The _Shoffice_ build

I’m a Software Engineer and I work remote from home.

I used to have some desk space in one of our bedrooms. I shared the space with my wife’s LuLaRoe clothing inventory (which made for interesting video conference calls).

Her business has really taken off and she needed room for more inventory. I lost my space. So I have to build something in the backyard. Somebody out on the Inter-tubes coined the term “Shoffice”. That’s what I’m going to build.

The blank slate.

We need to move the play structure. I think I’ve paced the yard and measured about 400 times. Nevertheless, my wife and I have found the spot it needs to go, and the play structure is too close. I called a few close friends (there were six that showed up). After removing the stakes and disconnecting the swings the play structure was moved in about 30 seconds. Then it took about 30 to 45 minutes to get it squared up to the fence and the swings hooked back up.

With that moved, it’s more of a blank slate. I have some scrap wood in the garage that came as packaging with our new dishwasher. I’ll just cut two of them in half diagonally and then again to form a point. Stakes! Now, rummage through the toolchest in the messy garage and find that string-line that I bought too much of a few years ago (when I setup the concrete pad to extend the patio). Hammer the stakes in and wrap the string-line around them to get the idea of where this thing will be.

The footprint.

Now to the digging.

Archival photo: June 2011, after sod install and before the fence install. Beech tree on the left, one of the cedar trees on the right. Clearly invading each other’s personal bubbles.

Oh… roots. Ugh. There was a line of cedars and one beech tree that were chopped down a couple months ago to make room for some houses to be built on the other side of my fence. The trees were beautiful, but in every season, they wreaked havoc on my yard in some form or fashion. It’s the cedar’s and the beech’s last final act of struggle to torment me. It is to be a battle of suburban proportions.

My shovel is not enough. I find another piece of equipment in my messy garage. Purchased years ago for another purpose that proved fruitless at the time. But on this day, this equipment will fulfill the purpose for which it was manufactured (in China and sold at Harbor Freight). The Farm Jack.

More roots.

More. Roots.

Pretty sure I’m lifting the Continental Shelf.

The hole is dug. This took about 5 or 6 days because of the roots. We spread some dirt into some low spots in the yard and removing the roots was a time-sink. I would not have dug as much out had I realized that I was going to change my plan later. Looks like time-machines haven’t been invented yet in the future. Otherwise, I probably would have found some way to get a message to my past self about this.

I was going to just throw the gravel in the hole. But I want the gravel to be level and not get spread all over the yard. So I’ll build a crib for the baby gravel to sleep in.

I was going to have the gravel delivered. It was going to be $70 for 2 cubic yards, and $40 to deliver it. Then, I was going to have to schlep it back from the front to the backyard with a wheelbarrow.

Luckily, as you saw from the preceding photos, they’re doing some construction on the other side of the fence.

I just asked politely if I could buy 2 yards of the 3/4 minus for $70, and for another $10 if they would dump it over the fence.


This saved me about a week I think. Maybe that’s exaggerating, but it was a huge timesaver.

I had some extra. Then I compacted it with a hand-tamper.

Then I removed the excess and spread it next to my house.

Ready to go.

Next, I spent a 1/2 day gathering materials for the foundation and floor framing.

Blocks set. I used some 8" x 16" x 1.6" patio paver blocks to level it.

I got too many because I thought I was going to stack them to set it up higher. Then, my wife asked why. I didn’t have a good reason. But, I ended up using a couple of stacks to get it level. I used a 4 foot level. Then I set pieces of asphalt roofing as a moisture barrier and shimming.

Floor frame is done.

I broke a sprinkler pipe either when I built the gravel crib or when I compacted the dirt and gravel. Either way, I’m actually glad this happened. I was avoiding it because I was sick of digging. But it’s better that it happened now instead of breaking underneath _The Shoffice_ and spraying the underside.

Sprinklers re-routed.

Now with the sprinklers done, I can move on to insulating the floor.

First, some blocks to hold up the 4" of XPS foam to be flush with the top of the framing. I just cut these from pressure treated scraps and then nailed them in place.

I wish this next step was as magical as the transition from the picture above to the one below. It wasn’t.

I had to use a hand saw to cut the foam. It was so messy and squeaky. (My son hated it!). Then I used spray foam in a can (it’s called “Great Stuff”) to fill in the gaps. After it was all cured I used a putty knife to knock-down the foam insulation that was sticking up. I would highly recommend something sharper. Notice I said “knock-down”. It wasn’t cutting at all. Closer to tearing it off. But it’s done.

This is how it is stacked. the Area to fill is 5.5". The foam insulation is 2" thick. 1.5" (scrap 2x material) + 2" (foam board) + 2" (foam board) = 5.5"

It was a messy job.

Then, right after that, I get to work putting on the sub-floor deck.

And here are some sawhorses I built from an idea I saw on the interwebs. I have since put some little wooden stops on one side of each one so I can cut a piece of plywood vertically by myself. Very handy.

Since I have a flat surface that is the exactly the same size that the tops of the walls will be — I’ll pre-build the roof trusses. I went back and forth between building trusses, or making rafters after the walls were up. I went with trusses. My guess is that it was slightly easier, and I think it puts less tension on the outer walls since the trusses sit on top. But the same could be said the properly built rafters and ceiling joists. In the end, they’re both triangles.

These are the parts for the gussets I need to attach the bracing. I cut too many. Oh well.

First truss. In all of the videos I watched, and articles I read, no one really did this the same. Some nailed them, some screwed them together. Some used glue, some not.

One thing I did do, that I read, was use angle degrees instead of roof-pitch rise over run. That way, when-ever I do anything related to the roof it will be an easy mark and cut with a speed-square. I chose 30 degrees. That’s almost a 7/12 pitch. My house is a 6/12. A little steeper, but close enough.

On TV, they make the first truss, then setup blocks around it as stops to make all your other trusses inside of, so that they’re exactly the same. I made the first truss, and put the blocks around it.

I’m not on TV.

I messed up on some cuts, and had to get more wood. Luckily, I’ll be able to use it later.

First wall up. I started with the side walls on purpose. My gable end is on the long side. After all the walls are up, you put another top-plate (so it’s a double plate on the top of all the walls). This top plate over-laps the corner to tie the structure together. Since the gable end will stretch _across_ the front, I want my second top-plate to also stretch _across_ the front to help with any out-ward tension that may occur from the trusses. It’s a small structure, but I’d rather it be stronger than weaker.

The ceiling joists I mis-cut for the trusses. They were about 2 degrees off. It really mattered.

All the walls are up. Front wall is a 2x6 wall to match the expected framing for a standard pre-hung exterior door. It wasn’t that much more to buy 2x6 wood, for this reason. But that wall was _heavy_. My wife, my son, and I had to lift it. The headers are each three 2x6’s with about 1,000 nails in each of them. I got carried away with the nails.

It was about midnight when we finished. Our neighbor was kind enough to let us know.

My friend and his two sons came over to help me get the trusses up. Kinda looks like a little house now.

The front and back trusses are dropped 1.5" to accomodate some lookouts for a gable overhang. Otherwise, the gable trim sits on the building and offers nothing for shade (or a just _little_ rain protection).

Most of the sheathing is now done.

I know OSB and wood can get wet. But I don’t want it to. I borrow a tarp from my father-in-law. Instant roof.

Some detail of the truss bracing. It was super wobbly right after we got it up and nailed into place. I’ve done enough construction to remember seeing lots of bracing going in all kinds of diagonal directions. After some head-scratching and looking stuff up on the inter-tubes, I found what I needed to do. Make a triangle. duh.

On one side the diagonal brace goes from the bottom to the top. One the other side, it goes from top to bottom. I discovered through trial and error, what the angle cuts needed to be. It was 15 degrees. Hmm… because it’s half of 30, which is my roof angle..? I really have no idea. My wife and I worked on this together. We knew there was probably a super-easy carpenter short-cut. We’re not carpenters. So we resorted to the iterative approach. To the get the length, we did employ a little Pythagorean theorem though, it helped, and made us feel not quite so dumb.

Now the roof is sheathed and ready for the trim on the gables before I put on the roofing.

Front view.

Now the house-wrap is on. I ran out of Tyvek tape.

The trim is on the gables, but you can’t see it. It’s raining off and on. So I covered it because the roofing isn’t on yet.

This picture looks a little crusty. I took and from an upstairs window, and then cropped it.

The house wrap is stapled on and all taped up.

My wife and I watched this video a hundred times on how to properly seal up the window opening, and then this article (steps 3, 4, 5) on how to nail it in place.

I had installed windows when I did some framing work back in the day, but we didn’t seal them up like this. I think this is much better. I got this window flashing membrane here. Seemed to do the trick. It is very sticky. I no longer have finger-prints.

I did the roof trim first on the front and back. Then the drip-edge goes over that. I started the tar-paper. I thought I could get it all from one roll. I couldn’t. There’s no trim on the eves because I’ll be putting on rain gutters after I put on siding and paint.

Now that the weather is going to hold off for a few days, I can get the rest of the tar-paper on, then the drip-edge, and the shingles.

I had to buy a whole roll of tar-paper for the last 8 feet to cover the peak. That was lame. I used 30 pound, as everything I have read says to use 30#. Has less tendency to rip underneath you when you walk on it. I stapled it on like crazy.

Then the drip-edge went on. I bought a pair on tinners (tin-snips as I called them). I probably should have done the rear gable first. There’s no close-up of it here, but the rear-gable drip-edge looks nicer than the front.

Drip-edge isn’t completely necessary, but it’s inexpensive, helps the shingles not droop over time, and most importantly keep water from dripping down the trim.

Finally, now it’s weather resistant if I get a drizzle. It shouldn’t rain soon so I should have enough time to get the shingles on.

I chose to use architectural shingles to match those that are on the house. Asphalt shingles require a starter strip. With three-tab shingles, you can just cut off the tabs and make your own starter strip. It’s not very practical with architectural shingles. I bought a starter roll. It just rolls around the edges. Do the eves first, then the gables because water runs downhill. This was a little tricky because I hate heights. Even this little shed roof freaks me out a bit. But I got it.

Now I’m ready for shingles. You can’t see any cut-outs for roof venting. I chose to do a ridge vent. It’s also a little more expensive, but I think it’s easier to install, they work better, and it looks nicer than the turtle vents.

The roofing I got done in a day except the ridge. I was kinda slow because I’m so afraid of heights. Actually, it’s not really the height. It’s falling with a sudden stop at the bottom that freaks me out.

When I got to the ridge venting, I tried installing a hard plastic panel system that snaps together and you just trim off the extra. It was super-lame and looked awful. I had three of them, and they were about $11 a piece. So it was a $33+ throw-away. I used them because they were the only thing I could find.

I hopped back in the inter-webs and found that Home Depot carries a ridge-vent roll, so I used that. Much better looking and easier to install and trim. It was about $50, but so worth it!

I also got the door in. More on that saga later. And the trim is now on. Next is a little bit of rough electrical and the siding.

I got the outdoor sub-panel box on. Actually, I put it on twice. The hole where the lines will enter the building was on a stud because I thought I was clever when I put the top mounting screw in. I was too clever and had to move it over by putting in another piece of blocking.



It’s level, which is nice.

I was going to put the mounting blocks before the siding. Then I read some stuff from Norm Abram from This Old House, see #15. So I think I’ll try something like that.

Hopefully I’ll be able to go get the siding tomorrow and get started.

Just as a side note:

This has been an interesting project. Before I’m even done with one phase, I’m already thinking about the next or beyond. I’ve already got the underground electrical wire, pulled the permit, and priced out the trencher to bury the electrical conduit. Then, I’ve priced out bead board and interior trim. There’s lots of other stuff I’ve started looking into also. Hopefully things go as planned. I’m trying to keep this under $5,000. I think I’m at $3,000 — $3,500 already. Gonna be close. Just the siding planks are almost $500.

Big ticket items so far have been doors, windows, and siding. Everything else has just added up.

I went and picked up the siding. The only had 28 of them in stock at Home Depot. I needed 50. It was probably best because I might have cracked my dashboard — I don’t have a trailer but I have a big Ford Excursion.

This was after I unloaded about 16 of the 28. If I had picked up all 50 slats of siding I probably would have cracked the dashboard. They’re fiber cement,(Hardie Board) so it’s heavy stuff.

It’s flimsy as well, so I had to come up with a way to support the stuff down the the length of the vehicle. I had bucket, an apple box, and some leftover pink foam insulation (from the shoffice subfloor). Pretty great… or something.

I started putting up the siding. I started on the back first. So in case I really mess things up, it won’t show. True to form, I did mess up a little. But only on the bottom panel. I hung it too low. When I’m done I’ll just cut the bottom off. If the cut isn’t perfectly straight, it’s on the back.

I should have gotten my trim a little thicker, but it’s too late now. Oh well.

This was a few days later.

Hopefully I can get the rest finished up this in the next few days.

This next stage of siding didn’t happen “in the next few days.” It’s been about two months by the time I finally got a break between life, family, and work. We’ve even gone into a new season.

I took the day off from work. It was a really nice Fall day and we were able to get a lot of the siding on. We ran out of siding from the first load we picked up two months ago, and we went back and got 25 more. In all I think I’ve bought about 50 pieces.

This side is now done. I just don’t have any photographic evidence.

And from the front. About 1/3 done here. I’m planning on doing a board-and-batten on the gable.

We still need to start other side with the window.

For _reals_ this time — I don’t want this to take me another two months to finish the siding. I really hope to be done within this week (or the next).

I finished the siding, about a month later. Some of this was due to the fact that I decided to redo all the trim. What I had used was too thin. Luckily, I used screws, so taking it down, and replacing it with thicker material, was pretty straightforward.

Trim, part deux.

Looks much better as now the trim has a higher reveal over the siding.

I decided to use the siding I had to make a board-and-batten in the gable. It will be a little close, but it will be inexpensive and easy to put up. Next steps will be to put up the horizontal trim board, and then the battens.

My progress is now very halted. I started a new work project (in which I’m commuting onsite) and now winter has hit us. We usually do not get this much snow.

So the remaining trim and painting will have to wait.

I went and purchased stuff to do the electrical rough-in while I work inside and wait for the snow to melt and drier days ahead.