Introduction: Backyard Garden Shed Built With Salvaged Materials

About: Woodworker, gardener, retired engineer

As an avid gardener, I’ve always wanted a dedicated space to store garden tools and supplies. Not content with the prefab sheds found at the big box stores, I decided that I could build one myself with more architectural appeal and that would fit more naturally into my backyard garden space. This 11x18 garden shed is the result. To save money (and to reduce my carbon footprint), I try to use reclaimed and salvaged materials in my home building projects. This garden shed is a perfect example of that. While not built 100% from salvaged materials, the design evolved around the use of some vintage windows and doors I salvaged from a 1920’s home that was being torn down. It also incorporates salvaged plywood as well as a tin roof reclaimed from an old barn.

Can you build this?

The short answer, yes. Anyone with modest carpentry skills, a basic understanding of wood frame construction, and experience with power and hand tools can build a garden shed like this or one akin to it. This is the first shed I have built and I am a 65+ yo weekend warrior house remodeler. If I can do it, so can you. If you need to hone your skills, there are many good Youtube videos on shed/house construction. I watched a slew of them to help me get through this project.


As they should, most Instructables include exact dimensional plans, detailed material lists, and all the tools needed to build the project. That level of granularity is not provided here as this shed was built with salvaged materials that you may not be able to exactly replicate. In addition, material lists are dependent on the size of the project and you may want to build a larger or smaller shed, based on your needs. Instead, my approach is to provide you a road map of how to build this structure so that you can tackle a similar project of your own design with the materials you have on hand or find in your area.

Basic Tools Needed

Hand carpentry tools (hammer, tape measure, level, framing square, etc.)

Power tools (table saw or handheld circular saw, miter saw, nail guns, drills/drivers, etc.)

Materials to Construct the Shed

The type and quantity of materials needed will depend on the size and style of shed you want to build. Building a shed is like building a house, but much simpler. You are basically framing the shed walls, setting trusses on top of the walls, and installing windows, doors, roofing and siding. Plumbing, or other utilities, are usually not needed. If you want lighting in your shed, you can install conventional electrical service, or simpler yet, a solar powered light.

A shed like this can be built from the following:

  • Door(s), windows…number depends on design. Salvaged or new.
  • 2x4’s for walls
  • 2x4’s or 2x6’s for trusses, window and door headers, and eave ladders (if you want gable end overhangs)
  • Presevatively treated 2x4's for bottom plates and posts
  • Plywood or OSB for roof sheathing and truss gussets
  • Siding material (it’s a shed, so use your imagination!)
  1. old barn siding
  2. cedar fencing
  3. wood shingle/shake,
  4. old beveled siding…If painted, flip over and expose unpainted face
  5. corrugated tin panels
  • Roofing material
  1. old or new tin
  2. asphalt shingle
  3. wood shingle or shake
  • Concrete or wood foundation
  • Concrete pavers
  • Misc items (nails, screws, roofing paper, Ice & Water shield, drip edge, caulking, gutters, etc.)

Step 1: Talk to the Building Department

Before you put your gloves on, don’t forget to check with your local building department to see if you need a building permit, if there are lot line setback requirements, size limitations, or any other zoning/building requirements. The shed shown here has no electrical, plumbing, or other utilities, so that greatly simplified construction and avoided many jurisdictional code or zoning issues.

Step 2: Finding Unique Materials

While a shed like this does not need to be built from reclaimed materials, I like using them for environmental reasons and because it gives unique look to the structure not easily replicated with new materials. To find reclaimed building materials, browse your local Habitat Restore or other salvaged building materials outlet. Keep an eye on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. It’s amazing what reusable, unique, and reasonably priced (sometimes free!) building materials can be found if you are patient.

I designed this shed around the doors and windows I had salvaged. These included a 36” arched top front door, a 6’ exterior French door, and five leaded glass windows. Because I salvaged the doors and windows for this shed myself, I made sure to salvage not only the door, but the door frame and all hardware. This made reinstallation much easier, especially for the arched door as I didn’t have to build a complicated finished door frame. If you can’t find doors with frames, choose a rectangular door. It will be much easier to frame and hang.

Step 3: Design the Structure

This shed is basically a 2x4 wood frame box with simple roof trusses that extend over a porch. Posts support the extended trusses. My preliminary designs were hand sketches and then I used Sketchup to proportion the shed size and shape more exactly. Sketchup also allowed me to layout the wall and truss framing precisely so I could prebuild individual wall sections and the trusses.

Step 4: Build a Foundation

I built this shed on a concrete slab, however there is no reason it couldn’t be built on a wood foundation (preservatively treated) if you don’t want the added expense of a poured concrete slab. I had some pavers left over from another landscaping project and used those as an extension to the slab under the porch overhang.

Step 5: Prebuild Wall and Truss Components

It is much easier, and you’ll likely get better results, if you build components of the shed and then erect in one go. I prebuilt the walls, trusses, and eave extensions (eave ladders) in my garage. The walls were built per conventional 2x4 - 16” on center construction with standard headers above the windows and doors as shown in the Sketchup drawing in Step 3.

The trusses were made of 2x6’s with gussets at each intersection. Because there were 10 trusses, I first built a jig out of five sheets of 4x8 OSB. I laid the OSB out on my garage floor and tacked the sheets together. I then cut the 2x6 pieces for one truss (using the exact dimensions and angles from Sketchup) and assembled them on top of the OSB. Scrap pieces of 2x4 and 2x6 were then screwed to the OSB around this first truss to hold the 2x6's in position. I then glued and nailed gusset plates (also made of OSB) to one side of the 2x6's. I carefully flipped the now partially secured truss and fastened gussets on the other side.

One truss done.

It was then just a matter of cutting more 2x6's, dropping them into the jig and repeating the process nine more times. Using a jig like this assured that all the trusses were exactly the same size, which is important because you don't want to be high in the air sheathing the roof and find out that the tops of your trusses are uneven. When done, I saved the OSB jig sheets for roof sheathing.

Step 6: Erect Framing Components

Once all the wall sections and trusses were built, I enlisted the help of my son and a friend to erect the framed components. Because all framing was prebuilt, we were able to erect the walls, set the trusses, hang the eave ladders, and sheath and waterproof the roof over a weekend.

Step 7: Install Siding & Trim

I love the rustic look of board and batten siding and I was able to find an Amish sawmill here in Wisconsin to supply me with 12” rough sawn white pine boards and battens for the exterior siding. Note that horizontal 2x4’s were nailed to the walls. These provided nailing for the vertical siding boards. If horizontal siding had been used, this step would not be necessary. Also note there is plywood on the interior walls of the shed. I was given a huge pile of odd sized scrap plywood sheets and decided to sheath the interior walls for a cleaner finish and to more easily hang gardening tools.

While I chose board and batten, a myriad of siding and trim choices exist. What to use all depends on the look you want. I spent a little extra time to bump out the upper section of siding under the gabled ends and add a sculpted line, an idea I got from some old houses I had seen while visiting Norway. I used extra pieces of the rough sawn boards to trim the doors and windows.

Step 8: Roofing & Gutters

Browsing Craigslist one day I found someone with tin roofing for sale that had come from an old barn damaged in a windstorm. I was hoping for a weathered look and I lucked out and ended up with just enough panels with a rusted patina to roof the shed, though I had to patch some old nail holes with caulking. I wasn’t sure how much life the tin roofing had, so I made sure to Ice&Water shield the entire roof and used roofing paper on top of that. New tin, asphalt roofing, or wood shake/shingle would also work well on this roof. New rusted tin (Corten steel) can be sourced, but it’s a little pricey.

I also put gutters on the front and back of the shed to direct water away from the foundation. I prefer half round gutters so I splurged and bought new gutters and hangers from ClassicGutters, a great source for painted and copper gutters.

And that's it. It's done except for filling the shed full of stuff.

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