Building vs Buying Raised Beds: 8 Key Factors to Consider

Raised beds are a game-changer for gardeners, but should you buy them premade or build your own? Garden expert Logan Hailey weighs the pros and cons of building versus buying raised beds and how to decide which is best for you.

building vs. buying raised beds. Garden view from Birdies Metal Raised Garden Beds. They offer a sleek and modern aesthetic with their durable, galvanized steel construction and clean lines. These raised beds feature sturdy sidewalls that provide structural integrity and support for various garden layouts. Available in a range of sizes, shapes (rectangular, round), and colors (black, white and pale green), Birdies Metal Raised Garden Beds provide ample growing space for vegetables.

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You can dramatically upgrade your garden with the incredible benefits of raised bed growing: improved drainage, healthier roots, less digging, easier access, reduced back pain, and aesthetically pleasing garden layouts. But when it’s time to install a raised bed, how do you choose between the premade options versus DIY builds? 

From metal to cedar to upcycled materials, beds come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. If you aren’t super handy and want a quick start, pre-assembled beds may be best for you. But if you love carpentry and want to completely customize your beds, DIY is the way to go. 

This guide weighs the pros and cons of building versus buying raised beds, whether you want to save time or money (or both).

If you want to stock up on some of the quality gardening tools and products featured here, head over to the Epic shop to take advantage of 50% off selected merchandise, free shipping for text subscribers, and other big savings during our Memorial Day sale, including discounts on Birdies Garden Beds!

Quick Comparison: DIY vs. Premade Raised Beds

Type DIY Homemade Raised Beds Premade Store Bought Raised Beds
Cost $50+ depending on size and materials $100-$600, depending on size, material, and quality
Time 3+ hours (1 person) 1 hours or less (1 person)
Aesthetics Depends on your carpentry skills Professionally-made, sealed, and polished for uniformity
Customization Maximum customization; you are building from scratch 6-in-1 customization for unique garden sizes and layouts
Skillset Requires basic to advanced carpentry skills No building skills required
Tools Saws, drill, sander, and other power tools needed No power tools required, only a level and screwdriver needed
Longevity Highly variable based on construction, sealing, and maintenance Designed to last 10-20 years, fully sealed and weatherproofed, may include warranty
Materials You can reuse or recycle any material, like scrap wood or logs Limited to cedar or metal from manufacturer
Height Fully customizable to minimize bending over Available in 15” or 29” heights

Should I Build or Buy Raised Beds?

Close-up of a man installing a raised bed in his garden. A man is holding a black rubber hammer in his hands. A raised bed consists of interlocking wooden frames. The gardener wears an electronic black watch on his wrist and a large silver ring on his ring finger.
Whether store-bought or homemade, raised beds offer versatility and value.

You can reap all the benefits of raised bed gardening with store-bought or homemade beds. The pricing, timing, aesthetics, and customization will differ. If you want to get started right away, it’s best to purchase an all-in-one raised bed kit. Whether you prefer metal or wooden beds, a premade kit includes everything you need to assemble a bed in less than an hour without any tools. The high-volume production of these beds ensures they are competitively priced, which means the cost of materials may be about the same as a DIY option.

But if you have more time on your hands and you are fairly handy with carpentry tools, building your own beds may be the logical choice. They can offer more customization and the opportunity to upcycle or reuse materials. DIY can be cheaper, but they can also be more time-consuming. You must account for the labor, tools, hardware, and maintenance of the beds.

As a gardener who has had dozens of raised beds over the years, my plants perform equally well in my homemade and store-bought beds. But if you enjoy the aesthetics of high uniformity and the ability to easily add more beds over time, the prefab beds offer the best value

Ultimately, buying is best for beginners. Building is ideal for experienced gardeners who want to recycle cheaper materials. Let’s dig into more details regarding the pros and cons of each option.

DIY vs. Premade Raised Garden Beds: 8 Factors to Consider

A raised bed is a long-term investment for your garden. Some beds can last for five years, while others can last for 20 years or more! The beds majorly impact what your yard looks like, how your plants perform, and how easy it is to work in your garden. 

Moreover, they are difficult to move once they’re in place. It’s better to plan ahead with a layout and careful decision-making to ensure you are happy with your garden for years to come. There are a lot of factors to consider in this decision, so let’s explore them one by one.

Price

Close-up of raised table crops growing in a garden. They are made from high-quality, galvanized steel and feature a modular design.
Quality and materials dictate raised bed prices.

The price varies widely based on quality and materials, costing anywhere from $50 to $600, depending on the size and construction. Metal raised garden bed kits start at around $100 to $300, while cedar raised bed kits average $250 to $350 

While some mistakenly believe building DIY Beds is cheaper, this is not always the case. You must consider the cost of wood (or metal), hardware, tools, and, most notably, your time and labor! A skilled carpenter can upcycle materials and create a nice raised bed for $50 to $100, but a beginner may struggle to meet this budget because of the investment of tools and the cost of mistakes.

For gardeners starting from scratch with zero tools or skills, building your own beds can end up being the same price or even more expensive. If you want to save money, time, and headaches, buying a premade raised bed is more feasible.

The larger-scale sourcing and manufacturing of these beds ensures you get a competitive price on materials that may cost more at your local hardware store. For example, cedar is extremely expensive at many big box stores, but the Epic Gardening Cedar Raised Beds are fairly affordable, pre-cut, and ready to install in less than an hour!

Time

Close-up of two beds made of wood planks. One bed is completely ready and filled with soil. The second is still unfinished. Wooden planks lie on an unfinished wooden frame.
Opt for premade kits for swift setup or DIY for customization.

It can take less than an hour to install a prefabricated bed because all the pieces are pre-cut and ready to assemble, but a DIY build can take much longer. If you are short on time and you want to get growing right away, it’s best to buy a premade raised bed kit. You can assemble your bed in less than an hour, fill it with soil, and start planting on the same day! Whether you prefer metal or wood 

On the other hand, if you have a lot of time on your hands or your teenage kids need a summer project, building raised beds is the way to go! It can take three to six hours to assemble a raised garden bed, depending on your skillset, tools, and materials.

Skillset and Tools

Close-up of a woman screwing a wooden frame .The woman is wearing blue trousers and a purple long sleeve. She screws the frame using a blue screwdriver. The wooden frame is made up of many long strips of wood.
Start with store-bought kits for simplicity and avoid costly mistakes.

Many beginner gardeners are also new to the world of homesteading in general. I had never touched a shovel in my life until I started a garden! Store-bought raised bed kits are ideal for novice growers who lack carpentry skills. But if you have a background in building or carpentry, you can certainly build them for an exciting custom project.

Your skill set and tool availability also directly impact the price of the beds. I once built two beds that were each 4 feet wide and 6 feet long. When I saw the price of premade beds at the garden store (around $400+), I gawked and insisted that I could build my own for cheaper. But by the time I added up the expensive cost of quality lumber, hardware, drill bits, non-toxic wood sealer, and my numerous mistakes, I had spent nearly $300 on each bed! 

Moreover, I had to factor in the cost of my mistakes. At the time, I was a novice builder and had very few carpentry skills. I messed up several cuts, stripped many screws, and realized I was in way over my head. But I’d already spent an entire afternoon building the beds, so I had to finish them. In hindsight, I wish I had bought pre-fabricated beds because I would’ve spent about the same dollar value with far fewer headaches and a more polished garden aesthetic.

If you already have a lot of carpentry tools in your garage, you may be more equipped to build on a budget. This is especially true if you have scrap wood or materials you’d like to upcycle into garden beds. Now that I have more carpentry skills and tools, I know I could build a quality raised bed for less than $50. Many of the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen were made with budget-friendly homemade beds.

Materials

Close-up of Asparagus plants growing in a raised bed in a garden. Asparagus is a perennial flowering plant characterized by its slender, spear-like stems and delicate fern-like foliage. The bed is steel, with a ribbed surface and a creamy white color.
Pre-fabricated beds ensure quality materials and toxin-free gardening.

Wood and galvanized steel are the most popular materials for garden beds. Material sourcing is a major consideration when deciding whether to build or buy your beds. If you don’t have a lot of local building stores in your area, it can be difficult to find the supplies you need. Ordering lumber or metal online doesn’t make much sense when you could order a pre-fabricated raised bed with free shipping for about the same price.

Most premade bed kits are constructed of rot-resistant wood like cedar or hemlock. Since treated wood may contain toxic chemicals, it is important to find wood that is naturally resistant to decay without harming your garden crops. Remember that many standard building materials are not food-safe. DIY beds require more research and visits around town to find the right materials for the job.

If you choose to build your own beds, you will have to source quality lumber, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Regular framing lumber (like the 2x4s at your local hardware store) may be cheaper, but will not last as long and could rot within the first few years. Many mainstream lumber yards also sell a lot of chemically treated wood that poses a risk to the vegetable gardener. If you want to build with metal, you’ll need to find quality galvanized steel that won’t leach heavy metals or other chemicals into the soil.

Fortunately, when buying beds, the sourcing and toxin screening is already taken care of. For example, our Birdie’s Metal Raised Beds are designed to last 20+ years thanks to the specialty aluzinc steel and USDA-approved, food-safe paint. These beds are also constructed with stainless steel hardware, so the parts won’t rust or corrode over time.

Height

Birdie's Metal Raised Beds boast a sleek and sturdy design crafted from galvanized steel, providing durability and longevity. These raised beds feature clean lines and a modern aesthetic. Raised beds are available in black, white and pale green, as well as rectangular and round shapes. Various plants grow in the beds, including young seedlings of different types of lettuce, radishes and cabbage.
Raised beds offer ergonomic gardening with adjustable heights for comfort.

No more hunching over—you can garden while you stand up! One of the best parts of raised bed gardening is the back-saving access. Pre-fabricated beds have standardized heights, typically 15” tall, 29” tall, or an elevated 31” tall planter

However, building your own beds is advantageous if you want a super custom height. If you have a bad back, a disabled child, or an elderly parent, you may prefer to create DIY beds that specifically fit the targeted height you need.

Some beds are ultra-deep, offering expanded root space for deep-rooted crops while also ensuring you don’t have to bend over to plant or weed. But it is important to remember that you still have to fill a tall bed with soil. It can be very expensive to fill a giant raised bed with pure topsoil, so you may have to use some of the tips in the video below to ensure you can fill the planter on a budget. 

YouTube video

Sustainability

Close-up of planters with various vegetable crops in a sunny garden. Crafted from solid timber, they boast a warm and inviting appearance. They contain lettuce, beets and lush potato bushes.
Opt for sustainable gardening with reclaimed materials or eco-friendly products.

Building your own beds allows you to sustainably reuse or recycle materials. For example, if you have a fallen tree on your property, you can arrange the logs into a bed for a low-cost, ultra-sustainable option. You can also reuse scrap wood from other projects as long as it isn’t treated or painted. 

Similarly, if you buy garden beds from a reputable source, you’ll want to check that they use sustainable suppliers. Here at Epic, we work closely with our manufacturers to ensure the most eco-friendly products possible. Our cedar beds are crafted in the USA from American western red cedar. These trees are sustainably harvested in replanted woodlands and the tree species is native to the U.S. You don’t have to worry about endangered redwoods or exotic forests getting cut down to build your garden.

Our metal raised beds meet the same level of sustainable standards. They are manufactured in Australia with 100% green renewable energy and ethical labor. We use steel offcut recycling to make the most of the steel industry’s byproducts, reducing space in landfills and making the most of scraps that would otherwise get thrown away. Amazingly, you would never know this when looking at the polished aesthetic of a fully installed modular Birdie’s bed.

Customization

Close-up of an unusually shaped wooden raised bed. This raised bed has a hexagonal shape. Various coniferous and pine plants grow in the garden bed with mulched soil. The mulch consists of pine cones.
Easily customize your garden with DIY or prefab kits.

Gardeners with small or awkwardly shaped yards may worry about the size and shape options. DIY beds are fully customizable, but modern prefab kits offer an impressive amount of personalization. If you buy a 6-in-1 modular raised bed, you can easily adjust the width and length to fit in your space. There are even circular beds for garden centerpieces and raised planters to fit on patios. The pre-cut panels and boards can be assembled in several different variations to fit your specific space.

Still, building your own beds offers maximum customization because you are starting from nothing. You could build a hexagonal bed, a heart-shaped bed, or any crazy shape you can imagine! You can also experiment with different wood stains or colored metal finishes as long as you can find products that are non-toxic and food-safe.

However, buying a bed ensures that the shape is also functional. One of the biggest mistakes I made as a beginner gardener was designing beds that were not easy to access. Premade raised bed kits are expertly designed with accessibility in mind to ensure you can comfortably reach all areas of the bed while tending your plants.

Quality and Aesthetic

View of a garden with many colorful birdie's planters. They are sleek and modern, characterized by clean lines and a durable construction. Made from high-quality, powder-coated metal, these beds feature a minimalist design with a subtle sheen. They are available in black, white and light green. They have a drip irrigation system installed among growing young lettuce, cabbage, radish and zucchini plants.
Ensure your yard’s beauty with professionally made raised beds.

The final consideration is the overall aesthetic of your yard. Again, a DIY build allows you endless personalization, but professionally-made purchased beds ensure a polished, uniform appearance. Nobody wants fallen-apart scrappy looking beds that detract from the beauty of your yard. If you aren’t quite an experienced builder yet, it may be useful to source beds that you know will look good for years to come.

Do you like a sleek, modern, minimalist look? The uniformity of prefabricated metal raised beds in the same color will keep your garden streamlined and tidy. Choose from slate gray, mist green, or light clay, and assemble with the same size. Space them in lines with 1.5 to 2-foot wide walkways between each bed. This will lend an ultra-organized and refined aesthetic to your yard.

Do you have a classic country-style homestead? You may want the timeless earthy look of cedar raised beds. You can arrange them in rows or line the borders of your garden with them, opting for something different in the center. Woodgrain offers a down-to-earth natural aesthetic that doesn’t need too much maintenance to stay looking nice. You may want to oil the beds with linseed or tung oil every year to prevent rot and keep them shiny.

Do you prefer a quirky, eclectic vibe? Build your own beds or mix-and-match different colors of metal raised beds and vertical planters. Colorful gardens are especially fun for community settings and children’s play. Remember, there are no rules! Every single bed can be different for more diversity and excitement.

Final Thoughts

Modern garden bed kits have come a long way in the past few years. With larger-scale sustainable manufacturing and more affordable pricing, premade kits are more accessible than ever. If you are a beginner wanting to save time and money while ensuring an aesthetically-pleasing yard, it’s best to buy a premade kit that you can assemble with zero tools in less than an hour!

Still, craftiness and creativity are valuable skills in the garden. If you want the most personalized and sustainably upcycled raised beds, building is your best option! A DIY project will allow maximum creative expression and the potential for major budget savings, but it may take longer to build the beds and they may not look as uniform. 

Personally, I love an eclectic blend of home built and store bought beds. If you have the tools and enjoy carpentry, building your own beds is extremely rewarding. But when you want to get plants in the ground ASAP, a premade kit is convenient and affordable.

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