“Life is supposed to be simple, but no one said it was supposed to be easy.” – Unknown
We all have our hobbies. Playing music, working on cars, mountain biking and hiking are just some of the items people fill their time with. One of my hobbies is building the things I need around the house. One summer, I built a deck. Another summer, the fence. This year, we needed a shed and after looking at options available, I decided to build it. Simple, right?
I’m writing this for those of you who want some tips to streamline your shed project.
Determine your needs
What do you need out of your shed? Is it strictly utility and doesn’t matter how it looks? Does it need to fit in a tight area, like between your house and a fence? How big does it need to be to store all your stuff? Do you want it to be maintenance free? Will it also serve as a place for your kids to play?
In our case, our requirements were:
- Since it is obstructing our view of the trees behind our house, it must look great and be something we are proud of once finished.
- Be big enough to store our deck furniture, lawn mower, garden tools, and any other large/heavy items we want out of the house/garage/basement.
- Be maintenance free once it is finished.
Note, simplicity and speed of construction was not one of the design requirements. More on that later…
Determine local building requirements
Your local municipality will outline all of the requirements for structures built on your property and will have rules that include:
- How big/tall can you build without requiring a permit?
- What is the maximum allowable height at the midpoint?
- How far must you be away from your property lines or other structures?
- What you need to do to make it a permanent structure?
Your neighborhood may also have architectural guidelines that must be followed for structures built. In our case, the City of Edmonton has an excellent website outlining the requirements for building detached accessory buildings such as garages and sheds.
Choose a design
The internet is a wonderful place to help you identify what you like. I am amazed how quickly a “Pinterest” search can allow one to build a short-list of designs, color pallets, and features they want out of a project. BUT, turning that into decent plans and a bill of materials can leave you frustrated.
When choosing a design, remember, there is beauty in simplicity. Simple and timeless designs are easy to build and look great for generations. We chose a less traditional and more complicated design; which made the build more challenging. Whatever you choose, ensure that it meets the Safety Codes standards and requirements for your area.
Find Plans, a Bill of Materials (BOM), and order materials
For us, the easiest way to get a good set of plans and a complete BOM was by visiting our local Home Hardware. They had about a dozen different plans available, ranging from simple to complicated designs, and exterior finishing that included, OSB, decorative plywood, and vinyl siding. The plans were well-done and easy to follow.
Another benefit to using their kits was that it only took a couple minutes using their material supply books to pick the siding and shingle color combinations. The best part was that once it was picked, within 10 minutes, they had a complete bill of materials (including fasteners and hardware), and could deliver everything to the build site for $75 within 3 business days! This included all the pressure treated 2x6s for the foundation, 2x4s and OSB for the floor/walls/roof, nails, shingles, vinyl siding, aluminum facia/soffits/drip edge, windows, hinges etc.
In our case, we picked our top 2 designs and mocked up the layout in the location we would be building. We landed on a 10×10 5-sided corner shed finished with vinyl siding. We selected Mitten’s Annapolis blue siding, with white J-channel, white corner trim, and white aluminum soffits/facia/drip edge.
Block the time, and build!
This wasn’t a trivial project, so it is important to take that into account before getting started. To break the build down into “blocks”, the phases include:
- Preparing the foundation – this required removing 2’x2’ sections of the topsoil/sod 8” deep, and replacing it with road crush tamped down well to support concrete pier blocks. Note: it is also acceptable to pour a concrete slab, but this is an expensive option for a shed.
2. Build and level the floor – once the concrete blocks are in place, frame the floor joists and install blocking and sheathing as per the plans. To level the floor on the concrete blocks, I have found that using “peel-and-stick” vinyl tiles make excellent waterproof shims that can be ground using a side-grinder with a sanding disc to the perfect thickness required. Simply score the tile with a utility knife to the needed width, and break. Stack as required.
3. Build the walls – this is the fun part and progress moves quickly. Once the floor is built, it is an excellent “flat-and-square” work station to build the walls. Once erected, the sheathing can be applied. A second person makes this much easier. Use a router to cut out the windows perfectly flush with the frame.
4. Frame the roof – for the typical gable roof, this isn’t very complicated. In our case, due to the roof design, it was quite tricky and required 2 people to put the first 4 rafters into place. There were several different sized rafters constructed using compound miters, making this a challenging task. Additionally, the front ridge symmetry was challenging to get perfect and took time. Being “off-center” by 0.75” made the front fascia unbalanced by nearly 5” between the left and right sides of the shed! Again, there is beauty in simplicity.
5. Sheet the roof per the plans – I had excellent results cutting the various sheeting angles directly on the lawn using the Skil saw. Measure out the piece, mark with a sharpie, and cut freehand. Simple.
6. Apply roofing paper, and drip edge – This is the first time I have worked with aluminum trim. With a good set of tin snips (Red-cuts left, Yellow-cuts left/straight/right, Green-cuts right), a speed square, pencil, patience, and practice pieces, you can cut beautifully jointed aluminum trim. Using a steel straight edge, you can bend sharp and clean corners that look great.
7. Shingle – Shingling this roof, again, made me appreciate simplicity. Due to the multiple ridges and valleys, only a few shingles could be installed at a time without cutting them to fit. Pro-tip: I found that cutting the shingles was best done using a large pair of shears designed for shingles. Architectural shingles are not the easiest to cut with a hook knife, and scoring-and-breaking was less convenient than cutting in place.
8. Apply vinyl siding – This part is fun and changes of the look of the structure quickly! The vinyl siding institute has great instructional videos for the installation. It is important to take your time when cutting the J-channel around windows. It isn’t difficult, but rushing will lead to a poor finish. Pro-tip: cutting the vinyl siding using a miter saw is done easily and smoothly with the blade installed backwards (normal installation can cause the material to catch, chip, and crack). Additionally, a zip disk in a side grinder works great to free-hand cut long seams!
9. Install Soffits and Facia – Working with aluminum is wonderful, but takes patience and some thought to overlap the joints so that water has no way to enter and the finishing is clean. Cutting aluminum is easily done using the miter saw or tin-snips; and test pieces are a great way to ensure a perfect fit.
10. Build and install the doors – I elected to build door frames using 1.25” diameter, 0.1” wall HSS and rivet decorative OSB to the front. While more complicated, it ensures the doors will always be flat, stiff and strong.
- This wasn’t a small project. Even the simple task of preparing the foundation required moving about a yard of sod/topsoil out and another yard of road crush in. Go in knowing what you have signed up for.
- The plans were great; however, they assume the builder knows how to prepare a foundation, frame, install windows, siding, shingles, soffits and facia. If this is your first time doing this type of work, expect to research and learn new skills each step of the way to get it right.
- Simplicity is a wonderful thing. A simple design is often stronger, and takes far less time to build. Time is a non-renewable resource; so invest it wisely. The shed roof made me realize the beauty in simplicity. What would have taken a day to frame, sheet and shingle the roof with a simple design, ended up taking several weekends due to the complicated design. The facia trim and soffit joints also became much more challenging due to the angles in this design.
- While the project ended up taking longer than anticipated, I wouldn’t do it differently. I love to learn, and really enjoyed both the project and the process. I have new skills in project estimation, project management, and carpentry that can’t be learned by reading.
- Finally, I am proud of the final product, and have one heck of a nice place to park a lawnmower!