Introduction: Build a Garden Shed
Not everyone needs a garden shed. But, if you’ve no more space on your garage wall for that new leaf rake, if you can’t find your potting trowel because it fell behind the kids’ bikes, and if your car has that forlorn, neglected look since the brand-new snowthrower moved in last fall, it’s time to face the undeniable truth—your outdoor tools need a home of their own.
The design of your garden shed can take any form, from a simple lean-to to a large free-standing building. Ours occupies a modest 6 x 6 x 8-ft. area - enough for a variety of tools, but not so large that it dominates a backyard landscape. The straightforward design is easy to expand—up to about 8 x 12 ft.—to suit your storage needs. Before you begin work, contact your local building codes office and find out about necessary permits or other requirements for this type of building.
Our shed uses standard framing techniques and materials. It’s sheathed with 1⁄2-in. C/D plywood and sided with 1 x 6 tongue-and-groove cedar boards. The exterior trim is rough-sawn cedar.
In most cases, a shed of this size will not require an elaborate foundation—it’s fine to simply rest the structure on four corner blocks that sit on the ground. Some excavation is inevitable to provide a level and firm base, but there's really no need to dig below the frost line. If the building settles unevenly, simply jack up a low corner and place cedar shims between the corner block and floor framing. We used 71⁄2 x 12 x 16-in. solid concrete blocks at the corners.
To bring light into our shed, we installed 24 x 32-in barn-sash windows. If you can't find these stocked by a local supplier, something similar can usually be ordered.
This project was originally published in the January 2001 issue of Popular Mechanics. You can find more great projects at Popular Mechanics DIY Central.
Step 1: Site Work
Begin by marking out the building’s location in your yard. For a structure of this size, it’s simplest to build a lightweight frame that’s the exact size of the shed, then use the frame to mark the site.
Use 3⁄4-in.-thick pine to build your frame. Cut the sides to the exact dimensions of the floor, and use one screw in each corner to fasten the sides into a rectangle. Screw a diagonal brace between two sides of the frame to hold it square.
Clear the building site and level obvious high spots. Place the frame in the site and adjust its position until you’re happy with the location of the shed. Drive stakes into the ground to mark each corner, stretch string between them (Photo 1) and then remove the frame.
Find the highest corner of the site and excavate for the first foundation corner block. Plan on having 3 to 4 in. of block exposed above grade. Dig out an area several inches wider than the block. Spread 2 or 3 in. of crushed stone in the hole to form a stable base for the block.
Now you’re ready to position the first block, aligning its edges with the layout string. Check that the block is level across its length and width (Photo 2), and adjust the crushed stone as required.
Use a long, straight 2 x 4 and level to check the relative height of the second corner, then excavate the site for the block. Check that the second block is level with teh first (Photo 3), and add the remaining corner blocks in the same way.
Step 2: Build the Floor
It’s a good idea to use pressure-treated lumber for the floor joists. Cut 2 x 6 stock to length for the front and back rim joists, and then lay out the locations of the floor joists on 16-in centers. Nail joist hangers to the inside surface of each inner joist using 1 1⁄2-in. joist hanger nails (Photo 1). Next, place the inner front and back joists between the corner blocks, and then cut and position the floor joists (Photo 2). Nail the joists in place, then attach the outer rim joists to the front and back of the floor frame.
Compare opposite diagonal measurements of the floor assembly to check that it's square. Nail 3/4in-thick plywood to the joists for the shed floor (Photo 3).
Step 3: Construct Walls
Cut 2 x 6 stock to size for the door and window headers. Use pieces of 1⁄2-in. plywood as spacers between the 2 x 6s to bring the header assemblies to 3 1/2 in thick. Nail together the header pieces with 16d common nails.
Cut 2 x 4 stock to length for the wall studs and window and door jack studs. Nail each jack stud to a wall stud with 8d common nails. Build the four corner posts by nailing three 2 x 4 spacers between two studs as shown on page 91.
Begin framing the back wall by laying out the stud locations on the top and bottom plates. Then, lay out the framing members on the deck (Photo 1). Nail through the top plate and into the wall members, then secure the bottom plate. Frame the window opening, and nail the second top plate to the wall, keeping ends back 3 1⁄2 in. from each end of the wall.
Now compare the opposite diagonal measurements of the wall and adjust the assembly until it’s square. Then, apply 1⁄2-in. plywood sheathing, using 6d common nails every 6 in. apart.
Stand the rear wall, bracing it with 2x4s nailed between the wall and the outside floor joists (Photo 2). Nail the bottom plate to the deck so the plywood sheathing is flush with the edge of the deck.
Frame the front wall, but don’t apply the sheathing yet. Instead, stand the framed wall and brace it. Position the wall 1⁄2 in. from the deck edges to allow for the thickness of the sheathing. Then frame the side walls, one at a time, and stand them. Leave the second top plate off the side walls until they are raised. Nail the walls together at the corners, and then cut and install the side wall top plates (Photo 3). Use a level to check that the corners of the building are plumb, and nail temporary diagonal braces to the inside surface of each wall.
Apply the remaining plywood sheathing (Photo 4). At the side walls, keep the plywood 11⁄2 in. down from the top to provide room to nail the gable-end sheathing.
Step 4: Frame Roof
Use a framing square to lay out the 5-in. pitch on the first roof rafter (Photo 1). Cut out the rafter and use it as a pattern to make the second rafter. Test the first two for proper fit, then trace and cut the remaining rafters.
Cut a gusset for each truss from 1⁄2-in thick plywood as shown in the plans. Use a sheet of 3⁄4-in. plywood as an assembly table, and draw the outline of the roof truss directly on the plywood surface. Align two rafters over the pattern and nail the gusset to the rafters with 1 1⁄2-in. roofing nails (Photo 2).
Toenail the trusses to the front and rear walls with 8d common nails (Photo 3). At the gable ends keep the gussets on the inside faces of the trusses.
Cut 2 x 6 stock to length for the subfascia, and nail the boards to the rafter ends wi 16d common nails. Cut and install the gable-end sheathing, and then nail 1 x 6 pine furring over the gable rafters.
Rip cedar stock to width for the front and back soffits and cut it to length. Use 6d galvanized finishing nails to fasten the soffit boards to the rafters and subfascia. Then install the cedar fascia and rake trim.
Install the plywood roof deck, allowing it to overhang the fascia by 1/2 in along the eaves. Nail aluminum drip edge to the eaves, and apply roofing felt. Then, install the drip edge along the rake edges.
Step 5: Roofing & Siding
Follow the manufacturers directions for installing the roof shingles (Photo 1).
Since the tongue-and-groove siding is installed vertically, add 2 x 4 nailing blocks between the studs, about halfway up the wall. Cut and install these nailers by toenailing them between adjacent studs.
If you plan to stain or paint the trim a different color than the shed siding, it’s a good idea to finish the roof trim before applying the siding. Cut siding boards to length and begin installing them at a corner of the building. Use galvanized finishing nails to fasten the boards—8d nails for fastening to the 2 x 4 framing and 6d nails for the plywood sheathing (Photo 2). Face nail the first board, but fasten succeeding boards with nails driven diagonally through the tongue so the heads will be hidden. Set the nailheads slightly below the wood surface.
Step 6: Windows and Doors
After staining or painting the siding, install the door and window jambs (Photo 1). Nail the jambs directly to the framing, with the outside edge of each jamb flush to the face of the siding. At the windows, slope the sill pieces about 5˚ toward the outside of the building, add the top jambs, and then cut the side jambs to fit.
Cut stops for the windows from 1 x cedar stock, and install the outer stops with 6d galvanized finish nails. Then, place a window in each opening and add the inner stops.
Rip door and window trim and shed corner boards from rough-sawn cedar. Cut each piece to length and nail in place.
Cut siding boards to length for the shed door. Use clamps to pull the boards together, but don’t use glue on the joints. Cut the battens for the door, and screw them to the inside surface of the boards.
Hold the door hinges in place and mark the mounting-hole locations. Bore pilot holes and fasten the hinges to the shed. Position the door with a 1/4-in space on the sides and top, and mark the hinge holes. Bore pilot holes and mount the hinges (Photo 2). Install the door pull and hasp. Cut the doorstops and nail them in place on the top and open-side jamb. Then, stain or paint the windows, door, and remaining trim.
We built a ramp from pressure-treated stock to make it easier to wheel a mower or snowthrower into the shed. To build a ramp, use 2 x 6 material spaced about 1/2 in. apart for the ramp deck, and 2 x 4 stock for battens underneath.
You've now created an excellent indoor shelter for your outdoor tools.