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Building A Wood Shed Part 1

Lets talk about building a wood shed! Our free article center was formed to help you build, plan, and execute your wood working project as smoothly as possible.


Building A Wood Shed
In this article, I would like to explain some of the basics of building a wood shed or barn in your backyard. The recession has hit us all pretty hard. We are all trying to find ways to save money while meeting our needs. Well, as your family grows, the need for space grows, and building your own wood shed to store some of your outdoor equipment, your lawn tractor and so forth, may be for you.
The Basics
If you are like most people, you've never built a shed before, so where do you start? What do you do first? You don't have the money to hire a professional, or buy a pre-manufactured shed, but you really need the storage space. Professional plans are quite expensive, and they may be worth the money, but who has the cash to pay someone to design a shed for them?
You will be tempted by free shed plans, but remember, you get what you pay for. You don't know what you are getting or from who. Those free shed plans you see online are not nearly as effective and instructive as those prepared by professionals.
We feel our plans are the best in the business, but let's assume you have already received your download of our plans and you are perusing through them, what do you do first?  Well, the first thing you do is to pick a design. We have sheds with Gable Roofs, Gambrel Roofs, and the popular Saltbox Roof Style. Gable Sheds are the easiest to build. Gambrel Roofs often provide additional loft storage space due to the nature of their design. Saltbox style are the most architecturally pleasing designs.
The next thing you do is pick a size that you want to build. This depends on your budget, your storage needs, and the available backyard space you have. Honestly, my personal opinion, is too large is just right enough. You want to build the biggest shed you can afford, given your space constraints. Because it is so much cheaper to build a shed a little bigger then you need now, versus needing a 2nd shed in a few years.

Once you have that figured out, the next thing you need to do is examine our provided bills of material for each shed, and take a trip to your local lumber supply store or Home Depot
. It may take several trips depending on your vehicle or trailer and the shed you need to build. Many places deliver. In our opinion, it is best to purchase 1/2 to 3/4 of the material you need first, begin building, and get the rest of the material later when you get halfway done. This will allow you to gauge how much scrap you are using, and trust me, there will always be a need to go back to the hardware store, so just figure that in. 

Once you get back to your house, the last thing you need to do before you begin is to pick a site in your backyard, call a buddy, and start building your shed. You start with putting your foundation down, and building it up from there. A typical shed will take from 1 to 3 weekends to put up depending on your experience level. It is generally pretty easy and one of the best ways to increase the value of your home.

The Dirty Details

Whether you're building a stick framed shed, garage, or barn, the construction methods are pretty much the same.  What will be different is the material you use for the larger buildings, you'll be using stouter, longer lumber--and more of it!  Frame members need to be beefier to span longer distances and to accept insulation.  A Wide structure may require 2x10s instead of 2x8s to span the walls without sagging.  A garage built in the Midwest that also serves as a workshop will use 2x6s for the wall framing instead of 2x4s to hold the thicker fiberglass insulation needed in cold winters.

The type of foundation you install will also depend on the size of the structure.  Most sheds can be built on skids, precast piers, or poured footings.  These foundations can be tackled by the average homeowner, but the slab foundation we discuss in our article on slab foundations is best installed by building professionals, as it requires deep footings, reinforced rod to prevent cracks, and a load or two from a cement mixer.

The first step in building a shed, or any structure, is to have the building plans approved by your local building inspector.  Ask what they need to inspect and when they need to do it.  When you have everything approved, you can begin to prepare your building site and start gathering your materials.

Step 1 - Lay Out the Foundation

If there is one part of building a shed, garage, or barn that's worth some extra time, its laying out and creating the foundation.  Small errors can telegraph into the finished structure, causing even larger problems later.  Begin laying out your foundation, using batter boards and stakes (batter boards are pointed 2x4s driven into the ground and spanned with 1x4s).  Consult your shed plans, and roughly locate the footings with a stake.  Then position pairs of batter boards at right angles to each other about 18 inches behind each stake.  Stretch a mason's line between adjacent corners, and wrap the line around nails driven into batter boards.  Adjust the nails on the batter boards to align the mason's line with the stakes locating the footings.  Use a 3-4-5 triangle to make sure the lines are perpendicular.

Step 2 - Dig the Footings

Temporarily loosen the mason's lines so they don't interfere as you dig the footing.  In most areas, you will need to dig at least 12 inches below the frost line, check with your local building inspector for footing dimensions.  If you're installing a slab, excavate at least 4 inches of soil beneath the slab and add 4 inches of pea gravel for drainage.  Then dig a 12 to 16 inch deep trench around the perimeter for a 12 inch wide footing at the bottom.

Step 3 - Build Forms

Slab foundations use forms to define the sides of the slab.  These are 2-by boards held in place by stakes.  If you're having a slab installed by a contractor, they'll build the forms for you.  Before you pour concrete for a slab foundation, add rebar and wire mesh to help prevent cracking.  Set #5 rebar on bricks placed in the bottom of the trench.  This raises the rebar so that the concrete can flow around it.  Lay a 6-mil vapor barrier over the slab section and then place a #10 reinforcing mesh over the slab, keeping it 2 inches from the forms.  Insert bricks under the mesh to raise it as you did for the rebar.

Step 4 - Pour Concrete

Now you're ready to pour.  If you're pouring your own footings for your shed, be prepared to work your butt off.  On a slab foundation, the concrete truck will arrive with a load of concrete and, with the help of a contractor crew, these folks will quickly pour it into the form.

Step 5 - Screed it level

Once concrete has been poured, it's leveled or "striked" with the aid of a screed--typically a long, straight 2x4 or 2x6.  The screed spans the form from side to side.  As it's dragged across the top, it levels the concrete.  After striking, smooth the concrete with a bull float by dragging it carefully over the concrete.  Once the finishing is complete, the mist the slab with water and cover it with a layer of plastic.  Keep the surface moist for 2 or 3 days.

Step 6 - Install Anchors

With a poured footing or slab foundation, the shed attaches to the footings or slab via anchors set into the concrete.  For maximum holding power, these are typically shaped like a J.  To install the anchors on poured footings, reposition the mason's lines on the batter boards and use a plumb bob to mark the anchor location in the footing.  Push an anchor into the wet concrete and wiggle it to get the concrete to fill around it.  Adjust its position so its directly centered under the plumb bob and is plumb.  On a slab, snap a chalk line the desired distance in from the edge and then measure and mark anchor locations per your shed plans.

Step 7 - Lay Out Top and Bottom Plates.

Once the foundation is complete, you can start framing the walls, one of the most satisfying parts of build a shed.  The best way to make sure that wall studs align is to lay out the top and bottom plates at the same time; these form the top and bottom of the walls.  (Note: On slab foundations, the bottom plate is called a mudsill and is usually pressure treated wood.)  Start by measuring and cutting plates for one wall at a time--make sure you choose lumber as straight as possible for these critical parts.  Align the plate ends and screw them together temporarily.  Set the plates on the edge and, measuring from one end, make a mark at 1 1/2 inches and then at 15 1/2 inches (for 16 inch on-center spacing) or 23 1/4 inches (for 24 inch on center spacing).  Use a combination square and a pencil to continue these marks across both plates.  Then measure and mark a line every 16 or 24 inches from these lines, continuing the full length of the plates.  Make an X on the appropriate side of each line to indicate stud placement.

Step 8 - Build Walls

Remove the screws and separate the top and bottom plate.  (On a slab foundation, first position the mudsill on the slab and transfer the anchors' locations onto the mudsill; drill appropriate sized holes for the anchors to pass through.)  Then cut efficient sufficient studs to length for the wall, and end-nail them to the top and bottom plates, taking care to position the studs over the X's you made on the plates.  Cut a scrap of 1x4 to reach from corner to corner of the completed wall, to serve as a brace and to keep the wall square.  Attach it to one corner and measure diagonals.  Adjust the wall until the diagonal measurements are equal, and then secure the other end of the 1x4 brace.

We will continue this article in Part 2 of Building a Wood Shed

If you want to build a shed in a few days that will last visit our shed plans pages to browse through our plans. All of our shed plans are available for immediate download. Here you can buy our whole package, or just one of our plans as a sampler. Our categories are always available on the left of your screen on any page of our site.