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A backyard shed – the perfect spring project!

By Erin ParkerWell, spring is on the way, and now is definitely a great time to start thinking of outdoor spring projects.  Just about everyone can use some extra storage space, and one truly useful and rewarding project to consider is designing and building your own backyard shed.

Now of course it would sure be easy to go down to Home Depot or Lowe’s and pick out one of their pre-built sheds and have it hauled to your house and plopped in the backyard – but where’s the fun in that?

Take it from me, sheds are pretty easy to build. Designing and building your very own shed is also rewarding and fun – I think of it as the adult version of building a tree fort. For those of you who can remember the joy of nailing boards in a tree when you were a kid, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of dreaming up your very own design and then building it with your own hands. Plus, when you’re done, you’ll end up with a structure that fits your needs exactly and is truly unique.

In our case, we needed some extra interior and exterior covered storage space in order to free up space in our garage.  We also  wanted a shed that was attractive and fit together well with our house architectural style and color scheme.  In addition, I wanted a small workshop area to keep my tools and my tinkering projects out of the house.  Here’s a photo of the final result:

Plan It!

The first step in building or remodeling a backyard shed (or any other structure for that matter) is to sit down and start drawing up your plan.  You don’t have to be an engineer or architect to do this – if you have an idea of what size and type of shed you’d like to build, you’re already well on your way. If not, you can get the fires burning by doing a little research.

The easiest way to get great ideas for your dream shed is to get online and start Googling – there are literally hundreds (maybe even thousands) of interesting, attractive and handy varieties of sheds to check out on the web.  Of course, the local library, bookstore or Home Depot are also good places to look for ideas and shed plans.

Once you find a style of shed that you like, you can either buy the stock design and alter it to fit your needs, or better yet, just sit down and design your own plan from scratch – there’s no limit to the possibilities!

Follow the Rules

Before you get too far along with your plans, make sure to check out your local zoning and building code requirements and follow them.   If you’re in a property owner’s association, check the by-laws.  Also, don’t forget to call Miss-Dig (just dial 811) to come out and locate any underground utilities.  Life’s hard enough already – don’t cause yourself any extra problems.

Build It!

Once you’ve got a plan that fits your own unique needs and taste, and you’ve picked out the perfect spot on your property (important: make darn sure it’s on your property), it’s time to start building.

Unlike larger structures (like your house) which must be set on deep permanent concrete foundations, backyard sheds don’t require any deep excavation or foundations in the traditional sense. Instead, backyard sheds can be set on concrete blocks or pressure-treated wood skids set directly on grade, or better yet, on a layer of stone (to help with drainage and to minimize frost heave).

The next step is to frame the shed’s floor platform. The floor platform is usually framed with 2×6 or 2×8 joists. Since the floor platform is set near the ground and moisture, the deadly enemy of all structures, I highly recommend using pressure-treated lumber and corrosion resistant nails. Finally, the floor platform is covered with plywood or OSB flooring (3/4-in. tongue and groove plywood flooring works best).

Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, there are many ways to support and frame a shed. One alternative is to post-frame the shed like a mini pole barn, with 4×4 pressure treated posts supported by concrete pads below grade and extending to the top of wall height at the corners. The post-framed shed can have either have no floor, a concrete floor slab, or a wood floor platform framed into the posts.

Another good shed construction method is to build the shed on a concrete grade slab. With this method, the shed’s walls are attached directly to the slab and the slab acts as both foundation and floor for the shed. The only disadvantage to the the post-frame or slab-on-grade methods is that the shed can’t be moved in one piece later, for whatever reason.

Most shed builders use simple 2×4 stick framing for the walls and site-built 2×4 trusses or rafters for the roof.   The framing is usually covered with ½” plywood or OSB sheathing.  There’s only thing to worry about…don’t hit your thumb with the hammer!

The doors, windows, siding, trim and roofing materials and color scheme are up to your imagination…

I hope you found this article interesting and useful.   If you have any questions about building backyard sheds or any other type of backyard structure, please comment below or feel free to contact me at parkerengineer@gmail.com.

  • Anonymous

    You set the bar pretty high, Erin.

    In fact, I knew a guy who had a little structure just about like yours, on his lake residential compound. Little sign over the door, “Elbow Room.” It was a single room with a little standing height table in the center. A place for cocktails at 5. That was in another era.

  • Jason Knight

    Thanks! I have been looking into building my own back yard storage shed at my house in kansas city, and this article has helped me a lot! I was stumped for a little bit, but yeah, Thank you!

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