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So you want to get a shed in GHI…

posted in: Home and Garden

by Kate Murray

It’s finally time to clean out your understairs closet and get an outdoor shed for your GHI townhouse. It’s a bit of a process and takes some planning but it’s doable. Here’s what I’ve learned if it’s helpful for you. This was definitely a learning curve for me and I spent a good deal of time stalking the Unofficial GHI Facebook group for these details, so here they all are in one place. I also spent a good deal of time staring at sheds around GHI trying to figure out the anchoring situation so yeah, that was me fixated on your shed. Sorry about that  🙂

This information is current as of Spring 2023.

Step 1: Decide on your shed supplier and gather your required details for the GHI permit

There are many shed builder options. There’s the big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot. Also a variety of Amish/Mennonite builders who can customize but also have in-stock items. It’s worth a bit of research in selecting your builder depending on your needs. Not all of them will do site prep (like building a gravel pad – not required by GHI but could be needed if your space is sloped or you have bad drainage, etc). All will build on site if, like me, your yard had problematic access that isn’t amenable to a fully built shed being delivered but it is certainly more expensive (about 40% more than a pre-assembled one). Some have online virtual design options, some you need to call or visit. So shop around to see what works for you.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of shed builder options mentioned in this group but certainly there are others (including Lowes and Home Depot):

What I Went With:

I contracted with Stoltzfus Structures for a partially built shed to be assembled in place with a gravel pad from https://www.siteprep.com/. I have a bit of a slope on my garden side (actually about 18 inches over 10 feet, which was surprising for me to learn it was that much) so I needed a level base. The shed is installed with arrowhead anchors (similar to Arrowhead Anchors). Installation of the base took about 4 hours; the shed installation was done in less than 90 minutes.

Step 2: Contact GHI Technical Services for a few required documents and apply for your GHI permit.

The GHI Technical Services folks were great to work with, with quick responses to my questions and supplying the needed paperwork. I had to go back to them several times to clarify my own understanding and they were very patient.

GHI, but not the city or the county, requires permits for a new shed. See GHI Shed Rules (IX. GHI Handbook) https://www.ghi.coop/content/ix-storage-shelters-sheds.

The required permit application is https://www.ghi.coop/sites/default/files/docs/attachments/TypeII_Permit%20Request%20Form%20%28Sheds%20Yard%20Interior%20Etc.%29.pdf.

Contact GHI technical services for a drawing of your yard. Draw your shed dimensions on this where the shed will be placed, being sure to leave at least a 2-foot clearance from any fence etc, according to the GHI Shed rules.

Submit a shed plan. This is typically the drawing of the shed from the shed builder. If you use an online virtual shed design, this will typically include all the needed information, such as dimensions, materials, colors etc.

You will also need a detailed drawing of how the shed will be anchored into the ground. Honestly, this was the trickiest part for me. Some shed builders will do this, some will not. In theory, one can do this oneself with a kit from Lowes or Home Depot but even though I am relatively good at DIY, I am outsourcing this because it’s a bit involved. Anchoring is required even though, based on my research and walking around town peering at shed bases, it doesn’t seem common in practice. I saw lots of sheds just sitting on concrete blocks or risers. But GHI will not approve your permit without the anchoring plan. Even if you have a gravel pad, you still need to anchor the shed. Believe me, I have asked. GHI has a few approved ways to do this anchoring and they can send the options.

On the permit application, there’s a section where you need to select if you are using a contractor or if this is a self-build. Contractors need to provide the MHIC number (Maryland Home Improvement Contractor license number which you can search for here). On the GHI permit, you should select “Member (if not contractor)” because even though you are working with a shed builder, they are not considered contractors for these purposes, which was surprising for me. None of the shed builders I contacted had an MHIC number and said it was not required for their work. So this work is considered a self-build. But of course, make your own determination about this.

Once I submitted the permit, GHI came and took photographs of my yard and where the shed will be placed for my application packet. This is fine, of course, but I hadn’t expected to see someone taking photos of my yard.

Step 3: Installing the shed

Because I have a slope in the yard, I wound up getting a gravel pad base installed by https://www.siteprep.com/. This was arranged by my shed contractor (Stoltzfus Structure) and installed about 2 weeks before the shed itself – this timing just depends on availability.

Hint: measure the width of your access gates (if you have them) and communicate this to the site pad/shed folks. It turned out that I needed to temporarily take down part of my fence to enable the gravel compactor to get into my yard (I have a bit of a challenging access situation) but it’s not too difficult to put that back up.

I don’t have an exterior power outlet for power tools but that was no issue – they used either battery operated tools or ran a long extension cord from their truck. The installers brought everything they needed with them.

Parking was a bit of an issue. For the site prep, kind neighbors made room so the installers could park close to the path on the street. For the shed install, the installers parked a bit away on the street but were able to transport the equipment. In both cases, the installers took it in stride.

Step 4: Inspection

Final step is to contact GHI after the installation is complete for the permit inspection. My installation timeline stretched a bit but I just kept GHI in the loop and it was fine.

Step 5: Completion

And it’s done! Honestly, the whole thing was more challenging than I expected but now I have a shed! And soon I’ll have more space inside my unit after I move a bunch of stuff to the shed.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

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