Weekend Project: Reclaim your garage with a garden shed

Consumer Reports News: September 16, 2009 04:15 PM

The statistics from one garage-storage-and-organizing company (Word file) indicate that many U.S. homeowners have packed their garages with so much stuff that there's no room for the car. While my car could squeeze into my garage, all the clutter required me to pull out the car or climb over it when I needed to grab a tool or access the electrical panel to reset a circuit breaker.

But that's no longer the case, now that I had a new shed (shown) installed, which is admittedly more of a multi- rather than a single-weekend project. I had planned to do the project with my son this spring and summer, but as the weeks went by and since the site preparation was going slowly, I settled for a model whose price included installation.

If you don't want to install a shed, consider holding a garage/yard sale to get rid of stuff you no longer need or try to do a better job organizing your space. For instance, if items like a leaf blower or other outdoor power equipment are taking up valuable floor space, stow them on hooks or other hardware. (Read " 10 Questions for . . . Katherine Steiger, Professional Organizer" for advice on uncluttering your home.)

If you do go the shed route, follow these pointers to make the process go more smoothly:

Follow the letter of the law.
It might be tempting to put up a shed without notifying your town, but you're better off abiding by building and other codes. The roughly $200 I spent for a building permit and certificate of occupancy means that the shed won't be an issue when I sell my house.

What's more, by consulting with the town early, I ascertained that the 8x10-foot model I was considering would not require a setback from the property line, a plus since my backyard isn't especially spacious. And if your neighbors are more informed about town or municipal requirements than you are, you could potentially be ordered to move or remove the shed.

Weigh all the options.
Sheds come in many sizes, styles, and colors, and with numerous options. For mine, I chose vinyl siding (no need to paint the shed), vents (to air out the gas-powered gear), a pressure-treated wood floor (to hold off the critters), a little window and planter, and a code-required anchoring kit to better secure the shed during storms. Remember, each add-on bumps up the price of the shed.

Prep the site.
If you're installing a shed kit, follow the manufacturer's guidelines to prepare the site. If you're hiring someone to assemble it, follow that company's instructions. The challenge at my house was that on two sides we needed to level the site by cutting into a hill (and find a place for all the dirt). We also had to dig down a few inches to situate a bolted-together 4x4 border. Drainage around and beneath the shed is also important; we laid about a cubic yard of a crushed-stone mixture typically applied before asphalt, and half that of gravel. If you’re lucky, your driveway will be near the shed site. Mine isn't, so it took my son and me about 40 long trips pushing the wheelbarrow between the front yard and the back yard. Also be sure there's adequate clearance all around the site where the shed will go.

My shed got installed last weekend, and now that the building inspector has approved the project, I'll soon have the certificate of occupancy. Next, I'll lay down a coat of wood preservative on the shed floor and then tackle the next big weekend project: emptying the garage. —Ed Perratore | | Twitter | Forums | Facebook

Essential information:
Once you get a new shed and have more storage space, autumn sales on lawn gear might entice you to buy. Check out our tools-and-power equipment and lawn-and-garden pages and free buyer's guide to mowers and tractors, string trimmers, snow blowers, and leaf blowers. For more information on sheds, read " Building a Shed," by Joseph Truini.

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