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Question DetailsAsked on 10/13/2014

I want to build a storage building in my back yard that can be temperature controlled. Who should I contact?

I am looking to build a small storage building in my back yard to hold inventory for a business. It needs to be more than just a shed...maybe like a metal shop building. The building will have to be temperature controlled year round so needs to be tight. This job would be much smaller than an average house but more than the average shed. What type of contractor would do a job like this?

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You could Search the List under Builders - Garages and Sheds, but since you said temperature controlled (and humidity controlled if outside the building envelope like that), I would say you may want a Builders - Homes category contrator - in other words, a full capability General Contractor who can handle everything from foundation and utilities on through erection and interior finishing and HVAC, because you are going to need everything a normal home has except maybe interior finishes and water/sewer.

One other category, not on AL but you could google, is nationwide metal building manufacturers who also arrange for turnkey installation and utilities. You would have to be sure they are providing EVERYTHING in the package deal, but companies like Butler and Interstate Steel Buildings and Olympia Buildings and such commonly will bid a job turnkey, using their own preferred local GC to actually do the work, and sending out a factory rep to advise and perform quality control on the actual erection of the building.

One other option, if allowed in your zoning area and would not be an eyesore to neighbors, would be a trailer unit - like a construction office trailer, which comes with all utilities and insulation and such included in it so just like putting in a house trailer - available at a lot of local and nationwide rental companies (also for sale) like ATCO and ModSpace and Jobsite MobileOffices and such. Can be FAR cheaper than building, and if not for the long term, rental can be economic particularly if you rent a used rather than brand new unit.

If considering a metal building, be aware they have condensation and frosting and solar heating issues that normal wood houses avoid or minimize, so you generally have to go with a heavy foamed-in-place insulation with mixed-in mildewcide to minimize that issue in both hot and cold environments - plus of course for a year-around conditioned space they are generally going to take more energy to keep conditioned than a comparable wood frame structure with the same insulation level.

Be sure to check with your local Planning and Zoning department FIRST on this - or if going to stick-build one check with your architect doing the plans - because both for commercial use and for larger buildings this is commonly a prohibited use in residential zoned areas, so you may have to make your inventory (assuming it is non-hazardous so can be stored in a home) "incidental business use in a home", and build the structure either as a legitimate garage/workshop or as a home addition, which you then happen to use for incidental business storage. If hazardous materials, check fire code too - commonly limits you to about somewhere from 10 to about 50 gallons of flammable liquids, or 10 to 100 pounds of flammable or hazardous other materials depending on local codes, so you can't store much hazardous or flammable materials (and commonly zero biohazard or explosive materials) in a residential zoned area.

One other thing to consider - a large outbuilding like this might negatively influence your ability to sell the place down the road - I know there is one local house with a 3-bay high-door workshop that took 5 years to sell, and then only at a substantial discount - because the metal building waqs basically an eyesore (even though normal as metal buildings go) and it caught the attention of planning and zoning so any business use would be shut down ASAP, so you might be better off doing this as a home addition built as an added hobby/rec room or garage addition that would need no work to be used for normal household purposes other than removing your inventory and whatever racks you put in, and adding a bit of flooring - would certainly be expected to recoup more of your investment when you sell.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


One thing I forgot to mention - when working up plans for this, remember most "sheds" are built on the ground, or if elevated with wide-open underneath are not sealed fully against insects and mice and blown-in organic material and such.

If you are keeping inventory in the shed, unless of a type not susceptible to moisture or vermin damage, you need to have this built like an occupied building, with consideration for moisture barrier under the floor and in the walls, proper attic moisture control (depending on roof type), vermin barriers - and high enough off the ground so high water from sudden rains, local flooding, spring snowmelt, etc won't dampen your goods. Also a very good idea to elevate the goods on pallets if at all possible, because even in conventional basement or warehouse storage putting boxes or containers of goods directlyon the floor is an invitation to rusting or softening of the containers (and inside goods) from moisture changes through the seasons.

Also, don't forget with HVAC system you still need air changes to remove unwanted moisture due to daily and seasonal moisture changes - you can't just heat it without providing for dehumidification (and maybe humidistat controlled humidification depending on your locale) to keep your products within the required humidity range.

Also, since heated in winter but with little or no human activity around to deter them, it will be a natural site for rodents and insects to try to take up residence so you need to actually take stronger measures that with a normal house to prevent their entry - little tricks like full-contact double-face weatherstripping/sill strips on doors, caulking eave blocking between rafters plus caulking before applying the insect screening to eliminate the smallest openings, putting a folded strip of metal window screening along the framing just above where the bottom of the siding will be when installed (which is a good idea for homes too but almost never done except in the tropics) so you can have a bit of wall cavity air circulation and drainage if needed but stop insects and mice.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Thank you SO much Angie's List and LCD. You've helped get my thinking on the right track and given me a lot of things to think about. I have been somewhat overwhelmed by this project since I've never done anything like this before. Hearing LCD's well informed comments and caveats is tremendously helpful and may actually change the direction of my plans a bit. Rest's all been printed out and is going in the file! You input will also help me to have an intelligent conversation with a contractor....something I was dreading. I am so grateful for the time you took to respond to my question. This resource and the education are invaluable!

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_97921901


Thank you for the feedback - it is VERY rare that we contributors hear whether our comments/suggestions were actually considered to be helpful or not.

Other thoughts that your final comment brought to mind - depending on weather resistance of your inventory, how often you need to get to it, inherent value, etc - other options include:

1) rental locker places - I pay $120 a month I think it is now for a 5x15x8' high locker at an indoor air conditioned storage locker/storage place - it takes a LOT of years of rent at that rate to buy a building, plus you get away from the issue of whether the construction should be considered "business" - and paid for by the business, but then your house equity is part business, part personal AND if your business is subject to liability suits, it could put your home at risk because it is mixed with "business owned real estate". Also avoiods the Planning and Zoning issues of permitting a storage building in your backyard,and required architectural appearance for it. Another advantage of a locker is you can upsize or downsize pretty easily as your business storage needs change. Downside, depending on your business needs and locker company, is you generally do not have 24 hour access and there might (or might not, depending on where you go to and your local residential neighborhood situation) be more risk of insects/mice/breaking and theft at a locker facility - especially if not indoors access.

2) for durable goods not prone to moisture/cold issues (or with HVAC attached if needed), a shipping container (or purchased "temporary storage pod" for smaller volume) on railroad tie cribbing makes a good storage area - can be equipped with doubled-up weatherstripping and a heater/AC if needed, and commonly a LOT cheaper than a building and much easier to vermin proof, though being metal does need anti-overheating and condensation measures. I have done several on jobs for clients where (in very cold winter climate) we all-around wrapped shrinkwrap or heavy visqueen around a conex (except the doors of course, which got an arctic entrance or "mudroom entry") and then built a 24" spaced wood stud frame around it with plywood (T1-11) sheathing over the outside - using either board insulation or foam-in-place foam insulation between the "studs" and over the shrinkwrap - which was there to allow future removal so the exterior finish of the conex was not ruined for resale and also as vapor barrier. Then a ventilated sloping shed or A-frame roof over the top with roof wrap and shed roll roofing - to prevent summer overheating from overhead sun, and prevent roof rust-thorough from standing snow and water. In one of them we even got a window contractor to put in some old windows that had been removed from an energy upgrade job - for appearance only in the studwall, they were actually caulked shut. This makes it look basically like a stick-built structure and can help get you past the prohibition on shipping container storage in your yard, in most jurisdictions - though allowable size can be an issue.

3) for goods that are not high-value and if you need only infrequent access, commercial storage warehouse companies have pretty decent rates - but not if needing frequent access or need to go through containers to sort out stuff and restock - best for pallet-load type draws and restocks. Most have both pallet-load rack storage and fenced "bin" storage areas for rent - the latter better for situations where you need to sort through and draw out partial lots more frequently, but does make your good visible to other peopl in the facility so not great if high-value materials like consumer electronics or such.

4) If you have a walk-up attic and your inventory items are not too heavy and you do not move a lot of volume, depending on your attic configuration and headroom and bearing wall spacing and available space, converting a portion of it into conditioned space for storage can work - especially if you have intermediate bearing walls under the middle already and have a wide-open raftered or LVL beam rather than full-height truss-supported roof so the space is open already. Of course, be sure to properly handle air movement both in the addition and insulation around the newly conditioned space, and maintain free airflow under the roof sheathing in all areas. Converting a space likethis to living space, as long as it does not involve significant roof support modifications, can add a fair amount to your house value too if set up for future use as a craft room or writers loft or such - or even a step further with emergency exit window, as a loft bedroom.

5) Of course, if dealing with restricted (phramaceauticals or such), hazardous, or high-value goods then the above may not be the answer - in which case (excluding the hazardous/explosive category) a home addition might be your best bet security and conditioned-space wise. You might even be able to do a basement extension for the business storage (preferably with walk-out basement exit) and a bedroom or sunroom used exclusively as an office area for the business above and pay for the entire thing from the business. Of course, talk to your tax accountant about that with respect to depreciation and percentage business use and what happens with respect to having to recoup depreciation if you later quit the business and convert it to personal use before the full depreciaiton period is up, etc - but can be a winner, particularly if you plan on eventually retiring from the business and staying in the home. If fully depreciated when you retire, you can end up getting a basement workshop area and sunroom for "free" for your retirement.

6) If doing at-home storage, be sure to check on insurance needs - your normal homeowner's policy will provide neither liability or loss protection without additional riders, and if substantially business use of the structure/addition nor will it provide casualty protection like fire, etc without special riders. Ditto to FEMA flood insurance if in flood area.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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