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How to Lay Out Your Shed Site

In this article we discuss how to lay out your shed site.  Our free article center was formed to help you build, plan, and execute your wood working project as smoothly as possible.


How to Lay Out your Shed Site
Written by Frank McGill.

Ok, so you purchased one of our Shed or Gazebo plans, and you are ready to begin work. You know what you want to build and you are aching to start nailing boards together. Well, not so fast buddy. There are a few things you need to do before you start the actual construction of your shed, even if you already have one of our great shed plans and have read them fully. You need to choose the right location, and properly layout your shed site and stake out the location. This guide is meant to help you through the process.

Choosing the Right Location for your Shed.

Before you begin, do yourself a favor and consult with your local building department and obtain information regarding the placement, height, and square footage of outdoor storage buildings. You'd be surprised what your local politicians have specified in the code book. For example, your local codes might specify that outbuildings cannot exceed a certain peak to ground height and that a shed must be offset a certain distance from property lines. If you disregard the code restrictions in your municipality, you will create problems for yourself and your neighbors. You might even be forced to remove a structure that violates local code requirements or to pay a fine. If your local code requires a permit, submit a site plan and shed construction plans to your local building department and obtain all necessary permits before you begin construction. This is even more important if you don't get along with just one of your neighbors, or just one of your neighbors is a busy body with too much free time. Because, if you don't have all your paperwork in order and one of your less then friendly neighbors calls the building department, you can be shut down before you know it.

Remember that your shed will serve as an important storage addition to your home. With this goal in mind, be certain to select a location that will make shed access convenient but unobtrusive. Sketch a traffic plan that details major access paths in your yard and around your home to help you determine the correct location for your shed.

Consider the building location in relationship to existing and future elements of your landscaping. Don't build a shed next to a tree whose growing roots will displace the shed foundation. Be certain that the placement of your shed in your backyard landscape matches the planned use of the shed. For example, if you want to use the shed in the winter, don't place the shed on the north side of a large evergreen tree which would completely block valuable winter sunlight.

If at all possible, always select a well drained location for your shed. A spot with poor drainage or soft ground will cause problems later on. Water accumulating under the shed create condensation and can rust the materials you are storing inside your shed.

Layout of the Shed Site.

Accurately locating the four corners f the building will in turn establish the boundaries for the foundation. The site is laid out using batter boards set back from the corners of the planned building in an L-shaped arrangement. Setting the batter boards back from the actual building site allows you to maintain an accurate reference point as you dig footings and construct the foundation.

Batter boards are made of pointed stakes connected with 4' lengths of 1x4 lumber. Each batter board should form an accurate right angle when checked with a framing square. Batter board tops must be level with each other all the way around. Check for levelness with a string level or a mason's line level.

A variety of shed foundation construction methods are available depending upon your local site and your budget. If you do not want to anchor the shed permanently to one location, consider using wood skids and a wood floor foundation. If you are ok with a permanent location, then using a concrete pad foundation may be your best choice.

In areas where the ground does not freeze during the winter, pier block foundations offer an inexpensive and sturdy method of anchoring your shed foundation. Pre-cast pier blocks with nailers are ready available at many building supply retailers and provide a relatively simple foundation base for the first time builder.

The more expensive and permanent alternative foundation is the turned-down or monolithic concrete slab. Concrete has the advantage of durability and resistance to moisture damage. If you do select a concrete slab, make sure that your slab will drain properly if moisture is released inside of your shed. Drainage for concrete slabs is especially important for cabana or greenhouse structures.

Staking out the Shed or Gazebo.

Refer to the diagram below to layout your building.

1. Accurately locate one corner of the building mark that corner with a stake driven into the ground.
2. Measure out along the long side of the building to the next corner. Drive in another stake at this point. Use a framing square to form an approximate right angle at this corners. Measure out the approximate remaining corners of your building and drive stakes along each corner. Run twine from each stake to form your building perimeter.
3. You will now erect batter boards and adjust the stake locations to form a true square or rectangular layout. Erect bater boars so that each corner stake is line up directly on the diagonal from the opssote corner as illustrated. Use the line level to check that all batter boards are level with each other.
4. Stretch mason's twine between the batter boards so it is aligned directly over two of the stakes on one side. When perfectly aligned, make a saw kerf in the batter boards to make a permanent reference point and tack down the twine taut.
5. Stretch twine over the 2nd wall in your shed. It must form a perfect right angle with the first wall. Check for a perfect right angle using the 6-8-10 method.
6. Using the 6-8-10 method, lay out twine for the remaining walls. At each corner carefully measure from the point where the twine lines cross each other to set the building dimensions. Drop a plumb line at this intersecting point and set stakes in exact positions.
7. Check your dimensions on the final layout against your shed plans by measuring the diagonals between the foundation stakes. The diagonals must be equal in length if your layout is truly square. If they are not, recheck your measurements and make proper adjustments.

shed plan batter boards

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