Many homeowners favor wooden sheds over metal units
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
When a tree crashed on their metal storage shed in 2012, Gary and Beverly Scheuring knew they were going to go to wood for a replacement.
“Never had a second thought,” Gary Scheuring says, standing in the larger of two sheds that he built in weekend projects at his Shaler home.
He says using wood instead of metal creates a better look, causes easier construction “that is a little more forgiving” and leads to a product that is more customized on the inside as far as shelves and storage areas go.
In an age when backyard storage sheds are a common home for tools, mowers, snow blowers and a variety of household items, pre-built metal sheds and synthetic kits are popular options. But wood tends to emerge as the favorite from makers, sellers and users.
Steve Opresko, a professional-use associate at the East Liberty Home Depot outlet, says the best possible wooden shed would be a self-designed, self-built one that is “basically a deck with a small room built on top of it.” They would be strong, with support posts in cement-filled bases and “engineered or over-engineered” so well that the homeowner/builder would know how to replace or repair any part if necessary, Opresko says.
More commonly used wooden sheds come in kits, sometimes with vinyl siding, that can be put up with no architectural design effort. Costs vary, from $598 for basic ones or $4,000 for more involved units.
Sheds can get even bigger and more costly, says Mike Zook from AZ Structures in Indiana County. His shed-making company's biggest unit is basically a 28- by 36-foot barn and costs $13,999.
Jeffrey Kokowski, an outdoor associate at the Lowe's site in McCandless, says some basic sheds even can be cheaper. Lowe's handles a 3- by 5-foot unit for $297 and is “basically a garbage shed.”
Units at Lowe's can top $5,000 — some of them having ramps or cupolas — he says.
Kokowski can see some benefit in vinyl kits that are assembled almost like a full-sized version of a plastic model. They are precisely designed and create an attractive building with pieces that are molded to create stylish looks. They usually cost around $1,000.
“If properly anchored, they are about as durable as anything,” he says.
But an accident like the one at the Scheuring property would create major problems with metal and vinyl kits. Truth be told, any shed probably would have been finished by the size of the tree that fell on their shed. But a smaller accident might be repairable on a wooden shed — whether a kit or self-designed. But it could end the use of prefab pieces of metal of vinyl.
Scheuring said that ability to fix or change the shed was one of that reasons he went with wood. It also is easier to work with or alter to make it fit a site better. He says he had to trim some of the base pieces to fit, something that would not be possible with a vinyl or metal unit.
The way the kit was designed, he was able to add some of the windows long after the units were up, and he also was able to build his own shelving.
Kokowski says vinyl or metal sheds are made with shelving already designed “so you have to accept what they give you.” Wood, however, accepts brackets and screws almost universally.
The posts and areas of strength are obvious, he says, allowing several layers of storage area when wanted, as in Scheuring's units.
Kokowski also says wooden construction, whether from a kit or self-designed, also is capable of being insulated, which allows a shed to be turned into a work room that can be used in cooler weather.
Tops and bottoms are among the most important features of sheds.
Opresko, for instance, says the key to any project is making sure the base area is level. That job can be done with a cement floor or a base of gravel or dirt on which a row of wooden beams can serve as a base.
He and others all advocate such raised bases because they allow ventilation to pass under the shed.
The importance of tops is one of the reason that metal has lost its popularity, say Kokowski and Noah Yoder, one of the owners of Yoder Backyard Structures in Burgettstown. Metal roofs and other areas of the sheds are susceptible to rusting while wooden sheds most often come with shingled roofs that hold up in the same way they do on houses.
“Most of the time, they come with 30-year roofs so you are not going to need a replacement,” Yoder says.
Kokowski says shed-building from a kit often can be done in a weekend, but most often requires two people “because someone has to hold the walls while they are put in place.”
He and Opresko say the first step they take is to “qualify” the direction a client is going, which can establish what he they need. If they are conscious of design, they might want to go with wood, which can be painted to match the exact color of a home. Vinyl and metal colors are determined by the manufacturer; although they can come close to matching, many times they don't.
The goals are important, too. If the shed will be a simple home for a mower and some tools, perhaps all that is needed is a 8- by 10-foot shed kit.
It is a rather simple decision process, he says.
“If you are building your own, it is how much money you want to spend, what you want it to be and finding a good place for it,” he says.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.
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