Building a shed needs great planning from start to finish including the tiniest of details.

Find out how Shed Building Monthly reader Don Lemna discovered the importance of those tiny details through hard experience. Despite great planning at the start and overcoming several design obstacles in innovative ways a small detail towards the end of the project caused problems that were costly in both time and materials.

The planning started really well

The start of any project is a great time as we get to play architect, consider the site the purpose of the new shed and how it will sit within its surroundings.

Don: "I chose the gable style because I thought it would look good in the setting. I wanted a kind of rustic, cottage style shed so I went with exposed rafters and the board and batten siding."

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Hard work and heartache win through

With the ideal shed in mind there then follows a period of investigation of discovery, looking at the available options. A pre-made shed is simpler and quicker to get in place but will always be less customized. Building a shed from scratch involves a lot of work on site as well as all the design and sourcing of materials. I asked Don what were the main factors that governed his decision making.

Don: "I've nothing against packaged sheds, whether metal or vinyl, but I wanted a wood shed to match the style of my home and garden. (I've got a dozen wood trellis' and a wood arch, etc. around my yard). I looked at the one type of wood shed package available at one of the local lumber yards, but it didn't look good enough or solid enough to me, so I decided to build my own."

The first problem - Foundation, speed or quality?

In any building project there is a constant struggle to keep costs under control, but also to get the job you want at a good price. For Don this struggle started with the foundation - he really wanted a concrete foundation.

Don: "I like the "lasts forever" quality of concrete. My fence is made of fancy concrete block on a solid concrete foundation. I long ago grew tired of having to replace rotting wood. In my experience even treated wood eventually rots, if it's in contact with the earth. Of course as long as the wood is placed up on concrete pedestals, it's fine."

And then of course the cost of a concrete foundation needs to be factored in.

Don: "I built the forms well ahead of time, waiting until someone else in the neighborhood had a concrete project going, then I piggytailed them to get a better price."

Framing followed a fairly standard pattern

Don: "I used 2 x 4s for my walls and 2 x 6s for the rafters. The studs and rafters were 16 " apart. I used treated lumber for the bottom plate and door ramp.

Working alone influenced the roof structure

Don: "I used a ridge beam because I thought it would be easier to cut and mount the rafters that way. (I had no help at hand).

First siding problem

With the walls and roof in place the board and batten siding that Don had selected was the only thing standing between him and a completed project. The problem that he foresaw was that having the boards running the full height of the shed would make it look very 'tall' in relation to its width.

Don: The 6 x 8 foot shed seemed a little high to me, so I broke the board and batten up at the centre, as you can see. I liked the final effect.

The second siding problem was a bit more serious.

The board and batten siding had another lesson in store to teach Don just as he thought that he was home and dry. The problem was nailing the 3x1 battens over the 2" gaps that he had left between the vertical boards. The overlap on to the adjoining boards was less than 1/2".

Don: I had to nail the battens into the edges of the boards at an angle--a difficult and non-optimum procedure. In some cases I had split boards and afterwards, in many cases, I found it difficult or impossible to countersink the nails sufficiently to get a perfect finish later with wood putty and paint.

Was the shed going to look like a beaver's breakfast?

Don: After quite a bit of frustration, I finished up the last part of the batten nailing job by cutting lengths of 2 x 4 and screwing them between studs inside the shed at the required places so I could nail the remaining battens into them. More extra work and more expense. Altogether the whole business was a lot of extra work and the problem could have been avoided if I'd started out with horizontal "nailers" (nailed into the studs) around the exterior and over the OSB at the very start.

The moral is that you can save a lot of time by thinking your plan through right down to the last detail.

Don: My basic problem was that I failed to visualize the plan in enough detail before I started work. I think I might have saved myself a lot of trouble if I'd sat down and carefully reviewed each stage of the plan when I got to it--and, especially, if I'd imagined doing it, step-by-step.

The project was almost finished but there was one last thing to do!

Don: "I had a shed warming party with neighbors and friends. Inside the shed, on the floor, I sat a Teddy Bear and a Stuffed Beaver, each with a beer bottle between their legs and I scattered empty beer bottles around them. The party was a great success and the shed got a bunch of presents."

building a shed

A last word for secrets-of-shed-building

Don: I used the "Secrets of Shed Building" as my general reference in planning my shed. I liked the way the information was arranged. I appreciated the instant access to detailed information, when needed. I appreciated that the site was enthusiastic about sheds and shed building, since that is what I was into at the time.

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