Offcuts: To Build a Shed By: Don Heisz
Since I got the albatross off my neck, namely the one called “the roof”, I thought it would be safe to move onto other projects that I’ve wanted to do for a while. The project at the top of the list was to redo the siding on one side of the house (it was old aluminum siding that was completely falling off). So, I did that. No big deal.
I had planned to make a small shed to store my work tools. I mean the tools that live in my van and go to every job with me. Well, I don’t always need all of them yet they’re all always in my van. That makes it difficult to use the van for anything else, plus the weight contributes to the gasoholism and general wear of the van (namely, the brake pads. See the post about that).
I have two sheds on my property already, both built by the former owner. One is a so-called “baby barn” that has deteriorated more than once. A long time ago, I replaced one side of it that had rotted away into oblivion. The replacement is now fairly rotten. And I also, more than once, levered it out of the ground it was sinking into.
The other shed is much bigger than the baby barn and was once used as a kind of woodshop by the previous owner. He had an extension cord running to it and had a shop light screwed to the wall and built some spiffy shelves out of 1×6 hard maple (I don’t know why). Anyway, some years ago, I ripped a bunch of cedar out of the house. It was covering every inch of wall and ceiling in what was then the “hot tub” room. Well, the room did have a hot tub in it, but the tub itself had a big hole in it. I enlisted John’s help one day and cut it in half and, well, it went away and eventually ended up in the dump.
The cedar, however, ended up filling up half the space in the bigger shed.
Now, I’m actually allergic to cedar, in some capacity or other, so I don’t like having much to do with it. So, that more-or-less rendered the shed unusable.
When my basement flooded for the first time, the rest of the shed was filled with stuff I had to get out of the house but didn’t want to throw away. That completely ended any possibility of ever using the shed. Probably best to set fire to it at this point.
Anyway, both those sheds are inaccessible from the driveway. I don’t want to trudge through a hundred yards of hip-deep snow with 200 pounds of tools any time I want to empty or fill the van (there may have been some exaggeration there). So, I obviously needed another shed.
No, I’m not just making another shed because the other two are full.
You know, life is complicated and sometimes you just don’t ever want to see certain things again.
Anyway, I knew where I wanted my shed. However, a concrete step and a tall wooden gate were in the way. The gate had been in a fence, but I’d already cut down the fence part when I changed the siding on that side of the house.
In spite of being prefab, the concrete step could not be moved, since it had sunk into the ground and they had put asphalt all the way around it. That’s when you bring out the heavy hammer.
It took about 20 minutes with the sledgehammer to turn that beautiful concrete testament to genius into a pile of rocks.
And then I was totally beat out.
My next step was to get a door. I had been looking for a used commercial metal door that I could resize and adapt. I didn’t find any that were reasonably priced (i.e., free). And, frankly, I’m glad I didn’t. This shed was never going to be very big and an 80 pound door would quite possibly do a significant amount of damage swinging in the breeze. This is something to remember, folks: don’t confuse strength with mass. And don’t confuse strength with security. Sure, a steel door is going to be hard to cut with a saw, but the wall isn’t hard to cut at all. Anyone can break in anywhere in a few minutes.
I also looked at the regular metal doors they sell for houses. Rather, foam-filled-tin-can doors they sell for houses. I looked at those for a bit less time than it took to type this sentence.
I decided I would make a door. I went to my basement mess of a workshop, shoved some stuff out of the way, dug out some 2×6 and 2×4 and some 3/8 plywood and turned it into a frame-and-panel door. That took a few minutes. I glued it together with construction adhesive (John’s favourite stuff) and left it there for a week or so.
The shed would then be built around the door. What that means is, since I had a door made of a certain size, I knew I had to make the shed big enough for that door. That’s how you constrain your activity when you refuse to make a plan beforehand. I was also constrained by the 7 sheets of OSB I had leftover from doing my roof and the single sheet of 5/8 plywood that was hiding out in one of my sheds. The plywood was for the floor. So, that means the shed could only be 32 square feet. The OSB was for everything else.
When I decided it was time to go make the shed, I sat down with a piece of wood to draw a rudimentary sketch of what the shed should be like. The space I had to work with was eight feet wide (my paved driveway down the side of the house). I originally thought I’d have the door on the side of the shed, facing the house, but that would not work well for getting in and out of it. So, I decided the door should be in the end. And then I had wanted the roof to be a single slope, but that would look stupid and waste space. So, I thought a regular peaked roof was best.
So, I laid out some patio stones to sit under the four corners of the shed. Then I framed the floor. Then I put the plywood on. Then I laid down a sheet of osb and marked out the slope of the roof on it. I cut that and then framed the end wall (end without the door) and put the osb on it.
I framed one side wall and put the osb on it. I ran the osb down three and a half inches to cover the floor framing. I purposely didn’t run it all the way down to the the bottom of that frame because that would increase the likelihood of water wicking up the osb. Well, that’s something that will happen eventually, anyway. But why speed it up?
So, I then remembered how irritating it is to try to stand up a wall and nail it to a floor by yourself. But I did it. And I was happy. Then I noticed it was in the wrong place.
That’s what reciprocating saws are for. And, irritatingly enough, this first time was not the last time. I nailed down the end wall and that was in the wrong place. I fixed that and then noticed I had it nailed to the side wall in the wrong place. This is all stuff you don’t do if there’s someone with you. Well, unless that other someone is totally useless.
I soon had it up, looking like a shed. I was somewhat pleased. Unfortunately, I was out of 2x4s and only had a small amount of paint. So, I had to put my work on hold. That is one of the disadvantages to not truly planning what you do. A good plan will tell you pretty much exactly how much of what you need. Of course, it only took an hour to go get the stuff. It typically takes much longer for me to make a plan.
When I came back, I framed the roof, closed it in, and painted the osb. Then it was getting dark.
Getting the osb painted was very important, in my opinion. It was due to rain for a couple of days and I didn’t want the osb to get water-damaged. Any amount of water would cause the paint to not stick as well.
Anyway, a couple of days later, I used up some of my leftover shingles on the shed. I did almost all of it from ladders (two of them) but had to get on the roof to do the ridge.
I then made a door frame that would fit in the opening I left. I used framing lumber, 2x6s. So, that has two rabbets in it: one for the door jamb and the other to accept the edge of the osb.
With the door on and shingles done, I nailed on the trim pieces that covered the corners and the joints on the sides.
Then it was paint. Then it was caulking. Then it was paint again. Then I put the lock on. Then I was done. I decided to cover the rubble to the left of the shed with a simple deck made from 2x4s. Not pressure treated, not cedar, just regular framing lumber. I also installed a light switch and outlet in the shed, just to make using it more convenient. I cut off a heavy-duty extension cord and ran it out through the side of the shed through a plastic plumbing fitting I bought. When I want to plug it in, I just need to pull it out. Otherwise, it just sticks out. Looks mysterious.
Once cleaned up, I used the four leftover offcuts from the osb for the sides to make some shelves. Then I loaded all my stuff in there and locked the door.
No one would call it spacious. No one would want to hang out in there. It’s not the so-called man-cave. Frankly, it’s to get all that stuff (and more, actually) out of my van. I used to have all that stuff in my station wagon and then got into a very nasty accident. Ever since then, I’ve had visions of being bombarded by all the crap in the back of my van, if an accident ever happens again. When I crashed my station wagon, my mig welder was in the back seat behind the driver’s seat. It hit the back of the driver’s seat so hard, it bent it forward about three inches.
Better to have this stuff safely stashed somewhere else. The minivan is nice and big, so more can fit in it than in my station wagon, but it seems less contained, somehow. But, truthfully, that stuff was not good in the back of a station wagon, either.