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If I can build a shed, so can you.
Garden Sheds in General
Member Name: goosey
Garden Sheds in General
Date: 02/12/11, updated on 15/04/13 (1195 review reads)
Advantages: Can be used for storage, workshop or office.
Disadvantages: Untreated timbers require annual maintenance.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a fascination with sheds. Probably because when younger, I enjoyed playing in them and exploring their contents, but most of all I love the rustic smell of wood.
The very first shed I bought, back in the 80's was an, apex roofed, overlap shed, built with specially treated feather board, whereby a copper containing preservative solution is forced under pressure into the timber. I purchased it from B&Q for around the £200 mark and, nearly a quarter of a century later, it is still going strong. I recently gave it to a friend who is a keen gardener, for his allotment.
Normally when purchasing a simple style of shed it will be delivered free or sometimes for a small fee, in easy to construct sections, the floor, four sides, a door and two roof sections. Once the ground is perfectly level, It only takes two, well organised people about two hours to piece it together and felt the roof (I'm talking small, simple design sheds, no larger than 6ft x 7ft ..) and a third person to supply the tea and biscuits .
Sheds come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the roof can be backward or forward sloping, called pent roof, or where the roof slopes like that of a house, called an apex roof, it can be made from wood, metal or pre-cast concrete. One of the most important things to look out for when considering purchasing a wooden shed is the quality of the wood.
Costs vary enormously; one can expect to pay anything from about £200 to £5,000 depending on size of the construction and quality of materials. I find that cost, quality and dimensions are very closely linked to longevity.
Buy cheap and the quality is usually low and the shed ends up as firewood in a relatively short time.
Some years after buying my first shed, I found, as most hoarders do, that it was not big enough to store everything and when it got to the point where there was no room for me to stand or work in the shed, I thought of getting a bigger shed.
Thinking of buying a wooden shed?
There are two sorts of timber commonly used to build sheds, feather board, which is rough-cut wood, thick on one edge, gradually tapering down to the other edge, resembling the shape of an elongated wedge of cheese. When fixing together, the thick edge is faced downwards and the next piece positioned so that its thick edge overlaps the thinner edge of the first piece by a few centimetres. Featherboard is now becoming popular to use for fencing.
Then there are shiplap, more commonly known as tongue and groove, boards, which are smooth-cut, having a groove on one edge and a slight tapering on the opposite edge, which slots into the groove of the next board or plank. The better quality boards/planks are at least 12mm thick; some knots may be present but not knotholes.
Because the boards are smooth they can be varnished, painted or treated with an appropriate wood preserver.
Don't make the same mistake as I did.
My first mistake was to look for the cheapest I could find that would suit my requirements. I sent off for a catalogue and scanned the assortment and styles before deciding on an eight-foot, pent shed, made with tongue and groove wood. Now there is nothing wrong with tongue and groove wood, providing it be of a good quality, preferably pressure treated and with no gaping knotholes. When buying from a catalogue it is never wise to assume the quality you will get will be as good as it appears in the glossy magazine.
Unfortunately, mine arrived looking a bit like a Tetley tea bag, though I admit I didn't notice the knotholes at first, for the men who put it together for me (in the pouring rain) filled them with brown sealant, which over time, shrunk, allowing rain, draughts and the odd insect and their friends into the cabin. One hole was large enough for a small mouse to enter and take up residence.
The wood was of poor quality, and untreated. Nails rather than bolts and screws fastened the sides together. The door often swelled in the damp and stuck fast after a heavy rainfall. The framework was constructed of 30mm x30mm timber. The roofing felt was thin and lasted about three years before needing replacing. In other words, I got what I paid for a cheap shed, which would not withstand the test of time, even when creosoted annually.
After eight years, I decided that it was time I was rid of the shed, so toyed with the idea of building one myself, to my own specifications. My thoughts were that even I could make a better job of constructing a shed than those who had built the wreck standing at the bottom of my garden. I wanted to replace the two I had with one large one.
Without realising it, I had subconsciously set myself a challenge; and not being one to chicken out on a challenge, set too and drew a rough sketch of the style I wanted and asked my friend and neighbour, who happened to be a builder, to estimate how much wood etc I would need.
He not only estimated the quantity of materials required, he drew plans of each frame I needed to construct and advised me where to get estimates for the materials. He was always on hand when I required advice or help in lifting anything too heavy for me to handle. Without this invaluable help, I would not have been able to meet my challenge. I might have tried, but very much doubt the story would have been one of success.
Thinking of building your own shed?
There are several important issues to consider when thinking of building a shed. Primarily the weather; it is not safe using power tools outside, exposed to the rain, therefore start when forecasts are good, and overestimate, rather than underestimate the time it will take to complete each task.
Secondly, having decided the size of the construction, price up the materials required and get at least two estimates from builder's merchants decide on the quantity, quality and style of woods to construct the frames and to clad the shed; and finally, quality of roofing materials.
Thirdly, make sure all tools necessary for the tasks are readily to hand, batteries are charged and quantity and size of nails, screws and bolts required are ordered along with the wood.
Finally, unless the shed can be built in a day or two it is best to store the wood in a dry, cool area, so that it does not dry out too quickly and warp or get too wet to cut easily.
I have a long passageway where I could store most of my wood away from the heat and rain before use, and had most of my order delivered in one go.
My Shed: Preparation:
The size of my shed to be was to measure 18-foot long and 8-foot wide clad in featherboard and insulated inside. I designed it so that almost midway along the length, I would inset a shallow porch, to protect the door from the rain and reduce the possibility of it jamming.
The tools I used were, An electric chop- saw, spirit levels, three drills; one to drill holes, one to counter-sink and the third to insert screws; finally, hammer, steel tape measure, staplers, and two G-clamps.
I made two wooden implements myself; a T shaped spacer, made up of two pieces of wood joined together in the shape of a T, this I used when fixing the featherboard to the frames, to keep the distance between each board the same.
The other was an accurate L shaped, right-angled frame, one side the length of the proposed gaps between each piece of timber on the floors and roof, and the other side to the measurements of the gaps between each piece in the side frames. The right angle was then used to hold, with the aid of two G-clamps, two pieces of wood to be joined at a perfect right angle.
Before construction, the ground where the shed is to stand needs to be level. My garden sloped diagonally so my neighbour, with a little help from me, arranged and levelled three lines of lintels across the whole length of the proposed shed site so that the shed floor struts would be supported at right angles to the lintels. I positioned airbricks between the lintels to allow essential ventilation under the shed floor then blocked off any other gaps with bricks to prevent rodent access.
Timber used in its construction
The frames were built using 50mm x50mm lengths of untreated timber and clad with tanalised featherboard . The floor and roof frames were covered in 12mm treated plywood. Window frames were built with tanalised batten and 12mm-untreated wood. After glazing with 4m glass, they were sealed with a silicone sealant and quadrant battens were placed around the edges to hold glass firmly in place.
Ready to go: Bring me sunshine
The weather in March and April was perfect for constructing the 15 frames onto which the feather board would be attached. The floor, roof and rear panel of the shed each consisted of three separate frames which would eventually be bolted together.
Because my design was different from the normal four-sided shed, the only frames, which were the same, were the two side frames, and the two inset frames.
The first thing I did was to cut one of each of the different lengths of timber and pencilled their lengths on each, then used them as templates when cutting the rest. This eliminated the need to measure each piece individually every time I needed to cut the same length. It ensured consistency in measurements and saved time.
When joining two pieces of timber at right angles, I placed one piece along one edge of my homemade wooden, L shaped, right-angled tool, and the other along the other edge, clamping them together with quick-release G-clamps, then fixed the timbers together with screws.
Once the frame construction was completed, the weather broke, and there was very little I could do until that wonderful mini heat wave in September, when I was able to bolt the three floor frames together and cut and fix the plywood onto them with screws.
That done, the three back frames were lain flat on the floor and bolted together before covering with polythene sheeting and cladding with the feather board. It was important to position each row, in a pattern resembling that of brickwork, where the joins between two pieces of wood were not at the same point in the boards in the next row, to give the wall more strength.
The reason for stapling on polythene sheeting was that I was to insulate the inside of the shed once constructed and advised to cover the frames first before cladding. Moses, often used them as hammocks , lying very comfortably, in the sunshine.
All frames were clad, and my neighbour raised the frames for the roof, to rest on the supports I had previously fixed to the upper parts of the side frames. Those frames were then bolted together and fixed with screws to the top of the side frames. My neighbour once again came to the rescue and raised the plywood, which I had cut to fit, to rest on the roof frames where I could clamber up and fix them in place.
After all this time, I began to feel that my shed was at last taking shape, but there was lots more to do, each task taking much longer than anticipated. For example, it took me a whole morning to cover the roof with roofing felt and place timber round the perimeter to prevent the wind ripping the felt from the roof.
The door, rescued from the old shed, had to be fixed in place, but because it was slightly smaller than the opening, the door frame had to be adapted by bolting two additional pieces of timber to the main frames. That done the door fitted beautifully. I then constructed a shallow overhang, which would help keep the door dry when open.
The window frames were the next task, but rain came into play, delaying progress on and off for a week, so in the mean time, the gaps were covered with polythene sheeting to keep out the rain.
Once the windows were in place, my neighbour and I celebrated with a Guinness shandy, or two and mince pie, or three, after which I began working on the interior, putting insulation in place and covering with hardboard. However, before that, because the roof span was considerably longer than usual, we decided that two parallel supporting beams, spanning the whole length, should be added to prevent the roof bowing. Having seen many a concave shaped shed roof and I did not fancy that happening to mine.
Along the way, I have learned a great deal and have picked up some very useful tips, which I will briefly share, for anyone who wishes to build their own shed.
These were the tips given me by my builder friend, enabling me to work single handed for most of the construction.
1. When nailing boards to frames, to get the spacing even, use a T shaped piece of wood as a spacer.
2. When trying to nail or screw a long board along the edges of the roof (to cover the felt) it is impossible to do it single handed unless, you place a nail (leaving an inch or two exposed) approximately half way along the side, onto which to rest the board, whilst nailing one end.
3. To fix a long, heavy beam support to the inside of the roof, hang a loop of rope from the cross beams, then thread the support beam through the loop, the rope will then hold the beam steady whilst the ends are permanently fixed in place.
How much did it cost? Well the basic shed materials cost a little under £1000; the addition of insulation and covering raised the cost to about £1300. How much would have cost if bought ready made? It is anybody's guess, but probably in the region of £3000.
It doesn't have the luxury of electrical sockets, for kettles or PCs, so won't be using it as an office, but have a space in mind, to keep all the wretched spare plugs, chargers, USB and scart leads accumulated over time which are taking up valuable space in the house.
There is still plenty to be done, I have a workbench and shelving to construct before I can make full use the shed, but, to all intents and purposes, I feel my shed is complete.
At last I have managed to complete the interior of my shed now, with bench and shelving....perfect.
I just have to be careful now to keep everything in order inside, so I don't waste time playing 'hunt the tool.'
Summary: You never know what you can achieve until you try.. go on surprise yourself