Home & Garden

Buying a shed? Use your head

Where do you store your lawn mower, your gardening implements and other tools? If the answer is the garage or the basement, odds are your gear is hard to get to or tough to find when you need it.

An outdoor storage shed might be just the ticket — if you have the room.

What you need to know: Does your town have zoning rules about sheds? The information generally is available from municipal building departments. Even if there are no rules, consider your neighbors. No need to ­create ill will with a shed that blocks sunlight to the garden next door.

Shabby isn't chic: If the shed looks shabby, it will make your yard look that way, too. If you're not willing to pay a bit more for quality, you might as well keep your equipment where it is. Typically, the difference between attractive and ugly is only a few hundred dollars. A shed is an investment in your property, so you don't want to create a stumbling block to a sale in the future.

Sheds with cedar siding are the most expensive, followed by those made of vinyl. The shed's design should complement your house's style.

Too cute: You don't want a shed to look too precious. It's not a dollhouse. Skip the porch feature unless there's a critical need for a place where you and your mower can get out of the sun.

What will it cost? Be ready to spend at least $350. Good quality and good looks can be yours for about $2,000.

Materials: Some people consider metal sheds ugly, but one made of aluminum will hold up a long time. Steel tends to rust quickly, although some is coated to reduce, but not avoid, corrosion.

Wood — especially cedar — looks better, and there are more of them available. They aren't fireproof, though, and they're susceptible to mold and rot, so they need regular maintenance. Squirrels can easily chew through wood, too. ­Cedar sheds should be recoated with a sealer-preservative every other year.

Not everyone likes vinyl, but sheds made of it last nearly forever and require little maintenance, except for an occasional power-washing to remove mildew in shaded locations. Vinyl doesn't dent or ding and seems to withstand weather extremes, especially moisture, very well.

Size: Make sure the shed you buy will accommodate your equipment. If you have a riding mower, you'll need an extra-large shed. If you have a regular-size mower, make sure to store things carefully, so you can get everything in and out. Consider shelves to hold pots and materials, hooks for rakes, shovels, etc., and a ramp and extra-wide doors.

Foundation: Check with the manufacturer, but sheds typically are placed on cinder blocks, concrete piers, a concrete slab or crushed stone. Supports for the structure usually are made of pressure-treated wood.

Room to grow: As you've no doubt learned, there is never enough room — hence the need for a shed in the first place. Even a shed can be expanded with plastic add-ons costing a couple of hundred dollars. Check for them at the local home center.