Pre-fab or Custom Shed? San Jose Builders Weigh In

Written by Angie's List staff
Updated June 15, 2021
shed, storage shed, barn
Make sure you do your research before you decide to build a custom shed or buy one that's prefabricated. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Theresa D., of Port Charlotte, Fla.)

Construction specialist says checking the state licensing board for a contractor's credentials is essential before you make a hire.

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Angie's List asked three San Jose, California, experts for advice, trends and what not to do when building a storage shed.

San Jose shed builders

Paul Johnston, owner of The Shed Shop, Fremont, Calif., shedshop.com

Art Sirota, owner of Art Sirota Construction, Redwood City, Calif., artsirotaconstruction.comAlexander Bulosan, owner of HTX Builders, San Jose, Calif., htxbuilders.com

Should I have the structure custom-built, or buy a prefabricated model?

Johnston: Custom-built sheds offer more choices. A prefab shed is simpler, but what you see is what you get. We do not recommend metal sheds due to their flimsy nature, poor insulation and appearance.

Sirota: Homeowners will get a superior product with a custom-built structure that can be better tailored to their needs.

Bulosa: I prefer a prefabricated model because it's easier and faster to install. It takes two to three days for a prefab model, but seven to 10 days for a custom-built model.

What is the cost difference between the two?

Johnston: Costs vary. There are quality prefabs, and there are cheap prefabs, but typically a custom-built shed costs more but is much higher in quality.

Sirota: Having the structure custom built may cost about 25 percent more than purchasing a prefabricated structure.

Bulosa: A prefabricated shed, which is already designed and engineered, including the hardware, is typically $2,000 to $3,000. A custom shed is $3,000 to $5,000.

What kind of roofing and wall material should I use?

Johnston: We recommend the same materials that you'd find on a typical home, with the exception of stucco for the walls.

Sirota: The least expensive is "rolled roofing." It's not the most attractive roofing, and it's not appropriate for flat roofs. Walls should be framed with wooden studs, and covered with sheetrock or plywood.

Bulosa: We use fiberglass composite shingles for the roof and oriented strand board (OSB) for the walls.

What kind of light source works best for such buildings?

Johnston: Windows, translucent roof vents or an open door (most of the time you go in your shed and leave the door open).

Sirota: Skylights are a very efficient and economical means of providing natural light. Fluorescent lighting is also an option.

Bulosa: It's nice to have electricity in your shed or barn, but the hardware for the lights can be a no-name brand.

What other advice can you offer?

Johnston: Sheds are almost impossible to return or exchange. It pays to consult with a company that specializes in sheds.

Sirota: Check with the Contractors State License Board to see whether the contractor's license is current, and carries workers compensation and liability insurance.

Bulosa: Decide what you want to build and how much you want to spend before hiring a contractor.

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