A rural shed
Modern secure bike sheds
A garden shed

A shed is typically a simple, single-storey structure in a back garden or on an allotment that is used for storage, hobbies, or as a workshop.

Sheds vary considerably in the complexity of their construction and their size, from small open-sided tin-roofed structures to large wood-framed sheds with shingled roofs, windows, and electrical outlets. Sheds used on farms or in industry can be large structures.



Small domestic sheds

The simplest and least expensive sheds are available in kit form. Both shed kits and "do-it-yourself" plans are available for wooden and plastic sheds. Sheds are used to store home and garden tools and equipment such as push lawn mowers, lawn tractors, and gardening supplies. In addition, sheds can be used to store items or products that are not suitable for indoor storage, such as gasoline, pesticides, or herbicides.

A metal garden shed made with sheets of galvanized steel over a steel frame

For homes with small gardens or modest storage needs, there are several types of very small sheds. These include corner sheds, which fit into a corner (3’ tall x 3’ wide x 2’ deep), vertical sheds (5’ tall x 3’ wide x 4’ deep), horizontal sheds (3’ tall x 5’ wide x 4’ deep), and toolsheds. When a shed is used for tool storage, shelves and hooks are often used to maximize the storage space. Gambrel-style roofed sheds, (sometimes called baby barns) which resemble a Dutch-style barn have a high sloping roofline which increases storage space in the "loft". Some Gambrel-styles have no loft and offer the advantage of reduced overall height. Another style of small shed is the saltbox-style shed.

Larger domestic sheds

A tall shed with windows and a shingled roof

Larger, more expensive sheds are typically constructed of wood and include features typically found in house construction, such as windows, a shingled roof, and electrical outlets. Larger sheds provide more space for engaging in hobbies such as gardening, small engine repair, or tinkering. Some sheds have small porches or include furniture, which allows them to be used for relaxation purposes. In some cases, teleworkers and homeworkers in general who live in mild climates use small- to medium-sized wooden garden sheds as outdoor offices. There is a growing industry in providing "off the peg" garden offices to cater for this demand, particularly in the UK but also in the US.

Shed owners can customize wooden sheds to match the features (e.g., siding, trim, etc.) of the main house. A number of decorative options can be added to sheds, such as dormers, shutters, flowerboxes, finials, and weathervanes. As well, practical options can be added such as benches, ramps, ventilation systems (e.g., in cases where a swimming pool heater is installed in a shed), and electric lighting. Sheds designed for gardening, called "potting sheds", often feature windows or skylights for illumination, ventilation grilles, and a potter's bench for mixing soil and re-potting plants.

Specific-use sheds

  • Garden sheds — The vast majority of sheds are garden sheds, including allotment sheds. This class of sheds also includes potting sheds and tool sheds. Most modern gardens are too small for more than a single shed, containing garden tools and lawn mowers.
  • Bike sheds (also called bicycle sheds) usually contain a framework on which bikes can be supported and locked. Bike sheds range from little more than a supported roof to more complex structures with walls and locking doors.
  • Boat sheds (also called boatsheds) are lockable wooden sheds built near a body of water to store small private boats, bathing suits, and related items. Boat sheds used for rowing clubs are large structures for storing skiffs.
  • Agricultural sheds
    A hay shed typical of Australia and New Zealand (otherwise known as a barn)
    • Farm sheds and other outbuildings are used to store farm equipment, tractors, tools, hay, and supplies, or to house horses, cattle, poultry or other farm animals. Run-in sheds are three-sided structures with an open face used for horses and cattle.
    • Shearing sheds can be large sheds found on sheep stations to accommodate large-scale sheep shearing.
  • Railway sheds
    • Engine sheds are structures used for the maintenance or storage of railway locomotives. In Britain these are also called motive power depots.
    • Goods sheds are railway buildings designed for storing goods before or after carriage in a train.
    • Train sheds are buildings adjacent to a railway station where the tracks and platforms are covered by a roof. The first train shed was built in 1830 at Liverpool's Crown Street Station.
    • Snow sheds are strongly built timber or reinforced concrete tunnels that protect railroad tracks (or roads) from avalanches.
  • Miscellaneous sheds
    • In 19th century military barracks, sheds were used as auxiliary buildings for various purposes. The Royal Artillery park barracks in Halifax used sheds as gun sheds, carriage sheds, repair sheds, wheel sheds, wagon sheds and storage sheds.[1]
  • Arena
    • A simple open roof structure, or a partially walled or fully enclosed large under cover area. Can be used for horse riding equestrian venues. Providing all year usage of the facility with protection from the weather.


The main types of shed construction are metal sheathing over a metal frame, plastic sheathing and frame, all-wood construction, and vinyl-sided sheds built over a wooden frame. Each type has various advantages and disadvantages that a homeowner has to consider. For example, while metal sheds are fire and termite-resistant, they can rust over time, or be severely damaged by high winds. The International Building Code(IBC) defines a shed as a building or structure of an accessory character; it classifies them under Utility and Miscellaneous Group U (Chapter 3 Section 312).

Metal sheds

A corrugated iron shed

Metal sheds made from thin sheet metal sheathing (galvanized steel, aluminium, or corrugated iron) attached to a metal frame. Metal sheds are a good choice when long-term strength and resistance to fire, rot, or termites is desired. However, metal sheds may rust over time, particularly if they are constructed from steel that is not galvanized. Be aware that concrete is highly corrosive so care needs to be take when assembling your shed to avoid contact with the outside panels.[2]

As well, some types of metal sheds that have thin walls are easily dented, which may makes some types of thin metal sheds a poor choice for vandal-prone areas or for high-traffic activities such as small businesses. In cold climates, metal sheds with thin walls need to have snow and ice cleared from the roof, because the thin metal may be damaged by a heavy accumulation. Since thin metal sheds weigh much less than wood or PVC plastic sheds, thin metal sheds are more at risk of being damaged by heavy winds. To prevent wind damage, thin metal sheds should be attached to a concrete foundation with screws.[3]

Plastic sheds

Lifetime blow-molded plastic sheds

Plastic shed kits utilizing heavy molded plastics such as PVC and polyethylene are less expensive than sheet metal sheds. PVC resins and high-impact, UV light-resistant polyethylene make plastic outdoor sheds stronger, lighter, and more durable and more resistant to denting and chipping than wood, and tend to be more stable.

Plastic shed kits sided with vinyl are typically among the least expensive types of shed construction. Higher-quality sheds use UV-resistant plastic and powder-coated metal frames. Many plastic sheds are modular to allow for easy extensions, peg-boards, shelving, attic-storage, windows, skylights, and other accessories to be added later.

Plastic sheds are not susceptible to termite and wood-boring insect damage, and they require little maintenance. Being rot-proof they do not need to have preservative applied.

Wooden sheds

Domestic wooden sheds.

Wooden sheds have a natural look that can blend in well with garden environments. Despite the strength of wood, over time untreated and neglected wood can rot, split, warp or become susceptible to mold and mildew, so wood sheds should be treated for protection. Wood sheds need regular maintenance, such as keeping plant matter and debris from piling up beside the walls and on the roof, and occasional rot-proofing with preservative. Sheds are sometimes also re-stained or varnished at times for aesthetic reasons. Fire, and in some countries termite attack, are also potential problems.

Stains and preservatives can be applied to wood sheds to prevent damage to the wood caused by exposure to rain, damp ground, UV light, harsh climatic conditions, fungal attack and wood-boring insects. If a colored preservative oil or stain is used, a wooden shed can either be made to stand out as a feature within a garden, or to blend in with its surroundings. Red cedar coloured stain is popular. Some types of wood, such as cedar, are more naturally-resistant to water damage. One advantage of using wood sheds is that it is easier to modify wooden sheds (i.e., than metal sheds) by adding windows, doors, shelving, exterior trim etc., because wood can be cut and drilled using commonly-available tools. Some homeowners may prefer wood sheds because wood is a renewable resource.

Example of wood storage shed from US cedar shed builder.

Vinyl-sided sheds

An Amish-style vinyl-sided shed

Vinyl-sided sheds are typically built with standard wood framing construction and oriented strand board (OSB) on the walls covered with standard vinyl siding. Vinyl-sided sheds never need to be painted, they are generally stronger than plastic or metal sheds, and are usually built to conform with the local building codes. They are not eco-friendly and they cost more than wooden, metal or plastic sheds.

Asbestos sheds

In the early and middle years of the 20th century many garden sheds and domestic garages were made of asbestos-cement sheets supported on a very light angle iron frame. Concerns about safety led to the practice being discontinued, but they were cheap and long-lasting and many can still be seen in British gardens. Advice on continued use or disposal is available.[4]


A shed near Sydney, Australia

To woodshed, or 'shed, in jazz jargon, is "to shut oneself up, away from the world, and practice long and hard, as in 'going to the woodshed'."[5]

In Australia and New Zealand the term shed can be used to refer to any building that is not a residence and which may be open at the ends or sides, or both. Australia's passion for sheds is documented in Mark Thomson's Blokes and Sheds. Recently "Men's Sheds"' have become common in Australia.[6] In New Zealand, the bi-monthly magazine The Shed appeals to the culture of "blokes" who do woodwork or metalwork DIY projects in their sheds. There is also another magazine called The Shed, a bimonthly pdf magazine produced in the UK but with a global audience, for people who work (usually in creative industries) in garden offices, sheds and other shedlike atmospheres.

A much-loved and frequently restored British shed in Lincolnshire

In the UK, people have long enjoyed working in their potting sheds; the slang term "sheddie", to refer to a person enamoured of shed-building, testifies to the place of sheds in UK popular culture. A Usenet Newsgroup "uk.rec.sheds" has long championed this subculture: their lengthy FAQ[7] is a masterly summary of the idea. Author Gordon Thorburn examined the shed proclivity in his book Men and Sheds, which argues that a "place of retreat" is a "male necessity" which provides men with solace, especially during their retirement.

In the novel Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, Aunt Edna Doom saw "Something nasty in the woodshed" and retreated to her bed for half a century.

In the United States, a woodshed is often associated with corporal punishment; in many rural communities, a wayward boy would be disciplined with a switch or whip or similar instrument by an adult male relative, typically the father. Such discipline would frequently be meted out in or behind the wooden shed ubiquitous in rural America, so as to be out of the public view. The phrase "taking someone to the woodshed" now is a generic idiom for meting out discipline (whether violent or not), or for resoundingly defeating an opponent in a game or sport.

Shed of the Year

Founded by Andrew Wilcox, also known as Uncle Wilco, for so-called "sheddies" - fans of sheds - the Shed of the Year competition seeks to find the most quirky and unique shed in the UK, with the winner being celebrated in Shed Week, which takes place in the first week of July and his run by the website

The first National Shed Week was held in the UK in July 2007 and received widespread coverage in the media, the winning shed was a normal one converted into a Roman Temple. National Shed Week in 2008, was another great success with Shed of the Year winner being a hand built octagonal Pub Shed.

National Shed Week in 2009, had a winning shed that was a cabin on stilts called the Kite Cabin from West Wales.

Since 2010, the National Shed of the Year competition has been sponsored by garden woodcare brand Cuprinol. The winning shed that year was a pirate-themed shed called The Lady Sarah out of Worthing

Shed of the Year 2011 is open for entries - the closing date is 16th May 2011


The word is recorded in English since 1481, as shadde, possibly a variant of shade. The word shade comes from the Old English word "sceadu", which means "shade, shadow, darkness". The term's P.Gmc. cognate, "skadwo" also means "shady place, protection from glare or heat".[8]

The Old English word is spelled in different ways, such as shadde, shad or shedde, all of which come from an "Old Teutonic/Anglo-Saxon root word for separation or division". The first attested usage of the word, in 1481, was in the sentence "A yearde in whiche was a shadde where in were six grete dogges." The Anglo Saxon word "shud", which means "cover" may also have been part of the development of the word. In 1440, a "shud" was defined as a "... schudde, hovel, swyne kote or howse of sympyl hyllynge [covering] to kepe yn beestys."

See also

A waterside shed in Sweden

Other meanings

The term "shed" can also refer to the shed style of modern architecture.



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