Manufacturers of outdoor-storage products say profit margins on large, vertical and horizontal sheds are low, which prevents additional companies from entering the market and expanding the range of products that are available. (In fact, two manufacturers, Barrette Outdoor Living and Star Cedar Sheds, left the market recently.)
That doesn’t mean that manufacturers are standing still with respect to their shed models.
VOLATILE PRICING. As the housing industry continues to rebound, demand has increased for building products. That drives up prices for sheds that rely on those materials. For example, engineered-wood siding went up about $2 per foot, and oriented strand board rose $5 per sheet from 1-1/2 years ago, says Richard Artherholt of shed manufacturer Best Barns.
We compared prices for large, vertical and horizontal sheds. Among wood sheds that were available 4 years ago, 31 models out of 41 went up in price, and 13 of these models went up by at least $500. Only three models had a price decrease.
The price of plastic or vinyl sheds has been more stable than has the price of wood models. According to our research, 11 of the 17 sheds that we evaluated for our previous report on the category either stayed at the same price or declined. That’s because the price of petroleum, which is used in the manufacture of plastic and vinyl, dropped as recently as 2015. Although the price of petroleum rose in 2016 and is expected to continue to increase in 2017, vinyl-shed manufacturers and retailers tell Consumers Digest that they don’t expect price increases in 2017, but they haven’t determined pricing beyond that.
LOOKS ARE KEY. Lifetime Products has new vinyl large sheds that have the “rough cut” appearance of wood. Darrin Gunnell of Lifetime says the company uses a process whereby vinyl panels are “roughed up” by the use of a metal brush. “Before, we had the wood grain molded into the plastic,” Gunnel says. “This new technique looks more like rough-cut lumber.” From what we’ve seen, the vinyl that’s on Lifetime’s sheds mimics wood more closely than do the vinyl exteriors of other sheds that we saw on the market.
The good news for consumers is that the use of this new exterior didn’t result in a price increase compared with Lifetime’s sheds that used its previous exterior, according to the company. As of press time, Lifetime’s rough-cut vinyl-exterior sheds, which are expected to launch in spring 2017, start at $999 for an 8-by-7-1/2-foot shed. Gunnell says the rough-cut exterior will be brought to other large sheds, including vertical and horizontal models, later in 2017. No other manufacturer would say whether it would try to create a similar exterior.
At least three manufacturers of wood sheds, Best Barns, Horizon Structures and Tuff Shed, now offer metal (steel) roofs as an upgrade. Three years ago, only one company offered them. The roofs are available across all shed lines at each manufacturer, and they have starting prices that range from $300 to $600 for a 10-by-12-foot large shed. (Metal-roof prices can go up depending on the roof style, such as barn styles, and if a dormer is included.) The price of asphalt shingles and conventional roofing materials for a 120-square-foot shed is about $120.
“When you think about things that can go wrong with a building, you see the value of metal roofs,” says Phil Worth of manufacturer Tuff Shed. “They’re less susceptible to the elements, like hail damage.” Shed retailers and builders also tell us that metal roofs don’t experience the problems that commonly are associated with asphalt shingles, such as the shingles coming loose or being blown off the roof, the edges curling up, moss or algae growth, and cracking.
Best Barns’ metal roofs, which are new for 2017, are available in cut-to-spec sizes that make them easy to install, Artherholt says. The company started out with a copper-color metal roof that adds about $600 to the price of a 120-square-foot shed.
STORE MORE. The main purpose of a shed, of course, is to provide storage and organization, and manufacturers are creating ways for you to optimize that space. In 2016, Lifetime added built-in slots in the interior walls of all of its sheds. The slots are formed during the injection-molding process, so they can accommodate hooks, Gunnell says. As with a wall-hanging garage-storage solution, consumers can insert hooks into any of the myriad slots, so they can hold shovels, rakes or other items. Lifetime didn’t increase the price of its sheds when it added this feature, Gunnell says.
Lifetime’s research and experience of working with customers show that consumers prefer features that are built-in at the factory and come with the shed, such as shelving, he says. “The hooks are an additional way to store things.”
Meanwhile, Rubbermaid expects to bring out similar accessories to help you to organize the space better in its sheds. The accessories start at $13 and are expected to arrive in summer 2017.
Brett S. Martin, who is a frequent Consumers Digest contributor, has written about home-improvement products for 16 years. He has written for Popular Mechanics and The Family Handyman magazines.