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The other was storage! Nothing will ruin outdoor tools and supplies faster than leaving them outdoors over a Hudson Valley winter, and they don’t belong in this little house without room to spare. So let’s tackle it!
I feel like a broken record here, but let’s remember this is a SMALL SPACE. A garden shed is a wonderful, functional luxury to have, but any kind of freestanding structure would have just felt huge and out of place here, I think. There are more compact against-the-wall-or-fence options available out there (like this kind of thing), but I couldn’t find anything that felt right—even something small is going to be a relatively big feature of this yard just due to the size.
So I built one myself! And you can too! Before we really dive in: I’m showing you what I did, but if you’re thinking of taking on a similar project, play around with it! You can adapt the basic concept with your own materials choices and dimensions. I really tried to distill the structure, materials, and tools down to the very basics—not even a nail gun in sight!
Indulge me for a second, because the story of this shed actually starts way back when I bought the house. It had this shoddy fence in the front with 5/4 x 6 decking boards spanning between posts, which I unceremoniously took down.
As one does, I figured the pressure-treated fencing boards could be reused, so I went and build myself a little floating deck in front of the house. Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! It provided the step up to the front door, and seemed like a clever and cute idea at the time. A place to plop a couple chairs and watch the world go by, in lieu of a front porch. I painted it black and that was that.
And then I ended up hating this little deck. Whoopsie! It was a weird size and shape and, let’s be honest, it just feels severely unlikely that anyone would choose to sit here of all places. I accepted that the deck was a mistake and resolved to get rid of it. SOMETIMES I NEED A COUPLE TRIES TO GET IT RIGHT, OK?! So I dismantled it last week.
Looking at this pile of wood, and the amount of money I just spent on the new fence (worth it, I think, but not cheap), it dawned on me: there is my shed. I am rich in garbage wood. I bet I can build a shed without buying a single new piece of wood. Let’s find out.
If you, unlike me, are not rich in garbage wood, new versions of everything I used are of course available at Lowe’s!
I like to work with salvaged wood in a particular way, and it starts with cleaning it up. Old screws and nails sticking out can be hazardous and don’t allow you to stack the wood neatly, so before I do anything I grab the drill and hammer and nail pullers (I like these pliers for that—a pair is ALWAYS in my toolkit) and take all that stuff out. Then I stack my wood neatly in size order, which helps me use the material as efficiently and with as little waste as possible—for instance if I need a 4′ length, I’ll grab the board that’s 50″ instead of the board that’s 90″.
The next step is to build the base, which I did with the help of some deck blocks repurposed from the deck. I love deck blocks! I put them directly onto compacted soil, but a more functional person may have laid out some 6 mil plastic and a few inches of gravel, leveled and tamped, and had an easier job placing their deck blocks and a more stable base for them to sit on and a vapor barrier to extend the life of the wood. POSSIBLY.
I placed my deck blocks 24″ on center, and you can see how nicely framing lumber (I used 2x4s) fits into the top of the block. You definitely want pressure-treated wood for the floor framing, both because it’s close to the ground and because it’s in direct contact with the concrete deck blocks. The joists need to protrude at least a few inches beyond the deck block so that trim can cover it later.
Once I was comfortable that everything was positioned correctly, I dumped a couple inches of drainage rock around the deck blocks, which should help prevent weeds.
On the sides, I screwed in a couple of 6″ sections of 2×4 perpendicular to the joist. This gives you something to secure your trim to.
For fasteners, I used these Grip-Rite Primeguard Plus Polymer deck screws in the 2″, 2.5″, 3″, and 3.5″ sizes almost exclusively throughout the project. I know this sounds weird, but they are GREAT screws. I also used them for the fence—they drive in easily, rarely need pre-drilling, are suitable for soft and hardwood, and the star head keeps your bit from skipping and stripping the screw. For the drill and driver, I love my Porter Cable set I’ve had for the past few years. My exact models aren’t made anymore, but it looks like this is the newer version sold now. I can’t stress the importance of having a good drill and driver set enough!
Next, I used pressure-treated 1×6 to wrap the base. You could go with 1×8 if you wanted the skirting to hit closer to the ground. It’s screwed in through the face of the trim board and into the ends of the joists.
Then I reused the old decking boards as the floor of my platform! Just lay it down and screw it in. I left about 3/4″ of overhang on the front and both sides.
Congrats, you have just built a very tiny floating deck!
Let’s! Build! Some! Walls! Easy walls. Not really even walls. More like…sides. I had some 4×4 pressure-treated posts from the fence that I took down a few weeks ago (the fence panels weren’t salvageable, but the posts were fine!), so I cut those down to size and toe-nailed them into the base. Except with 3.5″ screws, not nails. Like so: (It’s helpful to pre-drill this.)
One screw to keep it upright and in place is all you need at this stage, because you need to be able to level and square the posts. Measure the outer dimensions post to post at the base and build a header.
For the top plate/header, I sandwiched two 2x4s together with 2.5″ screws, drilled in every foot or so on both sides. Then it sits on top of the posts—a little tricky to maneuver by yourself, but I managed OK!
Level up your posts and secure the header to the posts.
On the back side of the posts, I ripped a 2×4 in half and secured it flush with the inner face of the post to act as a nailer for my sidewall cladding. This left about 1 3/4″ between the outer face of the post and the outer face of the nailer, although this placement depends on the thickness of your cladding. With normal wood siding, you’d want about 1″.
Opposite the nailer attached to the post, I attached nailers to the fence! I did this by screwing them in from the backside of the fence, one 2.5″ screw through each board. This had the added benefit of fixing any waviness in the fence—as some boards will naturally want to bow out and some will want to bow in—creating an even, solid wall. Above the nailers, I mounted a 2×4 which is the same length as the header beam, also secured from the backside of the fence. This is the ledger board for the rafters, and the height depends on the desired pitch of your roof—I went low-slope because I wanted to keep the doors as high as possible but still keep my shed below the fence line.
*Note: I’m relying a lot on the structure of my fence to make this work, but your circumstances may vary. That doesn’t mean this project can’t be done, but you may have to add some additional support to the backside to add strength and stability, or just build it as a freestanding structure.
Now that you have a basic structure, you want to make certain your posts are nice and level, which you can do by securing temporary braces between the nailers. Add additional 3 1/2 screws to the base of the posts to lock in their positioning—I like two screws on each of the four sides, pre-drilled with a 1/8″ bit.
CAN I UNBURDEN MYSELF AND TELL YOU A SECRET? I don’t *really* know how to cut roof rafters. I have seen it done. I have helped do it. I have designed several roofs and overseen their construction. But I’ve yet to take the time to reallllllly learn how to mark and cut a rafter, which I didn’t fully appreciate until I set to work and realized I only kind of knew what I was doing. WikiHow has supplied a very nice step-by-step that walks you through it much better than I can.
I pretty much ended up making a series of test-cuts to find my angles, successfully made one rafter, and then used it as a template for the rest of my rafters. OBVIOUSLY do not just wing it if you’re building a large structure or something that will take on a significant load. I used my jigsaw to cut out the bird’s mouths.
Secure the rafters to the top plate in a few places. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to add hurricane ties for added security!
Yay, framing is done! We’ll return to the roof in a moment. Standby.
Let’s put up walls. This can be done in a variety of ways and a variety of materials, but I still had all these salvaged pressure-treated decking boards I was excited to get rid of. I thought maybe it would be fun to install them like wood siding? WHY NOT. You could use regular wood siding, plywood siding panels, kinda whatever you want within reason. I fastened them with 2″ screws rather than nails for added strength.
Like siding a house, you need a little starter strip to kick your first board out to the correct angle, and then the rest of the boards follow suit. I think this one is about 3/8″ thick, and it’s just an off-cut of a pressure-treated 2×4.
I found this part very exciting. WILL I HAVE ENOUGH WOOD?! WILL THIS LOOK HORRIBLE? LET’S FIND OUT!
OK SO YES IT DOES LOOK HORRIBLE but most things do at this stage so please HOLD YOUR HORSES.
We have a platform. We have sidewalls. We have rafters. Let’s do this roof thing. How’s a cedar shingle sound?
First step: decking! With asphalt shingles you’d want a solid piece of plywood or OSB, but for cedar shake you want skip sheathing, where there are gaps between the boards to promote airflow around the shingles and extend their lives. For this I used 1×3 pressure-treated lumber (fun fact, I think Anna gave me this lumber out of her basement when she moved to New Mexico…4 years ago), fastened to the rafters with 2″ screws. I cut myself a 4″ block to use as a spacer between decking boards.
It’s all happening! I installed one more decking board down at the end of the rafter tails after this photo was taken.
Before installing the shingles, I added a 1×6 fascia (secured to the end of the rafter tails and flush with the top of the skip sheathing). I also used 1×6 to wrap the sides (the rake fascia) at this stage.
NOTE that these shingles are relatively inexpensive because they are Grade C—meaning they have knots and imperfections and are really recommended for siding, not roofing. You would NOT want to roof a house with these, but they’re fine for a little outbuilding thing like this.
Please also note that it is best to have a very enthusiastic assistant on the ground overseeing your work.
At this stage, you’ll want to install drip edge and flashing. I…uh…skipped the drip edge because…uh…I just did. You could adapt this shed to attach to the sidewall of a house or other structure, but you want to properly flash under the sidewall siding.
The first course of shingles is important to get right! You want to overhang the front fascia about 1.5″ and the rake fascias about 3/4″. You also want to space the shingles about 1/8-1/4″ from each other to allow for expansion. I used a paint stir stick as my spacer to get the hang of it, and then I eyeballed it.
The first course gets TWO layers, or sometimes three. The name of the game is to offset your seams by at least 1.5″, and place your nails about 3/4″ from the edge of the shingle and at least 1.5″ from the bottom of the next course. That sounds hard because numbers, but it’s not that hard. It’s kind of fun! All the shingles are different sizes, so you have to focus on what you’re doing.
Before beginning a new course, snap a chalkline to demarcate where the bottom of your next course should fall. I chose a pretty standard 5″ exposure—meaning the part of the shingle you still see once successive courses go up.
I’m not really sure about the best way to treat the joint where the roof meets the fence in this situation…you can’t really flash it nor can you just leave it alone. I ripped a cedar 2×4 to 1″ thickness on a table saw, and then ripped the sides to the same angle as my rafters. This will cover the top nailed edges of the shingles, like half of a ridge cap.
Where the fence meets this ridge cap piece, I used a little adhesive-backed foam weatherstripping to help really seal the gap.
Then I secured it through the backside of the fence. As you screw it in, you should see the foam joint shrink away as the wood is pulled together. Then I ran a bead of silicone caulk over the joint and called it a day. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
FINALLY, time to build those doors! At this point, I was really running out of wood. But also steadfast in my mission to not buy wood. So far, I have only bought the cedar shakes.
My rough opening was about 80″, meaning two ~40″ wide doors. But stashed in my garage was a decent supply of 36″ pieces of pressure-treated 1×6, so BY GOLLY I made one door wider than the other so I could use those boards. The frame is scrap 2×6 lumber that I ripped to 2.25″ on the table saw. It’s just a box with wood planks screwed to the front. Because I was just using up everything I had left, I decided to do a random varying width, figuring it would look fine and maybe a little interesting?
Before hanging the doors and wrapping this party up, I power washed the old wood, let it dry, and broke out the stain! I used my old faithful—black Cabot Solid-Color Acrylic Deck Stain—which goes on just like paint but acts more like a stain and shouldn’t peel. I’ve had great results with it over the years. The old deck boards were painted with a porch paint, and obviously there’s still a fair amount of paint on there, so I’m curious how that will hold up. It didn’t have any issues with drying or adhesion, and I really think it’s gonna be fine. It’s pretty forgiving stuff.
*with new pressure-treated wood, it should be allowed to dry out for a season before painting or staining, but all this wood has had plenty of time.
Painting things black is so satisfying. Try it sometime!
I added additional framing about 8″ from the top and bottom on the inside of each door for my hinges to screw into, and then mounted them with these heavy-duty gate hinges from Lowe’s. Then I made an astragal on the table saw and added it onto the door on the left, which covers the small gap between the doors.
To the inside of the doors, I added these Kobalt Storage Rails, which I love. There are a bunch of coordinating hooks available that snap onto the rail and can be moved around and rearranged, and I think they’re great for landscaping tools and other garage/shed/basement type things. The rails are a really hard plastic, but they cut down easily on a chop saw.
Throw in some shelving, some assorted stuff, and…we have ourselves a scrappy lil’ shed! I think it’s kinda cute!
Not too shabby, right? Bridget pointed out in the comments on another post that a shed should be able to store a bike, which I had admittedly not considered before—so thank you Bridget! As such, I have installed a bike for the purposes of demonstration, and honestly because it’s a cute-ass bike. You could definitely fit a lot more stuff in here than I’ve shown, and I can imagine adding a lot more hooks and stuff on the inside to keep everything organized. Grandpa style!
(BTW, don’t freak—that gravel is a base layer, not the final look!)
Obviously between the gappy fence and doors, the shed isn’t completely weather-tight but I feel like it’s close enough for the things you’d want out here? We’ve had a couple big rainstorms since I put things in here, and everything has stayed dry.
Here’s the Kobalt storage rail in action! I’ve been disappointed by stuff falling off of so many overcomplicated tension-based organizational rail things over the years, and I’m so glad I found this well-designed one that’s affordable and takes about 30 seconds to install. I have some at my own house, too!
I mounted these stainless steel shelves to the fence (also a hand-me-down from Anna, the gift that keeps on giving!), figuring that if water ever did get in, it wouldn’t accumulate on the shelves. Then I put some assorted backyard-y things on them!
I like how my funny fence-turned-decking-turned-siding worked out. I think it has nice texture.
I can only take so many pictures of the same little backyard shed, so I think that about wraps it up! It’s already so nice to have a place to put things as I work on the rest of the yard, and I’m happy to have a place to stash outdoor items over the winter!
Speaking of! I think we have crossed a threshold in the Hudson Valley. It’s still August but the past few days have felt suspiciously fall-like, and the forecast seems to suggest that it’s staying that way—which I’m not mad about! I think this means I can start planting earlier than I thought I’d be able to, and then this yard isn’t too far off from being done!