Build a Small Shed

I went hunting the other day — in my garage. I was looking for a garden rake, which I found buried in the corner. Had to climb over the lawn mower, squeeze past a pile of plywood and step up onto a stack of lumber to reach it. When I finally tugged the tool free — knocking over a couple of snow tires and a bicycle — I discovered it was a hoe. Never did find that rake.

Sound familiar? Most homes have far too little storage space, especially for large, seasonal tools such as rakes and hoes. Cleaning and organizing the garage will help — for a little while — but it's only a matter of time before the chaos returns and every tool search turns into an archeological dig.

Here's a much better solution: a compact tool locker that provides plenty of space for keeping all of your lawn-and-garden tools organized and readily accessible. Best of all, you'll be able to build the project in just two weekends.

Design Details
Don't be fooled by the Lilliputian dimensions of this shed. Although it measures 2 ft. deep x 6 ft. wide, it can hold a surprising number of tools and supplies. It's designed to be built against an existing structure, such as a house or garage. The walls and roof are framed with 2x4s. The three walls are covered with 5/8-in.-thick grooved plywood siding, commonly known by the trademark T-1-11. The two doors are made from the same plywood siding and then trimmed with white-stained 1x3s.

The shed sits on a 4-ft.-wide x 6-ft.-long timber frame made of pressure-treated 4x4s. The frame is set on a bed of crushed stone to prevent it from sinking into the soil. Octagon-shaped brick pavers are laid within the frame to create an attractive and durable floor. You could reduce the size of the frame to 2 x 6 ft. to match the footprint of the shed, but the extra 2 ft. provides a flat, dry place to stand while retrieving a tool.

Inside the shed, a large piece of perforated hardboard (Peg-Board) is fastened to the back wall. The 1/4-in.-thick panel provides a convenient place to hang shovels, rakes and other lawn-and-garden tools. On each side of the hardboard panel are three 18-1/2-in.-long shelves that are cut from a pine 1x12. A wire storage rack is mounted to the back of one of the doors. Its 5-in.-deep x 18-in.-wide shelves are ideal for holding cans, bottles and small boxes.

Estimating the cost of building the shed is difficult because lumber prices fluctuate almost daily and vary widely from one region to another. Expect to spend $450 to $550 for the building materials, including the lumber, plywood, concrete-brick pavers, stain, hinges and asphalt roof shingles.

Although this shed was built for garden tools, you can easily alter the design for storing bicycles, recycling containers, sporting goods or swimming-pool supplies.

Make the Brick Floor
The first step is to build the floor frame out of pressure-treated 4x4s.The size of the frame is based on the size of the brick pavers you're using. It's important to build the frame to accept an exact number of whole bricks. Otherwise, you'll have to cut the bricks to fit the frame, which is no easy task. To accommodate the octagonal concrete-brick pavers I used, the frame had to be 46 in. wide x 72-1/2 in. long.

To determine how big to make your frame, first lay a long, straight row of bricks on a flat surface, such as a garage floor or driveway. Fit the bricks tightly together to create a row about 6 ft. long. Next, lay another row of bricks perpendicular to the first until it measures about 48 in. Remember, the floor frame should be about 4 ft. wide x 6 ft. long, but the exact dimension isn't critical. Just make sure that it'll accept a whole number of bricks. This technique will work for paver bricks of any size or shape, including octagonal, square and rectangular.

Once you've laid the proper number of bricks, measure each row and add 1/2 in. for clearance. These measurements represent the inside dimension of the frame. To get the overall size of the frame, you must add 7 in. to each dimension for the 4x4s, which are 3-1/2 in. square.

Cut the 4x4s to length to create the proper size frame. Be sure to wear gloves, a dust mask and safety glasses. Next, prepare to cut 1-3/4-in.-deep x 3-1/2-in.-wide half-lap joints in both ends of all four 4x4s. Lay the timbers across sawhorses and clamp them together with their ends flush. Measure 3-1/2 in. from the end and mark a square line across the 4x4s. Set the depth of cut on your circular saw to 1-3/4 in. and make the shoulder cut along the line (photo 1).

Make the shoulder cuts for the half- lap joints 3-1/2 in. from the ends of the 4x4s. Set the saw blade to 1-3/4 in. deep. Form the cheek cuts by sawing along both sides of each 4x4. Then use a handsaw to cut through the last bit of waste wood.

Remove the clamps and mark the cheek cuts 1-3/4 in. down on each side of the 4x4s. Adjust the saw to its maximum depth of cut and make the cheek cuts (photo 2). The saw won't cut all the way through the timber, so you'll have to use a handsaw to finish the job. Fasten the frame together by driving two 4-in.-long landscaping screws through each half-lap corner joint.

Set the frame on the ground where you plan to build the shed. Check it for square by measuring the diagonals. Mark the frame's position on the ground by sprinkling white flour around its perimeter (photo 3). Slide the frame out of the way; then use a flat shovel to remove the sod and 2 in. of soil from the area within the white lines.

Set the floor frame in place; then mark its position on the ground by sprinkling a line of white flour around its perimeter.

Next, spread about 2 in. of crushed granite around the perimeter of the excavated site. Spray it with a garden hose; then pound it flat with a hand tamper (photo 4). Lay the frame back into position on top of the crushed-stone base and check it for level. Add or remove stone until the frame is perfectly level in both directions.

Use a hand tamper to compact the crushed-granite base. This home- made tamper is a 2x6 block screwed to a double-2x4 post.

Fill the area within the frame with 2 in. of crushed granite. Compact the stone with the hand tamper; then add 2 in. of stone. To make a screed for leveling the stone base, first cut a 2x4 a few inches longer than the 4x4 frame. Then cut a 1x6 about an inch shorter than the interior dimensions of the frame. Screw the 1x6 to the 2x4, making sure the top edges are flush; that will leave 2 in. of the 1x6 hanging below the 2x4.

Set the screed on top of the frame and pull it forward so that the 1x6 scrapes away the excess stone and leaves a flat, level surface (photo 5). Compact the surface one more time, add a little more stone and strike it off with the screed. The base is now ready for the bricks.

Use a wooden screed to level the stone base and create a uniform 2-in.-deep recess for the concrete-brick pavers that will make up the floor.

Begin setting bricks in the corner and work out in both directions. Tap each 2-3/8-in.-thick brick flush with the top of the frame using a rubber mallet (photo 6). Continue until you've laid all of the bricks. Pour a layer of play sand across the surface; then use a broom to sweep back and forth several times, forcing the sand down between the pavers. Finally, anchor the floor frame to the ground by first boring a 1/2-in.-dia. hole through the frame near each corner. Then pound in a 12-in.-long pin cut from a length of 1/2-in.-dia. metal reinforcing bar (photo 7).

Tap the concrete pavers into the stone base with a rubber mallet. The tops of the pavers should be flush with the 4x4 frame.

Bore a 1/2-in.-dia. hole through the frame near each corner; then pound in a 12-in.-long pin cut from metal reinforcing bar.

Frame the Walls
Start by building the two 24-in.-wide end walls. Stand each wall on top of the frame with its outer edge flush with the 4x4 frame. Fasten the wall by screwing down through the sole plate and into the frame with 3-in.-long decking screws. Use a 4-ft. level to make sure the 2x4 frame is plumb in two directions; then screw it to the house wall (photo 8).

Screw the end wall to the house, making sure it's plumb in two directions. If necessary, slip shims behind the wall.

Build the two narrow front walls, which are only 8-1/2 in. wide, and screw them to the end walls. Then attach a 76-5/16-in.-long 2x4 to each front wall. These two pieces, called jack or trimmer studs, support the header that spans the doorway opening. Make the 49-in.-long header by nailing together two 2x4s. Set the header in place on top of the jack studs (photo 9). Check the header with a 4-ft. level and, if necessary, shim one end. Screw the header to the front walls.

After attaching the front walls, lower the header into place, setting it on top of the jack studs. Check it for level; then screw the header to the front walls.

With the walls completed, you can begin framing the roof. Cut four 2x4 rafters to length, as shown in the illustration in the PDF below. Note that both ends of each rafter are cut to a 30-degree angle. That creates the proper roof slope. Next, cut a 1x4 ledger board to span the width of the shed, a distance that equals 72-1/2 in. However, before attaching the ledger to the house, screw the rafters to the ledger with 2-in. decking screws. Space the rafters 23 in. OC and drive the screws through the back of the ledger and into the ends of the rafters.

Set the rafter/ledger assembly on top of the walls (photo 10). Check to make sure the ledger is level; then attach it to the house with 2-1/2-in. decking screws. Be sure to screw into at least two wall studs.

Set the rafter assembly in position atop the walls. Screw the four 2x4 rafters to the 1x4 ledger prior to installation.

Install the Siding
Before you start cutting the 4x8 sheets of plywood siding, apply a coat of exterior paint or stain. It's much easier to apply the finish with the plywood sheets propped up on sawhorses.

When the finish has cured, attach the plywood siding to the end walls first; then cover the two front walls. Fasten the siding with 1-1/2-in.-long ring-shank siding nails (photo 11). Cut a narrow strip of siding to cover up the header. Note that the siding on the front of the shed extends up to the top edge of the rafters.

Nail grooved plywood siding to the shed walls. Be sure to cut the siding so that it extends to the top edges of the rafters.

Next, cut a piece of 1/2-in.-thick exterior-grade plywood for the roof sheathing. Make sure it fits flush with the siding; then nail it to the rafters with 1-1/2-in. (4d) galvanized nails. Now you can start installing the exterior trim.

Use 1x4 pine for the rake, fascia and corner boards and 1x3 pine for the trim around the doorway and on the doors. Again, it's easier to paint or stain the trim before you nail it in place.

Start by attaching the two pieces of rake trim, which are cut to 30 degrees, to the side walls using siding nails. Cut the fascia to fit along the top of the front wall (photo 12). Next, nail aluminum drip-edge flashing along the edges of the roof; then begin laying the roof shingles (photo 13).

After nailing the rake trim to the side walls, attach a 1x4 fascia to the front wall. Its easiest to stain the trim before installation.

Cover all three edges of the roof with aluminum drip-edge flashing; then start laying the asphalt roof shingles.

Note that this shed was built directly beneath overhanging eaves. Therefore, I didn't have to install flashing along the upper edge of the roof. However, in most cases you'll need to put a continuous piece of aluminum or copper flash- ing along the seam where the shed roof meets the house. Be sure to slip the upper edge of the flashing behind the siding and allow the lower edge to extend at least 4 in. onto the top course of roof shingles.

Once the roof is done, finish the trim work by nailing the 1x4 corner boards and the 1x3 trim around the doorway.

Build the Doors
Cut the 22-1/2-in.-wide door panels from the same grooved plywood siding used on the shed. The front surfaces should already be stained or painted, but take the time to apply a coat of finish to the back surfaces and to all edges. Next, cut 1x3 trim to fit around the perimeter of each door. Attach the trim by driving 1-1/4-in.-long decking screws through the back of the door. Note that each door also has a horizontal center rail that's positioned 32 in. from the bottom edge.

Attach the tee- hinges to the door trim (photo 14); then set the doors in the opening and slip a flat pry bar under the bottom edge. Press down on the bar with your foot to raise the door until there's a 1/8-in. gap along the top edge. Secure the door by screwing the hinge to the 1x3 trim (photo 15). Hang the second door in a similar manner. Then attach a sliding barrel bolt to the top inside surface of one door. Bore a hole in the header for the bolt to slide into. Close both doors and install a hasp to hold them shut.

Mount 6-in. tee-hinges to the door trim and hinge blocks. Drill pilot holes to prevent the narrow blocks from splitting.

Slip a pry bar under the door; then lightly step down to raise the door into position. Screw the hinge to the 1x3 doorway trim.

Next, fasten the perforated hard- board panel to the back wall and hang the wire storage rack on the back of one door. Finally, nail pairs of 1x3 cleats to the inside of the shed on the left and right sides of the doorway. Cut the 1x12 shelves to fit across the cleats.

Congratulations! You now have a convenient, well-organized place to store all your lawn-and-garden tools — that is, if you can find them.