For those in need of a significant amount outdoor storage, a shed is the most obvious solution. These outbuildings can be quite flexible and can hold garden tools, landscaping equipment, pool supplies, toys, etc. With so many types of sheds to choose from, what materials are the best to go with? Wood, resin, and metal are the three most common types of shed material, and each material has its advantages and disadvantages.
In this article, we will compare and contrast each of these materials, in order to help you find the right shed for your circumstances and environment.
Wood vs. Resin vs. Metal Sheds
When shopping for sheds, the three most common material types are wood, metal, and resin plastic. Any of these options can be great outdoor storage solutions, but there are certainly pros and cons to each.
In this article, we are going to discuss the good, the bad, and the not particularly attractive garden shed options so that you can pick the absolute best choice to suit your lifestyle and preferences. Soon you’ll be well on the way to organizing your outdoor space and making your outdoor environment look beautiful!
Wood Garden Sheds
Wood sheds are the most traditional choice and are the most common type of shed in the world. People have been building sheds and other outbuildings out of wood for as long as they have been building houses, and in fact, a wooden shed is very much like a miniature house.
Of all materials used in the production of garden sheds, wood is by far and away the most versatile. You can customize your space however you want, whenever you want.
The nice thing about wood is that if you want to add or change things later, it is no problem. Don’t like the color anymore? You can repaint or restain. Want to add a window box or different trim? You can do it at any time.
You can also build your own shelves, put in hooks or add whatever you want to the inside without worrying that you might damage the walls, or whether the shed walls are strong enough to handle the extra weight. Wood sheds can be customized to match your home or compliment your garden better than any other product.
In fact, wood sheds are, arguably, a garden feature in themselves.
If you prefer the natural look, you can stain or treat them to keep the beauty of the wood shining through. Or you can choose a type of wood such as Western Red Cedar that is naturally rot and insect resistant and will look beautiful for years with little maintenance.
Another important aspect of wood is that it is a great natural insulator. And there’s no doubt that a wood shed, if well-constructed and built on a solid foundation, will be strong, lasting for a lifetime if maintained properly. When I built mine, I simply called on the excavator rental near me and did it myself, you know what they say about wanting a job well done. A wood shed is an investment that will add value to any property.
If you don’t want to build the shed from scratch, you can also order plans or purchase complete kits that come in many styles and sizes. And, just like a house, if you want a wood shed but don’t like the idea of having to paint or stain the outside, using a wood frame and cladding it with vinyl siding could be a good option as well, making the care of the outside virtually maintenance free while still providing the flexibility of a wood frame.
See our article on wooden waste can storage sheds for further information on wood sheds.
Resin (or sometimes called plastic) sheds are a great innovation in the shed world and they’ve come a long way since their conception. Likely, when you hear the term “plastic” you think cheap, but unlike the plastic sheds of the past that would fade and crack, today’s resin sheds are made from durable plastics such as polycarbonate and PVC for strength, durability, and resistance to everything from the sun’s rays to rot and pests.
Resin sheds, such as the Suncast Cascade shed we reviewed (shown here) are practically bomb-proof, and virtually maintenance free.
Resin sheds are lightweight and come in a variety of styles and sizes to compliment any outdoor space. Resin plastic sheds, when done well, have a wood-like look that can be attractive, though in our experience often the resin shed designers tend to get unnecessarily “cutesy” with their designs, using curved faux windows and the like.
If you want to customize your resin shed, many manufacturers offer accessories to the basic kits, including shelves, windows, skylights or even lofts.
The main attraction to this type of material is the easy maintenance involved—hosing it down once in awhile when it gets dirty is all you need to do!
These sheds are lightweight and are typically easy to assemble with no special knowledge or tools required. You can buy them already assembled from your local home and garden store, or you can purchase a kit and easily build it yourself in a day.
Many of these sheds also come reinforced with a steel frame and double-walled construction to make them extremely strong for such lightweight structures. If taken care of, there’s no reason a well-built resin shed wouldn’t last twenty years or more. The manufacturers believe their products will last a long time, as most include a seven to ten-year warranty. Resin sheds are also a more economical choice (for the most part) when you’re watching your budget.
For more information on PVC plastic sheds, be sure to check out our article on the best resin sheds!
Metal Backyard Sheds
Metal sheds have been around for a very long time, and have been a popular choice for many backyard gardeners. This type of shed is usually made out of thin panels of steel or aluminum and typically feature a steel frame. They come as a DIY kit that is pre-drilled and pre-cut, with all the screws and bolts necessary for assembly.
Metal is your most basic, “no frills” option in a garden shed. These sheds usually do not come with floors, though several manufacturers make floor kits and anchor kits.
You will want to put a metal shed on a sturdy foundation, preferably a concrete slab that is perfectly level. And, it is very important to anchor your shed so it does not blow away in a windstorm.
Metal sheds typically don’t come with windows, but some manufacturers include air vents in the design. And, there aren’t many options to add shelves or accessories, although Arrow (one of the popular metal shed makers) does sell add in shelves and tool hanging racks that can be purchased separately, depending on the type of shed you purchase. You can even get an “attic” for larger Arrow Sheds!
Metal sheds are not particularly attractive, and the designs are not very creative. They tend to look like, well, a metal shed.
So, you at might be wondering, what’s good about a metal shed?
Metal sheds are super affordable. You can get a fairly large building for under $1,000, and many come in under $500. That is a very attractive feature indeed! If you’re not looking for something fancy with lots of bells and whistles, and just want a place to store your garden equipment and outdoor recreation items, metal is a great option.
Also, metal sheds are quite maintenance free, mildew and rot resistant, and many come with powder-coated steel to withstand the damaging effects of the elements. They usually do not need to be painted, although you certainly can if you want to.
A metal shed doesn’t take any special skills to assemble and is usually quite sturdy once it’s put together; most come with fairly long warranties. They will rust after a few years and if you live in a snow zone, you might consider purchasing a roof strengthening kit to withstand the added weight of the snow.
Click here for more information on the best metal sheds.
What is the Best Shed Material?
As you can see, wood, metal, and resin sheds all have their advantages and disadvantages. When trying to decide which one to pick there are several important points to consider.
How much storage space do you need?
Do you want a large structure spacious enough to house a riding lawn mower, several large pieces of power equipment, a snow blower, bicycles, as well as every other garden tool known to man? Or are you looking for something a bit smaller and inconspicuous, say a more deck box sized shed designed to store a few hand tools?
If you’re looking for large and in charge, wood might be your best choice as you can build these to suit any space. Both resin and metal are wonderful options for small areas.
Be sure to check out our guide on how to organize your shed!
How much maintenance are you willing to do?
If you want to put something up and virtually forget about it until you need a tool or piece of equipment, then you’re probably going to be leaning more towards resin or metal than wood. Both resin and metal don’t require any more maintenance than a garden hose once in a while.
When it comes to “maintenance free” resin is the clear winner, with metal coming in second due to potential rust concerns down the road.
How handy are you, and do you have the proper tools to build a wood structure?
This is an important question when you’re considering building a shed from scratch out of wood or using a kit. You must have some construction knowledge, know someone who does, or be extremely adept at following YouTube videos if you want to tackle a project of this caliber.
Of course, as stated earlier, you can always purchase a kit that comes complete with everything you need to construct a quality shed out of wood, so all is not lost if you’re not “Tim The Tool Man Taylor”! If you don’t want the hassle, go with resin or metal—you don’t need any special skills or tools to assemble a resin or metal shed.
How much do you care about aesthetics?
Hands down, in our opinion, wood is the most beautiful of all garden shed options. The styles, colors, trim options, and whatever customization you can possibly dream up are limitless with wood.
That’s not to say resin sheds can’t be very attractive, in fact, some of the styles available today are super cute and you’d be hard-pressed to tell they were made out of plastic, at least from a distance.
Metal definitely brings up the rear in this department—it simply can’t compete aesthetically with either wood or resin.
What is your budget?
Now here’s an important question to contemplate.
Wood sheds can be very expensive, especially if you buy a quality kit and the structure is quite large. The project can easily run well into the thousands. With all shed materials, whether metal, resin or wood, quality is key. You get what you pay for, as the old adage goes.
You can cheap anything out, but it’s probably not going to last as long and you’ll end up replacing it sooner than later. The exception here is metal, which is very inexpensive but still lasts for many years if assembled properly and put on a solid foundation.
Any of these products, if made from high-quality materials, are very durable, providing a lifetime (metal should last about 10-20 years) of use if cared for properly. But if the budget is the main concern, metal would be your best bet, followed by resin. That is unless you can build a wood shed from scratch yourself!
If you’re handy, you can find good building materials on sale or from your local bargain barn and be able to build your shed for less than either a wood or resin kit. You probably won’t be able to beat metal in price, no matter what bargains you find.
Just a word about the environment: There is something to be said about reducing the carbon footprint and the responsibility each of us has as humans in protecting our planet. Both plastic and steel manufacturing creates a lot of pollution every year. And, if you decide down the road that you no longer want your resin or metal shed, disposing of it is much more difficult, taking up valuable space in a landfill if it can’t be recycled.
Although many companies have made great strides in reducing the damaging effects of producing plastic or steel products, there’s still a long way to go.
Wood is a more earth-friendly choice when considering which shed to buy. The carbon footprint is much smaller with a wood-built shed, and as it is a natural material, disposal is considerably lower impact if you decide it’s time to tear it down.
If you want to own a metal or resin shed, you might consider keeping it for life—just some food for thought.
Similarities Between Wood, Resin, and Metal
Here we will consider various similarities between the three materials.
All choices are strong and, if cared for properly, hold up well to the elements. Typically wooden “kits” tend to have lower quality materials than custom built sheds, as kit makers are trying to compete on price as much as possible.
Wood and resin sheds can be very attractive and compliment any outdoor environment, although, wood is generally the most beautiful. It is a natural choice.
Metal sheds are often best hidden behind shrubbery, and while quite functional, are typically not beautiful.
Wood, metal, and resin are all very functional and are great for getting your outdoor tools and equipment organized, especially if you add accessories such as shelving, hooks or a loft space.
Resin is marginally the loser here, in that you will need to consider the wall construction and layout if you’re planning on adding shelves and interior structures.
Available in Kit Form
All options: wood, metal, and resin sheds come in complete kits to make assembly easier, even if you’re not handy. All of them are not easy to assemble, so be prepared.
With virtually all of these buildings, it’s best to partially tighten all bolts, and then go do a second pass and completely tighten them. This will guard against misaligned holes, which is a common complaint but often in actuality an assembly mistake.
You can build either wood or resin on a budget, but you might need to build the wood shed from scratch to match the price range of the resin kits and, of course, there’s just no beating metal in this department!
They all need to be built on a level and solid foundation, either on a concrete slab or concrete blocks and a wood platform (it’s best to have a concrete slab with metal). The more level, the better. Over time, sheds placed on poorly leveled foundations will warp, and often the doors won’t line up and will give problems.
Be sure your shed foundation is fully leveled and compacted before installing your shed!
Differences Between Wood, Metal, and Resin
In this section, we’ll focus on the major differentiations between the three materials.
Wood is a natural and renewable resource, resin and metal are not.
It is much easier and environmentally friendly to dispose of a wood shed if you no longer want it, while resin and metal sheds are much more stressful on the environment.
For comparable sizes, if you buy a shed in kit form, wood will usually be more expensive than resin or metal.
Resin and metal are UV resistant, giving them the ability to withstand whatever mother nature throws their way with minimal, if any, maintenance. Wood can obviously be weather-resistant but requires maintenance to keep everything whole.
Resin never has to be painted or stained, and is virtually maintenance free, barring an occasional hose-down. Metal may need painting in a few years if it starts to rust, and wood definitely needs to be maintained.
You don’t need any special skills to assemble a resin or metal shed; you will need carpentry skills if you plan to build a wood shed without a kit.
Wood is naturally insulating yet allows for good air circulation, where resin and metal sheds can have problems with condensation and can get very hot inside if not well ventilated.
You can, of course, cut holes in your shed for ventilation if they’re not provided, but it’s an added hassle.
Due to their lightweight nature, both resin and metal sheds must be anchored so they don’t blow over in strong winds, which is less of a concern with wood. Note: all need to be properly attached to their foundation.
Wood sheds offer an unlimited amount of customizing options that you can do at any time throughout the life of the shed. This is a big advantage for wood, it’s quite flexible.
Whereas resin or metal sheds need to have accessories put in place when you buy the kit, or if you want to add something later, accessories must be compatible with the brand you buy.
A Fourth Option to Consider
There is a fourth option available that bears mentioning here. A relatively new product has hit the market in recent years that combines the best aspects of both wood and resin, making a sort of hybrid material that manufacturers are now building sheds out of.
If you go with this choice, you would need to buy it in a kit as that is the only way it comes. This product is a wood-plastic composite (WPC) that resists rot and decay, offering many of the maintenance-free benefits of a resin or metal shed with the strength and durability of wood.
Because this product contains wood fibers, it is drillable. This means you can add shelves, hooks or whatever you want, whenever you want, and you don’t have to buy special accessories that only work with a particular brand as you would with a resin or metal shed.
This WPC is quite an impressive product and worth checking out when considering either a wood or resin shed, especially if you are having trouble making up your mind.
So far, there are only two companies that sell this type of shed, Keter and Sears. Keter offers a product called the Keter Fusion Shed which comes in three sizes (7.5 x 4 ft., 7.5 x 7 ft., 7.5 x 9 ft.).
If you can’t decide whether to go with wood or resin, a hybrid like the Fusion might just be the ticket, giving you the best of both worlds!
As you can see, there are a plethora of considerations when it comes to choosing between a resin, metal or wood built shed. You can even get a combination of wood and resin in a hybrid product. Some of the ideas we discussed were cost, aesthetics, space requirements, skill level, maintenance and environmental concerns, to name a few.
The bottom line is there’s no “right or wrong” answer when it comes to choosing the perfect shed. Rather, it’s a question of what best fits your needs, comfort level, and budget. Any of these sheds are a good choice and each can provide many years—if not a lifetime—of service if properly maintained.
We hope you have found this article helpful in your decision-making process. Next step—choose your shed and start organizing your yard!
Drew Decker says
Great article, thanks!