Building A Modern Shed – Part 1 – The Foundation

This is the first part of a multi-part series on the construction of our 10 x 12 modern shed that will be a workshop.  We’re sticking to 120 sf because that’s the maximum square footage you can build without a permit, and to hopefully make it a little easier we’re going to build it on skids.  With that, let’s get started.

Our Foundation Build

Our shed foundation needed some type of retaining wall because one side is 8 inches lower than the other.  We used concrete block for the retaining wall.  It took 3 tons of gravel to level out the area.  You’ll see how we did ours below.

Laying Out The Area

Before you get started, look into your local codes to find out how far away from the property line you have to build.  For us it’s 3 feet.

At first I did a basic layout with some spray paint and basic stakes and string, and dug out a basic trench.   There is a height difference of 8 inches from the lowest point to the highest.  To make this area level we had to make a retaining wall.  Because of this, I realize we needed a more accurate way to define the area we’d be working in.

Shed Pad Layout Before Using Batter Boards

Shed Pad Layout Before Using Batter Boards

Making Batter Boards

Batter boards allow you to easily make adjustments to create a squared up area.  The video below is a good start.

I used the batter boards in the video, but because one corner is near a stump there was no way to I could put a regular batter board there.  I used a separated batter board setup.

Separated Batter Boards

Separated Batter Boards

Making The Lines Square

Your going to use the 3-4-5 method to square up your string lines.  I guess we were all wrong in high school when we said we’d never use math :).  The video below shows you how to measure out your strings to make them square with each other.


Squaring Up The Layout

Squaring Up The Layout

Building A Retaining Wall

We have an 8 inch difference between the low corner and high one.  To level it out we built a retaining wall.  When it comes to retaining walls three options come to mind

  • Wood
  • Concrete block
  • Stacked stone

We ended up doing concrete block for our retaining wall, but I tried to include a video for each type to help give you an idea of what each takes.


Concrete Block

Stacked Stone


Leveling The Area

When you’re leveling the area you want to keep two things in mind.

  • Making sure you test for level in different orientations, not just one direction.
  • Compact the heck out of your base material

The video below is a good start if you are using gravel for your shed base.  It talks about

  • What gravel to use
  • How to fill in your gravel base
  • Techniques for leveling the gravel

If you want to be smarter than me, use a plate compactor instead of a hand compactor.  You can rent one from your local equipment rental depot.


Plate Compactor

Plate Compactor

Total Cost Of Building The Foundation

As we progress in each stage of the shed build I’ll post how much it cost us to do that piece and a running total.  Our foundation you saw in the video at the top cost

  • Tools we didn’t have to complete the part = $52.92
  • Materials cost = $247.85
  • Total cost of doing the foundation = $300.77
Total Foundation Cost

Total Foundation Cost

Hopefully this article helped you get started on building your shed foundation.  If you found this interesting please think about signing up for our email list and get content sent straight to your email when it gets released. Also, we are on the social media sites above and YouTube.

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