Introduction: The Shed: a Story of Demolition and Reconstruction

Once upon a time there was a ratty old shed that had come to a rotten end. It's asphalt shingle roof had grown weary and sported a veridian patina of moss. Time and the elements had battered the roof. Trees that had come to their own ends had dropped their deadly leaden limbs, piercing the roof. Efforts were made to temporarily mend the holes, a dab of silicone here, a sheet of flashing there. But thirty years is a long time to stand against the effects of heedless Mother Nature and the shed's once fine siding had developed the wasting disease. It cracked, it softened, and it rotted holey. Squirrels would ferret inside. Who knows what they were doing in there for they left no sign and the shed would never say. But it made it nervous. Terribly, terribly nervous. . . .

Step 1: Destruction

Okay, I can't keep the fair tale story up anymore. I probably could, but I think it'd be annoying for you.

Here we see what a few hours of work with a shovel, pry bar, and a ladder will do for you. I ripped all of that mossy mess off and laid it in piles on either side of the shed to wait for a friend with a trailer to take it to the dump. Afterwards I used a magnetic sweeper I got at Harbor Freight to pick up any stray nails.

My goal was to save as much of the wood to use in the construction of the new shed. it turned out that only two or three of the wall studs were rotted so I had quite a few recycled ones to play with. The bottom 2x4 plates that bolted into the concrete on the other hand were complete losses.

Once I removed the wood siding I was able to tie a rope to the roof and, with four of five stout yanks, pull the whole structure down. Once on the ground I removed all of the roof boards and set to work dismantling the 2x4s for reuse.

For those of you that don't believe in the Devil let me assure you that there is one and it lives on this planet in the form of galvanized metal deck nails. These evil bastards are twisted nails that are basically impossible to remove from wood. They're sturdy, they hold wood together wonderfully, but they are your worst enemy if you want to reuse wood. After trying to remove two or three of them with a hammer and then a pry bar I gave up and started cutting the wood apart at the joints with a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade. This worked well, but it took me a looooong damn time to cut all of the nails flush with the boards.

If you plan on reusing wood like this you should also plan on buy two or three back up circular saw blades for your circular saw, miter saw, and table saw. Considering the cost of a blade to the price of all new wood, it's worth it.

Step 2: Plan It Out

Sit down with a piece of graph paper or get a free 3D design program like Google Sketchup (I use the free House Builder add on from the Ruby Library depot). Decide whether you want to use 24" spaced studs or 16" spaced studs. 24" will save you one stud every four feet in case you are looking to save a few dollars. I chose the 24" spacing.

This is a good tool to help you calculate your lumber needs. All you need to do is count the boards in the picture to get your tally. Are you going to have electric? How about a water line or natural gas?  Plan, plan, plan! I planned on a 16 x 16 building using 2x4s for the studs and 2x8s for the roof beams. It'll have electric. I chickened out on getting natural gas and water put out there and I already regret it.

Step 3: Site Prep

I decided to build the shed right next to the existing concrete pad. I marked out a 16ft x 16ft area with some wooden stakes and string and began to rough up the uneven ground with an ancient garden tiller. After digging and digging the ground up with the tiller I put the snow blade on my little snapper mower and pushed the dirt around to level things out as much as I could. More dirt will be brought in latter to make a ramp and further level things out.

I used four 16ft long 2x8s to make a concrete form and staked it in place with 2X2s I cut up. After the concrete was put in place those 2x8s would be cleaned up and used in the roof.

Step 4: Utility Trench

The old shed had no power. So I rented a trencher and put in an 1.5" pvc conduit with 6 gauge copper wire connected to my garage's subpanel with a 40 amp breaker (I plan on making the new shed a sort of small wood/metal/projects workshop as well as storage). I also ran a telephone line, but this may be pulled back through and replaced with ethernet and maybe coaxial cable too.

Look how well that dirt refilled the trench. It looked that way for about five days and then it rained and it seemed that dirt never had been put into the trench in the first place. Another reason to order a load of topsoil!

I was very tempted to put a natural gas line in, and looking back I probably should have. The flexible yellow HDPE (high density polyethylene) gas pipe wouldn't have been around $70 for 3/4" diameter---the fittings on the other hand are pretty steep and would probably have cost the same as the tubing. Oh well. If I want to heat the shed I'll use electric or come up with a solar heating system.

While I had the trencher I also extended the french drain to wrap around the back of the shed for the eventual connection to the gutters.

Step 5: Gravel

7 tons of #73 gravel with lime dust. Or was it 8? I disremember, but it was a lot to move. As you can see the truck driver was too much of a wusser to back it all of the way to the form because of the little unevenness of the ground. So I had to shovel and move every pound of it.

I could have rented a plate compacter to get a good hard pack down on it, but I saved that money by using a 8"x8" tamper. After going over it a few times it was as solid as it would ever get with a plate compacter. Plus it got rained on a few times and that lime dust settled in and seized it right up.

Step 6: Concrete

Here is where there is supposed to be a lot of bad ass pictures of me, my dad, my brother, my nephew, and a friend getting hot and dealing with a huge concrete truck in my yard spewing a few tons of fiber filled liquid muck into my form. Alas I didn't think to set up my video camera to record the proceedings until the massive thing was pulling into my driveway and the game had to quickly get afoot.

I chose to spread some black plastic over the packed gravel for a vapor barrier. Some people do this, some don't, some say it matters, some don't. I thought it couldn't hurt. If it keeps a lot of moisture from wicking in, good. If not, then it's no loss to me because I had had the extra plastic laying in my crawlspace for years and didn't think I'd miss it.

The cement truck driver was a jovial hillbilly that was excellent at directing the concrete around that form so that we didn't have to strain ourselves too much. He'd often laugh raucously from his seat and yell out over the noise, "I've never seen it done quite like that before" as we displayed our limited experience of working with concrete. But he kindly gave us some pointers on smoothing it out with a bullfloat once he'd finished dumping it. We didn't bother trying to smooth it out too much and it has a mild no skid texture.

The bolts sticking up are concrete anchors set into the wet concrete to tie down the bottom 2x4 plates of the walls.

Step 7: Building Construction

Here's where I'm supposed to have pictures of me building walls and the roof and things. No such luck. When I get focused and doing these things I don't have the patience to stop what I'm doing and take pictures. Anyone can find out how to put together a wall on any number of reputable search engines. Siding and metal roofing often come with instructions. If you can read, you can build.

Have a picture of some lobsters I cooked instead.

Step 8: Radiant Barrier and Siding and Doors

I want to eventually insulate this building so I can have a warm spot to work in the winter. I also wanted it cool in the summer so I chose to give radiant barrier a try. It's pretty easy it work with, flexible, easy to cut, and surprisingly strong. It would take a lot to tear it just by pulling. I used a hammer tacker to staple it to the OSB. It didn't put too many staples in because I knew I'd be putting 3/4" furring strips over it. Why? Because the manufacturers of radiant barrier say that in order for the product to work you need at least a 3/4" air gap on at least one side of the barrier. Otherwise heat would simply conduct through the material instead of being reflected away.

Under the metal roof are 2x4 purlins (boards running from the front of the shed to the back, parallel with the peak) every 24". Between those purlins and the roof beams are 1/2" styrofoam boards with a reflective radiant barrier attached to one side. The shiny side is pointed up at the metal roof to reflect away heat.

Is it worth it? I have to say yes. I tried to get a lighter colored metal roof so it wouldn't collect so much heat and metal roofs reflect more heat than shingles anyway. On a hot day you can walk inside this building and it's temperature isn't any higher than outside in the shade. I've used the radiant stuff in about 2/3s of our house and it's either my imagination or wishful thinking, but our upper level does seem to be more comfortable on hot days. I'll reserve my full judgement until I complete the last third of the house and have a ridge vent installed.

I put the furring strips about 12" apart and it had plenty of spots to nail the vinyl siding to. Vinyl siding is easy to install. If you get the starter strip on the bottom installed level you practically don't have to use your level as long as you hold the siding up with the same tension every time you go to nail it in.

I over did it with the front door, but I wanted it to have some light come in because I hadn't planned on putting in windows. the doors should hold the heat and cool in well if I decide to add some kind of air conditioning.

Step 9: Crazy Extras and Done

That old concrete slab was calling out to be used for something so I decided to make the Mrs. a greenhouse. Here they are painting the wood structure with a water resistant paint. Two or three coats should keep it in shape for many years. The covering will be twin or triple walled polycarbonate sheets if I can find a local source for them that won't tack on a huge shipping fee.

And that's my weekend project . . . well, 15 or 20 weekends. Go and do likewise.

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