Dear PoPville – Suggestions for Storage – Outdoor Shed or Digging Under a Porch?

“Dear PoPville,

So, I wanted to throw a question out there to PoPville and I’m not sure if it’s been asked. Space in our PW row house is at a premium and we need to look outside for storage possibilities (to store things without high dollars attached to them — shovels, rakes, low end tools, push mower, etc). I was wondering if anyone has hired a good contractor to dig out under a deck or right outside the basement for a built-in shed/storage space. If so, how much does that kind of thing run? OR an alternate would be a small outdoor shed for the yard (though I hate to take up too much space for something plastic and perhaps ugly, it’s a small yard). I would appreciate any advice.”

21 Comment

  • Getting rid of dirt in D.C. is expensive plus you run the risk of irritating the city because you are changing the structural integrity of your house and deck. I would just go get a cheap storage unit from any of the places in NE.

  • bfinpetworth

    I like this question. I keep searching for the magic solution to a similar situation, but have yet to come up with it.

  • We’ve had the exact same idea but have not yet moved on it, so I have no numbers to offer. However, I can add that before we do move on the idea, we plan on having a structural engineer come out and evaluate any possible impact on the foundation and/or structure. Such a move might reflect an overabundance of caution, but since we would need to knock down five feet of cinder block retaining wall, in addition to digging out the dirt behind it, we’re concerned that it might be doing something to support the house.

    • Even if it does not cause structural damage, don’t forget about drainage issues. My basement did not have any water problems until we dug out under the deck.

      Now I have to remove expensive pavers and install a complicated french drain and sump pump with the city breathing down my neck.

      • Yikes, I thought we might do that during our kitchen addition. My idea was that we could water-proof the basement wall, then shoot the basement stairs up the back of the house, instead of further out under the new addition. Did you do any sort of water-proofing of the outer wall when you dug out your spot? Ugh- seems like every good idea comes with issues.

  • I don’t know, but I am also interested in the digging out under a deck. Our back door is too low to put an at-level deck in without blocking the basement door access.

  • Don’t know if this helps or not but I was at Home Depot yesterday and installed sheds were going for $1,186.

  • We had a similar situation we ended up only digging out the dirt under our wodden stairs, building a retaining wall around the new area with a concrete slab pointing to the drain. This new space is 5ftx5ft and we use it to store garden tools, garbage cans, etc. Digging under the porch without proper planning and advise would put the whole rear of the house in jeopardy of falling. The rear of the house needs proper footings to transfer weight to the ground. FYI I was surprised at the amount of dirt they took out. Also here is the link to the contractor Angel Tuesta

  • We paid about a grand for a fairly attractive (wood, not plastic) shed, installed. Purchased through Home Depot. We painted it ourselves and it is not at all unsightly now. But we have a huge yard, so we don’t care about the loss of space.

  • I have several large, plastic sheds that I bought from Sears. They keep everything dry and are lockable. I suppose a really desperate crook could get into them, but I have had them for years with no problem. They are much cheaper than the Home Depot options and come in multiple sizes.

  • Question: Do you have an inside bar for that door?
    I sure hope so because a person with ill intent can kick that door right in.

    • Actually we reinforced it after seeing a boot mark on the outside last year. Clearly someone already tried to kick it in but it didn’t budge. I’ve been told by a general contractor they don’t make doors as solid as that one anymore and replacing with a steel one would not be wise.

  • We’re in the middle of a major renovation and bit the bullet a few months ago to have our contractor dig a sunken patio outside the rear basement door. It’s about 3 feet below grade with concrete steps to grade at the edge. The total was about $8k for the digging and a cinderblock retaining wall with concrete stairs and a floor drain that ties into our sump pump system. Right now, the surface is just gravel. I plan to put in some sort of pavers and cover the retaining wall in the future. It is approximately 18ft wide (full lot width) by 14 feet deep. We will be building a deck on top of it. For what it’s worth, this is in Petworth.

  • Thanks for all the great suggestions and comments. For those with sheds (and nod to the Sears suggestion, didn’t even think of that), do you have them placed behind a fence or outside of one? We do have enough space outside of our fence to put a small shed but wondered if it would be too tempting for someone to pry it open without having to jump a tall fence. I certainly understand that it can still be pried open behind the fence…

  • Do a cheap shed, and if u need more space, don’t dig under the patio, just solidify it, and put a solid locked door on it. Cheap, easy, simple, and no permits or evaluations needed…

  • Had the same dilemma, and I didn’t want a cheap plastic shed. Luckily, I found Living Storage Quarters … they specialize in urban sheds for small yards, and will build the shed to your specifications. It costs a little more, but it was definitely worth out. Check out there website

  • I’m pretty sure that you have to get permission of your adjoining neighbors if you dig out close to shared footers. My neighbors across the street had a raging lawsuit going three years ago because a new dugout space opened to elements led to freezing pipes, flooding and a huge mess for both parties. Just something to consider and think through.

  • The crack heads who owned our house before us dug out half the area under the back porch. Despite their being crack heads, the space is good dry storage space (about 6 X 8) and we have no water problems in the basement.

    If the crackheads can do it, you can probably find a contractor to do it to. And, it is nice to have storage that does not junk up the yard.

  • We just ordered a “grand garden chalet” from home depot. It’s a nice looking, small (3’x6′) lean-to cedar shed that comes partially built and you finish it yourself, for $1K including shipping. We’ll be using it for our trash & recycling cans + garden tools. It’s en route from Canada now– the manufacturer has been great to work with.

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