Posted by Ash
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With a larger house comes a bigger yard. I knew my little push lawn mower could only do so much with half an acre. This was proven true after nearly 3 hours mowing the grass, and stopping to empty the bag every 2 minutes. Because of this, I bought a used riding mower that sped things up significantly, as I can now finish cutting the lawn in just over half an hour.
However, half our garage was being taken up by the behemoth. I had big plans for our new garage (blog posts to come!), and as much as I loved my new riding mower, its home was not going to be the garage. This was an excellent opportunity to work on my dream project – a custom built storage shed.
Now if I was going to build a shed, I wanted it to be multi-functional and not just mower storage. I went over several ideas in my head about how I could use the new storage. I initially thought it would be nice to have an area to store bagged lawn clippings and keep it dry from the rain. It was annoying trying to handle soaking wet yard waste bags once exposed to the elements all week. I also wanted to remove some of the bulkier items from the garage (like the wheelbarrow and fertilizer spreader), so the shed needed to be large enough to accommodate these things.
After taking measurements of the riding mower, I padded the size to include additional storage. I settled on a 10 x 16 floor plan. This would give me ample space to park the mower and store gardening equipment and large tools. When planning things out, I usually like picturing the end product and doing a walk-through in my head to make sure everything makes practical sense.
I envisioned myself driving the mower into the shed, stepping off to the left (bagging chute was on the right), and walking out the door. I knew I wanted the mower entrance to be on the far end of the shed, and storage directly adjacent. Now if I stepped off to the left of the mower, I didn’t want to be walking into a wall. I thought it would be a tight squeeze to fit between the mower and the wall, so I wanted to place the mower entrance on the right size of the shed.
With these basic requirements in mind, I started shopping online for shed plans. There are lots of sites online selling plans for custom built sheds. I ended up going with www.icreatables.com. They had designs more to my personal liking, and they also had a ton of resources (video walk-throughs of shed constructions). I found a “Cape Cod” design that I liked a lot. It came with a large overhang that would be perfect for keeping rain out of my bagged yard waste. I just needed to add a deck to make a little porch to elevate my bags off the ground. Here’s my first sketch of the shed:
As you can see in the picture, I have the mower entrance on the far right, and a porch on the rear for storing bags of lawn clippings. I also added a smaller door on the side to easily access the storage area of the shed. Two windows were sufficient to let in enough lighting. I also factored in a ramp for the mower. Don’t let the 12 x 16 dimensions fool you. The extra two feet was accounting for the overhang, so the floor plan was still 10 x 16. The shed foundation was going to rest on some 4 x 4 skids, sitting on 18 concrete blocks. I did look into concrete anchors, but opted for the skid design due to simplicity, Also a majority of comparable sheds in my area were resting on skids, so that gave me confidence that I was making the right decision. I knew I was not in a flood zone either. If this were the case, I would have had to anchor the shed permanently.
I purchased the plans for $15 and started going over the material list and putting together a cost estimate. This part of the project took quite some time as I had no experience in construction of this magnitude. There were lots of techniques and terminology I had to google while going through the plans. Also I can’t tell you how much of a resource youtube was for me. With each part of the construction process in the plans, I had to picture myself actually doing the work to know if it was within my skill set and if I had the correct equipment. I did have to purchase a number of tools to complete the project, but I’ll get to those in a bit.
After mulling over the plans and materials, I hit a snag. To accomplish the two feet roof overhang, I needed a 16ft LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beam. This is essentially a really strong, hard, and heavy piece of wood running across the underside of the overhang. It needed to be strong enough to handle the weight of the roof.
Unfortunately, the shed plans called for a certain size LVL beam that was really expensive for me and was not available at the local Home Depot. I considered making my own beam, but abandoned this idea out of lack of experience. The last thing I wanted to do was make something unsafe. At this point, I was also getting a little overwhelmed at the construction design of the overhang.
This was a turning point in my shed project. I ended up abandoning the overhang design and opting for a more traditional shed. This meant ditching the storage of the yard waste bags. It wasn’t such a terrible loss. If I really wanted to, I could construct a box with a flap at the top to store the bags in. So I browsed through more shed designs and bought a simpler one for another $15. After some tweaks to the purchased plans, here was the final design I ended up going with:
That sketch needs a bit of explanation as it does look a lot different than my original idea and went against my initial plan of the mower entrance being on the far right. At this point in the project, I had already started doing some of the prep work outside that was not going to change, regardless of design. Specifically, I laid out the 18 concrete blocks for the skids and worked on getting them leveled properly (see pictures below).
Here’s a small tip about leveling the skids. Even though I tried my best to get the concrete blocks perfectly level, there were some here and there that were off by a little and left a gap when the skids were rested on them. So to fill the gaps, I used scraps of roofing shingles. I read this tip online, and it helped me out a lot.
After leveling off the concrete blocks and placing the 4 x 4 skids on them, it became very apparent that as flat as the yard looked, there was a subtle slope that made the right side of the shed about a foot higher off the ground than the left side. This made it very inconvenient to have the shed ramp on the right side. It meant I would need a much bigger ramp (more materials and expense). Also, that extra foot of height was making me nervous about driving the mower up it. How simple it would be to just have the ramp on the left side, where the ground height was minimal. So the mower entrance was relocated. I did some more measurements and decided that the squeeze between the mower and the wall (when exiting the mower on the left) would not be so bad, but nonetheless, I still kept my fingers crossed it would work out. I also had to relocate the storage entrance door since that was where the mower was going to park.
I did have to add some steps into my design to accommodate the big drop from the door to the ground now. I moved the windows around as well. The windows are on the front right corner now. It all worked out for the best as this was the optimal setup to allow the most sunlight in. My yard has lots of big trees, and most of the shed is usually under tree shade. As you can tell in the picture with the 4 x 4 skids, I get the most sunlight from the right side of the shed so relocating the windows to the right made the most sense. I was happy with the new design at this point and was excited to push the project along.
One of the most exciting and anticipated moments in the project was getting the Home Depot delivery of materials. For $75 delivery fee, Home Depot dropped off a gigantic pile of lumber on my driveway. With my wife’s help, it only took a couple of hours to relocate the lumber into my garage to keep it save from the weather. It was also very fitting that it happened to be our 5th year wedding anniversary, and wood is the appointed gift for 5 years! So happy anniversary my dear – wood!
Anyway, prior to ordering, I made a saved list called “Shed” on Home Depot’s website, and added all the materials I needed. The total came to around $2000. I was able to knock off an extra $250 though, and here’s how: Ebay has lots of 10% off coupons for Home Depot (up to $200 off). I’ve come to realize that these coupons are hard to get a hold of for free. They typically sell for around $35 on ebay. This was a bargain for me because that $35 that I would spend on the coupon would save me $200 off my shed cost.
Incidentally, the day I was going to purchase the coupon on ebay, I checked my mailbox and saw a bright yellow letter from Home Depot. I knew instantly what it was – a 10% off coupon! What were the odds? We just moved into our new home a few months ago, and Home Depot sent us a coupon congratulating us on our move. Well, that’s another $35 saved. If you aren’t as lucky as me, buy the coupon on ebay for your project, if it makes sense for your budget. For the other $50 I saved - I used ebay. I was able to purchase 2 gift cards on ebay worth $500 each, but selling for $475 each.
Back to the shed foundation, I made the skids out of 6 pieces of 4 x 4 x 8 pressure treated wood. Pretty much all wood used in the shed was pressure treated, by the way. The wood was treated with a special chemical to keep bugs (and moisture to some degree) out. When building outdoor structures, you really need pressure treated wood. A word of caution though, be careful about splinters and sawdust from cutting. Splinters on the skin might sting or give a rash because of the chemicals. Also wear a dust mask when cutting the wood. You don’t want to be inhaling chemically treated sawdust.
For the skids, I needed each of the 3 rows to be 16 ft long, so I joined 2 of the 8 ft pieces with a mending plate. With the 4 x 4 skids now in place, I finally had a platform to start erecting the shed. I followed the directions in the plans to frame the floor joists (see picture).
Looks awesome, right? After framing the floor joists, I secured it to the 4 x 4 skids with some L brackets. Also, do you see my framing nail gun on the right hand side? I could not have built the shed without it. I highly recommend this type of tool for building large structures like this shed. The specific gun I have is a Paslode gas framing gun. I bought a used one on ebay for $100. They normally retail for several hundred dollars, so it was a great deal. I did have to buy a cleaning kit though because the nails were starting to jam after repeated use. Gas framing nail guns are the way to go if you don’t have a pneumatic compressor. They use a special butane fuel cell (a small cylindrical cartridge you insert into the back) and a rechargeable battery. The gun ignites some of the butane to fire a piston forward and drive the nail in. It’s really powerful (and dangerous if you’re not careful) and makes framing wooden structures a breeze. Here’s my nail gun and me:
Next up was the actual floor. I used several 4 x 8 sheets of ¾” T&G orient strand board, following the sheeting patterns in the plans. The T&G stands for tongue and groove. One end of the board has a protruding strip called the tongue, while the other end of the board has a groove. The tongue of one sheet is meant to be inserted into the groove of the next sheet, interlocking them together. Once nailed down to the floor joists, the T&G system made a very sturdy floor for my shed. I also applied a deck finish to the floor to protect it from water. I knew it was going to be a while before the shed roof was installed, so waterproofing the floor was a high-priority (see below picture).
After securing the floor to the foundation, the next step was to frame and erect the walls. I followed the plans carefully and cut all the 2 x 4s to proper lengths. The large shed floor was a perfect platform to build the wall panels on (you can see I started assembling a wall in the last picture). After finishing a wall section, I stood it up, carefully aligned it with the edge of the floor, and nailed it into the floor joists. The 10 ft side panel went up first and was easy to raise and nail by myself. However, I needed some help raising the long 16 ft panel. It was very heavy and wobbly to work with by myself.
Once in position, I secured it to the floor and then to the 10 ft panel already standing up. At this point, I thought it would be a good idea to use L brackets to more securely join the two wall panels. So I installed 5 brackets which held the panels very tightly in place. I repeated this technique for the rest of the panel installation. However, this idea backfired a little later in the project (I’ll get to that when I tell you about installing the exterior siding).
The L brackets were a good idea, but unfortunately not this early in the project. I was done with panel installation for now. I installed some temporary supports to the open end of the panels to give some rigidity until more panels were installed (see picture).
The two remaining wall panels took a little more time to build because they were more complicated in design. They had openings for windows and doors, which meant building and installing headers. Remember how I had purchased 2 separate plans in the beginning of the project? It actually worked well for me. The second plan (which I was basing my shed off) did not include any windows or a small door frame. However, the first plan (with the overhanging roof) had both of those things. So I merged the plans to create what I had in mind for my shed.
During the constructions of the wall panels, I had to install headers above each door and window opening. When you have a large opening in your wall frame, there is no vertical support there to help bear to load of the roof. So you have to install a strong beam above the opening to transfer the roof load horizontally and then down the sides of your opening. This beam is called a header. I built my own headers by nailing 3 layers of wood together. I sandwiched a strip of plywood between two pieces of 2 x 6 and it made a very strong beam. Here is the shed with all four wall panels up:
Ignore the windows that are mounted in the frame – that gets installed later, but I was eager to see what they would look like mounted. I removed them shortly afterwards to continue construction.
My shed project was really starting to take shape at this point. It looked like a professionally constructed building and I was thrilled...
The second part of this entry is continued here - Shed Project Part 2.
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Hi! We're Ash and Eileen, and we are sharing our home project stories with you. From crafty projects to home maintenance to more ambitious DIY endeavors, we hope our stories inspire you to check a few things off your project list! :)