Hand built by my youngest boy and I from scratch. Cooker, Fridge, Microwave, Kettle, Computer, Broadband, TV, Karaoke machine, Video player, Hi-Fi, 16 power points, security camera, 2 alarms, underfloor, ceiling and wall insulation, wall and ceiling wire mesh anti-intrusion kit as well as the normal tumble dryer and gardening stuff
Shed Build Mk1 (There will never be a Mk2)
It all began in June 2001 when my wife and I moved from a 2 bedroom terraced house in Accrington to a 3 bedroom semi in Blackburn with gardens front and back. When I say garden, I dont mean what you think. These houses were newly built and the areas laughingly called gardens were just areas of dirt and rubble. The first thing I had to do at the back was decide on the size of a paved area from the rear door to the side of the house and the drive. All that was there now was a single width paving slab. Having decided on that, the earth and builders rubble had to be shifted back a bit which meant that the rest of the garden acquired a steeper slope than it already had. In truth, the far end of the garden is about 4 foot higher than the front and it is only 30 foot from front to back. So now I have all this space to use up somehow and the idea of having a shed to store garden tools and the like seemed like a good one. Our youngest lad, who fancies himself as a Joiner, came round with his wife and kids one Sunday and he and I were looking at the space and deciding where a shed should go and what size it should be. Once it was all worked out, it was time to go and have a look at shed shops. What a let down that proved to be. Oh sure, I could buy any size shed I wanted but the build quality was rubbish and the price was just for the basic shed and didnt include siting it. Then, of course, as soon as I mentioned the slope, there was a sharp intake of breath and the calculator came out. We went through this a few times and decided it was going to cost too much and be an inferior product anyway. So the next thing to do was get a guestimate of a self build cost and figure a way to defeat the slope. Over the next week, I studied the costs of various types and sizes of wood, nails, screws, etc and found that a decent sized shed could be made from shiplap with a felt covered sloping roof for less than half the price of a shop bought one made from poorly jointed cheap wood. I was scared I had my figures wrong so had them double checked by our lad who agreed with them. He even said he could get the wood cheaper by getting it from a Builders Merchants using his firms account (but my cash). So we decided that this was the way to go. Then er indoors put her oar in and said that if we were going to build a shed, we may as well build a proper shed and not just a storage space for a lawn mower and a spade. She said that we may as well use the entire budget we had allowed for a shop bought one and make a proper job of it. She also said it would be a good place for me to do my computer stuff so she could have her dining room back. Mmmmm, that complicated stuff a bit cos that meant adding electric and a phone line for Broadband so it was back to the drawing board re costing. Meanwhile, our lad had been asking at his works if anyone knew a way round the slope in the garden and somebody had come up with an idea. When I first heard it, I thought it was a joke but after having it all explained to me in detail, I realized it might just work. The idea was to build the shed on stilts. Yeah, crazy, I know but the alternative was to somehow create a flat bit and lay a concrete foundation slab to fasten the base of the shed to and that created its own problems. So we did a bit more thinking and devised a plan. The plan was fairly simple. Even though the shed had grown to the size of a small house at 16ft x 8ft x 7 ft (6ft at the back) the principle was the same. Dig holes 3 foot deep and 18 x 18. Use concrete to set the stilts in the holes. Build the shed on the stilts. The logistics of the build were simple as well. Basically, it boiled down to me doing the graft during the week and then our lad coming over at the weekend with his Chippie tools to measure and cut the wood I would need and help with the put it all together stage. I should point out at this stage that I can cut a bit of wood with a saw and hammer a nail into it but thats about as far as my own expertise goes. We didnt even have a plan. It was all done by trial and error. Anyway, it was time to get down to some graft. We did some measuring and stuck some sticks in the garden that were at the corners of where the shed was going to be and 2 more half way down the long side, front and back. A bit more crafty measuring to allow for the size of the stilts and I started digging. At this stage, our lad beat a hasty retreat but the nights were long and I finished the job at about 11pm. When he turned up on Sunday morning he brought a cement mixer, the gubbins to make concrete and some baulks of timber 6 x 6. The timber was cut into 4 foot lengths and some 6 nails were hammered into the bottom 2ft of them on all sides so that 4 inches remained sticking out. These would help to secure the stilts in the concrete. Each stilt was carefully positioned in a hole, braced on all sides and 2 foot of concrete poured into the holes to cover the nails. We had to leave that alone then for the concrete to set solid. Craig went off then to get some more timber, nails and other bits and bobs like joist hangers. While the concrete was curing, we used the time to build the frames for the walls of the shed and cut the 5 x 3 timbers that would form the supports for the floor. Using 4 x 3 timbers and the driveway to lay it all out in position, we built the sides and front but at this point, Craig had to go home, leaving me to do the back frame on my own. Id been carefully watching how he did the measuring and cutting and even though I was reduced to using a hand saw now that he had taken his tools home ready for work the next day, I managed to get it done that night before packing in. Monday morning arrived as these things tend to do but I was knackered so took the day off from shed building and if you are wondering why Im not heading for work, the answer is simple, Im a semi-old fart who took early retirement. Even though I took time of from the physical graft, I was still working on the shed, but mentally. I knew Craig wouldnt be back until next weekend to do any work but he might well pop in to see how things were going and offer advice and I wanted to get as much done as I could. I spent the day working out how the floor was going to be laid and getting the order I would have to do things sorted out in my mind. I tell a lie. The concrete was firmly set and the stilts were as solid as we could ever have hoped so the one thing I did was top up the holes with some of the muck that had come out of them and beat it down with a shovel. The next day, following Craigs instructions on how to do it, I drew a line that was perfectly horizontal around one of the rear stilts and 9 inches from ground level. Then it was a case of lopping the top bit off very carefully. Using a length of timber and a spirit level I could then mark out the other stilts for cutting. I think that part of the build was probably the physically hardest bit to actually do. Once I had made a level playing field I used coach bolts to fasten the 5 x 3 timber to the stilts on all sides with the top of the stilts level with the top of the 5 x 3. Then the first boring job began. Measuring and marking where the joist hangers were going to go and screwing them in place. It was a job that needed doing but Ye Gods it was a pain in the bum. This was another area where using Monday to have a think paid off because I remembered that when the joists themselves were put in place, they had to be half an inch lower than the top of the outer frame to allow room for the actual floor which was made of half inch plywood. I got the joists set in place and that was me done for the day and I might add, bloody chuffed at what I had managed to get done. Bright and early next morning (about 10am), Craig arrived in the works van with the sheets of Marine ply that would form the floor of the shed on the roof rack and the inside of the van was filled with sheets of some sort of insulating material about 4 inches thick. We got them all unloaded and after he cast his critical eye over my work of yesterday, he buggered off again and I set to work. The first thing I had to do was measure and cut the insulation to fit between the joists but that didnt take long using my wifes electric carving knife. (Shhhhh. What she doesnt know wont hurt her) Some double sided carpet tape fixed it in place plus, as a sort of belt and braces safety feature, some 3 inch nails hammered into the joists for the insulation to rest on when the floor was in place. Then the 8 x 4 sheets were laid in place and a few dozen nails completed the job. I now had a perfectly level floor. There wasnt really much else I could do now until Craig arrived on Saturday morning when we would lift the frames we made earlier into place and fastened them together. One good thing is that all the activity had brought my neighbour out for a look at what was going on. He worked as an electrician for a local firm that made things to do with the bakery trade. Ovens and the like. We got chatting as you do and he offered to do the electrics in the shed in return for me allowing him to store all his gardening tools in the shed when it was finished until he could get his own shed. He even got all the bits he needed from work but that comes later in the build. It was very handy having another bloke about to talk over the things I would need in my shed. For instance, my idea of having electricity in the shed was to run a 4 gang adapter from a plug in the house but he just laughed at me and shook his head. If you are going to do it, do it right he said. We were only at the talking stage just yet but according to him, Doing it right involved something called a 3 phase box and running a suitable cable from the fuse box in the house via an underground armoured conduit pipe and then having fluorescent tube lighting and 16 power points. At least thats what I think he said. He was the electrician so I just left him to it. It was all going to be buckshee anyway so the more the merrier. Saturday morning arrived as another glorious day and Craig arrived with a load of shiplap. We got it all unloaded in the driveway and he went off for some more while I handballed it round to the back of the house. Space was getting a bit tight at the side of the house cos the frames fro the sides of the shed were still there propped up against the side of the house. When Craig got back, we left the new load where it was on the van and set to getting the shed walls in place. This went a lot easier than I thought it would. We got one side frame in place and just braced it in place using 2 clothes props against the fence and then put the back frame in place. A few nails to hold the 2 frames together and then some serious sized nails to secure them to the floor. Once locked in place, the 2 frames were properly secured using some special angle iron type things with holes in them for screws that Craig had brought with him. After those 2 were set in place, the other 2 sides were a doddle. We had already made provision for where the door and window were going to go and Craig had the proper size wood to make the door, door frame and window frame so he got on with making those while I started bringing the second load of shiplap round to the back of the house. Measuring and cutting the lengths of shiplap was my next job and I started on one of the side walls cos it was smaller and had no breaks for doors or window, just a lot of 8 foot lengths. As each one was cut, I nailed it in place after making sure it was level until the wall was up as far as I could use straight pieces and then I had to leave it for Craig to cut an angle to allow for the sloping roof. It seemed to be working OK so I did the other end frame exactly the same. Meanwhile, the door, door frame and window frame were finished so Craig came to give me a hand with the rest of the shiplap and we discovered our first minor hiccup. There was plenty of room to work at the sides of the shed but the rear wall was just 9 inches from a 6 ft fence. We had to get all the shiplap cut and put it on the ground behind the shed, drive round the estate to get to the other side of the fence and nail it in place from there. It was just Sods Law that where we wanted to hammer the nails in place was where the fence slats were. We had to take half a dozen of them out and put them back when we had finished. Like I said, a minor hiccup and considering our skill level, I was surprised that this was the first thing that had gone wrong. We then sat back and looked at the shed and somehow managed to demolish a crate of Stella and a plate of bacon butties. Sunday came around as Sundays usually do and today I had the help of our neighbour, Ian, as well as Craig which was just as well cos we had to fit the roof. After the measuring, marking and fitting of more joist hangers, the roof joists went in with no hassle and on top of those we secured the 8 x 4 marine ply roof sections. So now, to all intents and purposes, the shed was at last shed shaped. There was still a lot of work to do to add the finishing touches but we were nearly there. I dont really know what went on up on the roof because Craig disappeared up there with rolls of roofing felt, batons and mastic but the view from a bedroom window shows he did a damn fine job, whatever it was. Then we fitted the door frame and the door which was made from a solid frame and shiplap to match the rest of the shed and also the window which is made from the same glass as that used in commercial aircraft cockpit windows (courtesy of Ian). You can hit that window with a sledge hammer and it hardly leaves a mark. As yet, there was nothing inside the shed but there were a few things we had to do before filling it with stuff, mostly to do with security. All the spaces between the uprights and the roof joists had to be filled with the insulation foam and a security shield. This shield was basically made from the same stuff that is used to make the sliding shelves in ovens cut to size. I bet you cant guess where that came from, lol. I was a bit stuck on how to close and lock the door because of the actual thickness of it and the method used is a bit of a mess but it works. Inside the shed, I fastened 2 steel plates between the 2 uprights nearest the door on either side and then connected them to 2 smaller plates on the outside that I had to have made for me by a welding firm. The upshot is that there is a swiveling metal bar that swings across the door and is held on either side by very solid and unbreakable padlocks. That is for using to secure the shed when I leave but when I am inside, I just have a hook on the door and a length of clothesline fasted to the inner wall with loops in it. Depending on if I want the door closed or partially ajar determines which loop goes over the hook. It looks crap but it works perfectly. Over the rest of the day, all the little jobs were finished off like sealing all the joints with some tubes of stuff that Craig brought and finishing off the corners and roof edges with extra lengths of wood to make it all look neat and tidy. So now the shed is finished externally and Craig can go off feeling like the grand lad he is and leave Ian and me to finish off inside and coat the outside with wood preservatives and stain over the next few days. This is the bit where Ian proved his worth as an electrician. I have to say he did a fantastic job and that without his help; the shed wouldnt be even 10% of what it is. First of all, he ran a thick cable from the house fuse box via an armoured cable to the underside of the shed and fed it through a pre-prepared hole. Then he fitted a white box with red switches (I have no idea what it is called) that allowed enough power to be used in the shed for anything I may want to use. He also fitted 16 power points around the shed in blocks of 2 and fitted fluorescent lighting. All the wires were nicely hidden away in trunking and its a very neat job. Meanwhile, I had been painting the outside with two coats of wood preserver/stain and digging a trench from house to shed for the armoured cable. From then on I was on my own to finish off the inside as I saw fit. Using lengths of wood left over from the actual build, I ran a hefty batten around the wall to the right of the door as you look from the outside and also along the side wall. This would form the level I wanted a work bench to be. I had to go and get some more 1 plywood to make the actual top out of and using thick props at the front edge, I nailed the work top in place on 2 sides of the shed. This still looked a bit rough so I used left over shiplap to cover the ply and then stained it and gave it 2 coats of varnish. Getting there. Meanwhile, another problem had cropped up. How was I going to get Broadband out to the shed? I already had it in the house but I didnt fancy the idea of running a phone cable out to the shed and taking it back in every night. That problem was solved by phoning a guy Ian knew who split the phone line in the box outside the house and taking one end to the shed. This meant the trench had to be opened up again so more armoured cable with the phone line inside could be laid next to the other one but eventually I had a phone line to the shed. Now I could start bringing stuff in. The first thing to bring in was my computer and an office chair. Once they were in place, I plugged the phone line into a Broadband modem and fiddled around with the setting for a while and there it was my home page. Magic. So then I brought in all the stuff that went with the PC like printer, scanner etc and set them up. These were closely followed by a kettle and coffee fixings. After all, a guy needs a brew as he surveys his kingdom. Over the next few weeks, all the other things a guy needs in a shed were brought in and we had a shed warming party for neighbours and friends. There were 16 of us in there, partying the night and early morning away with lots of falling down water and Karaoke. We had a great time and I had my shed. You want to know the best bit? It STILL cost less than an 8 x 6 shop bought monstrosity.