Introduction: Mostly Upcycled Garden Shed

I built a garden shed from mostly upcycled materials. Cash cost: ~$300 USD. A prefabricated shed of similar size would have run $1500-$2500 delivered.

I began with a rusty metal shed from the 70's that came with my house. It was too short for me to stand up in, the floor was rotten due to water damage, and it had too little space for my needs.

The good news is that I could reuse most of the flat metal sheeting in the new shed, and the floor structure was in better shape than I expected.

Materials: The bulk of the shed is 48" x 40" wood pallets that I picked up for free from Craigslist posts. I chose wood pallets for three reasons:

1. They are often free;

2. They have great rigidity when screwed together into a wall;

3. They allowed me to build the shed on my own, since they go together in a modular construction format. Clamp two together, connect with screws, repeat.


30 - 40" x 48" wood pallets

3 - 4'x8' sheets of 3/4" plywood

3 - 4'x8' sheets of 1/2" plywood

7 - 2'x6'x10' lumber; I used pine, cedar would give better weather resistance

100 stainless deck screws

50 #9 x 1" sheet metal screws. These have a rubber gasket that sits between the cap of the screw and the metal roof to deep water out of the structure.

Circular saw

Cheap circular saw blades (you will go through several due to hidden nails in the pallets)

Reciprocating saw and cheap "demolition" grade blades

Power drill


Measuring tape


Safety gear of your choice ( be smart )

Step 1: Step 1: Take the Old Shed Apart

Old Shed was held together with small nuts and bolts, so it came apart in about an hour. I piled all of the flat sheets out of the way, and later disposed of any parts I couldn't repurpose at my local metal recycler.

After taking up the rotten flooring, I discovered that the treated lumber frame that formed the base was in very good shape. I replaced three sections that had some rot and added some concrete pavers in key places to bring the whole frame back into square.

Step 2: Step 2: New Flooring

The reason the original flooring of Old Shed rotten out was because the floor and framing were slightly larger than the shed itself. Any rain that rolled off Old Shed drained onto the floor and frame, guaranteeing rot. New Shed would be exactly the same dimensions of the floor, so rain would go to the ground and not the flooring and frame.

My local building codes don't kick in for structures of less than 140 square feet. The base of New Shed is roughly 10 feet by 13 feet, which is well below the threshold, which gives me complete control of materials, design, and the luxury of not having to meet any building codes.

I had a sheet of 3/4" plywood from a previous project, so two new ones gave me the sheeting needed to put down a good base. I secured the plywood to the frame with 2" deck screws.

Steps 1 & 2 took me roughly 8 hours. 4 hours were spent replacing the rotten base supports and fiddling around trying to shim the base square and flat. (sorry, no pictures)

Step 3: Step 3: Construction

This part goes quickly. I like working with pallets because they are very forgiving. I'm not a 'plumb and square' carpenter, just a 'pretty close' carpenter.

Place a pallet on the long side down at a corner, screw it to the floor, clamp another pallet next to it, screw them together and the new pallet to the floor, and repeat all the way around the base.

I made the wall to the left of the doorway one pallet width from the north wall. (The door will face west) The wall to the right of the doorway is not quite two pallets wide, but that is the beauty of working with pallets- you can cut one down to fit the size you need.

The second layer goes on the same way as the first, with an added vertical support to stiffen the walls. I had disassembled some odd size pallets for the face boards to use as siding. The long frame boards were inserted into the forklift fork gaps, then screwed to the pallets. Now the two layers won't accordion upon themselves in the wind.

After completing the second layer, I used vertical boards to provide strength for the "header" that I would manufacture out of pallet parts. You will see that in the next step.

Step 4: Step 4: Doorway Header

The "Header" is a series of pallets that have been cut in half lengthwise, so that two of the original three boards that made the frame formed the outside ends of the now skinny pallet. They were sistered with long 2"x4" boards to make a 13' continuous section. I used a 13' 2"x4" as a constant between the wall and the header, and to give support across the doorway. (A real carpenter would call this "The Real Header")

Once I screwed the header into the top of the two wall sections, the doorway wall was very stable.

This is the end of the pallet construction portion. The rest of the project involved a lot of pallet deconstruction.

Step 5: Step 5: Rafters

I purchased 12 foot long 2"x6" lumber for the rafters. Having a single slope to the roof simplified construction.

I flattened the end of each rafter to match the angle it sat on the east wall, and notched the upper end where it met the header. These two cuts increased the surface area of contact with each wall, and made them easier to attach to the walls. I was able to batch the cuts in fours and threes.

Step 6: Step 6: Roofing


(Yes, it snowed before I got the shed finished. Such if life working in December in the Midwest.)

Some of the 1/2" plywood sheeting was left over from a previous project, some I bought new. I cut sections so the joints would meet in the middle of a rafter board.

Once the roof was covered, I pulled roofing sections from the pile of Old Shed parts and began using them for roofing New Shed.

I was fortunate that the roofing sections of Old Shed when laid flat matched the size of roof I needed even though Old Shed was smaller than New Shed. I don't know why it worked out this way, but it did.

I secured the metal roofing to the sheeting with 1/2" roofing bolts. The rubber washer keeps the water out of the connection. I put a screw in wherever there was an old hole in the sheet metal, and along the top and bottom edges to prevent to wind from peeling a sheet back in a big wind.

Step 7: Step 7: Siding

The final step before adding siding was adding vertical supports between the second row of pallets and the rafters. This added stability to the structure and also provided a space to nail some scrap plywood that was needed for the siding to have a straight side to nail to.

I used the metal sheeting from Old Shed for the lower half of New Shed, and were almost enough to cover the perimeter.

The top half of the siding were boards ripped from pallets and nailed onto the shed as shiplap. I needed the disassemble about 10 pallets to have enough boards for the siding.

You can pry the boards off a pallet, but I found it faster to cut through the nails using a demo blade on a reciprocating saw. You go through blades quickly, but I could break down each pallet in 5-10 minutes. YMMV.

Step 8: Step 8: Barn Door

I built the door from pallet parts and scrap lumber. I'm a big fan of the pocket hole jig from Kreg Tools (usual disclaimers) which makes joining lumber at a 90 degree angle simple and strong.

The door is a few inches wider than the doorway, and is simple to construct. I went with boards that are flat to the door, rather than shiplap, for simplicity.

Step 9: Step 9: Mounting the Barn Door

First: I found the hardware and rail for the barn door on the website for Ace Hardware, and had it shipped to the store for free. The rail and hardware cost ~$80 combined. They are made of galvanized steel, and will outlast New Shed.

While New Shed is mostly square, the rail is the one part that is definitely square. I did multiple measurements and lots of work with the level to make sure than the long board that carries the rail was square, and that the rail, once attached, was also square.

Once hung in the rail, the rollers move the door with little effort, and it stays put once you open or close it. No random movement. A small carpentry victory.

Step 10: Epilouge

I built New Shed two years ago as of this writing, and I have had zero problems.

Since the inside is exposed wood, I can add hangers or shelves wherever they are needed. It's extremely customizable. If you have the time to gather the pallets and do the work, you can't beat the price.

Many thanks to the many "Building with wood pallets" Instructable authors I read during the design phase of this project.

Good luck and get busy.

Step 11: