http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2011/06/24/so-many-choices-so-little-room


Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - June 24, 2011

So many choices, so little room

Backyard sheds offer places to store extra stuff

by Aaron Guggenheim

When it comes to choosing backyard storage, there are a multitude of options. And the decision always comes down to finding the right material and size shed that fits both your storage needs and aesthetic desires.

After finding the material and size, other considerations need to be made about the actual look and color of the shed. Do you want a simplistic, open-and-closed storage shed that keeps things dry and safe? Or do you prefer a more elaborate shed that makes allowances for windows that open and a sliding-glass door? Should the color blend with backyard landscape or clash artistically, mixing a striking fire-engine red shed with a stained wooden deck?

Most of the basic backyard-storage options can be found at Home Depot, which carries a wide variety of sheds that are fabricated in many different materials and sizes. And, as true with anything, the price varies with size and material.

A small plastic 10' x 10' shed (Suncast) can run $1,500 while a wooden shed (Handy Home Products Princeton) of the same size is significantly cheaper at $650. The middle range of these two options is opting for a slightly bigger metal shed (Arrow) — 10' x 12' — which costs $930. Each one of these sheds requires assembly and the structures resemble barns with slightly sloping roofs and a familiar rectangular shape.

Shannon Maher, a resident of Palo Alto, decided to forgo the common route of buying a shed at Home Depot and sought out the Colorado-based company Studio Shed (studio-shed.com) to build her shed.

"We needed storage because we wanted to use our garage for other stuff," she said.

She chose the Studio Shed because of both the modern design, which features small windows placed at the top of the structure with a solid wooden door, and the fact that she could individualize it for "what would work in the landscape."

"I wanted mixed materials for the exterior," she added, "and the lighting is really good without taking up (much) wall space."

From order to installation, the whole process took three weeks, with installation only taking a day and two hours. Studio Sheds are prefabricated and fit onto trucks, which allows for quick processing.

The only drawback, she said, was the expense. A 10' x 12' studio shed, depending on the materials used, which can be aluminum, glass and steel, costs anywhere from $6,700 to $8,900. Studio Shed also offers options to install solar panels on the shed.

Another option for stylish backyard sheds is the Modern Cabana, a storage shed made by Modern Cabana (moderncabana.com) in San Francisco.

The Modern Cabana offers cedar plywood sheds that have redwood sidings and four glass windows along with a sliding-glass door. The floorboard is stained, adding to the sleek, modern design. These sheds are shipped in kits that can be installed by handy do-it-yourselfers or contractors.

However, a stylish shed comes with a hefty price tag: a 10' x 12' Modern Cabana runs $11,500.

And even after choosing the right shed, some new shed owners in Palo Alto may have to contend with the building-permit process. If the new shed has any form of electricity, running water or is more than 120 square feet of total interior space, then it can only be built with a permit, according to the Palo Alto Planning and Development Office. There are also mandatory inspections to make sure the building is built to the safety standards of the residential building code. But, before trying to avoid the Planning and Development office, it is best to remember that there are fees that are assessed for violating the building code.

And if you try to make your backyard shed or cabana livable, there are yet another host of building and zoning issues. The shed must be built in land properly zoned to allow for two inhabitable dwellings on one lot. Most residential lots only allow for one inhabitable dwelling. The shed also must be brought up to the code required of the main house to satisfy safety requirements.

But Maher finds her new storage shed "so great that it can't be used for storage."

"I think we are going to turn it into a gym," she said.

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Editorial Intern Aaron Guggenheim can be emailed at aguggenheim@paweekly.com.

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