In many areas, local municipalities define exactly what types of shed foundations are required for a property’s accessory structures. In frost-prone areas, this typically includes shed footings for any outbuilding over a certain size. In this article, we’ll focus specifically on what shed footing options are available and which you should consider if given a choice by local code regulations.
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“Shed footing” vs “Shed footer”
Before we go further, what exactly do you call the frost-proof structures under a shed: “shed footings” or “shed footers”? This has been a topic of debate for years, and you may be more familiar with one of the terms depending on what area of the country you live in. In general, the consensus seems to be that “shed footing” is the proper term.
However, “shed footer” is used widely, even by foundation experts, insurance companies, and other professionals, so most people will understand what you mean if that’s your term of choice.
Does a shed foundation need footings?
“Do I need footers for a shed?” is one of the most common queries we receive. The answer is, “Sometimes. It really comes down to the regulations of your local building code.”
In our area of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic USA, most building codes base their shed footing requirements on several considerations, including building size, height, use, and whether there will be a utility connection to the building. These factors are detailed individually below.
Footing Requirements for a Shed
1. Footing Requirements by Shed Size
This may be the single most important shed footing factor. Many local governments in our region divide sheds into the following size categories:
Less than 100 square feet
Sheds under 100 sq ft (or 200 sq ft in some locations) often require no footers whatsoever. Very small sheds like these have a low risk of sinking or buckling. Even if they do, any harm caused is likely to be insignificant. (A shed foundation can still increase the longevity of a small shed; you can read more about whether your shed needs a foundation here.)
Between 100 and 600 square feet
Sheds in this range often do not require “frost-proof” foundations but may be required to have a stone pad or shallow footers at 12” deep. For example, 12×16 shed foundation footers may not be required, but some type of gravel shed foundation would likely be advisable.
Over 600 square feet
Larger sheds like these typically require “frost protection”, aka shed footings that extend below the local frost line. Some locales make an exception to the footer depth requirement if the building is placed on a concrete slab.
2. Footing Requirements by Shed Wall Height
Height is another significant factor as it helps to determine how much weight the shed footers will be supporting per square foot. Note that for these purposes, shed heights are typically measured at the wall (or “eave”) height rather than the height at the roof peak. Sheds are often divided by height as follows:
Less than 10’ high
Sheds with walls under 10’ (or 12’ in some locales) may not require footings of any kind (although this is usually tied to a square footage requirement as well). If the shed includes a built-in floor, some municipalities allow them to be placed directly on a gravel pad.
Over 10’ high
Sheds over 10’ in height (or 12’ in some municipalities) often require footings of some type. Additionally, the local government may require both a zoning and construction permit for accessory buildings of this size. For example, barn shed footings would likely be required if the building contains a loft area or a second story.
3. Footing Requirements by Shed Utilities
Footings may be required if a building will be connected to any type of utility service. This includes electric, gas, oil, and/or sewer. In the photo above, an electrical conduit was installed as part of the shed footing/shed foundation installation; it will be connected to the shed when it is delivered.
A utility connection can also affect whether a construction permit is required for the shed. This makes sense since the repercussions of a sinking shed are greater if it also runs the risk of rupturing or exposing a utility line.
4. Footing Requirements by Shed Use
If a shed will be used for habitation or any other human activity, shed footings may be required. In at least one case, a township noted that frost-depth shed footings were not required if “the building presents a low hazard to human life in the event of failure”.
So if someone asks whether footers are necessary for an implement shed, the likely answer is “no”. However, shed footings are a good idea if an outbuilding will be used as a workshop, she shed, or office (as shown above).
Here are links to shed footing regulations from several municipalities that you can refer to for ideas of what the typical requirements look like:
What are the best shed footings?
Concrete piers are the best shed footings in most cases. We recommend concrete piers due to their ease of installation and relative affordability. They can be easily adjusted for local requirements by adjusting the depth of the footer hole and they are much cheaper than pouring and finishing a full concrete pad.
Additionally, we recommend that concrete piers can be combined with a gravel shed foundation for the best of both worlds: excellent drainage and frost-proof structural support!
Shed footing options
|Cost (Materials + Labor)
|“Floating” Concrete Pad
|The simplest type of concrete pad.
|“Floating” Concrete Pad w/Shallow Footings
|A relatively simple concrete pad with extra stability.
|Concrete Pier Shed Footings
|The most affordable shed footer option; can be combined with a gravel pad for drainage.
|Concrete Block Wall Shed Footings
|Extremely durable footer option; typically used for garages and very large sheds.
|Monolithic Concrete Shed Footings
|Extremely durable footer option; typically used for garages and very large sheds.
1. “Floating” Concrete Pad
Depending on how “footings” are defined, “floating footings” may be an oxymoron. In general, “footings” only applies to shed bases that extend below grade and beneath the frost line. “Floating” concrete pads are poured on the top of the ground and don’t technically include a below-grade “footing” feature. However, as mentioned above, shed footing requirements in some municipalities can be met with a floating concrete pad.
We typically recommend AGAINST floating concrete pad footings for sheds (assuming the shed includes a built-in wooden floor). Floating concrete pads are more expensive than either a gravel shed pad or concrete pier footings and they don’t offer the same drainage benefits as a gravel pad.
The main exception is any shed that will be built so the concrete pad also serves as the shed floor. In such a case, a concrete pad is unavoidable, and a floating concrete pad is the most affordable option unless frost-proof footers are required by code. You can see a full comparison of concrete pads vs gravel pads here.
2. “Floating” Concrete Pad w/Shallow Footings
“Floating” pads can be poured with shallow footings around the edges to give them a bit more heavy-duty. This is basically a hybrid model between a simple floating pad and a full monolithic concrete pour (covered below). The primary difference between this and a monolithic pour is that the footings don’t extend below the frost line.
Some municipalities require floating pads with shallow footings for medium-sized sheds. These footings are typically about 12” deep and 10” wide. The footings may also include extra reinforcement in the form of rebar or a steel mesh.
3. Concrete Pier Shed Footings
The simplest type of frost-proof cement shed footing is the pier. We recommend concrete piers because they satisfy frost-proof shed footing requirements and cost less than most other shed footing options, including floating concrete pads.
To install concrete pier shed footings, holes are dug to the desired depth and a round form is placed in each hole. (These forms are often referred to by the brand name Sonotube®.) Concrete is poured into the forms up to the desired height and left to cure, after which the shed can be placed on the footings and anchored if necessary. See the end of this article for more detailed steps.
Depending on the specific local requirements, concrete piers can be poured to a below-grade depth of 24”, 36”, 48”, or more. The diameter of the piers also varies based on building size and/or code requirements. 12”, 16”, 18”, and 24” are all common shed footing diameters.
Concrete piers are also the easiest way to level a shed on a grade while maintaining frost-proof footers (a gravel shed pad is the easiest way all-around).
Combining concrete pier shed footers with a gravel pad creates a foundation that supports the shed while also draining water away from the wooden base. We recommend this type of concrete shed footer for maximum longevity in prefab sheds with built-in wooden floors.
4. Concrete Block Wall Shed Footings
It’s important to differentiate between concrete block wall shed footings and simple concrete blocks placed on the ground under a shed. Concrete blocks placed directly on the ground are not a sufficient shed footing and we don’t recommend them.
On the other hand, shed footings made from concrete block walls are an entirely different story. In fact, this type of footing is so durable that it’s overkill for most shed types! We only recommend a concrete shed pad with block footers if the building comes without a wooden floor and a) has a second story or b) will be used as a garage.
To build a concrete block wall shed foundation, there are usually three steps.
- After excavating to the desired depth, a reinforced concrete footing is poured (approximate dimensions are 8” thick and 12” wide).
- After the footing cures, a concrete block wall is built to the desired height.
- A flat concrete pad is poured with the edges resting on the top of the block wall. This pad serves as the shed/garage floor.
You can see a step-by-step overview of how we install concrete block wall footers in this video (the project shown is a garage foundation).
5. Monolithic Concrete Shed Footings
One final option for cement shed footers is a monolithic pour. It’s similar to a concrete block wall shed footing, but is made completely of concrete and is built during a single pour. After excavation, concrete is poured for the footings, walls, and pad at the same time.
The cost is relatively similar between monolithic and block wall footings and, for our customers, is usually a choice of aesthetics as much as anything.
You can see additional 3D diagrams of the different concrete shed foundations here.
Shed footing FAQs
How deep should shed footings be?
- Small sheds need a gravel pad 4” deep (no shed footings required).
- Medium shed footings may be 12” deep (or not required at all in some areas).
- Large shed footings should extend 12” below the frost line (meaning a depth of 24”, 36”, 48”, or more depending on the local climate).
However, these are very general guidelines. You should always check the requirements of your local building code and follow the instructions given there.
How many footings do I need for a shed?
There is no hard-and-fast answer, but a good rule of thumb (if using concrete foundation piers) is one shed footing every 8-10 feet. That means an 8×10 shed should have 4 shed footings (if footings are required) while a 16×40 shed should have about 15 shed footings. Of course, this answer assumes that shed footings are required by your local municipality; check your local code!
If your shed is prefabricated with wooden runners under the floor joists, it’s important to consider how these runners will be supported. You may want to place a row of footings under each runner or at least add a gravel pad around the concrete footings to provide even support under every part of the shed. This will help to prevent sagging or buckling as the shed ages.
Does a cement slab need footings for a shed?
It depends on what your local building code requirements are. In some cases, a floating concrete pad (4” thick on a base of crushed stone) is sufficient. In other cases, 12” deep footers may be required as part of the concrete pour. For the largest sheds, block walls or other footings may be required to extend at least 12” below the frost line.
How do you make shed footings?
We recommend concrete shed foundation piers as the simplest type of shed footing. You can either have them installed by a professional shed foundation company or build them yourself. The basic steps to install shed footings are as follows:
- Mark shed pier locations
- Determine grade/site slope
- Excavate the pier holes
- Add the pier forms
- Pour the shed piers
- Cure the shed piers
- Install anchors
Our guide on how to build shed foundation piers gives detailed instructions for each of these steps.
At the end of the day, building shed footings is an extra step in the shed foundation proces and most people avoid it when possible. However, to comply with local codes (and for the maximum durability of your shed) it’s important to at least consider what footings may be required in your case.
If you’re in our service area, we’d be happy to give you a free quote on professionally installed shed footings. Or, if you want more information on garage foundation costs, consider checking out our article. We wish you the best as you plan for your shed!