Introduction: Build a Portable Rough-Sawn Shed

About: I'm into the balance between detailed, perfection-oriented engineering, and world-wide problem solving. I think in many ways they involve similar methodologies and yet our siloed education system scatters thes…


Ever think you have too much stuff? Do your minimalist friends give you scornful looks as you arrive home with MORE yard-sale goodies? (Or, I mean, important, useful tools...?) If you find yourself spending far too much time wading through mounds of materials to get that kitchen sink you stuck underneath the garden pots three years ago (true story), it may be time to invest in some dead storage space.

In this Instructable I will show you how I constructed my 8' x 16' shed from mostly local, rough-sawn lumber for roughly $1800 and 140 person-hours (or shall we say fun bonding time!) The shed is on skids and is built just within the road legal dimensions so that a regular flatbed trailer can take it on the highway. Feel free to copy my design identically or iterate/tailor to suit your needs. And please post photos of what you've made in the comments!


  • to-scale sketch-up model of my shed as built which should be referenced if you are hoping to build an identical shed.
  • materials spreadsheet with links to and prices of the various materials used.
  • many photos highlighting critical parts of the process
  • two videos. One is an overview of the provided CAD design and one is a short tour of the finished shed. This is located on the last step

Design Priorities

My priorities when constructing this shed were (in order):

  • inexpensive - around $1800 for everything
  • portable - road legal, so it may be transported on a flatbed trailer, at the same time it is quite large at roughly 8' x 16'
  • long-lasting - built to last 40+ years. My father built a similar one 35 years ago and it has stood up favorably to our New England weather.
  • secure - the door is easily lockable. There exists no simple way for unwanted access.
  • easily accessible - the sliding door opens half the front of the shed, enabling the storage of large items such as motorcycles and lawn tractors.
  • aesthetically pleasing - the rough-sawn exterior and the red metal roof blend nicely into any yard.

Step 1: Making a Design

Before building, you will want to do a great deal of thinking. I would begin with rough sketches and understanding what you want to use your shed for. For me, it was storing all the stuff I had collected while at college, as well as motorcycles and various lawn equipment. Make sure your shed can comfortable fit all the items you intend to store. This 'ible will walk through the process of building the exact shed I made, but that might not be the right shed for you. I recommend downloading sketch-up and playing around with the to-scale sketchup model I made. You can define 3-d objects in the model (such as your motorcycle or guitar, etc...) and see how they look in the shed. Now that you are certain you'd like to build a design similar to mine, please read on!

Items not Shown in the Sketchup Model

Above is a quick video of the sketchup model to give you a sense of the various groups of items in the model.

Unfortunately I did not have time to model EVERYTHING in the provided sketchup. Here is a list of what I neglected to put in the model:

  • The door
  • Screws/nails... framing screws for the deck, ring nails for the sheathing, metal roofing screws for the roof and various hardware for the door
  • Diagonal strapping - I show wooden diagonal braces in the model because I prefer them, but I neglected to include the diagonal bracing across the roof
  • Roof detail - No detail of the roof overlap is shown. I also don't show the eve drip edge in the front.

The linked spreadsheet has a more comprehensive material list.

Step 2: Gathering Materials and Tools

Gathering materials can take a surprisingly long time. This took us roughly 15 person-hours, required multiple trips to Home Depot (HD), a trip to the Tractor Supply store, and a trip to the local lumber mill.

A Note on Rough Sawn Lumber

Use your local saw mill as much as possible! We got both the sheathing and the rafters from a local mill at roughly half the cost of getting the same wood at Home Depot (HD), and they give you lumber that is cut to the indicated size rather than to the 'nominal' dimensions... a 2 x 4 is actually 2" x 4" rather than 1.5" x 3.5". The rough sawn lumber does require more sorting... if you get to pick out the boards, make sure to select straight, un-cracked boards. Also you should buy 5-10% more boards than you need to account for any short boards that may come in the mix. Be particularly careful to select straight pieces when you are selecting rafters. If you don't know how to quickly 'eye' the straightness of a board/timber, I recommend watching this video on how to buy rough lumber.


The most critical tools you need to construct this shed are:

  • safety equipment - at the very least safety glasses and ear protectors. Also I recommend gloves for dealing with the lumber... particularly the rough-sawn!
  • hammer
  • screwdriver
  • drill
  • woodworker's square
  • tape measure
  • circular saw
  • table saw (if you are planning to shiplap the boards)
  • saw horse - this is critical for using the circular saw correctly!
  • ladder - I recommend a step ladder for the framing, and a regular ladder for accessing the roof while roofing
  • a good sound-system - good tunes are a must. They keep you work rhythm up!
  • a friend - if no one wants to join you in your shed-building epic, at the very least please let someone nearby know what you are doing for safety's sake!

Step 3: Building the Skids

The skids are the 'foundation' of your shed. Our shed sits on top of two 16' skids that in turn sit on top of 6 concrete patio blocks to raise the skids off the ground. Using skids cheaply gives us the ability to move the shed to different places in the yard or even up on top of a flatbed trailer to relocate.

  1. The first thing to do is to clear the 15' x 25' area you will be building the shed on. Make sure you have easy access to electricity and air if you plan to use an air-nailer.
  2. Once the area is clear, dig in your patio blocks so as to provide raised shoes on which to place the skids and subsequently build the shed. We decided to position one patio block on the ends of each skid, and one in the middle of each.
  3. Then proceed to construct your skids. For each skid we used three 2" x 6" x 16" pressure-treated timbers nailed together with ten penny nails. We cut off a lower triangle at both ends of the skid so that the skid could ride over irregularities in the ground. It is important to use a rot-resistant wood for the skids because they often get wet/damp from splash back. Instead of PT, consider using black locust or cedar. Unfortunately our lumber mill didn't provide either, but I recommend asking!
  4. Stand the skids on the positioned patio blocks. Then put the level on the skids to ensure they are level. Adjust as needed by adding shims (pieces of pressure treated wood) between the patio blocks and the skids. Finally, make sure the skids are level to one another by placing the level on top of a pieve of straigh wood that spans the two skids.
  5. Now you should have two perfectly level skids to start building your deck on!

Step 4: Adding the Deck

The deck is constructed from 32 2" x 6" x 8' PT boards nailed to the skids.

  1. Find the center of the skids and lay out the first two boards on either side of the centerline with 1' overhanging in the front (this should leave 1'6" overhanging in the back.) Attach to the skids with 3" deck screws. We used two screws per connection (four per deck board.)
  2. Don't be nervous if the overhanging ends do not align! We used 3.5" carriage bolts to connect each board to a perpendicular 2"x4"x16'. This both provides more strength in the overhung sections and provides a purchase for the sheathing to be nailed to. This piece was put on top of the decking in the back and directly underneath the decking in the front so that any equipment brought in would not have to ride over the lip.
  3. At this point, there is the option of beveling your doorway threshold. You can do this by setting your circular saw at something like a 45 degree angle and cutting off the top triangle in front of the door. I strongly recommend using a guide to make a straight cut. You can set up a guide by clamping a straight piece of wood to the deck that you can run the saw's fence along. We did not make a bevel on the front lip.
  4. Now you should have a lovely deck that is 14' 8" x 8' in area. This will be the internal area of your final shed! Start imagining all the lawn equipment or priceless masterpieces you'll be able to store in there!

Step 5: Starting the Frame

The frame is the skeleton of the shed... it holds up the roof and provides purchase for the sheathing. The frame is also responsible for resisting sideways forces due to wind, ground level changes, and, most of all, when you go to move the shed. In this step I will go over the techniques of how to start the frame and how to construct some of the trickier corner joints in the frame. Please refer to the SketchUp model for exact dimensions.

  1. Before you build the frame, you should make sure that your desk is as level as possible. This involves putting your level on various parts of the deck and ensuring that the bubble stays pretty close to the center. You can adjust the height of the concrete 'shoes' with additional shims as needed (make sure to use PT for your shims!) I cannot overemphasize how important it is that your deck is level so that you may use gravity to determine whether your posts are vertical. If the deck isn't level, your posts will not form a 90 degree corner with the deck, and your shed will be skewed like the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
  2. Once you are positing the deck is vertical, install the two 2 x 6 PT pieces that stand on their side at either end of the shed. You should notch them with the circular saw so they can overlap the back 2 x 4. These pieces help support the end posts. Install them by screwing those 3" decking screws up through the deck and into the piece. You should put quite a few screws in... perhaps 15 per piece, evenly spaced at one every 6". Why so many screws? Because it is critical that this piece is well fastened to the deck to reduce movement.
  3. Next we installed the back posts. This is a two-person job. First, measure the size of the to-be lap joint (see pic 3) to determine the locations of the two cuts you need to make. These cuts will enable you to correctly overlap the post on the board you installed in step 2. We used a circular saw to make a cut 1.5" in through the end grain of the post (be careful, this is a rather dangerous cut because you are cutting perpendicular to the grain.) Our circular saw was not large enough to cut the required 4", so we set it as beep as it could go, made the other cut (1.5" deep, 4" up from the base), and then connected the cuts with a hand saw. Using the handsaw to finish a cut with the circular saw is a common technique we will employ throughout this 'ible.
  4. Now that your post is properly notched, you can start putting up the vertical posts! First you need eight (two for each of the four posts) diagonal bracing boards that will temporarily hold the posts up. We used cut-offs that were 2-3' long. I cut perpendicular 45 degree cuts in either end so as to form a regular trapezoid. This enables us to cleanly install the diagonal braces such that they don't extend past the posts and interfere with the siding installation.
  5. To install one post, partially drive one 2"-2.5" screw in either end of the diagonal braces such that the point of the screw just barely pushes through the surface. Then screw two of the diagonal braces into the inside of the shed as seen in the pictures. There should be two floppy ends that can swing on the single pivot screw. That will enable us to move the post so that it is perfectly vertical before 'locking it in' with the diagonal braces.
  6. Now bring your post over to the diagonal braces and use a couple 3" deck screws to fasten it to the 5.5" tall side board. I don't recommend going up through the deck because you never want to screw into the end grain of a post. This requires a friend to hold the post roughly vertical (no need to check right now) while you screw the base in. The post should now be pretty easy to pivot, but won't fall down.
  7. Now we need to fix the post so that it is vertical in both dimensions constrained by the braces (front to back and side to side with respect to the shed. To do so, only focus on one dimension at a time. Hold your level against the outer edge of the post, and pivot until the post is perfectly level. At that point, have your friend hold the post in place while you screw the corresponding diagonal brace into the vertical post to lock it in. Then repeat with the other dimension. Your post should now be vertical!
  8. Now you can put up all four of your posts in the exact same way! Note that the diagonal bracing for your front posts will have to go on the outside of the building and will eventually interfere with the siding... but we'll take those off before applying the siding.
  9. The next step is to install the headers. The vertical posts, with the diagonal braces, should be strong enough to support a front and back header. If they easily wobble with a small push, you may need to add some more, larger diagonal braces. Build each header from two 2" x 6" x 16' nailed together. If you'd like the inside edge of the post line up with the inside edge of the header, you need to add a 0.5" shim between the two 2" x 6" x 16' pieces of lumber to make up the full 3.5" thickness of the posts.
  10. To install the front header, place a step ladder on either side of the shed and have you and the friend walk up either side and place the header with the outside facing edge flush with the outside of the posts. Make sure an even length is overhanging on either end, and toenail the header onto the posts... at least 4 3" nails or screws in each post.
  11. Now repeat with the back posts, making sure the outside edges line up.
  12. Now you should have something looking like the last photo posted! (sans the rafter.)

Step 6: Cutting and Installing the Rafters

Measuring the Template Rafter

Once you are certain that the roof is quite square (by equalizing the diagonals from one end of the header to the other's opposite end), it is time to get out the square, one super duper straight rafter to act as your template for all others, and a pen. To draw the necessary cuts, you need to determine the angle made between the horizontal and the roof, known as the pitch of the roof. For the designed shed, this should be 2'/6' or arctan(1/3)=18.4 degrees. If you have a protractor, you can dial in 90 degrees + 18.4 degrees = 108.4 degrees and use it to draw the 'vertical' cut of the notch. If this is far too confusing, perhaps this drawing will help.

Cutting the Rafter

To cut ends of the rafter, we used a cut-off saw set to the requisite 108.4 degrees. This allowed us to cut all of the ends very quickly. The notches took a tiny bit more work. For these, we used a circular saw to get the bulk of the material cut, and then we joined the two circular saw cuts with a few strokes of the hand saw.

Installing the Rafters

To install the rafters, we first marked all the spacing on the headers, placed the rafters accordingly, and used a ladder of the front to screw in the hurricane ties. Voìla!

Step 7: Shiplapping the Siding

Shiplapping the siding was quite a process. It took a long time, and it was noisy, grueling labor. If you can buy the boards pre-shiplapped, we recommend buying those! Also, if you don't mind small vertical cracks forming in your shed when the rough sawn shrinks and changes size, no need to shiplap! However, if you insist on shiplapping all the boards by yourself, then read on.

Your Workspace

To make sure your shiplapping is as fast and smooth as possible, it's a good idea to carefully set up your workspace. We used a 5/8" wide Dato blade to make the grooves in our rough sawn boards, so the table saw was the main attraction. However, you could use a table-mounted router. The Dato blade made a lot of sawdust, so we made sure to connect it to a shop vacuum. Lastly, it is important that the wood getting fed into the table saw has an easy approach. We accomplished this by using a flip-top table meant to support long pieces of wood as they get fed into the saw. This worked very well, but any surface at roughly the same height would also do.

Setting Up the Saw

Your goal is to remove roughly half of the board's thickness for a half inch deep. Set the height of the saw, then run a couple test pieces through to confirm that one half of the height is being cut. We had the saw set such that the blade was right against the saw fence. This way, the saw could only undercut, which could be easily fixed by running the board through another time.


Once the saw is set, and some small test pieces were successfully cut, it's time to put on your ear muffs and spend the next four hours or so shiplapping boards. We determined it took us about 3-5 minutes per board. If you have found a way to do this faster, please let us know in the comments!

Step 8: Installing Girts and Diagonal Braces


The girts are the horizontal 2" x 4" lumber placed three feet off the floor. The purpose is to provide an additional place to nail sheathing to, ensuring that the sheathing doesn't buckle too far. To install the girts, simply mark at what height you would like the ends to be on the post, cut the 2" x 4" to length, and toe-screw them into the side of the posts. The corner created by the posts and the girts will also serve as a convenient place to butt one end of the diagonal braces against.

Diagonal Braces

The diagonal braces are necessary to keep the shed from diagonalizing/parallelograming in any dimension. Therefore we must reinforce all planes of the shed... front and back, sides and roof. We will assume the floor can properly oppose diagonalizing forces (especially with no wind load!). There are two types of diagonal braces to discuss: wooden and metal strapping. Wooden braces can only resist compression forces, so for whichever plane we use wooden braces for, we'll need to put them in both directions at roughly ninety degrees from one another. Metal strapping, on the other hand, can only resist tension forces, and consequently it will also have to reinforce a given plane in both directions. We chose to use wooden braces for all sides of the shed because of the aesthetic, and metal strapping for the roof because it is thinner and hence could easily fit between the purlins and the rafters. Before installing any of the diagonal braces, make sure that the plane you are installing them to is perfectly square. The easiest way to mark the wooden braces is to hold them up to the location, and use the frame as a guide for your marker. Then cut along the marker lines, and your brace should fit right in! Remember, the wooden braces are only for compression, so any toe-nails/toe-screws you put in need only keep the brace from moving side to side. For the metal strapping, we used one continuous band of strapping that formed a V on the plane of the roof. Install the metal strapping by nailing it to all of the rafters. Make sure that the ends that take the majority of the tension force are bent over the side and nailed in to give them greater strength. Once all of these braces are installed, you will immediately notice how much stronger the shed has become!

Step 9: Installing the Sheathing

Installing the sheathing is perhaps the most straight forward and rewarding step in the whole process. Here are some steps to guide the process:

  1. Identify the corner boards. These boards should be the straightest and preferably the widest. You should have done this in the shiplapping stage because each corner board will have one side that is not shiplapped.
  2. Start from one corner. Installing the first corner board on a given side is simple. Just line it up with the post or previous corner board, and start nailing is into the post with your pneumatic nailer and some 2-2.5" ring nails.
  3. Cut the boards to length as you go.
  4. Nail in the subsequent boards to the floor, rafter/header, girts and diagonal braces.
  5. Rip the last corner board to size! If you planned ahead, hopefully it is not a small strip. If it happens to be, you should instead make one of the middle boards a small strip such that the corner board can enjoy its full width and glory!

Step 10: Installing Purlins

The purlins are used to support the metal roof. There's not much to say about how to install them... just put them up as you see in the photos! We used 3" decking screws.

Step 11: Installing Metal Roofing

The metal roofing could be installed in many ways. We chose to install it in two pieces so that we could remove the back overhanging portion to make the shed road legal. Therefore we bought sheets of 8' and 3' 6" red metal roofing. Installation is a little tricky... perhaps familiarize yourself with a guide like this to learn how tight to make the screws and how to overlap with the wind direction in mind. On all sides but the front, we made the roofing overhang the edge such that any dripping water wouldn't go directly onto the wooden trim. In the front, we installed some gable trim in order to keep the water off of the trim board and provide a nice red band along the front of the shed. Other things to note are that we used sealant tape to make the overlap in the roof waterproof, and we used closure to make the connection between the gable trim and the main roof waterproof.

Step 12: Trim

I will be uploading detailed photos of the trim soon.

Trim serves mainly an aesthetic role, hiding the purlins, rafters, and the ends of the headers. It also helps protect those areas from weather. We used some leftover pieces of siding as our trim. More precisely, before we shiplapped the siding, we carefully identified and saved those boards that were straightest, longest and widest to be the front and rear trim pieces. There is not much to it asides cutting to size and nailing or screwing into place!

Step 13: Building the Door

The door is a blast to build because it is simple, beautiful and fast to put together. And it involves moving parts! (the trolleys) The first step to constructing the door is to find a perfectly level floor. That will be where you build the door so that you don't introduce any strange warping. Luckily, sliding doors are some of the most stable door configurations, so physics is on your side. We constructed our door from the same boards as our sheathing, and we made sure to ship lap the vertical boards. The cross is quite simple, involving one contiguous cross-piece and one that is cut in half. The dimensions of the door were such that it overlapped the side by about six inches, and the top and bottom 2-4". Please follow the photos for construction details, and post any questions below.

Step 14: Installing the Door

  • Installing the track: installing the track involves carefully thinking about how far the door should slide. We opted to let the door slide completely out of the way, but if your track is not long enough, then perhaps it will only be able to partially open. Our track of 8' was too short to cover the whole width of the shed, so we had to move the trolleys inboard of the sides of the door by 18".
  • Installing the roller: the roller bearing that keeps the door agains the building at the base when a wind picks up, is just a simple angle brackets with slots to accommodate different door thicknesses. It is quite straightforward to install. We cut away the sheathing so we could hide it to some degree and connect it directly to the sturdy deck.
  • Installing the lock: we took great pains to make sure no one could use wrenches to open our locked shed. We did this by ensuring that all critical lock fixtures we installed had no exposed turnable hexes. If the photos don't cut it, please post below!

Step 15: Filling the Shed

This is the hardest part! How do you fill a shed in such a way that it is easy to access everything without having too much dead space? Our main answer was to use a massive amount of stackable crates and then to stack to the ceiling. You could do the same, or you could build shelves into the shed frame (the nice 4"x4" posts make nice fixture points for such shelves.) In the second photo you can see we store two motorcycles comfortably in the shed. I hope you enjoy your new storage space!

First Time Author Contest 2016

Participated in the
First Time Author Contest 2016