Building vs. Buying a Backyard Shed—Which Is Best For You?

Leah Lopez Cardenas
Updated May 26, 2022
Large wooden shed in the backyard
Photo: Elmar Langle / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Prefabricated storage sheds are more common than custom-built ones.

  • Custom storage sheds are typically more expensive, but come with everything you want.

  • A built-on-site structure can last up to 80 years, whild a prefab shed lasts about 20 years.

  • Before building a shed, check with your city or town about permit requirements.

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Sometimes your indoor storage areas simply runneth over, and you need to set your sights elsewhere on your property to tuck away belongings. A popular solution is an outdoor storage shed, which can come in all shapes and sizes to suit your needs. Here’s what you need to know to decide between buying a prefab storage shed vs. building a custom storage shed for your home.

Prefab Storage Shed Pros and Cons

Prefabricated outdoor storage shed
Photo: RedBridge / Adobe Stock

Prefabricated sheds, also known as prefab sheds, are more common than custom built storage buildings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the right solution for every homeowner. Here are a few things to consider about prefab sheds.

Pros

It is more common for a homeowner to buy a pre-cut kit and have a pro assembles it for them. Prefabs sheds are less expensive, generally well-made, and easier to install. You also don’t have to spend a lot of time picking out materials and finishes, and can choose from a limited array of nice designs instead.

When it’s time to install the shed, it is delivered to your home from the manufacturer and takes little time to assemble.

Cons

Prefab sheds are limited in size, since they're transported on roads. That means they are only available in specific dimensions with not a lot of flexibility if you have particularly tricky items to store.

They're also less durable lasting just 20 years on average. And they have a wood floor rather than a cement foundation which doesn’t stand up as well against the elements and tends to rot over time.

You unfortunately can’t always place these sheds where you want them, because of what it takes to maneuver them off a truck into your yard.

Custom Storage Shed Pros and Cons

Custom storage sheds are designed to fit your needs and lifestyle, but that typically comes at a cost. Consider these advantages and disadvantages before choosing whether to build a custom shed.

Pros

A built-on-site structure can last 60 to 80 years compared to a prefab shed at just 20, though it depends mostly on what material they’re made of. All-wood custom sheds tend to last closer to 25 years, while a vinyl-sided shed will last much longer.

If you need the shed to fit a particular layout or be big enough to store large or oddly shaped items, you may have to go the custom route to ensure the shed fits your needs.

A custom shed may also look better and serve more curb appeal if it is made to match the rest of your home and landscaping to a T.

Cons

Custom storage sheds are a lot more expensive than prefab sheds due to the cost of materials and additional labor time. It can take several days to build a custom shed, while it usually takes just four to eight hours to complete a prefab shed on average.

Buy vs. Build a Shed: Which Is Right For You?

Carpenter building a new wooden shed in the yard
Photo: juliedeshaies / Adobe Stock

You could choose to build a shed yourself if you’re particularly handy, but many homeowners who opt to hire a professional shed installer and builder

Cost

The cost to hire a pro for a custom-built shed is typically around $50 to $100 per hour not including materials, leveling costs, permits, or electrical costs. And it could take multiple days to complete the project. In the end, it typically costs cost $800 to $5,000 to build a custom shed. 

By comparison, the average cost to assemble a prefab shed is $2,750 total including the shed itself and the cost of labor. It usually takes just a few hours to a day to do the job. 

Storage Needs

The main factors you need to consider are what your budget range is and whether a custom build could better suit your needs for the shed. Are you using it to store a specific large item like farm implements, a tractor, or a large tool collection, and need to make sure they fit? Or do you have a very unique outdoor decor style that you want the shed to match? Custom might be the way to go.

If you prefer to spend less and plan to store standard outdoor and gardening equipment in the shed, a prefab model might work for you just fine.

What Should I Do Prior to Having the Work Done?

Before breaking ground on your new shed, speak to your municipality and see what kind of restrictions and square footage rules apply. Also check to see if you need any building permits. Some sheds are considered non-permanent structures, which have different requirements. Think very specifically about where you're going to put it on your property, and check your township rules regarding non-fixed structures.

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