Does a Shed Base Have to Be Level

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Now that you’ve accumulated enough gardening tools to need a shed, you’re probably wondering how to put it up. What should the material be? What color should it be? How big should it be? But first things first- you’ve got to set a foundation before you get to any of this. If you live in a hilly area, your first question will likely be- does a shed base have to be level?

A shed base must be level for a variety of reasons. For one, tools and equipment sit more firmly in a level shed. Secondly, level sheds get less rain-wear around their sides. They’re also sturdier, and more likely to stay in place during storms.

Those all sound like great reasons, but what do they mean? How will an unlevel base cause wear around the sides? And how do you level out a base for a shed? In this article, we’ll discuss all of these questions and more. Hopefully, we’ll address every confusion you’ve got along the way.

Why Is a Level Shed Base Important?

When building a shed, lots of people want to skip out on the hard parts and just get to the fun part- having a shed. This is especially tempting when you’ve got prefab options like metal and plastic sheds out there.

But is it ok to skip such an important step as leveling ground? The answer is- no, not really. A shed on unlevel ground will work for a little while but is likely to tip over, experience wear from rain, and a host of other issues.

Here are a few complications that could result from placing your shed on unlevel ground:

A Level Shed Base Protects Against Rain Wear

This one is less obvious, but if you think of how a shed is designed, it becomes a no-brainer.

Sheds have roofs- we know this. Oftentimes those roofs have pieces that stick out over the sides- especially when you’re building one at home. These pieces are to protect the wall below from rainwater- so it will last longer.

When you build a shed on uneven ground, you expose the piece of wall that would otherwise be sheltered. Thus, that piece of wall experiences more rain damage than it would otherwise.

How this happens is simple- imagine the sun was directly above your house. If you were standing under your porch, you’d be shaded from it. But, if you tilted your house just a bit, you’d probably get a little bit of sunlight tickling your toes. It would become more as you tilted the house more dramatically.

Now, rainwear will happen to your shed walls whether you like it or not. Rain doesn’t just come down straight- it blows in from the side, goes sideways, and even sometimes seems to come up from the ground, as Forrest Gump once said. 

Thus, at least some rain will be pounding on your walls when the stormy season comes. But rain-wear on your walls isn’t the only issue. You’ve got to think about what happens to that rainwater after it hits the ground, too.

Sheds on Level Ground Are More Waterproof

This sounds like a strange assertion, we know- but it’s true! Many sheds aren’t as waterproof as we like to think. Some simply sit on the ground, with their lower sections resting perhaps an inch off the ground in some places.

In these cases, a level foundation will help to keep rainwater on the ground out of your shed. This is because the rainwater has little reason to go into your shed- especially if you build up a little protective mound of clay around the base.

Even with this protective mound, an unlevel shed is likely to experience a lot of penetration from rainwater. As the rainwater moves downhill, it picks up momentum and is likely to flow into your shed under the walls.

This is bad for a number of reasons, as you could probably tell.

For one, water-logged sheds are a bad idea because there’s only so much you can store on a shelf, where it will be safe from the flood. Sometimes we have to store things like weed-whackers and other tools on the ground. Sometimes these things use some electricity to operate. Water can compromise this.

So, to keep your tools safe- build your shed on level ground.

Tools Sit More Firmly

What do we mean by this? Well, if you think about some of your tools, you’ll notice that some of them have wheels. Things like your lawnmower might have parking breaks- but does your auto-tiller? And what about those shelves you’ve put up?

Tools on unlevel ground are likely to move around and cause problems both for themselves and your shed. Imagine your auto tiller nudging free of whatever mound of dirt you’ve got it stuck on and ramming full speed into your shed wall. No good.

Not to mention, shelves could fall over. If you’ve got your tools sitting up on shelves, they could be at risk in an unlevel ground. The slightest disturbance- a shaking shed in high winds- the presence of a curious mouse- could cause them to tip over. In which case- crash! You’ll be picking up the pieces of smashed tools for days.

So, overall, for your tools’ and shed’s sake, you should certainly build your shed on level ground. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

The Foundation is More Durable

When you have a shed on unlevel ground, the foundation is likely to experience tons of wear and tear. This is because of a combination of rainwater that gets in and the dry, barren ground inside.

The reason ruts don’t form all over your hilly lawn when it rains is because grass helps to hold the soil in place. In a shed, there’s no sunlight, so no grass grows. Combine this fact with that rainwater infiltration we talked about, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Gradually, your foundation might be washed away. At the very least, you’ll experience things like rutting inside of your shed, which might cause a sprained ankle if you’re fooling around in the shed in the dark.

So, the moral of this story is- don’t skip the hard part. It may be exhausting, but you’ll thank yourself for leveling out your shed’s ground later-on down the road. We promise.

How to Level Ground for a Shed

Now that we’ve made it clear why it’s important to level shed ground, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to level shed ground.

Choose a Location

Oftentimes, people like to put their sheds in the centers of their lawns. This is because the shed is equidistant from all the furthest points on your property. Whether you’ve got a job to do on the west or east end, you’ll be able to get to it in a timely manner.

But choose whatever location works for you. We recommend a place with relatively little slope. Also remember to consider local zoning laws, underground utilities, and things like that. Just use a bit of common sense.

Stake the Location

Now, put down stakes in the shape you want your leveled area to be. This will most likely be a plain rectangle, but if you’re doing something crazier- go for it. Just remember to make your stakes as straight and square as possible to avoid an uneven surface.

Mark the Area

Now, stretch strings between your stakes to mark off the area that you want to dig out. When I started building garden structures, I didn’t take this part seriously. I thought- I can eyeball it just fine. I don’t really have to worry about things like marking off the area, do I? Besides, I didn’t want to run to the Lowe’s to pick up a spool of string.

But by marking off the area, you economize on space and make sure that you won’t be making your level ground any smaller than your shed.

Clear Debris and Topsoil

Clearing debris and topsoil will make sure you’ve got a nice, bare ground underneath of your shed. Since no one wants weeds growing up inside their sheds, and no one wants to deal with old shingles and ashes from burnt-out fires while building- clearing debris and topsoil is a must.

To do this, simply take a pick or a shovel, and pry off that top layer of soil. It’ll take a while, and it’s exhausting, but it’ll reward you in the end.

Excavate the Area

Now, dig out the shape you traced with your strings and stakes. Make it as square and level as possible by just eyeballing it, and then proceed to the final step.

Level With a Straight Object

Finally, take a level and place it on a straight object like a plank. Use this apparatus to tell if your ground is level. Excavate anywhere you see an unlevel surface.

All in All

All in all, building a level base for a shed is imperative. It prevents wear and tear, saves your tools, and it isn’t that hard. Responsible shed-owners would be smart to build a level foundation for their sheds. 

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