- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

Homeowners need space to store everything from lawn equipment and children's bicycles to those holiday decorations that need a place to call home the rest of the year.

Where does the clutter go? Some people use their basements; others opt to park in the driveway and turn the garage into a storage room.

One solution for many homeowners is to purchase a storage shed.

Once considered boring and notoriously ugly backyard buildings, sheds have come a long way and offer a variety of attractive styles. There even is a trend to use sheds as playhouses, hobby shops and offices.

"I've seen people get sheds made like dollhouses and use them as kids' playrooms," says Ernie Sears of Backyard America in Manassas.

"People in new homes, especially, don't get too much land or storage space anymore. They want to keep the garage a nice place to go into and park their car," says Bernie Greenleaf, owner of Crafter's Village in Upper Marlboro.

Sheds can be built of metal, wood or vinyl and can range from a simple 6-by-8-foot model to an extravagant 14-by-20-foot megashed.

"There's a market for them all, but the most common size is 8-by-10," says Yves Barrett, department supervisor of Home Depot in Germantown. "The metal sheds are inexpensive, but the wood and vinyl sheds are a better quality. Vinyl sheds are maintenance-free, so you don't have to paint them."

Mr. Sears adds, "Wood is less expensive than vinyl, [but] people are starting to prefer vinyl-material sheds because they are maintenance free."

Sheds usually are classified by roof designs, three of which are most popular.

A "shed" roof is the simplest and most economical to build. It consists of a single slope from a taller wall to a shorter wall.

The "gable" roof, experts say, frequently is chosen for its simple design and adaptability to a variety of sizes and styles. The gable roof consists of two equal roof pitches that meet at a centerline.

Finally, the "barn-style" roof has two pitches and provides more headroom and overhead storage than the shed- or gable-roof buildings, according to experts.

Industry professionals say looks are important to shed owners. Variations in windows, doors and roofing contribute largely to the backyard appeal of storage buildings.

Deciding on shed features is comparable to making selections when getting a home built, only on a smaller scale.

Shed options can include window boxes, skylights, shelves, workbenches, ramps even front porches. Some people choose to custom-build a shed that exactly matches the exterior of their home.

Experts agree that homeowners should do some research before purchasing and erecting a shed.

The most common shed problems include premature floor rotting, moisture condensation and leaks (especially in metal sheds) and flimsy construction, professionals say.

"Vinyl sheds are user-friendly and are the easiest to put together. Metal is less expensive, but it takes a while to put together because you have a bunch of pieces that go with it," Mr. Barrett says. "Rubbermaid has come out with a 7-by-7 [industrial plastic] shed that's easy to assemble and has been a pretty popular seller."

Many sheds come as kits to be assembled, but Mr. Greenleaf suggests investing in professional installation for peace of mind and to save time.

"I know a carpenter that built his own 12-by-20 shed. But the long hours he put into it just to save $350 doesn't seem worth it for something that could've been done easily in under a week," he says.

Regardless of whether a homeowner opts for professional installation or takes the do-it-yourself route, Realtors and building professionals alike warn that it is important to be aware of local ordinances and restrictions regarding sheds. Rules vary in each county, city and subdivision.

Homeowners associations often require a homeowner to submit architectural plans for approval before building a shed. "A lot of homeowners associations now require that a shed be constructed in vinyl," Mr. Sears says.

In some communities, a storage shed of any type is prohibited.

"There are situations where someone wants an electrical outlet in the shed, and it's almost like a garage," says Joel Martin of RE/MAX Capital Realtors in the District. "That is a different category than a shed that you pick up at Home Depot or Lowe's."

Professionals say that, generally, if you're building the shed primarily for storage or as an unheated workspace, one set of codes and regulations will apply. When you start adding plumbing, wiring and heating, another set of rules applies.

Sheds come in handy, but Mr. Martin says that although they are a nice touch and aren't terribly expensive, they don't increase a home's selling price.

"Storage sheds are a welcome addition, but they don't add any real value to the home," he says.

Mini Pearl of Long & Foster Realtors in Laurel says not to expect a shed to raise a home's resale value.

A poorly constructed shed can have a negative impact, she says.

"Many times, sheds deteriorate, and an appraiser may [recommend a homeowner] demolish it in order to appraise the property," she says. "A shed can also be distracting, especially a large shed on a small lot. That's a definite no-no."

"I know a woman in Bethesda that has a huge, almost barnlike shed that she uses for storage. I think it will be a major plus when it goes on the market, but I don't think I can attach a $2,000 increase in value based on that," Mr. Martin says. "I think that sheds are an added positive aspect of a house sale which just helps to sell a house based on an accumulation of good amenities and features."

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