Do I need a building permit for a shed?

Great question. That depends on the community rules in which you live. Most places require a zoning permit no matter the size of the structure, and a building permit if it is larger than a specific size. The first place you check is the local county or city planning department.  Some have a handout addressing most of the key issues.  The key question is how close you can build to the property line and other structures.

In some areas the Home Owners Association takes the place of the county zoning.  So if you have a Home Owners Association, be sure and check your HOA rules first.

Same question if you’re a corner lot, have a septic system, LP tanks, lakes, rivers, high intensity power lines  or  neighborhood utility lines ( above or below ground).  I found one site that even had approved plans on the books for a road going through a property, from the early 60’s.  Basically you are asking about easements and setbacks. So do your homework.

For residential areas it is common to be limited to a shed size of 120 square feet, or less, to not require a building permit. In Virginia as of 2015, the state building code states that accessory structures 256 square feet or less do not need a building permit, the previous cutoff was 200 square feet.  Individual counties have some time before they have to implement the new code, however most counties in Virginia implemented the code as soon as it came out. Comments and stories are welcome.

Storage Shed Site Preparation & Base

It is important for any building to be level, and the type of structure, whether it is a shed, a garage, a backyard office or some other use, there are several factors that will determine what type of foundation will be required.  No matter what the foundation, the building will not function properly unless it is level.  The doors and windows rely on a level building to work properly, and the roofing system is designed to direct water off of a level building.

Take a good look at where your new shed or garage should go.  If the building is a small building with a pressure treated floor system, chances are that it can use dry stack cinder blocks to provide a level foundation for the building or shed.

The next thing you need to take into consideration are the local building codes. Many people are under the mistaken impression that a portable building does not require a building or zoning permit. In almost every case a zoning permit is required, and depending on the size of the building a building permit may also be required. There may be some exceptions, for example if you are a working farm and the building is going to be used for the farm operations.  In Virginia for example, all buildings require a zoning permit and buildings larger than 200 sq ft require a building permit and buildings over 256 square feet also require approved footers.

Types of Foundations

There are four main types of foundations, dry stack cinder block, dug and poured footers columns, crushed gravel, or poured concrete slab.  The type of footer you need to use is primarily dependent on the type and usage application for the building, shed or garage that you are getting.

1. Dry Stack Cinder Block

This is generally the choice when a shed or building has a pressure treated flooring system and is small enough that it doesn’t require footers.  Dry stack cinder block requires the least amount of preparation to the site.  Generally as long as the site has been cleared and the ground is solid, and the slope is less than 18” from the highest point to the lowest point, the site is ready for the building or shed to be delivered and then blocked with cinder block.

2. Crushed Gravel Foundation

A crushed gravel foundation is generally used when a site may encounter moisture problems, as the crushed gravel can aid with drainage. When preparing a crushed gravel foundation, as a general rule of thumb, the pad should be at least two feet wider and two feet longer than the building or shed that is being placed upon it. The building or shed will probably still have to have some cinder blocks to level the building as even the most level crushed gravel foundations tend not to maintain a perfectly level surface.  A lot of times when a crushed gravel foundation is put in, people put a frame around it to hold the gravel in place, if you do put a frame in, you need to make sure that it doesn’t impede delivery of your building.  Any building going on a crushed gravel foundation needs to have a pressure treated flooring system.

3. Dug Footer Pillars

Dug footer pillars are generally used when a building is large enough for the government to require an inspected foundation for a building that has a wood flooring system.  The depth of the footers is determined by your location and the local government with the frost line for your location playing a major role, i.e. the footers have to extend below the frost line. There are two types of categories for dug footers, the first is flush footers, where the site is level and the footers come flush with the top of the ground, the other is pillars for the instance where the finished site is not going to be level so the footers have to extend above the ground in order to provide a level foundation for the shed or building.

4. Poured Concrete Slab

A poured concrete slab is the most expensive option and is generally required for a building that is the size of a two car garage or larger and is going to be used to store cars or other gasoline powered equipment. Some municipalities will require a slab only when a garage door is in the building.  Generally when a building is to be put on a poured concrete slab, the building is ordered without a flooring system and the concrete slab functions as the floor.

The choice is partly up to you, and partly depends on what your local government requires. It is also best to get all applicable permits approved before the building is put into place, that way you can be sure that you don’t have to do any remedial work to comply with the permit requirements.

Your comments or questions are welcome.

How do I move my shed? Storage shed mover? Building Movers?

Almost every day the question is asked “Can we move a wood shed?” The next question that follows is, “Can we disassemble the building and reassemble it?”  Nuts, bolts or screws are intended to be removed. Sheds that are nailed together are not intended to be disassembled.

For moving within the yard, think about how the pyramids were said to be made. How those huge blocks were presumably moved from the quarry to the site of the pyramids. They are said to have used multiple logs as rollers, moving over flat and inclined surfaces.

If the shed or building was delivered pre-assembled on a trailer to the site originally, then chances are it will be able to be moved. However, if the building or shed was built on-site in the present location, it may not be able to be moved cost effectively.

Prior to moving the shed, remove all contents, to lighten the load and prevent possible damage. The fun part is  prying the shed off the surface it’s sitting on. Leverage, is key to getting the unit off the surface. One way to do it is to use a long bar, with a strong fine edge, is needed to create the gap between the base and the surface, like a Pinch bar with a heel. If more leverage is needed simply add more length to the bar.  However, there is a better way, and that is to use a farm or railroad jack.  These generally are around three feet tall, and have a ledge that moves up and down the bar with a lever handle to ratchet the jack up.  What you would do is put the jack under the edge of the building and the lift it up high enough to slide your rollers under the building.

In place of the logs used in the ancient times, 3″ or 4″ schedule 40 PVC pipe, will work. Take your time and finesse the building across the surface into its new location. For added strength and safety the use of straps and ratcheted pulley system is recommended. You don’t want a run away shed on your hands.

Moving outside of the yard, if there is direct access, a flat bed trailer  or tow truck is the answer to mobility. Check with the Transportation Department for permits if your shed is over 8 feet wide. A crane may also be needed to get over or a round obstacles like homes and walls. The best way is to contact a shed company that has then required equipment, permits and experience needed to move your shed or building.

In tight residential areas relocation of sheds between properties is not an easy task. There are normally a number of obstacles in the way, be it at the current or new site or along the route. Look for wires, trees and street lights which would prevent the relocation of the shed.

Depending on the size of the shed and the cost involved to move it, it may be more cost effective to leave the old shed behind and have a new one installed at the new location.