This is the time of year when homeowners everywhere are thinking about how to make life outdoors a little better. Backyard sheds top many to-do lists because these structures have endless uses. Build a workshop, a garden shed or even a chicken coop — it’s all up to you! But before you get started, here are a few things you’ll need to know.

1. Your Budget

Your final decision will likely come down to how much money you have to spend on an outdoor shed. However, you’ll find that as you plan your shed, there are lots of tradeoffs that can give you a little wiggle room.

  • Will you DIY the shed or hire a contractor? DIY saves labor costs, allowing you to build a larger or fancier structure but if you don’t have the tools and skills, then the savings may be great.
  • Think about materials. You might want the look and feel of a wood sided shed, but wood is often more expensive than metal. You may instead want to choose cheaper materials in favor of building bigger.
  • What about the extras? Is electricity, running water or some other luxury a must-have? If so, don’t forget to factor these items into your final cost.

2. How Much Space Does Your Backyard Shed Need?

Space is one of the biggest concerns you’ll have with a backyard shed and that is why it is often worthwhile to make cuts to other parts of your budget to get a bit more room. If you’re planning a potting shed, then you may only need room for gardening tools and a small table for potting. However, if you need a place to store your riding mower, barbecue, canoe and all the rest of your toys, then you’ll need something roomier.

3. Do You Need a Permit for an Outdoor Shed?

In some areas, you can build whatever you like whenever you want to build it. In other places, a new shed without a permit guarantees that the homeowner’s association or the city code enforcement department will pay you a visit. Check the rules in your locale, which may stipulate the allowed sizes, shapes, styles or even color of a new shed. Then, if a permit is necessary, make sure to draft up a detailed plan of your garden shed before you file.

4. The Essentials You’ll Need

There are a few things that every shed must have, regardless of its purpose.

  • A foundation, which could either be slab concrete or raised wood supported by concrete.
  • Organization of some kind. Depending on how you use your shed, you may want shelves, places to hang tools or some other type of storage space.
  • Ventilation. Outdoor sheds, particularly those without any type of climate control, sometimes feel damp when humidity is high and they get hot when it is warm outside. Include screened vents in the design to make your shed cooler and less prone to mold.

5. The Details You Might Want

Once you have the essentials nailed down, think about the extras that will make life in your garden shed nicer. Will you need lighting, plumbing, heat or air conditioning? What about wi-fi access, skylights or windows for starting plants? Even if you don’t have a specific need for one of these details right now, certain things, like lighting and electrical outlets, are a good idea just in case you find new uses for your shed in the future.

Take your time and thoroughly consider all the things you could possibly do with an outdoor shed so that you don’t miss something vital as you’re drawing up plans!