Is it cheaper to buy a shed or build one?

building a shed

Whether it is cheaper to build your shed or buy a shed already manufactured has been going on since the first shed manufacturer sold their first unit. People stand on both sides of this issue with plausible reasons why one method is less expensive than the other method.

The question can be answered with a simple statement. Anytime you have the skill and ability to build your shed rather than buy a manufactured or site-built one, you will spend less on the structure. If you build your shed, you do not have to pay labor costs, material mark-ups, or the cost the manufacturer has to mark the building up so that they make a profit.

Of course, then the question becomes “what is my time worth.”

Most manufacturers mark the price of a building at thirty to fifty percent more than what it costs them to build it. This extra money is used to pay operating costs and as profit. After all, the manufacturer is not building those sheds for fun. They are in business to make money.

That answer made this question sound cut and dried. Building your own is cheaper. Building your own can be more affordable, but only if you have the skill, the time, and the tools needed to do the job. If you have to start buying or renting equipment, then the project’s cost increases.

Things to Consider when Buying a Shed or Freestanding Building

Is the shed 100% finished for you?

Sometimes, you might buy a shed (perhaps online) only to realize that what you are really getting is a kit that requires a pretty significant amount of assembly by you.  Make sure that the shed you get will in fact be finished to the level that you expect, and that makes sense for the shed

Delivery Costs

Having a shed delivered isn’t free.  Something that big likely requires specialized equipment and quite a bit of time by the person or crew delivering it.  Understand the delivery costs, or it could end up surprising you resulting an an even-more expensive shed than you expected.

Buying on Credit

If you plan to buy your building on credit using one of the “no credit check” companies, you will pay a lot more for the building than if you paid cash upfront or built your own. The companies that offer to sell you a building with a down payment and monthly installments make their money by being patient.

The down payment they require you to make usually covers the cost of the materials they had to purchase. After a few monthly payments, you will have paid enough to cover the labor cost they had for the building. That means everything else that they collect from you is pure profit.

Buying with Cash

Buying the building outright is a great way to get the building you want. You can choose design, style, and layout. However, you will pay more than if you build the shed for yourself. The company that manufactures the building has to pay for materials, and they have to pay for the labor it takes someone to build the structure.

The manufacturer also has other business-related expenses like websites, brick-and-mortar showrooms, electricity, taxes, phone service, etc. The manufacturer generally delivers the building to your home for free, so they also have to purchase moving permits, hire drivers, and pay employees to set

Buying Used

Used sheds and portable buildings can save you a lot of money. However, you have to consider how you are going to move the structure from where it is to where you want it to be. You will either have to take the unit apart and reassemble it at the new location, or it will need to be moved using a truck and trailer.used shed

Many think they can move one of these sheds on their lowboy trailer. To be honest with you, the majority of the time when people try this, they damage the building and create a need for costly repairs.

If you are entertaining the thought of buying a used building, then remember to add in the cost of the moving and leveling of the unit to determine the total price you paid.

National Retailers

Many of the stores that many of us have in our own regions offer sheds, and it can be a good place to at least get an idea of what you want.  There is no substitute for standing inside a model shed and getting a feel for it.  We have always liked Menards and Costco sheds.  Home Depot and Lowes offer solid sheds, too.

Things to Consider When Building Your Own Shed

Building your shed can be much cheaper than buying one from a manufacturer. You can easily get the shed into areas that a delivery truck could not access by building your own. However, you need the skills required to work with your chosen material. Even if you buy a shed building kit where all the materials are cut to the length, you must know how to work with the materials included in the kit.

Some areas require you to obtain a building permit before constructing the shed. Check to see if you need a permit or an inspection before you start building.

Materials You May Need

There are a couple ways to get your shed materials.

Shed Kit

You can buy a kit that has all of the materials included.  This is the “easy button” if you don’t quite know what materials you are looking for, or don’t want to spend a Saturday at a lumber yard or Home Depot trying to make sure you didn’t forget anything.


Get Shed Materials Yourself

Sometimes you just want to build your own shed, either from an idea you have in mind or perhaps from a DIY shed plan that you find online. Either way, there are a few building materials I recommend for anyone considering a shed of any kind, to be sure you don’t make a mistake you later regret.

Portable sheds

  • 4×6 (treated) the length of the building or other boards to create the skid under the building
  • 2×6 for floor framing (you need enough to place them 16” apart)lumber shed
  • Plywood to deck the floor ¾” or 5/8”
  • 2×4 to frame the walls, you will need 8′ and longer ones to create the top and bottom plates. Get enough 8′ studs to frame either 2′ or 16″ apart.
  • 2×4 or 2×6 to frame your roof
  • Siding material to cover the exterior
  • Roof materials. If you use shingles, you need to create a plywood deck to nail the shingles. Shingles also require you to use tar paper over the decking. If you use metal for the roof, you will need 1×4 lathing strips so you have something to attach the metal to. The spacing will be determined by the width of the sheet metal you use.
  • Door (build your own or buy pre-manufactured) If the door is pre-manufactured, it should come with the hinges, but if you build your own, you will need hinges and a latch (doorknob)
  • Depending on which type of door you choose to use, a threshold may be required.
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Caulk to seal around windows if you put any windows in
  • If you want the building sealed tight, you will need spray foam to seal the cracks
  • Cement blocks and pads create a foundation. You do not want your lumber to be sitting directly on the ground.


If you do not want to build a structure that can be moved from one location to another, you will not need the treated 4x6s under the shed.

Tools You May Need to Build Your Shed

Frankly, the reason some people buy a pre-built shed isn’t as much about the know-how, as it is about not keeping the right equipment on hand.  If you are going to build your own shed, be sure you have the needed equipment ready to go.building a shed

  • Tape measures
  • Levels
  • Circular saw
  • Hammers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Caulk guns
  • Drills
  • Screw guns
  • Extension cords
  • Ladders
  • Air compressor if the tools are pneumatic
  • Generator if you are not building close to a power supply

Manufacturers of sheds get a discount on the materials they use because they buy in bulk. Homeowners do not buy in bulk, so the materials to build your shed will cost more for the homeowner than it does for the manufacturer.

Will You Need Help?

If you are building your building, you may need some help to hold pieces in place and to fit the unit together. If you have to hire someone to help you do this, you must consider the wages you pay them as part of the cost of the building.  Especially when it comes to working with some of the larger and longer pieces of material, it is sure nice to have an extra hand.

Don’t Ignore Your Time

Your time is worth money. To accurately figure out the cost of a DIY shed, you must consider how much time it takes to make a material list, shop for materials, build the structure, and clean up after the build.

Is a New Shed Your Only Option?

If you have an existing shed that you plan to replace, you should ask yourself is the shed worth saving before tearing it down and going with a new one.  New sheds, whether you build or buy, will generally be cleaner and you can get what you want, but if all you need to do with an old shed is redo the roof and put a couple new windows in it, it might be worth saving.


Building your shed is cheaper only if you already have the tools and skills to do the work. If you buy a kit building, you can put them together with fewer skills. Still, some of those manufactured kits are complicated to assemble. Many people buy a kit to construct a shed and then have to hire someone to do the assembly, and the result is that the shed cost is increased.

Each person must weigh their abilities and resources and decide if building their shed is cheaper than buying a manufactured shed.

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