Outbuilding Planning Checklist

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An outbuilding can provide a welcome backyard retreat or much needed storage. Properly planned, it can be a focal point in the yard, adding charm and delight. In order to create an outbuilding that best enhances your yard and your lifestyle, there are several factors to consider. To begin, take a good look at your property, then consult the following list to plan for the perfect complement for your backyard.


Sheds are available from manufacturers in several forms: factory-made from stock designs, ready-to-assemble kits, or custom designed and built. The other option is to design and build your own building from scratch, or with the help of stock or custom plans.

Pre-built sheds are delivered ready to use

  • A variety of styles are available from stock designs to fully customized
  • Generally the quickest and most economical type
  • Quality and finishes vary by manufacturer
  • Some manufacturers will custom design your shed

Order a ready-to assemble kit

  • Good for the do-it-yourselfer with some moderate building skills
  • A range of styles are available and can be customized as it’s assemble
  • ***Some out-of-state manufacturers may not meet Florida building requirements

Custom designed and built on site

  • Can be customized for any use or size
  • Stock plans available or architect/designer can design
  • Built by owner or Contractor


  • Verify that your intended use is allowed by local zoning laws
  • Check to see if you have adequate room on site to meet your use; ie. room to pull a boat, lawn mower, etc. out of the shed


  • What size do you need to meet your needs?
    o Measure equipment to be stored or furnishings to be utilized
  • Is the size going to look appropriate for your site?
    o The outbuilding shouldn’t overwhelm the yard
  • Verify that it can be delivered to the site (see Delivery Considerations below) if purchasing a pre-built model
  • Consider the area available on the lot

Shape/ Form

  • Do you need separate areas for different functions? ie. storage and a workshop
  • Simple shapes are generally more economical and more pleasing to the eye


  • Will it interfere with desirable views (or be used to block undesirable views)?
  • Proportion of building (width to height ratio) should be pleasing


  • Consider the architecture of your home when choosing finishes and details
  • An outbuilding should be visually subordinate to the main building either by size or level of ornament/detailing
  • The building should be an asset to the yard; it should be pleasing to look at as well as be in

Exterior finish

  • Exterior siding should match or complement the main building
    o Historic homes look best with natural material outbuildings
  • Should reflect the trim detailing of the main building, but may be a simplified version
  • Color can match the main building exactly or be a complimentary palette

Access doors

  • Location
  • Size
  • Style/ type
  • Overhangs for protection from rain


  • Light and ventilation requirements
  • Style/ size
  • Location
  • Plan for shelving, furniture placement


  • Should compliment roof shape and materials of main building
  • Roof soffit/ rafter details can enhance the building design

Interior Finishes

  • Consider built-in shelves, cabinets, hooks
  • Are exposed studs acceptable or do you need finished walls?
  • Sloped/ cathedral ceilings add headroom and storage options

Wiring/ Electrical

  • Ceiling lights, exterior lights, and outlets can be added to any shed
  • On-site connections will need to be made by a licensed electrician


  • An attractive outbuilding should be placed so that it is a focal point in the yard
  • Do you have an area of level ground to place the shed?
  • Consider site drainage/ avoid low lying areas
  • Alternate foundation types may be necessary for uneven grades
  • Check with local Zoning regulations to determine minimum setbacks from side and rear yards as well as from existing structures
  • Trees – look at the entire tree, including overhead branches to determine where the shed can be set
  • Sunlight (consider both how much the building receives and what it might block)
  • Integrate with landscaping


  • Pre-built storage sheds have a PT skid foundation to be laid on level ground
  • Sloping grades need to be leveled prior to shed arrival, otherwise posts, piles or blocks need to be used for level support
  • Some uses may require a permitted and inspected foundation – check with local building department

Delivery considerations (for pre-built sheds)

  • Are there fences that will need to be removed temporarily?
  • Is there access down a rear alley?
  • Are there trees or landscaping that will be damaged during delivery?
  • Is a crane needed to lift the shed into the site?
  • Sheds constructed on site of pre-built panels may be special ordered for difficult to access yards


  • Local historic preservation board review is generally required within historic districts
  • Building permits may be required – check with your local permitting office
Posted on July 11, 2008 7:11 pm

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