Introduction: Build a Freestanding Open Tool Shed As a Self-isolation/self-reliance Project

Limiting trips to the hardware store due to the coronavirus pandemic just means more creative thinking about how to approach a project. And it means shopping your own stash of materials first. So when the time came to build a better toolshed for gardening work this summer, I made use of lumber and other materials I already had around the garage.

Step 1: Dismantle the Old Toolshed

The old toolshed had seen better days. I was rather proud of how I built the entire front to open up, but after a dozen years or so, the shed no longer kept out the elements. (Admittedly, I hardly knew what I was doing when I first built it; I'm amazed it lasted as long as it did.) Rot had settled in and the tools I kept in the shed - including the push mower - were at risk of deteriorating. Also, as I've found over the years, the more space you have to store stuff, the more stuff you'll find to store in it. So after a purge down to the essentials, I dismantled the old toolshed and salvaged what I could. What wasn't worth salvaging went into the burn pit or the recycle bin.

Step 2: Build the Frame

Since building a fence last year, I've had a few extra eight-foot four-by-four posts hanging around and a whole pile of four-by-four offcuts. I took the two straightest eight-footers, then found a couple matching-length offcuts that measured at least the width of the garden tool racks I had mounted in the old toolshed.

At this point I had to decide whether to sink the posts into the ground or use post stakes. I went with the latter - the only items I had to purchase for this project - just to maintain the height necessary for getting rakes and shovels in and out of the new open shed with ease.

Based on that decision, I positioned the upper cross brace at about chest height, where it'd be easiest to grab a garden tool from the open shed, and the lower cross brace a couple feet below. I used long TimberLok lag screws (I'd purchased them for a raised garden project that I later dismantled - they hardly weathered after many years out in the elements, so I kept them around) to join the cross braces to the posts. Tip: Though the TimberLok box claimed no pre-drilling was required, I previously found that no predrilling meant lots of cranking with a long breaker bar to screw the lags all the way in; predrilling made the work go much faster and smoother.

Step 3: Frame the Roof

Four more four-by-four offcuts made up the roof framing. I'm sure there's many many ways to do this, but the most straightforward option for me was to miter the ends, then notch to fit over the top end of each post. More TimberLoks held each mitered pair to its post.

I then cut down some salvaged (read: not rotted out) 5/8-inch OSB from the old tool shed for the roof itself (each piece measured 24 by 32 inches, fwiw) and shingled the roof with some of the asphalt shingles that also came from the old tool shed.

Step 4: Add Mounts for Tools

I got impatient waiting for the post stakes that I'd ordered to arrive, so I jumped forward a bit to mount the tool racks as well as holders for my shovel and compost fork on either side. The latter I made out of some PVC I had laying around that was just large enough to slip over the handles. One shorter section above (angled both to make it easier to drive screws through it and to theoretically make it easier to take out and put back in) and one longer section below. The bottom screw of the lower section has to go through both walls of the PVC to both secure the PVC to the post and to provide a resting place for the tool handle.

Step 5: Install

Once the stakes came, I was ready to install the new open tool shed. Without any helpers to carry and place it (see the previous note about self-isolation), I had to get creative with a sawhorse and be patient as I positioned and repositioned the shed multiple times. Once I had the posts exactly where I wanted them, I sunk each post stake right at the base of each post. Because the tool shed is massively top heavy, I went for the longest post stakes I could find - about 30 inches - to anchor the tool shed as best as I could.

Step 6: Enjoy!

I then lifted the shed into place and, after checking for level and plumb, I secured it to the post stakes (two lag bolts each in addition to the pinch bolts). As seen in the lead photo, it easily fits my rakes, compost fork, and shovel with room on the backside to spare - perhaps for a wheelbarrow mount. No room for clutter, it takes up a minimal footprint, and it puts the garden tools in the garden - closest to where I'd need them.

True, it doesn't fit my push mower like the old tool shed. (Ideally, I'll soon replace all my lawn with vegetable gardens and wood chip paths, negating the need for a mower.) And the tools are exposed to driving rain. However, I prefer them here than in a moldy old shed that retains moisture.

Down the road I may add a solar-powered motion light or I may even run power to it and add an outlet so I don't have to run extension cords all over the yard.

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