Not Just Your Ordinary Shed

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The shed evolves
By Daily Hampshire Gazette
Created 09/14/2011 - 5:00am

Sheds aren’t what they used to be, but as Wayne Buxton will tell you, that’s certainly not a bad thing. Buxton, who co-owns ShedWorks, a shed-building company in Palmer, along with his son Eric Buxton, has been in the shed business for over 30 years. While Wayne Buxton says when he first started, "Sheds were just a box, nothing," today, the definition of a shed stretches from a 4-by-6-foot chicken coop to a 42-by-82-foot building - and includes everything in between. Gone are the days when sheds were property eyesores for necessary storage. Now, Eric Buxton says, sheds are the very centerpieces in some of their customer's yards.

In a recent interview at the ShedWorks' Belchertown display area, home to walk-in examples of the company's most popular models, Wayne and Eric Buxton explained the wide variety of reasons customers approach them for a ShedWorks custom-built shed. One of the main reasons there is such a potpourri of specific requests, Eric Buxton said, is that people have so many items to store these days. From ATVs to pool and yard equipment to motorcycles and even cars, ShedWorks' "sheds" can get as large as multi-car garages and barns, he said.

"We cater to each customer's needs, so almost every shed we do is different," Wayne Buxton said.

Another common reason customers come to the company with their shed wishes, he said, is that many people want to create a space for their hobbies. One shed ShedWorks has built, he said, was for a couple who wanted a fully functioning sugar shack - so the Buxtons made it happen. Another special shed they fashioned, he said, was for a policeman who was also a skilled blacksmith, and wanted a space where he could enjoy his smithing hobby after work.

The father-son team also say they receive requests for custom elements to be added to more basic sheds.

"There's a story behind every shed," Wayne Buxton said, and while he admits he may not remember each customer from his past decades on the job, he does remember each shed and its story.

"Everybody has a story and it's just interesting," he said.

For one customer who loved hunting, the Buxtons built a special beam on the outside of the shed, just the right size for the hunter to hang deer from. For another customer who wanted to use a shed to extend outdoor living space, the Buxtons built one that included space for their hot tub and a plasma screen TV. ShedWorks has also fulfilled requests for sheds that function as horse barns, dog kennels, art studios, and children's playhouses, among others.

And while the Buxtons have built more than their share of creative sheds, Eric Buxton said the average customer who comes to them, or any shed distributor in the area, is typically looking for a basic garden shed in which to store patio furniture or yard and pool equipment.

He said their most popular size of garden shed is either 10 by 12 or 12 by 16 feet. The 12-by-24-foot shed is the next most popular, because it can store a car plus lawnmowers. These average-sized sheds, he adds, will typically cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. From that point on, the more creative the shed, most likely the higher the cost.

The price of quality

The Buxtons, who say their record for most sheds on one street is 15 (in Ludlow), also clarify that they don't charge $2,000 to $5,000 or more for nothing. Working with just one employee, the Buxtons handle every aspect of the process, from selecting the materials and prefabricating each element of the shed to delivery and on-site assembly.

"We're a very small, controlled operation, but we put out a lot of work for three people," Wayne Buxton said. As ShedWorks promises customization, customers can select everything from the size of their shed to the doors, windows, siding, roofing, finishing - such as trim and paint color - and design.

Eric Buxton said the average building takes just about a day to install, as they deliver their sheds on their large trailer, ready for assembly. For customized sheds the installation time varies depending on the size of the shed and the detail that goes into it.

"There are other things we get involved with, such as site work, so that adds to the duration," he said, adding that the largest projects can take up to a few weeks or even a month to complete.

According to their website, [1], each ShedWorks shed has a lifetime structural warranty, a 25-year shingle warranty, a 25-year siding and floor plywood warranty, and a 40-year pressure-treated framing warranty. Wayne Buxton said the siding and roofing in customized sheds may carry whatever warranty the manufacturer promises, but added, "We search for the best materials (for) siding, roofing, framing. We do work with local suppliers and if they can provide the color name and brand name of siding or roofing, we will go to the exact supplier, if the (customer) wants to match their house and shed."

Built with trusses

The most unusual element of ShedWorks sheds, Wayne Buxton says, is the engineered roof trusses they install in each one.

"Our sheds stand alone from everyone else's" because of the roof trusses, he said. "I have never seen anybody put trusses in their sheds."

This may be because of Wayne Buxton's background. At 17, he got a job at Truss Engineers in Springfield, making roof trusses and floor trusses. Now, at the age of 60, he says he still believes in them, and even more so. According to the ShedWorks website, "The bottom chord or ceiling joist in a roof truss has two purposes: it gives extra strength for building - your walls stay straight; and it also creates a larger overhead storage area." Available in many different pitches and configurations, ShedWorks' engineered roof trusses are designed to carry New England snow, and, Wayne Buxton said, "I could pick up your car and put it on the roof."

Despite all the evident perks of a ShedWorks shed, this past winter, the Buxtons said, they had barely any business. In fact, Wayne Buxton said, they had no jobs for three months. Their best time, Eric Buxton said, is typically from spring until the end of the fall. And this year, Wayne Buxton said, they have more work. "Eighty percent of our work is word of mouth," he said.

For most local shed companies, the Amish in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County pose the largest threat to business, the Buxtons say. "Approximately 50,000 sheds a year come out of Lancaster County," Wayne Buxton said. However, he noted, he once went to Pennsylvania and looked at about 20 different shed shops, and none used the ShedWorks roof trusses.

"In Amish sheds," he said, "you have a lot of air space. With roof trusses, you have extra storage."

Competition closer to home, the Buxtons say, includes a number of shed companies in Connecticut that make quality sheds, and Hometown Structures in Westfield, with whom, Wayne Buxton said, ShedWorks maintains a friendly relationship.

Do-it-yourself shed kits

While there are a number of local companies that customers can turn to for a shed, Wayne Buxton said that for some handy homeowners, do-it-yourself kits are certainly an option. In fact, he said, ShedWorks, which already has pre-cut pieces for the sheds they deliver, offers make-it-yourself kits - a "handful" of which he says they sell every year. Wayne Buxton also said that a ShedWorks kit includes "pre-cut framing for the floor, walls that are totally made ... trim (that) is almost all pre-cut - all you need is a handsaw to finish the job." Eric Buxton added that the truss roof is easy to put up, their doors come pre-hung, and homeowners will just have to put in the windows.

However, the Buxtons warn that constructing sheds from a kit on your own won't save much, only about 15 percent of the price most companies would charge to install the shed. Also, they caution would-be-shed-builders that they would have to go about obtaining a permit on their own.

"You have to follow regulations for every single town," Wayne Buxton said. "We know most of the building inspectors," he added, so while all ShedWorks customers must obtain a permit with their town, it's easier on homeowners with ShedWorks there to install the structure and thus aid in any permit struggles.

Finally, there is also the manual labor, which Eric Buxton said definitely goes faster with their experienced team of three. Of the kit option, he said, "Not a lot of people do it." Still, they don't discourage homeowners from buying kits, and they say they will always give their customers tips if they ask, such as how best to transport the shed, pick the placement in their yard, and set it up.

A shed miracle

One loyal ShedWorks customer, Russell Bressett of Monson, has quite the standout shed story to share. At age 68, a retired truck driver who now drives school buses in the town of Monson, Bressett's story is as miraculous as it is tragic. It starts with the June tornadoes.

"My wife passed away in December," Bressett said, "and then I lost my house." The day a tornado ripped through his town, Bressett said, he was on the way down to his cellar when "the house blew up in my hand - and landed on my car." Tossed downstairs into his cellar, in the blink of an eye, his house was gone, his car was wrecked. But, he said, he feels lucky to have walked away - devastated, shaken, but with only "a few bumps and bruises and bangs" to report. "A house is a house," he said. "It destroyed a lot of memories, but memories are in your heart."

Here's where ShedWorks comes in. Bressett, who had five sheds - two metal, one wood, and two rubber - on his 3 acres of land, had recently decided it was time to treat himself to a new shed. So he headed to the Eastern States Exposition to search for the best, but, he said, the sheds were all so expensive he walked away disappointed. After doing a good deal of local research, he discovered ShedWorks.

"I was very impressed by the way he built the sheds," Bressett said of Wayne Buxton. "I said to him, 'I like the way your roof is' ... (and) I want to put a little higher roof on my shed. I wanted a 4- or 5-foot loft." After getting a price from him, Bressett said he found that while Buxton's was "not the cheapest price ... it was the best constructed that I looked at." In a matter of time, ShedWorks built Bressett a sixth shed - his second wooden shed - which Bressett said he was "very satisfied" with.

Then came the tornado.

Besides destroying his house and car, Bressett said, the twister ruined five of his six sheds - all except for the ShedWorks shed, which, although it was damaged, was reparable. All that is currently left standing on his property, Bressett says, is "the shed, probably 800 to 1,000 feet from the street, and in my front yard, my house is gone, only the foundation is there." The Buxtons repaired the roof of the shed - which the tornado went through - as well as the window that broke, free of charge. Since then, Bressett said, he has bought a second shed from ShedWorks, which the Buxtons painted for free. "That's the kind of person that he is," Bressett said of Buxton.

While Bressett is currently living in a house his insurance company is renting him, he says he hopes to be back on his own land by the end of January or the beginning of February. He also has signed another contract with ShedWorks, he said, to build him a shed he plans to use as a playhouse for his eight grandchildren.

"I will paint it barn red, like a schoolhouse, with windows and doors," he said.

For now, Bressett said, he is looking forward to having the playhouse up and is excited for his grandchildren to see it. He is also busy at work again, he says, since the Monson schools have started up again for the year.
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