Gravel vs. Concrete: Which Shed Base is Best for You?

gravel vs concrete shed base

Many of our clients are come to us wondering, “Do you need a foundation for shed?” Once that question is answered, though, a follow-up question is often “What’s the best shed foundation: gravel or concrete?”

In most cases:

Let’s talk about the respective benefits of each.

Gravel is generally better than concrete for a shed foundation

As mentioned above, gravel foundations win out for prefab sheds that come with wooden floors pre-built. If that’s the type of shed you’re planning to build/buy, the following reasons explain the benefits of a gravel shed foundation.

gravel vs concrete shed base

Better drainage = less rot and decay. A gravel base acts like a sponge by wicking away the water that would normally collect around the bottom of the shed. A concrete base, on the other hand, cannot absorb water. This can create more water runoff issues during heavy rain falls. Additionally, the bottom of the shed also won’t dry out as quickly with concrete.

Photo credit: http://shabbyglam.blogspot.com

Less water splashing against your shed. A gravel base functions like a diffuser when water that runs off the roof reaches the ground. The rough, porous surface of the gravel prevents water from splashing up. Instead, the water quickly soaks into the ground. With a concrete base, water from the roof will splash up against the sides of the shed. This increases the likelihood that any wood (including siding) on your shed will rot over time.

gravel vs concrete shed base
gravel vs concrete shed base

Cheaper than concrete. A gravel base has a price point significantly lower than concrete. If your building doesn’t require a concrete foundation, a gravel pad can save you hard earned dollars and allow you to invest more in things like landscaping (or a bigger shed!). We have an entire article devoted to shed site prep costs when installing gravel foundations.

Photo credit: Sheds Unlimited

Easier to install and remove. With a gravel base, you won’t have the heavy concrete truck driving on your lawn. A gravel base for an average sized backyard shed can usually be installed in a day or less. You may even decide to level the ground for your shed, calculate how much gravel you need, and build your own gravel shed foundation. And if you ever decide to move the shed to a new location in your yard or get rid of it altogether, a gravel base will be much easier to remove. 

gravel vs concrete shed base

Concrete is generally better than gravel for a garage foundation

If your shed will serve as a garage (especially a multiple-car garage), it’s important to have a foundation that will properly support heavy vehicles. This is also true for sheds that are built or assembled on-site. The following reasons explain the benefits of a concrete garage or shed foundation. 

Diagram of a concrete shed foundation

Local regulations may require concrete. Some municipalities require certain building types or building sizes to be constructed with a concrete foundation or footers. This is especially true in areas that are prone to frost heave. Check your local code, as there are several types of concrete foundations (with varying costs) that may meet requirements. If you’re only installing a shed, concrete piers at each corner, combined with a gravel foundation, may be satisfactory.

Concrete offers the best support for vehicles. As mentioned above, concrete is the best option for a garage. Years of driving a vehicle in and out can cause a building on gravel to start to shift. Concrete eliminates that danger. For both attached and detached garages built on-site, construction will usually start with concrete wall footers and a concrete floor. You can see several types of concrete garage foundations here.

A concrete block foundation installation in Chester Springs, PA

So, is a concrete shed base better or stronger than crushed stone? It depends…

The truth is, the extra cost of concrete does not necessarily make it a better foundation for a shed. A gravel base is an ideal foundation for small prefab sheds and can even be a good option for some portable garages. However, concrete is a great option for larger garages and any building that’s not pre-built with a floor. If it doesn’t have a floor, then a concrete foundation is a good option.

Does That Help?

We hope that answers your questions! Please contact Site Preparations LLC if you have any additional questions. We’d be happy to give you a free quote on a shed or garage foundation. 

You can also feel free to browse our galleries of gravel shed foundation photos and concrete garage foundation photos.

36 thoughts on “Gravel vs. Concrete: Which Shed Base is Best for You?

  1. Aditya says:

    Hi there! I’m getting a 14×14′ finished shed built as a backyard office in Austin, TX. The builder generally builds on 4×4 pressure-treated skids (on concrete blocks, I think). Do you think that will suffice? Thanks!

  2. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Aditya, building a shed on skids is pretty standard. The main concern would be placing the finished shed on concrete blocks. It’s a pretty common foundation style, especially in the southern US…The problem is that the blocks can tend to settle unevenly, putting extra strain on the frame of your building. You probably won’t notice it in the short term; it’s more an issue of longevity. We usually recommend a gravel foundation with a treated wood border.
    We actually have an entire article dedicated to that question here: https://www.siteprep.com/shed-foundation-blocks/
    Hope that’s helpful!

  3. Summer says:

    We are installing a 12×20 shed for gym equipment in Kentucky. Do you think concrete is necessary for that weight?

  4. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Summer,
    It depends if your shed will have a built-in floor or not. If it has a wooden floor, a crushed stone pad will be fine (basically the gravel can handle any weight that a wooden floor can handle). Obviously, if there’s no built-in floor, you’ll want a concrete foundation to also serve as the floor for your shed. Hope that’s helpful!

  5. Jai Roberts says:

    Hi! Thanks for all this helpful info! We plan to install a pre-built manufactured tiny home – the builders will block the building 15 inches off the ground. What type of site foundation should I be getting a quote for? I also saw you mention above that cement blocks are not ideal long-term. Is there a better option you suggest that I can request of them or will the builders not likely oblige that type of request? Thanks for your input!

  6. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Jai, if your tiny home has a built-in wood floor, we recommend going with a gravel pad as described above. The builders may or may not offer that as a foundation option; if not, you may be able to hire a third-party site preparation company (that’s what we are) to install the pad. Ideally, you want to prepare the pad before the building arrives. You can see examples of completed gravel foundations here. We also have a guide to building your own gravel foundation here.
    Hope that answers your question!

  7. Lou says:

    Hi, I had a question. I am putting up an 8 x 12 resin shed with a resin floor. Would you still recommend a gravel base over concrete or wood?

    Thanks

  8. Taliyah says:

    I currently have an existing 12×20 shed that is on cinder blocks in Northern AZ Mountains. The floor is warping and no longer seems viable. I know we need some kind of foundation but unsure where to start or who to even contact…. I’m in need of professional advice. Please help!

  9. Arthur says:

    Hello, you did not mention critters. Namely rats. My 8×8 shed, built several years ago is actually sinking because rats regularly make their homes under it. I sort of contracted with a guy to pour a 9×9 concrete floor pad, with a 1×2 foot rat wall/footing all around. I have kind of decided to seriously consider the crushed concrete and/or gravel option, as it seems cheaper, more doable and flexible should I have to move it or the shed. My question is give that, how deep should the gravel foundation be for such, and would this be effective in keeping rats from tunneling. Or, should I still dig extra deep around the perimeter for rat control.

  10. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Taliyah,
    Unfortunately, we don’t serve AZ (yet). However, we did create an in-depth how-to guide for building a gravel shed foundation, which you can find here: https://www.siteprep.com/how-to-install-a-gravel-shed-foundation/
    If you’re not up to doing the job yourself, you may be able to find a landscape or foundation company that would be willing to install a pad according to the specs laid out in the guide.
    Hope that helps!

  11. Chris says:

    Morning,

    I’m looking for advise on whether I should use blocks or skids under my shed which will be on a gravel foundation. Thoughts?

  12. Will says:

    We are building a 12×20 ft prefabricated cottage with a floor and insulation. The interior is unfinished but we will install that a bit later. The manufacturer suggested that we use concrete because of the size of the building and the concern that gravel might settle over time. Is that justified? Also eventually we hope to add plumbing which might make a concrete slab a bit difficult and we certainly are intending to have electric as well.

  13. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Will, we recommend using ‘3/4″ clean’ crushed stone for shed foundations and compacting with a plate compactor before placing the building. 3/4″ clean stone is 95% compacted at delivery and compacting locks the stone edges together to prevent settling.
    That being said, if you’re planning to finish the interior with drywall, you do run the risk of having cracks appear as the building naturally flexes during use; if you’re finishing it with shiplap or tongue-and-groove paneling it shouldn’t be an issue. We would suggest following the manufacturer’s recommendation as they know best how their specific building will behave under certain conditions.
    You can read more about our crushed stone recommendations here, under the section titled “Crushed Stone”.

  14. Martin says:

    1 want to put a 20x10ft wooden shed in my garden my ground is currently gravel topped with decorative stone is this suitable?

    Also would I put it directly on the ground on blocks raised what are my options?

  15. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Martin,
    We don’t recommend placing a prefab shed on concrete blocks or decorative pavers (what I believe you’re describing). Our recommended shed foundation is compacted 3/4″ clean crushed stone (gravel) surrounded by a treated lumber perimeter.
    We have a written guide on installing that type of foundation here, a video guide here, and an explanation of why concrete blocks aren’t the best option here.
    Hope that’s helpful!

  16. Deb says:

    My site prep person suggested crushed asphalt instead of stone for under my shed. The shed will be placed between two large maples, which he says are likely to crack the foundation over time. In addition, a 10X16 hunk of concrete will harm the trees. Your opinion?

  17. Deb says:

    Sorry–addendum to my comment “which he says are likely to crack a concrete foundation over time.”

  18. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Deb,
    We don’t recommend concrete for prefab sheds with wood floors, specifically for drainage reasons. We recommend a foundation with ‘3/4″ clean’ crushed stone (aka gravel); the trees will not crack that kind of foundation.
    As long as your foundation is level, well-drained, and well-compacted, it should be fine.

  19. Fatima says:

    Hi
    I am looking to install a customized shed that will be 12 X 20, wood flooring with vinyl siding. I am at a loss on what type of foundation to get. Our backyard seems to collect water from the neighborhood (in heavy rain), but its not standing water and it drys fairly easily. We want our shed to last a long time. Could you give your best recommendation?
    Thank you

  20. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Fatima,
    If your shed will have a wooden floor, we recommend a gravel shed foundation 100% of the time. It will drain much better and keep your shed structure in good condition for longer. Plus, it’s often about 1/3 the cost of a concrete pad.

  21. Chad says:

    Thank you for all the information! I have a follow-up question regarding your response to “Stephen” about gravel pads for plastic/resin sheds…how do you recommend “anchoring” the shed to prevent movement in high winds?

  22. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Chad,
    We usually suggest that folks follow the anchoring recommendations/requirements of their local municipality and the shed manufacturer. We have a few more details in this article, under the section called “Local Ordinances > Anchoring”: https://www.siteprep.com/how-to-install-a-gravel-shed-foundation/#3-Local-Ordinances
    Pound-in anchors with cables attached to the shed are one popular anchoring method. Something like this might be an option: https://www.homedepot.com/p/TIEDOWN-Storage-Shed-Eye-Anchor-Kit-59075/100318600
    Hope that helps!

  23. Joe says:

    We want to install a living area shed on top of our aggregate concrete patio. we would want to install floorings also inside the shed. Do i need to put something on top of the concrete before i put flooring? Should I be putting anything around the base to seal the shed. We live in Toronto. We would like to seal it too so it wont be too cold inside during winter.

  24. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Joe,
    We don’t have as much experience with exposed aggregate concrete pads. The main question is whether or not your shed comes with a prebuilt wooden floor. If it does, you can put the flooring right on top of the shed’s wooden floor. If the shed has no built-in floor structure, you’ll need to put a subfloor down on top of the concrete before adding the flooring. You will also want to make sure the base of the shed is sealed from moisture. You may be best off contacting a professional contractor for a project of that scope.
    Hope that helps!

  25. Cindy says:

    Hi! I stumbled onto your site and it’s very helpful! I ordered a pre-fab resin Suncast shed (6’x5′).
    The manual says we have to build one of their recommended foundations to ensure a valid warranty. The choices are 1) Concrete slab, 4″ thick; 2) Wood platform using exterior grade wood, set on pier blocks or footing. They provide plans for the cuts of lumber and plywood.
    They also said a proper vapor barrier should be provided.
    Which method would you recommend? And what do they mean by a vapor barrier?
    Thank you!

  26. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Cindy,
    If those are your only two options to preserve the warranty, the concrete will be the more durable of the two. If budget is a large concern, the wood platform may be more economical (though not necessarily with current lumber prices). We personally recommend a crushed stone pad; it may void the warranty, but is the best all-around option in our opinion. So our recommendation is 1) crushed stone pad, 2) concrete pad, and 3) wood foundation.
    As far as a vapor barrier, it’s usually a piece of plastic that goes under a concrete pad to keep ground moisture from soaking up through the concrete. You can learn more about them in this article. You can also see us installing a vapor barrier under a garage foundation in this video.
    Hope that helps!

  27. Karen says:

    When we move into the home we have now, (Baltimore, MD) the ground hog (2) have took over the shed we had. The shed was torn down and it have been a year since then. We now ready to replace the shed. Should we go with gravel or concrete? With gravel, should steel rods or layer of chicken wire be place under the gravel to kept the ground hogs from digging their way back under the foundation?
    Thank you in advance

  28. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Karen,
    Groundhogs aren’t typically an issue with the crushed stone pads we install. We compact the crushed stone as part of the process, so it’s not very easy for critters to dig through it.

  29. Patty says:

    Found some great information here to confirm some of my questions. However I want to put in plumbing in my shed/workshop. It will be at the front of our property where we use to have a Mobile Home. We have power, septic, water, security, additional parking and at least 6″ minimum of 3/4 gravel. (no concrete pad) We havent contacted codes yet, but want to have some idea if this is something we can do and be prepared for questions to ask. We are on 4acres. I’m 70 and really dont want to walk up to the house every time I have to go to the restroom! Can you give me some guidelines or if its not even an option. Thank you!

  30. Site Preparations LLC says:

    Hi Patty,
    It’s hard to give real definite advice without knowing a bit more about the site and the specific building you’re considering. We often add electrical conduits to shed foundations we install; it’s less common for folks to add plumbing in their sheds, though not impossible. We more often see plumbing in garages and other large buildings where we install concrete foundations.
    If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic US, feel free to request a quote on a shed foundation here or reach out via our contact page for more project-specific assistance. Hope that helps!

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