Customer Relations, Operations, V8I2

More Than a Simple Shed

(Photo courtesy of Bitterroot Shedz)

It’s a far cry from your grandfather’s shed business. 

The sheds of today are pushing the boundaries in regards to adaptability, use, and functionality, and that trend has only been accelerated by the volatile market dynamics of the last couple of years. 

Customers no longer look to sheds as merely a place to store lawnmowers, equipment, and garden tools, but as a potential short- or long-term housing option. They’re also being used as Airbnb’s to offset living expenses or as temporary housing for job sites or movie sets.

The reasons for the movement are varied. 

Charles Hutchins, president and CEO of Shed-N-Carport Pro in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, says there’s been an undeniable shift in his region toward larger sheds that can be outfitted into houses, cabins, or multi-purpose buildings. 

“When I got into this business some 25-plus years ago, I’d have people occasionally turn them into cabins and living quarters, bars, mancaves, etc., but there’s no doubt that the demand for that has grown in the past four years,” he says. 

Shed-N-Carport is a “one-stop-shop” that offers a variety of sheds, along with Amish furniture, decks and patios, swing sets, playsets, etc. Hutchins’ sales quadrupled during the pandemic—he did just shy of $4 million in 2021, much of which were general-purpose sheds—and he’s on track for another banner year in 2022. 

“People have had more time to focus on projects, along with federal stimulus money to spend,” he adds. “It has really inflated our business.”

Shed sizes have also been on the rise. The average shed size used to be 10 by 16 feet, but they’re now often 10 by 20 or 12 by 20. Hutchins’ own office is a converted shed.  

“Even with standard shed use, people are wanting to make a statement in the backyard,” he says. “They often come here with the intention of buying a shed, but they leave thinking they might turn part of it into an office or a mancave, etc.”

He says the “tiny house” craze in recent years has been part of the reason. 

“People are getting the idea that they can take it, stick it in their backyard, and their kids can sleep in it, or they can have another room for their parents, etc.,” Hutchins points out.

Sam Fawcett, general manager of Bitterroot Shedz in Stevensville, Montana, says property numbers are dwindling in Montana, so a lot of customers are buying sheds to use as cabins on existing property. 

People are also moving in greater numbers to his region of the state, in particular, in part due to the television series “Yellowstone” filmed just down the road. 

One customer converted a series of sheds into living quarters for seasonal workers on their ranch. 

“Or people will come here and want to live with mom and dad on their ranch, so they’ll buy a cabin from us and put it on a section of their ranch,” Fawcett says.

Bitterroot Shedz is a bit unique from other shed suppliers because many of its models are specifically created for use as cabins, complete with a porch and lofts. 

“We tend to sell a slightly different shed,” he adds. “Everything is all plywood construction, we put the California corners in, we put in the over framing for people … with the intent of finishing these things out as cabins.”

Bitterroot Shedz even performs electrical work in its shop and sometimes will do the remainder of the “finish out” during the slow winter months. 

“We’ll also do the interior framing, but not the plumbing,” Fawcett says. “We’ll even do some walls and ceiling work before transporting them.”

Bitterroot Shedz offers prebuilt structures that include sheds, cabins, chicken coops, greenhouses, animal shelters, and pavilions. Their sheds come as large as 16 by 40 feet and are frequently used as horse shelters or as a place to store large equipment. 

In the back of the shop, Bitterroot Shedz has a cut and truss area. From that point, there are two framing lines. One is set up to build all buildings, but it specializes in larger, custom buildings. Framing line two is set up to do standard stock and smaller buildings. 

The higher-end sheds have undoubtedly become a larger percentage of their overall business. 

“We’re very customizable, so we have always seen the higher end clientele because of that, I think,” Fawcett adds. “We do have the basic shed, and we sell a lot of those, but we get a lot of custom, unique orders that tend to fall on the higher end of things.”

Looking ahead, Bitterroot Shedz expects to add a full-time construction crew to perform on-site “finish out” year-round. They’re also partnering with local contractors and supply houses so that they can get product out faster. It all meshes nicely with their business model. 

“There are a couple of local contractors that we work with, and they would love to be able to work inside year-round,” shares Fawcett.

Jeff Huxman, founder of the fledgling Internet-based shed portal has seen a noticeable uptick in the sales of high-end sheds for use as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), particularly in space-strapped areas such as California where real estate is at a premium. 

While general-use buildings still comprise the vast majority of units sold on the site, luxury units are gaining ground. is essentially the shed industry’s equivalent to Zillow or AutoTrader, with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Ohio where the bulk of the shed industry resides. 

“We began as an inventory tracking system, but then recognized the need for a national marketplace for sheds, so we set out to create one,” Huxman says. 

The demand for high-end sheds is booming in California, he adds, primarily due to the cost of living. The state added fuel to the movement when it recently passed a series of housing laws that discourages single-family zoning. 

One such law promotes ADUs by declaring unenforceable any local restriction that prohibits, effectively prohibits, or restricts the construction or use of an ADU on a lot zoned for single-family use. 

“Oftentimes, homeowners will turn their units into an Airbnb and make thousands of extra dollars in income,” Huxman adds. “Other times, teachers rent out the units so they can affordably live where they work.” 

Customers will purchase a high-end shed because it already resembles a small house with a porch. They’ll then do the finish it out themselves with plumbing, electrical, etc.

Elsewhere in the U.S., high-end sheds are being used in other creative ways. In Kentucky, for example, a family purchased a series of sheds to use as individualized bedrooms for their children, as well as separate spaces for bathrooms, kitchen, etc. Home offices have become another popular use, as many people now work from home or have a hybrid work schedule. 

“People want that isolated space away from the dogs and other distractions,” Huxman says. 

Sheds purchased through typically arrive on a skid already decked out. Others come as kits that can be assembled on site. 

“Within an hour, there’s a shed sitting in a customer’s backyard,” he adds. 

Many shed builders have a 50- to 100-mile service area, while others go much further depending upon the need and remoteness of their location. 

“There are some in California that might have one facility, but they’ll deliver anywhere in the state,” says Huxman. “I’ve also seen that in Montana, where they’ll deliver anywhere in the state and even into Idaho.”

It’s been a bumpy ride for shed suppliers these last couple of years. While demand has been high, rising prices and supply-chain delays have pushed some customers out of the market. 

For Bitterroot Shedz, the biggest challenge has been responding to inflationary pressures while offering prices that their customers can afford. 

The key, Fawcett says, has been transparency. 

“We have to make sure our customers understand that certain custom items, such as windows, can be hard to come by,” he adds. “We want to be sure they understand that we’re trying to get them the best product we can as quick as we can, but unfortunately our hands are tied on certain things.

“We try to over-communicate not under-communicate. And if it comes down to me sending somebody down the road to get what they need right away, that’s what we’ll do.”

As for, Huxman says the shed-shopping platform launched during an undeniably inopportune time in spring 2020—at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly thereafter, sellers had a diminished need for an online platform as the shed market entered a boom period.

Slowing demand for sheds, however, could mean more business for the site. And is ready—they have more than 8,800 dealers already in their database. 

“We want to provide as much information as we can to the customer,” Huxman says. “We don’t have sellers in every area but at a minimum, they’ll have access to a list of sellers that they can call.”      

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