Builders – garages, barns, sheds:
1. Do homeowners in your region prefer to build garages, barns or sheds for storage? (Which is more common?) It really depends on the customer's needs, preference and what type of neighborhood they live in. For instance, a customer with a small yard living in a development with a Home Owner's Association probably has some size limitations that a rural customer doesn't have. Different munipalities also have different rules. Like when we build a garage, the foundation requirements vary from one jurisdiction to the next. The good news is that we have sales and construction professionals that can guide the process so the homeowner gets the building that works best for them. From a sheer numbers perspective though, we do build more sheds than garages or specialty buildings.
2. Are there special licensing requirements needed for contractors to be able to do so? What about if I am building it myself? Do I need a building permit for such a small building? We carry all required local/state licenses for construction of these types of buildings. We also are fully insured and bonded, which is required by the State of California. In addition, we have our field employees background checked and vigorously trained. Customers should always make sure that this is the case with any contractor that they hire. Requirements for building permits can vary by municipality, size of building, desired placement on the property, etc. These types of requirements are the same even when the homeowner wants to build the shed or garage themselves. But for the most part, in the City of Milpitas, where our Bay Area factory is located, a homeowner can have a shed installed without a building permit, so long as it is 120 square feet and under.
3. Should I have the structure custom-built, or should I buy a prefabricated model? Where can I buy the model kit, or the plans to have it built? Most customers are better off having us install their storage building. Our installers assemble alot of buildings, and they have the right tools and training for the job. That means that on a typical storage building, we can have a customer's building fully installed within an afternoon. And our buildings are designed to be very sturdy, and not neccessarily lightweight or simple to install. That's not to say that someone who's really handy couldn't install one of the kit buildings that are available. We just have never seen a kit building that would perform as well, or last as long as a TUFF SHED building, and constructing a building from the ground up would take the average homeowner several full weekends by the time they source and haul all the needed materials and tools to their site. And that's even before driving a single nail. I'd suggest leaving all of that headache to a company that has local building professionals, like TUFF SHED.
4. What are the pros and cons to custom building versus prefabrication, and what is the cost range difference between the two?
We prefabricate several key parts of our buildings inside our local factories. The advantages are many. Material doesn't sit out in the weather. It's easier to keep doors and wall panels true when you can use inside-the-factory tools like wall tables and door jigs. We also manufacture our own rafters and trusses inside the factory, precision cutting them to size and joining them with steel plates. It would be impossible for us to deliver the same quality rafters and trusses if we had to build them in the field. And because we've already got some key components like doors and rafters and wall panels prefabricated, we can install the building on site more quickly. This process is actually a "greener" approach too, since the typical shed install requires only one trip instead of several back and forth trips by one of our trucks.
5. When’s the best time for such building? Our busiest time of the year tends to be March through October. We do build year-round, and even in the busiest of times can generally schedule installation of storage buildings within 2-3 weeks. Garages can take a little longer because of site specific engineering and obtaining permits.
6. How should I determine the best size/scale and location for the structure? The right size for a building is really dependant on what you're going to use it for, plus local building rules. The customer's budget also comes into play. We always tell customers to consider going with a little bigger building, because we all tend to collect more things through the years that need to be stored somewhere. As far as the location of the structure, customers should choose a clean and level site, and also need to consider local setback requirements (i.e. how far the structure needs to be from the property line).
7. What kind of roofing and wall material should I use? Our roofing system is just that...a system. Rafters joined with steel plates. Heavy Duty 1/2" roof decking. 15# felt paper. All topped with Owens Corning shingles. And we add a baked enamel steel drip edge around the roof perimeter to protect the fascia. It's all about being sturdy and watertight. You've also got to consider what your roof load will be, which is a consideration up in the mountains where they get heavy snow.
8. Are there “green” building materials available for such a project? Yes. There are some green materials available. Just how green certain materials are depends on your perspective. We focus on our processes. Because of our prefabricating/on-site installation process, we spend less time going back and forth over the road to a customer's site. We also use a method of painting that allows us to reuse paint rollers without washing them. That's good for the landfills and the water table. Part of the reason we went to steel foundations many years ago was because of concerns we had with treated lumber (some lumber treatments used arsenic years ago). The way lumber mills are treating their wood products is different now, but we feel we were on the forefront at looking at alternative raw materials.
9. What types of foundation options would you recommend to support a structure? Our sheds come with a galvanized steel foundation, which can be placed right on level ground. Foundations need to be strong enough to support not only the weight of the building, but also what's going to be placed inside. Don't skimp on foundation materials, or the floor decking. We use 3/4" tongue and groove floor decking, with Sturdi Floor rating. Garages need concrete foundations, and local building codes vary as to the types of footings, and depth of the concrete slab.
10. When the foundation settles, should I build a ramp up to the structure so I can roll my lawnmower in?
Ramps are a great option, but aren't really a fix for buildings that settle. Homeowners with settling issues on any building should first address the root cause of the problem (generally a drainage issue caused by misdirected sprinkler, downspout or a slope issue on the property). After fixing the cause of the settling, the customer should then get their building re-leveled. This will allow the building to operate correctly (i.e. doors and windows on a out of level building tend not to open/close correctly. Our storage buildings come with a steel foundation that elevates the floor decking so that it's not resting directly on the ground. Because of this, ramps are a great option from the beginning for customers wanting to roll a lawn mower, wheel barrow or even motorcycle into their shed. We sell some great, heavy duty diamond plate ramps for less than $100 a pair...or we can build custom ramps for customers who need them. If one of our sheds settles, this typically can be remedied fairly easily by adding pressure treated wood shims or concrete blocks.
11. What other specific parts of the building process should I consider (i.e. for instance - windows, doors, siding material, and electricity and plumbing), and what tips can you share regarding these? We always encourage customers to add ventilation to any building, especially if they are going to spend any time in the building and/or if they are going to store any materials like gasoline for their lawnmower. There's a great radiant barrier roof decking product on the market right now called LP TechShield. It comes standard on our Premier PRO Series sheds and garages. Adding shelving and windows/skylights is also a good idea, as this makes the building more functional and introduces some ambient light inside. Whether you do it yourself or have a contractor build your structure, make sure you've got solid bones to the building, with 16" wall framing, a roof system and foundation like I described above, and high quality exterior grade siding. You'll also want to pay particular attention to the door of your building. Use heavy duty hinges. Sheet the door on both sides. And use a high quality, locking handle. We are really proud of our patented door system that incorporates all these features. There's really nothing else like it on the market today.
12. What kind of light source works best for such buildings? Customers not wanting to add electrical service to their building still have a couple of options for a light source. Windows and skylights are easy options to add. Make sure you (or your contractor) use caulking around the opening to make them weather tight. We also sell solar lights. The radiant barrier I mentioned earlier also helps brighten up the interior as it reflects whatever light comes into the building. For customers wanting to add electrical service to their building, we recommend hiring a licensed electrician.
13. How long do such structures usually last? Several factors determine how long a building will last. The biggest three factors are: 1) the initial quality of the materials; 2) the quality of the construction; and 3) how well the building is maintained. A well built and maintained structure should last many years. At TUFF SHED all of our buildings come with warranties that cover workmanship and materials. Some of these warranties are as long as 10 Years (compare that with most new home warranties of 1-year). If you have a contractor install your building, get a copy of the warranty BEFORE you finalize your purchase.
14. How can I maintain the life of the building? Just like any outside structure, the homeowner can really prolong the lifespan of their building by keeping up with regular maintenance, like painting, removing debris or brush next to the structure, inspecting door/window openings, etc. Be especially mindful of water. If you sprinkler system hits your structure several times a week, 26 weeks a year, you're asking for trouble.
15. Will it add any value to my home? A quality shed or garage adds value to a home. A poorly built structure does not. We frequently see real estate listings that include references to "includes a TUFF SHED building in the backyard"...so we know it can be a selling point.
16. How can I keep insects and animals out of the structure? As with any outdoor structure, keep the openings closed when not in use. Remove any nests you see at the first site of them. And when storing any items that could be a potential food source (i.e. bird seed, pet food, etc), make sure these are in metal or heavy duty plastic bins with lids that can be snapped on tightly.
17. Do you have any other words of advice for homeowners on this subject? Be careful of choosing the least expensive option when it comes to installing a shed or garage in your backyard. Your structure should solve your storage problems for years to come...not create new problems for you. Make sure that any contractor you hire carries insurance, does employee background checks, and is a member of the Better Business Bureau.