7 Things the Best Metal Sheds All Have in Common [Read Before Buying]
Metal sheds have been popular for a long time, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t want bold colors, weather resistance, and low-maintenance? In addition, metal sheds can be an incredibly affordable option to backyard storage.
Like most things, though, metal storage sheds can cover a wide range in price and quality. When looking for the best metal shed, it’s important to read the details of what each manufacturer is offering, so you can compare apples to apples.
While the specific options that each metal shed company offers will vary, there are some key features that will be very similar in all the best metal sheds. Let’s break down 7 of the most important things to look for when purchasing a metal shed.
1. The best metal sheds use true dimensions vs. “nominal size”
You might be (unpleasantly) surprised to buy a “10x12 shed” and have it show up with a wall-to-wall measurement of 9’-2” or less. Believe it or not, that’s actually a more common scenario than you might imagine. That’s because many metal shed manufacturers, both of kits and prefab sheds, use “nominal size” when advertising their buildings.
So, what exactly is “nominal size”? Nominal size, when it comes to metal sheds, is the practice of using the widest dimensions of the structure’s roof when advertising its size. In fact, here’s what one (very popular) metal shed kit manufacturer says in the fine print on page 5 of an assembly guide: “Shed dimensions are provided in ‘nominal’ size. Nominal sizes are roof-edge measurements rounded to the nearest foot and are not the measurements to use for constructing the shed base.”
(Photo from this assembly guide)
Notice that it said “rounded to the nearest foot”! In plain English, that means they can build a shed that is 8’11” wide, with 4” eaves, and advertise it as a 10’ wide shed. The common explanation given for using “nominal size” measurements is that the Department of Transportation judges a building by its maximum dimensions (eave-to-eave) when determining transportation restrictions for prefab metal sheds. However, this can be quite misleading to consumers.
The best metal sheds always use real, corner-to-corner measurements when advertising dimensions. (This is always standard procedure at Gold Star Buildings.) Either way, make sure you read the fine print before purchasing a metal shed or preparing the foundation, so you don’t wind up with a nasty surprise and less storage space than anticipated.
2. The best metal sheds use heavier-gauge metal panels
This might be obvious, but one of the big ways metal sheds are differentiated is by the quality of metal sheeting that they use. Since this is what covers most of the shed, it’s also going to be one of the biggest factors affecting the overall price of the shed.
Typically, metal panels are measured by gauge. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the metal (for instance, 22 gauge is a very thick metal; 34 gauge is very thin). The best metal sheds typically use panels with a thickness of at least 29 gauge (about .0140”). Most discount metal sheds and shed kits, on the other hand, have walls made with 33-34 gauge metal (about .0088”). At Gold Star Buildings, our metal sheds use 29 gauge Taylor metal with a 40-year paint warranty (more on that later).
(Photo from Taylor Metal Products)
While thicker metal will obviously affect the final price of a shed, the benefits are clear. Heavier gauge metals have a higher wind rating, more hail resistance, and are more structurally sound overall. The stronger the metal panels are, the less stress needs to be placed on the actual frame of the shed. Which brings up our next point…
3. The best metal sheds have a heavy-duty frame
This is possibly the most important item on this entire list. Without a strong frame, your metal shed will be incredibly vulnerable to the elements and all the havoc they can wreak. Always, and I mean always, check the frame specifications of any metal shed you’re considering buying.
(Photos from an Amazon.com customer here)
Many cheap metal sheds use a lightweight metal frame (often built with .019” metal) to support the panels used for the walls and roof. This is especially true of sheds sold online and shipped via standard freight carrier to their final destination, since they need to keep shipping weights (and costs) as low as possible. Additionally, if the metal shed is being shipped as a kit, assembly is often easier with pre-drilled metal pieces fastened with simple screws. And of course, the more metal they use in the shed, the more it costs them!
The best metal sheds use robust frames, typically built with wood and assembled with heavy-duty fasteners and truss plates. The tools required for this type of construction are less common among homeowners or beginner-level DIYers, so the cheap metal shed kits stay away from them. Wooden frames are also much heavier to ship.
At the end of the day, though, what are the benefits of a heavy, wooden frame? Well, for one, a wooden frame holds up much better in high wind situations. Light-weight metal frames are typically designed for maximum strength in one direction, like supporting a roof. They don’t do as well under stress from other angles, like a strong horizontal wind (think thunderstorms).
If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow each winter, you’ll also want to think about the snow load that your shed roof is able to handle. Many cheap metal sheds have a snow load rating of about 10 lbs./square foot (unless you pay extra for their “roof strengthening kit”). Depending on where you live, this is far below what local building codes require. The best metal sheds use a wooden truss system that’s engineered for maximum strength. In addition, if you purchase directly from the shed manufacturer, they can often help you make sure the shed you’re buying meets the requirements of all applicable local ordinances.
4. The best metal sheds feature a built-in floor
What most budget metal shed manufacturers won’t tell you is that their metal sheds require you to build your own floor before putting the shed up. Whether that’s building a wooden platform or pouring a concrete pad, you’ll have quite a bit of work to do to prepare the site before your shed ever arrives. Some budget metal shed manufacturers do offer base and floor frames of a sort, but these are generally sold as a separate kit.
The best metal shed brands come complete with a high-quality floor, straight from the factory or shop. You will generally want to level an area for your prefab metal shed and put down some gravel or concrete blocks. But the overall work will be way less than pouring a concrete floor and trying to anchor your shed walls to it.
If you want to use your shed as a garage, make sure the built-in floor is designed to support the weight of your vehicle. For instance, at Gold Star Buildings, the floors of all our buildings are constructed with pressure-treated lumber to stand up against the elements. We use 4x6 skids underneath the floor joists (pressure-treated 2x4s or 2x6s) and heavy-duty 5/8” or ¾” pressure-treated plywood to tie everything together.
5. The best metal sheds don’t require assembly
Ok, this depends somewhat on what type of person you are. Some folks love putting things together just for fun. Maybe you enjoy spending 12 hours on a Saturday bending over an instruction sheet, trying to figure out the difference between screw G and screw H. In that case, a metal shed kit might be right for you! But a quick search for Amazon.com reviews of metal shed kits will reveal enough horror stories of scratched paint, bent pieces, and collapsed roofs to make anyone think twice about going that route.
(Photos from an Amazon.com customer here)
If your main goal for buying a
metal shed kit is saving money, though, you might want to think twice. In
addition to sacrificing quality in some areas as mentioned above, shed kits
generally require quite a bit of time to assemble. Even if all the parts are
included and the instructions are clearly labeled, you’ll often end up with at
least a full day of work for two people. And that assumes you’re not hiring
help to set it up. When calculating real savings, you’ll need to figure in how
much you consider your time to be worth.
(Photo from an Amazon.com customer here)
The best metal sheds are generally prefabricated and delivered in one piece. This allows the construction to be completed at a manufacturing facility where craftsmen can work with maximum efficiency. The result is a higher quality shed and less stress when delivery time comes. Rolling a completed building off of a truck is still simpler than snapping metal pieces together. Speaking of snapping a shed together…
6. The best metal sheds are highly secure
If a shed can be easily snapped together, it can also be…easily snapped apart. If you’re storing lawn equipment, ATVs, or other valuables in your shed, you’ll want to put at least some thought into how secure your building is. You'll want a building that makes it as difficult as possible for the wrong people to get their hands on your valuables. And that means access to your shed shouldn’t be as simple as popping apart a snap-together seam or prying off a flimsy door handle.
(Photo of cheap handle from Amazon.com here)
High quality metal sheds feature paneling that’s securely screwed to the frame with heavy-duty screws, rather than snapped together. In addition, there should be a lockable heavy-duty latch on the door. Any windows should be locked from the inside as well.
7. The best metal sheds are pre-painted and offer wide color selection
Paint is an important consideration that often gets overlooked when purchasing a metal shed. The last thing you want is to move all your belongings into your new shed and have it start rusting after the first few rains.
Typically, the steel used on budget sheds will feature some type of finish such as vinyl plastisol or electro-galvanization. These types of finishes generally come in few colors and carry limited warranties of 10 to 20 years.
(Photo from Storage Sheds Outlet here)
What cheap metal shed manufacturers don’t make obvious is that if you want your shed painted, you’ll need to do it yourself. In addition, painting your shed will void the manufacturer warranty in some cases. Instead, they recommend waxing their sheds every few years to keep it in good condition.
Contrast that with the durable panels and trim used in high-quality metal sheds. These panels come pre-painted with a wide selection of colors and, often, paint warranties of 40 years! Once they’re installed, there’s no maintenance or upkeep required.
At Gold Star Buildings, as mentioned earlier, we use panels from Taylor Metal Products. We let our customers select a main color for their buildings and an accent color for roofing and trim pieces. All our metal receives a two-coat silicone-modified polyester (SMP) resin finish system and comes with a 40-year warranty against fading, chalking, chipping, cracking, and peeling. When we sell a metal shed, we want our customers to have one less thing to worry about for the next 4 decades!
8. BONUS! The best metal sheds offer affordable payment options
Many of the low-quality features that plague budget metal sheds come from an effort to cut prices and make sheds affordable. That begs the question, “Does affordability need to come at the cost of quality?” At Gold Star Buildings, we think the answer is NO! While it is expensive to produce a quality metal shed, we believe there should be payment options available that make these buildings affordable to everyone.
One approach to affordable storage is to rent a self-storage unit on a monthly basis. Another option is to buy a cheap metal shed. With the first option, you’re effectively dumping your money down the drain with no long-term benefit; with the other you risk owning a pile of scrap metal after the first big storm.
In response, we’re offering what we believe to be the perfect middle ground: quality metal sheds with a rent-to-own payment plan. It’s like a storage unit in that you pay monthly to rent it, but at the end of your rental agreement you own the shed 100%. You can get a metal shed that will last decades without breaking the bank! Of course, one-time payments are also an option.
For instance, a heavy-duty metal shed pictured below usually has a rent-to-own payment plan of less than $125/month! You can see buildings like this in our inventory.
We’d love to help you find the best metal shed for your needs! You can request a free quote here for a custom metal shed built to your specs. Gold Star Buildings is located in Hadley, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh. We deliver wood and metal storage sheds, prefab garages, and cabins throughout western PA and eastern OH, including the cities of Pittsburgh, Erie, Meadville, Butler, Hermitage, and Sharon, PA and Youngstown, Boardman, and Warren, OH. You can reach us at (724) 253-2771.