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To Build A Shed

Michael Giacopassi

Posted on January 31 2019


Every good summer deserves a long project to keep me busy and out of trouble. Previous years it was the garden, replanting almost the entire front plants and lawn due to a fire, seeding the field for wildflowers. This summer was reserved for building a shed.

I had been looking at shed plans online for a few years, never quite sure what I wanted, where I wanted and how big of a plunge to take. I finally picked a lean-to shed design that I was 75% confident I could finish all on my own with zero help from anybody.

I got a late start and didn’t begin anything until July 2nd and it would take close to four months to complete. Granted this summer was a rainy wet mess which kept me inside on some days both due to the rain and the swamp like muggy buggy conditions.

First off was determining the perfect location. I wanted somewhere out of the way, but also somewhat level and accessible. I decided off to the right of the property – in the woods, but with a clear shot that the tractor could take to pull in and out of.

With the location picked out – next up was to lay out the initial perimeter of the shed – 16’ X 16’. On first pass it looked big – but not too big, manageable I suppose. Happy with the location and size I started the build. I had the first of three deliveries from the big box store drop off plywood, 2 X 6s, screws, 4 X 4s and a bunch of other stuff to get me started.

I decided against using cement base and figured I could shore everything up using 4 X 4 runners with some cinder blocks for leveling purposes. Once the outer frame was built and leveled, I slid the 4 X 4s underneath and started running the 2 X 6 stringers along.

It was at his point that driving home one day there was a tree laying across my road resting right on top of the power lines knocking the power out.  Since I had to take a couple of inches off each 2 X 6 I busted out the hand saw and went old school – Im happy that didn’t last more than a few hours.

With the stringers run and floor somewhat level, time to screw down the plywood.  I messed up on ordering this and only ordered ½” which I realized was too thin, so ended up adding a second layer of ½” and using all the plywood I had ordered just for the flooring.

Once the floor was in the scope of the project really came in to focus and I realized this would be one hell of a big shed. Undeterred at how I would put the roof on – I pressed on alone. So began the walls. Building one wall on the ground then pushing up in to place and securing it to the floor is not the easiest when it is 16’ long and you are doing it solo. With a few well-placed 2 X 4s as braces to swing down as you push the wall up it isn’t too too difficult.

One wall up, two walls up. Looking good. It was at this point that I started telling a few people what I was doing and the comments I received back led to some big changes. Each time I mentioned I was building a shed the first response was “oh 14’ X 12’” … “no” I responded “16’ X 16’”. After a few of these same conversations I inquired as to why everyone said the same size and apparently if you are under 200sqf in floor space you do not need a permit.  And even though I was putting my shed in the woods it can still be seen by two roads, so I made the tough decision to take down all of the walls I put up and move them in until I got to 14’ X 12’.

Although I don’t think I would get any pushback for building too big of shed I didn’t want to take it down after I built it, I didn’t want to get in to a stupid fight with the town, so I thought it simply be best to build it to 200 sqf. I wasn’t going to cut up the floor – I simply moved the walls in, the extended floor would be used to store firewood with the roof line would overhang enough to keep it dry.

With a new mission, I moved the walls in, added the two other walls and was about to tackle the roof. That is until my friend Danny came over to give his opinions. Danny who is now a home inspector at used to build and frame houses. It was his belief that my gently sloping roofline would not be able to support the weight of the snow we have been seeing in recent years as the angle was not steep enough to have the snow fall off as it fell. He drew up plans that made for a salt box type of roof design – one that I was not capable of doing alone. I agreed to the design if he would help me with the rafters – he agreed, so it was back to the big box home store for more supplies.

Prior to the roofline I put up all of the T-111 siding. This is manufactured repeating wood design siding that is relatively light, easy to cut, already finished in a tan/natural look that was perfect for my purposes. I hand screwed each of these 4’ X 8’ pieces in and it was not easy. Leveling the piece, keeping it square then sinking screws in proved to be a big pain – but slowly I got that part done.

Finding the right angle for the roof involved some math that I wasn’t involved in, but after Danny found it and cut the first one, he left me to do the rest. Once the rafter boards were cut Danny came back and we got down to business. He is at home high up walking amongst the rafters – I hate it. I can hang my fee t off the edge of a cliff a few thousand feet up without my heart skipping a beat, but get me more than a story up on a ladder and I get all squeamish and nervous.

At this point of the build a curious owl came to check out the progress. Flying from tree limb to limb this owl stuck around and investigated our work with great interest. I hear several owls at night hooting at each other, and have heard the wings of a giant one flap away – but had not seen one in the yard until this encounter. Owls are beautiful if a little terrifying creature. This guy was bobbing his head all around which is apparently how they create a 3D map of their surroundings since they cannot move their eyes in the sockets.

With the rafters done, Danny also helped me move the pressure treated (bad idea, too heavy) 4’ X 8’ sheets of plywood in to place. He put some nails in to hold them in place but it would be up to me to secure with screws at a later date.

And with that Danny’s help was over. He is a busy man and I appreciated everything he had done as I would 100% not been able to do any of what he did on my own or even with another hand. As I said before I don’t like heights on ladders, or roof lines. I knew though that no one was coming to help me with the rest of the shed – so it was time to suck it up, and simply get it done.

To screw in the plywood roof I did what I could from the ladder from the ground, but I knew I would have to get up to the very ridgeline. So I started screwing in cast off 2 X 4s for footholds along the way. This kept me in place and provided me with much needed support – both physically and mentally – knowing there would be a catch there if I started slipping. And once I got on a role – I started cranking along. Move up on the ladder, put in some footholds and get down to work – at the end it wasn’t as scary as I had thought.

With the plywood done, I moved to completing the upper parts of the sides of the shed. I knew I needed some light  so I purchased 12 X 3 translucent corrugated  plastic. Adding this clear plastic not only gives the shed a different design element but provides plenty of light.

The plastic “windows” went in smooth enough - although the corrugated part lease grooves for bugs, bees, wasps and what not to get in I wasn’t up for the task of sealing each one with a spray foam – so it shall be.

Next up – the metal roof, 12’ X 3’ sheets of corrugated steel that were light enough, but clumsy to manage solo. Again, this job would be on my own, so rather than wait around for help I just sucked it up and got to work. I had just been through screwing down the plywood roof, so this wouldn’t be too much different. The screws used for the roofing are hex nuts with a rubber washer attached to prevent any water seeping through the screw holes.

Before hauling the first piece up I put in my trusty foot holds made from scrap 2” X 4”s and then got to pulling. The pieces aren’t heavy, just awkward when pulling on to a 10 foot roof by yourself. Once you got it up, square and the first two screws in the rest was relatively easy. Leaning over three feet to reach the other side of the roofing isn’t the most comfortable but make it quick and it’s over.

One sheet, two sheets, three sheets, four.  I realized that when I got to the end – to put the last piece up I would have no footholds left. I couldn’t screw them over the piece I just put up, so it would have to be from ground on ladders.  Not too difficult from the ten-foot side, but once it got to the peak and the ladder and my knee starts shaking I called it quits. I had reached my level of manliness.

The front side facing the house is only a six-foot roof, so each piece needed to be snipped in half. Que buying another tool – tin snips which may come in handy for some other purpose down the road some day, but they ate through the metal like butter and made quick work of those sheets. This side is much steeper, but it is at the perfect angle where I could essentially lay the ladder right on the roof at the same pitch and access everything I needed to.

Now I need to be able to get the lawn mower, wheel barrel and other wheeled yard stuff in the shed – so it’s ramp time. Simple enough, so decking planks, 4 X 4s and I’ve got a ramp with a smooth enough incline to get the riding mower with deck in no problem.

At some point during the build after the roof went on I realized there were going to be major openings in to the shed where the 2X6 risers were laying vertically on the walls. This creates openings that would allow pretty much any animal outside of a bear to get in and shack up for the winter. I knew I had to add soffits to square everything off, close the holes and cover the exposed untreated 2X6 risers up. I worked to cut the ½” plywood as straight as possible with my circular saw because I realized if I didn’t create the tightest connections possible there would be some type of wasp that would make its home in my new shed and soffits and create a mess for me come spring and throughout the summer. I love bees and I HATE wasps.

Floor done. Walls done. Roof done. Kinda sorta windows done. Ramp done. It’s door time.

I was going to employ a sliding barn door like I set up in my bedroom but the overhang would have been too great for one side. I could have split it in two, sliding out on each side, but the hardware gets expensive.

Getting doors you make yourself and have to put up by yourself to hang right isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Lots of braces, shims and ladders help along the way. One tip I would offer is to make the frame, hang that THEN put the skin on it – much lighter that way, and not the way I did it. I chose to use the T-111 for the doors as I had some laying around and was hoping to go for the invisible door look – but my skills in that dept are poor and there are some bigger gaps around the door jams than I had hoped.

I decided to worry about a locking mechanism for afterwards as I still wasn’t sure what the best way to secure everything was – and since I had nothing in it really didn’t matter. Next step was to add some “decking” along the portion of the shed that never became the shed because of my fear of zoning officers. I put down a few pressure treated planks and would use the extra space to store firewood out of the elements.

I realized that since I used the black ice and water barrier on the flat parts of the deck of the shed I should try and cover it up along the base. In the far corner of my yard there are piles and piles of perfect sized stones from what I imagine are left over from the construction of the house and removal for the basement.  I had never worked with concrete as it relates to building a wall but I figured how hard could it be? Very hard it turns out.

Working slowly and restarting a few times I built a base and added on to it, plastering cement on top of the bottom stone and the baseline of the shed. I try to maneuver each stone in to place to give it a solid foundation from which to rest the next one. The stone base gives it a more lived in feel and blends somewhat more naturally in to its surroundings.

And that’s it for the shed build. Once all the leaves fell I realized that I need to stain the T111 siding. The yellowish tint of the siding doesn’t blend in to a drab brownish grey New England wood setting. A brown/grey/blue stain with darker blue soffits and molding should do just the trick.

In the end I spent more money than I would have just buying a shed but it was a fantastic learning experience. I couldn’t have done it without Danny drawing up plans and essentially building the entire roof for me. I had zero knowledge of how that all came together, and he showed me the way. I still don’t think I could do it on my own but having the right people and the right tools to help along the way sure does make things easier.

1 comment

  • william: May 10, 2019

    Wow. Not 1 comment. People suck!

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