The Shed

Seven months after we purchased our 5 bedroom, 2000 square foot house on just over half an acre I have started to build a shed to store more stuff. We don’t have an issue with hoarding or anything like that. There just isn’t very much storage space in our home. Each of the 5 bedrooms only has about 5 to 6 square feet of closet space. With minimal closet space like that and large boxes of holiday decorations or seasonal clothing the struggle for more storage is very real.

There are plenty of prebuilt or simple do it yourself sheds out there that you can scoop up for anything from a couple hundred to couple thousand dollars. I wanted something a little more than what these mass produced sheds could offer. With over half an acre to mow and maintain I recently purchased a riding lawnmower, which needs a place to be stored that is not in the elements. I also need a space that I can work on small projects like woodworking.

I decided that the only way I could get everything I wanted in a shed without spending an obscene amount of money was to build my own. Here is the list of requirements for my shed.

  • Must be large but under the county limit before inspections are required. 10 x 12 is what I went with.
  • Must have an indoor ceiling height of 9 feet.
  • Must have natural daylight (windows)
  • Craftsman Style
  • The main entry must be wide enough for a riding lawn mower.
Top View of Floor Plan

It was easy enough to determine the foot print for this thing. I cleared a large bush that sat behind the garage and ordered two and half tons of 3/4 inch bluestone to make my foundation.

Side View of Shed

The Sun arcs along the the peak of the house from side to side and slightly more on the front than in the back. Since the shed is behind the garage I want to have the roof slant in one direction away from the house. This will accomplish two things. One, the rain will run away from the house. Two, I can build the peak of the roof slightly higher than the bottom of the garage’s roof allowing daylight to shine in through a couple of high mounted windows.

Day 1

I used 12 foot 4x4 pressure treated lumber for the skids that will make up my foundation on the leveled gravel base. The frame and joists are made up of 2x6 pressure treated lumber. I used 4 long lug bolts to attach the outside floor frame to the outer most skids. I then toenailed the joist to the skids in the middle.

Nailing joist for the floor

Day 2

I had originally planned on using pressure treated plywood for the floor but the wood we ordered was far too thin and full of knots. It also was maybe a little over kill. I went and bought some new 3/4 inch plywood that was not pressure treated but much better quality.

Day 3

We built the walls and put cheaper siding on the wall facing the garage. For the other 3 walls we plan to go with something a little more premium. We have an air compressor and nail gun but I wanted to give it a shot with the old hammer and nail. Its not as fast, but also not so bad. One downside was the noise from pounding the nails was greatly amplified by the garage right behind us. Ear protection was a must, my ears were ringing after just a few studs without them.

As it turns out I screwed up the spacing of the studs in this first wall I did. I must have spaced out and ended up setting them at something like 16 and 3/4. Luckily its just a shed and shouldn’t effect anything too much. We added another stud in the wall to make sure we could mount our 4x8 siding panels.

The cheap siding is this prefabricated particle board with grooves to imitate plank siding. We only have one seam that doesn’t overlap and that is the one where they fall on the stud in the middle for hanging. The siding is pretty cool stuff, if this were any other shed I would use it all over.

Obligatory photo with the dog

I don’t know why but we wasted a good 15 minutes scratching our heads on laying out the studs exactly 16 inches on center. After screwing up the first wall we wanted to make damn sure that we got it right this time. We did.

My old man has been coming over to give me a hand with this build. We definitely needed 2 people to lift the wall up and into place. Once it was upright we used a spare 2x4 as a brace with a couple of nails tacked to it. Without it, a fairly good gust of wind and this thing would fall right over at this point in the build. It’s fall and we typically get quite a bit of wind around here during this time of the year.

At this point I am starting to wonder if I should have dug down into the ground a bit. The shed is sitting pretty high up after the gravel base and skids. Originally I was worried about getting it level after digging down. As it turns out the floor has been perfectly level throughout the build.

Working on the shed with the old man.

The third wall went together the fastest. I guess that shouldn’t be a big surprise. The three walls were all for day 3. It was a beautiful day probably the last day we will have this year in the high 70s.

Above all else, working on a project like this with my old man warms my heart the most. Its these memories that ill have forever.

Day 4

All four walls are not built. We used 2x6 for the header of the doorway. Im thinking that maybe we should have gone with 2x8 for such a span but I think for this application 2x6 will get the job done safely. Next steps are to prep for siding and frame out the roof. We also need to purchase some windows.

The days are getting shorter and colder so the clock is ticking on this project. I hope we can get the roof finished fairly quickly. The engineering of the roof will be our biggest challenge.

Using a calculator I found more exact dimensions of the roof and its slope.

Day 5

The next step was to build a 2 foot wall with windows that would go on top of the back wall. This really too us 2 days to fully complete (but lets call it all of day 5). The engineering behind this little wall was the most complex part of the build yet.

We decided that the best way to go about this was to build the small wall in 2 parts on the ground then lift it up into place above the rear wall. We also decided that these 2 sections should be almost fully constructed before we get it mounted up top. The windows, and sub-siding had to be installed to the wall frame prior to lifting it into place. This meant that the wall would be heavier but it would save us from attempting to finish it 12 feet in the air and in a very tight space against the garage.

I chose to go with two 15 by 31 inch “hopper” windows to optimize space while allowing for as much light as possible over the top of the garage. I also have the ability to open these windows should I ever choose to.

Once we constructed each of the 2 wall sections with their windows and sub-siding attached we lifted them up into place. It was pretty serious challenge but we took our time and made sure we got them up there in the safest way possible considering the situation. Once in place we secured them to the top plate of the wall with a liberal amount of 3 inch deck screws and nails. Then finished it off with four 4 inch lug bolts drilled through the top plate and tightened down with washers and nuts. The goal is to get this second level wall to act as one with the wall below.

A little rain shouldn’t stop us…

At this point we still had some daylight left in the day, though off in the distance we could see dark sky. The forecast called for showers at about 2:30 and it was about 1:45. I figured we could get the sub-siding (which consists of 1/2 inch particle plywood) attached to the walls and then call it a day. A little rain shouldn’t stop us from getting that done.

So, if you are unfamiliar with building walls you may not be aware that the frame of a wall is very unstable and highly susceptible to racking until you get some kind of siding and/or drywall hung on it. Even if you have 4 walls the entire structure can rack and lean without something to tie all the corners together. To remedy this while you work on getting everything built you can nail or screw a stud from one corner of the wall to the opposite corner. This prevents the wall from racking (becoming un-square) and possibly falling over.

To begin hanging the plywood to the walls we had to take off our braces which keep the walls from racking. At this point we have a sheet of 4 by 8 foot plywood in our hands as we hold it up against one of the walls to position it for hanging. The sky is suddenly much darker and my Dad is worried about his tools getting wet if it begins to rain. So we stop for a moment and he starts packing up and walking power tools to his car in the front of the house.

Oh shit, panic mode.

Thats when it came in. No, not the rain, but the wind. A sudden 50mph gust came roaring in. To the terrifying sound of nails and wood creaking under stress the structure violently leaned over about a foot. Oh shit, panic mode as I was thinking “I am about to lose all progress on this in a matter of seconds.” The wind was only going to continue to pound the walls back and fourth until they collapse.

My Father came running back to attempt to hold the walls (which was pretty futile) while I would run back and fourth from his car out front and back to the shed in the back yard. The tools needed to just screw or hammer a brace to the walls were packed away making the ordeal feel like an eternity. After nearly having a heart attack from sprinting back and fourth and freaking out about the near catastrophic disaster we encountered we had some braces in place.

Day 6

The wind continued to pound us for 3 days. It seriously reminded me of a hurricane. But the shed held up. The next week we got to work again. This time a calm day allowed us to get all of the sub-siding up on the walls.

We also had time that weekend to plan out the roof and cut our birds mouth notches into the rafters. We chose 12 foot 2x6 boards for the rafters.

Day 7

Each week the project gets tested by the elements. Last week was heavy wind and this week was heavy rain. We’ve been covering the loose materials and floor with a large tarp in-between work days. The shed appears to have survived the heavy rain and now its time to get that roof up!

Due to the very low slope of the roof I decided to run the rafters 16 inches on center. I think typically you can get away with wider spread rafters but I was a little concerned with heavy snow sagging the roof in the winter.

We started the day early and built our overhanging rafters that will set the side of the roof out about 8–10 inches on either side. They are essentially a thick ladder. Once we had both overhangs built we had to hoist them up and toe nail them to the edge of the top plates. We also gave them some extra support by screwing a 2x4 as a brace that spanned from the rear wall to the rafter that was screwed into the top plate. You’ll see what I mean in the photos if you look at where the outside rafters meet the rear wall.

Once we had both of the “ladders” up we cranked out the rest of the rafters in pretty short time. We also decided to connect the “ladders” to the closest interior rafter as further support to the overhang. The rafters were connected to the top plates with metal brackets.

More rain is in the forecast so we had to get the plywood on the rafters the same day to get it covered. The process went pretty well. We would offset each sheet and trim the excess off with the circular saw. We left an inch overhang of plywood to allow for a facia board that will run around the ends rafters and cover them up.

In the very end we started to run short on 4x8 sheets and had to use scraps to fill the last 4 feet of roof. We ran out of daylight in the end before we could get the felt paper up for water proofing. We tied the tarp to the roof to keep it pretty tight for the week of rain ahead.

Day 8

It’s cold now. Today started out with us installing the facia board on the sides of the rafters. I decided to spend a little extra money and save myself some extra work right now and in the future by purchasing the PVC (composite plastic) facia boards. These come in white and require no painting or maintenance in the future. They aren’t cheap though. I’m talking about 40 bucks for a 16 foot piece of 1x5. We screwed them to the rafters with white 2 inch screws.

After the facia boards we tackled the water drip edges (flashing). The flashing prevents water from following the surface of the shingles back up underneath to the plywood or facia. I left a finger width gap between the flashing drip edge and the facia to allow the water to fall away from the facia.

We also finished up the triangular section of wall that was still open. I installed a couple of 2x4 braces under the side rafters on each wall. We cut out our plywood and nailed it up.

The next layer of product to lay on top of the roof is the water proofing paper. We used a product that is a little different than typical tar and felt paper called GAF FeltBuster. This is another layer of protection against water if it happens to work its way up under the shingles. You have to use plastic capped nails on tar paper to keep the nails water tight and to keep them from tearing through the paper. We got started on this day pretty late in the day and ended up finally finishing just as there was no more daylight left, about an hour after the sun had already gone down. It was super cold and dark up on the roof finishing this.

Day 9

Time for the shingles to go on the roof. We started on the roof early in the day and it went super smoothly. That said we still worked until we ran out of day light. Every day now it seems to be a race against nightfall. It took a solid 6 to 8 hours to lay all the shingles on the roof.

It was exhausting but now the roof is water tight and we have 2 major tasks left before this sucker is fully weather tight.

  1. Hang siding.
  2. Hang the front door.

After that its all small things like sealing up small air gaps, building a work bench, and other storage solutions inside. Did I mention that this will be more than just a shed? It will also serve as my workshop so we will be designing a powered workspace inside along with smart storage options. Insulation is something I am currently thinking about but have not fully decided whether I will be installing it in this or not.

Day 10

I ordered all the James Hardie Plank siding for the shed so now we play the waiting game. Should be about 2 or 3 weeks from the manufacture to the Home Depot then to my house. In the mean time I have been working on some smaller things around the shed.

I ran power from my laundry room out to the shed so that I wont have to rely on long extension cords from the outlet on my deck. The power solution is a pretty simple and reversible one. I bought 14/3 cable, a 3 prong plug, a GFCI outlet and box, and a 1/2 inch PVC pipe.

The plug allows me to cut power to the shed from the laundry room when I want. I did this same thing for the outlet I installed on the deck when we first moved into the house. I try to make sure all of my updates to the house are as close to code and safe as possible and this feels like a pretty safe and reversible solution to me.

The wire runs outside and along the house to where we dug a trench between the house and the shed at which point we would bury the wire. I cut the PVC into pieces and along with some 90º pieces I created a large “U” shape for it to run through in the trench section. I used some duct seal compound around the holes that I drilled into the house and shed for the wire. The compound is water and air tight and we call the stuff monkey shit, and that may even be the brand name of the compound that we used but you can find it at hardware stores or amazon. Its great for sealing up holes around the house.

We wired up the outlet in the shed 18 inches from the floor right above the hole it comes in from. I plan to run a power strip from that outlet that will allow me to run lights and a few other devices at the same time. The GFCI outlet is another must have in terms of safety, especially since Ill be using some power tools and heaters from it.

After the power was finished we tackled filling the gaps between the rafters. We used left over plywood to cut a bunch of 14 by 6 inch panels. I tacked these panels into the top plate of the walls with just my brad nailer and 1 inch nails. After all the panels were installed I came back around all of them and sprayed some foam insulation around them to make it completely air tight.

Day 11

It’s been a few weeks since I have worked on the shed. The weather has been pretty wet and we are still waiting on the Hardie Wood Siding to come in. Today we decided to wrap the shed with the same felt paper we used on the roof. Similar to house wrap, we figured it couldn’t hurt to add one more barrier between the siding and the plywood.

Before we can begin on the siding we will need to attach all of the trim. We purchased several 5/4 inch x 4 inch x 8 foot trim boards. They will need to be hung on the sides of the shed and then primed and painted white. We only got as far as getting the front top trim board up and tacked today. We will finish the rest next weekend.

Day 12

These last few weeks have been real slow in terms of any progress on the shed. It has been about 4 weeks now and I am still waiting on my siding delivery. While I wait for that I decided to get the doors on this week. I figured doors can’t be too hard to build from scratch. I was so wrong. Never building doors ever again.

I was so wrong.

I figured that if I just build a box of 2x4s and lay plywood over that with trim on top I should have some nice thick doors. Well let me tell you that ticker does not equal better when it comes to doors. First of all, incase you haven’t noticed yet, doors swing and rotate out. Which means the thicker they are; the more they will bind up when closing since the backside will swing wider than the front. Kind of like a bus turning onto a street.

The binding of the doors’ arc was only the first headache. The next thing that gave me a hard time is getting the gaps around the doors to a reasonable tolerance. It takes super precise measurements to get doors evenly spaced in their opening/jam. Then hanging them on the hinges in high tolerance is super tricky too. If you have warped wood on the door it gets even more frustrating.

Overall I think the doors turned out okay. The moment they break I will be replacing them with some pre-hung store bought doors though. I should note that I did enjoy building each door and putting extra craftsmanship into them. It was really just getting them hung and aligned properly that was super exhausting. I have a small clip of me working on them with a hand plane here.

Day 13

The Hardie Wood is here! Over the last few weeks while I was waiting on my Hardie Wood siding spent a few days here and there getting the trim up and painted in preparation for the siding. The trim is 5/4 by 4 inches which gives a good offset to the 8 inch wide with 5 inch reveal siding I am going with. I just brad nailed them to the side of the shed every few feet. Someday I may come back and throw a few finishing nails into them but between all the caulk and brad nails in them I think they wont be going anywhere.

The siding is pretty straight forward and goes fairly quickly when you get going with some momentum. It also speeds up greatly if you have a partner that can work on cutting them to size while you nail them up. I also highly recommend getting a Turboshear Fiber Cement Siding Shear and a set of Gecko Gauges. The turbo shear is great because it reduces the dust created by cutting the fiber cement boards which will destroy your lungs if you breathe it in. We still used masks when cutting or drilling the boards. The Gecko Gauges hold each plank/board at the correct reveal from the previous board allowing you to nail it to the surface. It also keeps every board level as long as the first board you set was level.

Hardie Wood is a fiber cement board that is commonly used on higher end new home construction vs vinyl these days. It can come pre painted from the factory and is more durable and requires less maintenance than wood or vinyl. Its a bit more expensive than real wood or vinyl and probably way overkill for a shed. However, on such a small surface area the cost difference is probably less noticeable between the different materials, so I say go for it!

Did I mention that its early February and we are getting warm sunny days with highs in the 70s here. This extremely warm winter we are having has worked out perfectly for us getting this work in on the shed. Last year around this time the ground would be cover in a foot of snow. I don’t even want to imagine how unbearably hot this summer is going to be. Climate change…

Day 14

It has been a long time since I wrote an update on the shed. Mostly because, not too much has changed. The shed is pretty much all wrapped up. We finished the white trim and cedar shingle siding on the upper sides of the walls. We went through a lot of these shingles attempting to find decent ones. I attempted to save myself a lot of money buy buying grade D shingles which are primarily used for starter rows and under courses. But I was able to hunt through the 4 or 6 pallets we bought to find enough that were of quality.

From here on out its just small things like shelves and little accents to the workshop. I might update my blog with some of the bigger projects but for the most part the shed is coming to an end.

The shed/workshop has taken about 14–15 full days of work to build. I learned a lot along the way and feel pretty confident about tackling other construction or renovation projects around the house now. From here on out follow along with my projects at stellarnova.net/blog.