Introduction: How to Build a Garden Shed...That's a 1/4 Scale Miniature of Your House

I built a small garden shed our backyard. The intent was make it look like the main house as much as possible and still maintain its functionality. These are the steps I took to make my vision a reality. While this is probably more work than required (most people don't need a stucco garden shed with 15 windows and 3D printed molding) the same basic steps would apply to a simpler design.

Tools You Might Need:

  • Miter Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Screw Gun
  • Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Pneumatic Braid Nailer
  • Pneumatic Stapler
  • Air Compressor
  • Tin Snips or Sheet Metal Scissors
  • Router
  • Shovel

Step 1: Start With a Plan

Most of the design work for this project was done in a 2D CAD program. I used DeltaCAD, its free!

I started out with a "plan" set of drawings and then produced an "as-build" set of drawings as the structure was being built (over months). This let me be more flexible while I was building because while I had a plan, I didn't need feel obligated to stick to it at every last joint

The "as-built" set of drawings let me make decisions about the design based on how it was actually built and not based on a plan I had deviated from.

Step 2: Make a Foundation

There are several way to make a foundation but I wanted this to be a 'non-permanent' structure for zoning purposes. I used these pre-made foundation stones. They are concrete castings that have a recess for a 4x4 post and flare out to base that about 10" square. To make everything level, I dug into the ground about 8" and poured gravel into the hole. Then I set the foundations on the gravel. The foundation stones were leveled by adding or removing gravel from the hole until all four foundations were level to one another.

Step 3: Install Floorboards and Joists

The 2x6 pressure treated floor joists are spaced every 16 inches. This structure was going to have a heavy stucco exterior so I doubled up on the perimeter (shown).

The floor boards are standard 5/4 x 6 pressure treated lumber. On a deck, boards will typically be spaced 3/16" apart but I placed these a little tighter. This flooring will have a roof over it and walls on all four sides so water drainage (from rainfall) is not an issue.

To make everything straight I lined up the right hand side of the boards as I was screwing them in place and let them hang out over the left side. When I was done, I just ran a circular saw down the left hand side to cut all the boards flush with the frame.

Step 4: Build the Walls and Secure Them in Place

Build the walls horizontally on a flat surface and then stand up into position when completed.

On a small structure like this you can get away with building the walls vertically and in place but if you want to make sure everything is straight, build horizontally.

These walls have framing for 6 windows (3 left 3 right).

Step 5: Build the Rafters

Rafters need to be built horizontally.

Join the pieces of your rafters with pre-fabed metal connector plates (shown).

The pitch of your roof should be at least 6:12 if you live in a climate that gets snow.

Prefabricated rafter ties (shown) make installing the rafters on the structure easier and will keep the roof from lifting off during a strong wind.

You don't need to use ties though a cut called a "bird mouth" can do the trick (shown)

Step 6: Attach the Plywood Sheathing

Nail plywood sheathing to the rafters and walls.

This structure uses 15/32" thick sheathing on the roof and 3/4" sheeting on the walls. 3/4" is overkill for most structures but a little math showed that these walls would be supporting 1500lb of stucco so I wanted a little extra material.

Because this structure is being covered with shingles and stucco, it can be the lower C-D grade plywood. If the plywood is going to be the surface you see when you're all done you probably want to use a higher grade which will be smoother and contain less knots.

Step 7: Secure the Roofing Felt

Roofing felt works with shingles to keep the interior dry.

Roll roofing felt onto the roof and cut it to length with a utility knife.

The felt can be attached to the sheathing with staples or roofing nails.

Uses the guide lines on the felt to get the right amount of overlap (about 2"-4")

Step 8: Place the Shingles

Nail your shingles onto the roof with roofing nails starting at the bottom fo the roof and working your way up. Use the notches in the shingles to gauge the amount of overlap. Every few rows use a tape measure to make sure you're rows are still straight. When you get within a foot from the crown, start at the bottom of the other side and work your way up again.

The crown of the roof can be tricky look for an Instructable specially on how to do that but essentialy what you are doing is laying a single row of shingles that covers the upper most row of both sides of the roof. You work from one side of the crown to the other. When you get to the last shingle there won't be another shingle to hide/cover the nails so you don't want to nail it, glue it down with some industrial strength adhesive.

I did not install a roof vent on this shed because I felt like I would get enough veneration through the eves of the structure (where the walls meet the roof). If you don't have open, you probably want a roof vent so your shed doesn't turn into a pressure cooker during the summer.

Step 9: Frame in the Windows

The window frames were made from custom stock that started out as a few 2x4's

A rabbet grove was cut into one side of the 2x4 using a table saw (this rabbet holds the glass)

The other side was cut by a router blade with a decorative edge (this is the side you see)

The the stock was cut to size and mitered to fit in all 15 windows. The smaller windows required slightly scaled down stock to look right.

Step 10: Prep the Walls for Stucco

Roofing felt was also attached to the walls of this structure followed by a galvanized steel mesh.

The galvanized steel mesh is required to give the stucco something to grab on to. It doesn't need to be perfect or look pretty it will all get covered.

Step 11: Apply the Stucco

Apply the stucco in multiple layers (shown).

Mix the first layer so that it is thick and sticky, mix the final layer a little soupier and texture it with a brush. (shown)

Step 12: Primer and Paint, Then Paint Some More

The stucco is a hard surface to paint it may require several coats of primer and several coats of paint to make sure you've gotten into all the nooks and crannies.

Step 13: "Where's the Door?"

The question I get asked the most about this shed (where's the door?) highlights the feature I'm most proud of. The door of the shed is built to look like the entire front facade of the house, complete with stucco, windows, entry way, stoop, and concrete steps.

This was the only way to keep the shed 1/4 scale miniature. If I had made the door a standard size door the proportions would have been all wrong. Making the entire front of the house open was the only way to get a big door that would let me bring a lawnmower in and out and still maintaining the miniature look of the house.

A complication this strategy caused was that the door would now have the weight and heft of a 7' x 4' stucco wall. Oh well, that's what engineering is for. A little math indicated that 4 large hinges would do the trick.

The first picture in this step was taken before the combing around the door was painted and as a result shows a clear outline of the door's parameter.

Step 14: Front Facade (Finish Carpentry Meets 3D Printing)

The finish carpentry of the 1/4 miniature was more than I felt comfortable executing on my 12" compound sliding miter saw. The complex geometry of columns was probably a breeze for the expert craftsmen that built the full scale main house in 1914, but I began to fear I was going to cut my fingers off mimicking their work at 1/4 scale. In the interest of safety, I fell back on something I was more comfortable with - CAD (this is essentially my day job) .

...and this is a lesson to anyone that's read this far. If you're a good pastry chef why not show the world what you can make out of icing.

Once I had the geometry I needed inside the computer, the 3D printer made it a reality. I felt like this is a great solution because the angles are nearly perfect, ABS material doesn't rot, and thanks to the characteristic striations of an FDM 3D printer, after primer and paint the ABS parts had essentially the same sheen and finish as painted wood surrounding it!