10 Smart Tips When Building a Shed — Popular Mechanics

10 Smart Tips When Building a Shed - Popular Mechanics

10 Smart Tips When Building a Shed

The shed: a great DIY project, and an excellent place to stash all that stuff that’s preventing you from parking your car in your garage. Here’s what you should know before you start building.

If you’ve got clutter clogging up your garage—and who doesn’t—then it’s time to build an outdoor storage shed. A separate outbuilding is the practical solution for storing lawnmowers, lumber, bicycles, gardening tools, ladders, and all the stuff we otherwise cram into the garage or pile up outside.

The simplest way to build a shed, especially if you’re a novice do-it-yourselfer, is to buy a set of building plans. Mail-order shed plans are available from several online sources (such as betterbarns.com. storageshed-plans.com. or mybackyardplans.com ) and typically include scaled drawings of the building, construction details, and a materials list that shows the size and quantity of the lumber and hardware needed.

Keep in mind that most towns require you to apply for and receive a building permit before starting construction. Call your local building department for more information. Then follow these tips to guide you through each step of the construction process. Happy building!

1. Select the Right Site

The first step might be the most important. The ideal building site should be relatively level, dry, and easily accessible. Never build in a low-lying area that collects water. The area around the shed will remain soggy. More importantly, excess moisture can rot wood, rust hinges, blister paint, and promote the growth of mold and mildew.

2. Befriend the Building Inspector

Don’t be intimidated by the building inspector. He or she can be an invaluable resource when building your shed. First, the inspector will review your plans, visit the proposed site, answer any questions, and make suggestions that can save you time and money. He or she can also recommend the best building techniques and materials. And most importantly, the inspector will ensure that everything is built to code, so you’ll avoid having to correct any violations.

3. Create a Sound Foundation

Proper materials are the key to a rock-solid, long-lasting foundation. Small- to medium-size sheds can be supported by an on-grade foundation made of solid-concrete blocks or pressure-treated wood timbers (aka skids) set directly on the ground. Be sure to use solid blocks for a shed foundation. Hollow-core wall blocks will eventually crack and crumble under the weight of the building. For your skids, choose pressure-treated lumber that’s specifically designated for ground-contact use. Be sure the timbers are perfectly level and spaced the proper distance apart, as dictated by local building codes.

Larger sheds—those over 200 square feet—usually require permanent foundations that extend down to the frost line. Dig down to the proper depth and then pour concrete piers or bury pressure-treated posts. Check with the building department for specific code requirements and the frost-line depth in your area.

4. Build a Rot-Proof Floor

Use pressure-treated lumber when building the shed’s floor frame, which includes the mudsill, floor joists, and perimeter band joists. Untreated construction lumber may cost less but in time, it’ll rot.

For the shed’s floorboards, use 3/4-inch-thick exterior-grade plywood. If you’d like a little more rigidity, install 3/4-inch tongue-and-groove plywood. It costs more, but the edges of the sheets lock together. And if you live in an area with excessive moisture, consider using pressure-treated plywood, which is much more weather-resistant than exterior-grade plywood.

Whatever plywood you use, fasten it down with 2-inch-long galvanized decking screws, which are rust-resistant and hold better than nails.

5. Promote Good Circulation

Another way to prevent water from rotting your shed is to build it at least 6 inches above the ground. That way, fresh air can circulate underneath and prevent moisture from accumulating there.

6. Give it Some Air

Leave at least 3 feet of open space around all four sides of the shed. Building too close to trees, shrubs, or fences will block sunlight and wind, and the shed will remain damp. (Mold and mildew hate direct sunlight.) Plus, having that extra clearance space makes it much easier to paint or repair your new building.

10 Smart Tips When Building a Shed - Popular Mechanics

7. Build Roof Trusses

Framing a roof in the traditional manner—with individual rafters, ridge board, and collar ties—can be challenging for novice DIYers. An easier approach is to build roof trusses on the floor deck, and then raise each truss into position after the walls are up. A roof truss is simply a prefabricated assembly of two rafters fastened to a collar tie or ceiling joist. The truss parts are usually held together with plywood gusset plates that are glued and screwed across the joints. Trusses are typically spaced 16 inches on center, and positioned directly above a wall stud.

8. Use Windows Wisely

Since most storage sheds don’t have electricity, install windows to brighten up the interior. Otherwise you’ll have to use a flashlight every time you enter the shed, day or night.

But don’t make the mistake of using too many windows. For each window you install, you sacrifice wall space that could be used to hang tools, mount shelves, or attach a perforated pegboard. For an average-size shed, the optimum window layout includes two windows on the front faade and one window on one end wall. That leaves the rear wall and one end wall windowless.

Install windows on the south- and east-facing walls if you can, as this will let in the most sunlight. If you’d like lots of sunlight but need wall space for storage, install skylights.

9. Double Door

For small- to medium-size sheds, a single pair of swinging doors is fine. But for a large shed, one bigger than about 10 x 12 feet, you’d be wise to install two pairs of doors. You can install one pair on the front faade and the other on an end wall, or install one pair of doors on each end wall. Either way, having two entrances makes it much easier to reach items that might be buried in the back once your shed starts filling up.

10. Don’t DIY Everything

Some parts of shed-building are simply too time-consuming and exhausting to do yourself. Hire a landscaping contractor to clear rocks, trees, and thick underbrush. Bring in an excavator to level an uneven building site or to dig postholes. Hire a mason to mix and pour concrete footings and slabs. And hire a licensed electrician if you decide to electrify the shed.

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