Three different buildings, three different purposes. While sheds and barns add valuable storage space to your property, playhouses are pure fun. Whether you have an overfilled garage or no garage, and you need a spot to store your gardening or hobby equipment, a small or mid-sized shed might be all you need. If you need extra work space and an area to house animals, adding a barn is a great option.
In theory, all of these structures can be built as a DIY project, but only if you’re very handy and experienced in carpentry. Hiring a professional to do the job saves valuable time. A large barn could take a four- or five-person crew up to five or six weeks to complete, but approaching the same barn as a DIY could easily take two to three times as long. It can also save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in costly mistakes while maximizing the return on your investment, which averages 77% for a well-built barn.
Cost to Build a Shed
The average cost to build a shed is between $800 and $4,000, depending on the materials you choose (anywhere from $300 to $5,000) and whether you choose to DIY or hire a pro. Some other price factors to consider when building a shed include whether you add electricity to the shed ($50 - $100) and labor fees for a contractor or handyman (~$200). You should budget some padding into your expenses before you embark on this project to avoid overspending.
Morever, there are many non-cost factors to consider, including whether you have the skills needed to approach this as a DIY project or not. For more information on the cost and other items to plan before you start, take a look at the details of each below.
Unless you have some advanced carpentry or electrical skills, you’re going to need a hand to build the shed. If you plan to add electricity to the shed, you need to hire an electrician, which costs an average of $50 to $100 per hour. Carpenters and handymen services may charge by the hour or by the job, with most homeowners paying $185 and $626 on average, respectively.
What to Have Ready/What to Ask
Whether you decide to hire a professional or you opt to go it alone, there are several basic questions you need to ask yourself before you start shopping. For example, do you need plumbing or electricity in the shed? Other considerations include:
Do You Need a Permit: Check local building codes to determine if you need a permit to build a shed on your property.
Size and Style: Do you need something simple and utilitarian, or do you want something decorative? There are many different styles and sizes out there. Evaluate your home and property to determine the best style for your needs.
Where Should the Shed Go: Depending on the size of your property, you have many different options for the placement of your shed. Some popular choices include building it close to the house, which makes running power and water lines easy, or tucking it to the side or back of your property so that it's less obtrusive.
What Is Your Budget: If you have a tight budget, you can build a simple shed that gets the job done without a lot of frills. If you have extra wiggle room, look for added features such as integrated shelving inside or decorative trim on the exterior.
We recommend getting estimates from at least two or three contractors before you choose one professional to help you with this project. While you’re getting the estimate, take some time to ask a few key questions, such as:
Is the contractor licensed and insured? Depending on local laws, most contractors need to be licensed by the state. Even if your area doesn't require that, verify that the contractor has insurance. Otherwise you could be liable for the costs associated with any damages or injuries if there's an accident during the project.
How long has the contractor been in the business? If you hire a professional, you want to rely on his or her expertise. Shed builders who have some experience often understand local building code requirements and community needs, which can help keep the project on point.
How long will the project take? Using a prefabricated shed takes time off the tally, but most shed-building projects take a few days. Know what to expect before your contractor gets started. Also, ask the professional how he or she handles rainy days. Will you get a phone call, or should you just expect that he or she won’t work that day?
Does the builder offer design services? If you want to create a decorative exterior, will the builder help you do that? Will the builder guide the placement of the shed?
Does the builder offer repair or moving services? Just like any other building, sheds periodically need maintenance and repairs. Is your professional someone you can call in the future for help? Can he or she move the shed if you decide on a better spot later?
What is the warranty on the shed? Most manufacturers offer a warranty that covers repairs for features such as shingles and siding for a specified amount of time after purchase and installation.
Common Shed Size & Materials
Most sheds have a concrete slab base and average 10 feet by 12 feet in size, or around 120 square feet. That's one of the common sizes for many of the prefabricated options available, although you can also choose to customize your shed with larger dimensions. Common features include a door with a lock. Some higher-end options include shelves, hooks and other extras to help organize your tools and equipment. Common shed materials include:
Vinyl Sheds: Vinyl is one of the newer options for sheds. Some of the benefits of choosing vinyl include the strength and durability of the building materials, the rot and rust resistance, insect resistance and the ability to stand up to weather and heavy snowfalls without denting or cracking. Vinyl sheds cost an average of $800 to $5,000.
Metal Sheds: One of the biggest benefits of choosing a metal shed is the ability of the steel or aluminum to resist rot, decay and insect infestations. Metal sheds cost an average of $300 to $2,000.
Wood Sheds: Most homeowners use wood to build their sheds. In addition to looking attractive, these sheds offer a large selection of styles, so you can easily find a layout that meets your storage requirements. Wood sheds can be customized easier than metal to add skylights, windows and shelving. Most wood sheds cost an average of $600 to $3,000.
The cost of the building materials isn’t the only consideration. Other factors can quickly add to the cost of this project. For example, hiring an electrician to wire up the shed costs an average of $50 to $100 per hour. Hiring a carpenter to help with demolition, construction, pouring the concrete for the slab the shed rests on or to prepare the site for the shed costs $30 to $100 per hour.
If you have some carpentry skills, you can save the money on hiring a pro and build the shed yourself. To make the process as smooth as possible, gather the necessary tools, equipment and supplies before you get started. Most DIY shed building projects take several days and cost $4,800 to $2,000.
Materials You'll Need
If you have the time and a few helpers around to build your own shed, here are the supplies that you’ll need to buy to complete the project:
Concrete for the foundation and floor: Average price is $75 per cubic yard
Walls and Roofing: Pressure-treated lumber posts, beams, rafters and joists cost an average of $6.50 per square foot, while roofing averages $12 to $15 for a 2-foot by 16-foot length
Siding: OSB siding costs around $2 to $4 per square foot, while cedar plywood costs $2.75 to $6.50 per square foot
Door: A simple door should cost around $140 on average
Windows: $60 to $400 each
Composite Trim: $2.50 to $5 per square foot
Tools, including air compressor, air hose, brad nail gun, jigsaw, sawhorses, circular saw, drill, clamps, hammer, chalk line, hearing and eye protection: Buying all the necessary tools can easily cost $1,000 to $2,000, or you can rent most of them for an average cost of a few hundred dollars for a week
Shed Construction Tips
The key to keeping a DIY shed building project running smoothly is to prepare ahead of time. Make sure you know exactly what you want and where you want to build it. Other helpful tips to keep you organized and on track include:
Get Your Permits: Don’t wait too long, and don’t forget this necessary step. If you skip getting a permit, your local government could ask you to remove the shed or fine you.
Prepare the Area: Start by clearing the area of any weeds and grass before pouring the concrete floor and foundation. Most concrete slabs should be around 6 inches deep and a few inches wider and deeper than the dimensions of your shed.
Find a Detailed Plan: Unless you have extensive building experience, having some instructions to follow can keep your shed project running smoothly. If you want to cut corners, consider buying a prefabricated shed that only needs to be installed, not built, on your site.
The average cost of building a barn is around $3,020, but the price can soar to well above $40,000 if you build a large barn. For example, a 1,200-square foot barn typically costs up to $45,000. In addition to the size of the barn, other cost considerations include the materials used to build it and the finishing touches.
Unless you’re building a small barn, have experience or buy a kit with great instructions, this is a project best left to the professionals. In most cases, you’ll need multiple contractors to complete this project. Electricians cost $50 to $100 per hour on average, carpenters cost $30 to $100 and hiring someone to pour the concrete foundation costs an average of $4 to $5 per square foot in labor costs.
What to Have Ready/What to Ask
One of the biggest questions you need to ask yourself during the planning phases of this project is: “What is the intended use for my barn?” Whether you need storage or an area for animals, these are factors that have to figure into your design plans. To prepare for this project, consider the following:
What style of barn do you want? Style, design and color are some of the chief factors that you need to decide upon, preferably before you hire a pro. However, many contractors can help you decide on design and style choices if you’re unsure. Do you want a specific type of material or a special color?
How many tools, pieces of equipment or animals are you storing? Knowing this in advance can help you and your barn builder determine the scale of the barn and extra features that need to be included, such as shelving and stalls.
What are the laws in your area? If you're using the barn to house horses or other animals, you might need to get special permits. You may need to notify the zoning office or the board of health, and you may be restricted about the number of animals you can have, depending on the size of your property.
Do you want a loft? Having a loft gives you added storage space, but including a loft often increases your insurance costs and reduces the headroom on the main level and in stalls.
We recommend getting estimates from at least two or three contractors before you choose the professional to help you with this project. While you’re getting the estimate, take some time to ask potential contractors a few key questions such as:
Is the contractor licensed and insured? Depending on local laws, most contractors need to be licensed by the state. Even if your area doesn't require that, you should still verify that the contractor has insurance. This protects you from being liable for any costs associated with an accident that occurs during the course of the project.
How long has the contractor been in this business? If you hire a professional, you want to rely on his or her expertise. The knowledge and design skills required to build a barn can be quite difficult to find in a contractor, depending on the area of the country you live in. Choose someone who has plenty of experience in building this type of structure to get the best results.
Can you assist? There may be something you can do to help prep the area or get the site ready for prepping. This is one way you can save on overall project costs, too.
Building a barn is a much pricier project than installing a small shed or a playhouse. In addition to the cost of the building materials and the labor for the professional barn builder, other factors can quickly add to the cost of this project. For example, hiring an electrician to add wiring and electricity that’s done to code costs an average of $50 to $100 per hour. Hiring a carpenter to help with demo, construction, pouring the concrete for the slab the barn rests on or to prepare the site for the barn costs $30 to $100 per hour.
Common Barn Sizes & Materials
There's no standard barn size, although 20 feet by 30 feet tends to be a popular size. Mini barns are as small as 8 feet wide by 12 feet long. Other common barn types and sizes include:
Carriage barns usually measure 18 to 26 feet wide and up to 36 feet long
English-style barns usually measure anywhere from 24 to 36 feet wide and 24 to 50 feet long
Granary-style barns are smaller outbuildings that usually measure 12 to 16 feet wide and 14 to 20 feet long
Wood is the most common building material used for barns, although newer steel barns offer faster installation and increased durability. You can choose from several types of barns, including:
Pole barns, which are the least expensive and easiest to adapt; they typically last 40 to 60 years
Wood frame or stick built barns, which are easy to insult and last 60 to 80 years
Steel frame barns are among the most expensive options, but they offer the widest span and the longest life expectancy at an average of 80 to 100 years
Pole barns are the most simple barns to build because they don't need a concrete foundation and they only require four steps: create a level base pad, set poles into the ground, connect the poles at the top with braces and beams and add roof trusses. Pole barns cost anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000 less than a traditionally built barn of equal size. Most experts estimate that pole barns cost $10 per square foot for basic projects. If you upgrade the building materials or choose non-standard options such as extra doors and windows, you can expect to pay more.
Costs & Considerations
The amount of money you can expect to pay for this project depends on many different factors, including the cost of labor. Several types of contractors are usually required for building a barn, each with hourly fees that can range from $30 to $100 depending on the contractor’s level of experience. Other considerations include:
Size: Like any other building project, the larger the barn, the more you can expect to pay in materials and labor. However, the cost per square foot may go down in some cases. Truss spacing affects the dimensions of the project, with 9 feet of space between trusses being a common option
Leans: Adding a lean-to gives you more barn space for minimal added costs
Finishes: Upgrading to a steel roof or colorful exterior adds to the final cost of the project
Overhangs: Building overhangs into your barn helps increase ventilation and prevent water from pooling at the base of the barn
Doors and Accessories: Anything that isn’t standard costs extra, but it can enhance the comfort and look of the barn. Examples include custom doors and accessories such as insulation, skylights or decorative posts
Building a playhouse typically takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days or more, depending on how intricate the design is and whether you build it from scratch or using a kit. The size and scope of the playhouse are some of the most important factors that determine the cost.
If you buy a DIY wood kit, which comes with precut lumber and all the necessary hardware, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $10,000. Hiring a handyman or a contractor can add $50 to $3,000 to the price, depending on how long the build takes and how complex the project is. If you choose to DIY a playhouse from common building materials such as fencing panels, lattice or lumber, you can expect to pay $175 to $500.
Building a playhouse can be a fun project. Before you get started, you need to have a rough idea of the size of the playhouse and the materials you want to use. Decide on the larger details to help guide the rest of your project. Other important considerations include:
Style: Are you building a princess castle or a secret hideout? The style you choose drives many of the other choices you need to make, including the exterior accessories and the way you build the playhouse.
Interior Features: Do you want furniture or electricity inside the playhouse? Will it be big enough to have a secret loft or multiple play areas?
Finishes: What color should the inside or outside be? What else can you add to the playhouse to create the fun area your child dreams of?
Whether you’re building a barn, shed or a playhouse, there’s a variety of factors to consider. Playhouses can usually be pre-built structures you buy at at store, but otherwise the same steps will need to be taken ahead of time to build your own. Before you get started, think about the following details:
Square Footage: The larger the building, the more your shed, barn or playhouse will cost. Larger buildings mean more materials and more labor.
Building Codes: In most areas, you may need permits to build an exterior structure, even if it’s a small shed or playhouse. Research local laws and codes and get your permits to make sure you’re following regulations, such as how close to property lines the structure can be. If you’re planning to electrify a playhouse, for example, you’ll most likely need a permit no matter what the square footage is.
Site Prep: Unless you’re adding the structure to a brand new lot that’s already been cleared, you’re most likely going to need to clear a space in your yard or reconfigure some of your landscaping for a playhouse or shed or perform much more involved excavation for a barn.
Creating a Foundation: Depending on the size of the building, you’ll likely want to pour a foundation. If you’re building a smaller playhouse, however, you may want to think twice about pouring a foundation and instead focus on building a portable structure. Remember that your children will eventually outgrow the playhouse, and building it in a way that allows you to convert it into a storage shed later on is a smart option.
Building Materials: The type of wood, metal or vinyl that you use for the exterior, the wood you use for framing the structure, roofing and other finishing touches, even small elements such as windows and flower boxes, all factor into the final price.
Electrical Components: If you want to add electricity to your structure, you need to hire a licensed electrician who can complete the work to code. It can be a considerable extra expense, but it can also make your structure more functional. For example, having lights lets you work at night.
HVAC Installation: Adding heat or air conditioning may be important, especially if you’re using the space to work in or to house animals. Although the cost can add up, HVAC does create four-season comfort.
Adding Plumbing: Although most storage sheds don’t need running water, larger sheds and barns with work sinks require plumbing installation. The costs of the fixtures, including the cost of hiring a plumber, all add to the price of the project.
Gutters: Avoid damaging the foundation or the lawn while giving the roof the ability to drain properly by installing gutters.
Door Installation: From intricate barn doors with fancy hardware to simple, solid doors with minimal frills, you have many options for the entryway to your structure. Ultimately, choose the doors that go best with your design plan and needs, but don’t forget that this adds to the cost, too.