mower and things like that out of the garage area. Some homes (have) a hot water heater in the garage. You’ll occasionally hear of small aerosol cans of paint exploding. If you have all of that stuff out of the garage, you won’t have that problem.”

Before adding an outside storage area, homeowners should check with their neighborhood association and local planning and development offices for permission, guidelines and restrictions on installation. A qualified barn builder can obtain any necessary local permits, but it’s important to verify that they have before allowing work to be done.

“(Homeowners) should definitely check with their homeowners’ association,” Gettum said. “They can build a shed up to 10-by-12 (feet) in most areas without a permit. Each area is a little different as far as what they want on permits or a size that calls for a permit.”

For a more elaborate setup, a building contractor might be in order. A contractor can custom build a shed or barn to fit your needs, including hiring out any needed subcontractors: electrical and plumbing, for example.

Mike Bush, owner of Homestyle Construction in Greenwood, Ind., helped one local homeowner build a full barn, complete with bays for horses, a tack room (where harnesses, bridles, saddles, etc. are kept), a wash station, hay storage and more.

“It had a place for a separate garage on the back,” Bush said. “It had one space that was almost a rec room with a kitchen. It had a garage off the back corner for the tractor and stuff that went in it.

“The only thing that we required of the homeowners was approving the plans. Then, I took care of everything else – getting the permits and (ensuring proper drainage around) the foundation.”

For the average homeowner just looking for a small place to store items, the standard mini-barn remains the top seller, Gettum said. Those buildings cost anywhere from about $900 to $5,000 installed, depending on the type of storage unit and its features. The average price is around, $1,600 Gettum said. Barns are typically installed on 4-by-4-inch treated runners that are designed to withstand 40 years of contact with the ground. Performing regular maintenance is important to keep the structure sound.

“It needs to be treated like a home,” Gettum said. “It needs to be caulked and painted every few years. They should never mound dirt up around them or do anything to keep air from flowing underneath the building. That will protect your floor. It’s just like a crawlspace, where you can get condensation underneath it, so it needs to be vented underneath. Over the course of a long time (improper venting) could rot your floor.”

It’s important to hire reputable builders who are bonded and possess a general contractor’s license.

“I think one the most important things is that you do hire somebody that is reputable,” Gettum said. “Because of the economy, we have more than our share of competitors currently, but not a lot of people are in business very long. I probably get at least one call a week wanting us to come finish a barn somebody else started or make repairs on a building somebody messed up.” 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 5, 2011.

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