How Close to a Wall or Property Line Can You Put an Outdoor Shed?

Updated February 21, 2017

Choosing a location for a shed can be a tricky issue. The site must be flat, have solid dirt, with good drainage and be accessible to the homeowner. It also must conform to zoning and planning rules and usually will require a building permit. That issuing agency will address location issues, which can vary among locales. Small sheds, usually under 120 square feet, and portable buildings may have different rules than larger, permanent structures.

Check Zoning

Find the local zoning agency, which sets rules for placement and type of building. It may be listed that way or may be under a planning, permitting or public works department. It will be a unit of the local government: city, town, borough, township or even a county. Almost all areas now have some formal agency governing zoning and building; even the Mojave Desert has zoning and requires permits.

Examine Deed

Consult your deed or title for any special regulations or restrictive covenants which may decree rules for building or locating sheds. These may be different from general zoning rules but will be enforced by the agency that issues a building permit. These covenants are imposed when the residential area is platted for development and lot buyers must agree to them.

Common Spacing

While specific rules vary widely, it is common to require at least 3 feet of clearance from a side or rear property line for a shed under 120 square feet in size and at least 5 or 6 feet for a larger shed. Most zoning rules also specify distances from a front property line or from a house or garage; these can range up to 40 feet. Find out about any utility or other easements which may affect the location and require greater distance from a wall or property line.

Special Considerations

Farms and rural areas usually have more liberal spacing requirements and may be enforced by a county government rather than a city or town. A few areas may have no rural zoning for placement of sheds. Some historic districts in communities also will have special rules, which may come under a separate historic preservation agency. Ask a zoning or planning office about historic district regulations.

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About the Author

Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.