Garden Shed - Day 0 - Planning

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About 6 years ago I had built a potting shed for my mum. Once complete it didn't take long for that shed to fill up with gardening equipment and be put to use on a daily basis. She has since moved out to the country to a new home there is a need for another shed.

Begin project 'Garden Shed'!

Garden Shed Cabin Kids Area Sliding Barn Door Shelving

Garden Shed Cabin Kids Area Sliding Barn Door Shelving

Site Visit
After walking the property a few times it became obvious that the ideal spot would be adjacent to an existing garage. With water and power just a few feet away and a garden just around the corner it couldn't be more perfect. And what about that view looking over fields below!?!

I began taking notes on what she liked about the old shed and what she would like to see in the new. I then counted up linear feet of shelves, counters, cabinets, equipment and general circulation space in the previous shed and increased the counts accordingly for the new design. Once I had collected some basic information we went through a barn on the property and started to look for items that could be salvaged and reused in our design. It wasn't exactly an "American Pickers" story but we did find some neat pieces. Some of the key items we found were a couple of large cabinets and about a dozen windows of various sizes/mullion patterns. To document these items I used an iPad app called "measures" to capture images, dimensions and notes. It was the first time I used the app and it saved me from having to chase down photos and corresponding sketches in my journal once I got back home.


I started brainstorming ideas for the shed knowing the footprint would be about 400sf. For a project of this size I had to be careful to strike a good balance between design and what I am actually capable of building, and in a relatively short amount of time.  

Some random ideas ranged from an octagonal glass turret green house, extreme cupolas, story book cottage motif, dual grid layout to address adjacent structures and solar path (with a built in feature wall / sun dial), and expressed structure similar to E. Fay Jones Thorncrown ChapelI also had to keep tweaking the design to accommodate our newly found objects.

A few examples from my sketchbook

When it was all said and done the final design may have borrowed a few elements from above but ultimately it became a more traditional (easier for me to build) structure. I split the building into several distinct areas, a foyer/sitting area, a party area (with party bench!), and a workbench area. Across from the main entrance is a wide barn door that opens onto a covered porch. With both doors open, the views, breeze and sunlight should create a nice hybrid indoor/outdoor space. 

Schematic Plan

I broke the project into 8 primary phases to help create a bill of materials (BOM) and a construction schedule to help measure my progress. I was going to take a week off to begin construction so my time was limited and I really wanted to have most of the structure protected from rain before I had to leave. By thinking things through to an obscene level ahead of time I was hoping to reduce how often I would have to stop construction to deal with issues.

One objective was to build the shed with as little waste as possible. To do this I had to be aware of how long the boards are, where to put them and how that was going to translate from the ground, up through the floor, up the walls, to the rafters and up to the roof top. I knew by doing this it would consume a lot of time in the field so I worked at home rebuilding the shed in my head trying to think through every little insignificant detail to keep scraps to a minimum.

Phase 1 - Foundation
I wanted to keep the foundation as simple as possible so we could get out of the ground quickly. As with the previous shed I created a raised platform supported by piers just as you would find on an outdoor deck. I originally planned to bury the piers as deep as I could to find suitable soil below the frost line. I did end up going 42+" deep. 

Phase 2 - Primary Structure
For the primary structure I used 2x10's that would be bolted in pairs to the 4x4 and 4x6 posts. On the primary facade I extended the 2x's 2'-0" beyond the post for a little cantilever action.


Phase 3 - Secondary Structure
The secondary structure / floor joist rested on top of the primary structure running perpendicular to the 2x10's. I ended up using 2x8x10's for this framing so I could have a good 2' overlap of the floor joist. I would include bridging (to prevent the floor from racking) and 'hurricane straps' to help tie everything together securely. I created another cantilever for a fun little sitting nook off to the left side. You'll also notice a strange notch on the top right of the page, that will be a fun outdoor shower someday! 

Phase 4 - Floor
The use of 5/4 deck boards allows for gaps in the floor where loose potting soil could be swept down below for easy cleanup. Since I couldn't span the entire length with one board I picked lengths of the boards that would put the joint under a wall or in smaller walkways as opposed to the center of the room.


Phase 5 - Walls
I used 2x4's for the wall construction and started to think through the walls that had slope to them, especially the angled walls with slopes. The thing I would find out later during construction is that most of the random dimensions, elevation heights, angles, etc would be temporarily burned into my brain for weeks afterwards. Down to the 1/8". The human brain is an amazing thing!

Phase 6 - Roof
We made a big design change to the roof structure halfway through the first week of construction and somehow we pulled it off! We ended up going with a rafter design to give the inside some nice clear volume and the most exciting part, metal roof! It was decided sitting in a shed and being able to hear the rain drops atop the roof would be a most excellent thing. I agreed. Another concept was to take the outdoor space which is on the north side of the building and give it a translucent white roof to diffuse natural light down into what would otherwise be a dark corner.  


To help keep track of materials, costs, progress and weight I recorded everything in a spreadsheet. I kept track of weight for a few reasons. 1. It sounded cool 2. Haven't you always wondered how heavy a building is? I can't be the only one can I? 3. I ran calcs on the bearing capacity of the soil and wanted to make sure it could easily support the building, equipment and plenty of people (in this case 15-20 people cause... you never know). 

I was surprised that this building when complete will weigh just under 5 tons! What I think is cool about this now that most of the construction is complete is that my mom (Jo) and her friend (Sue) fetched nearly every piece of material, loaded it into the trailer drove it back to the house and unloaded it. That means they handled every piece about 3 times. 5 tons x 3 = 15 tons they moved! Not too shabby!
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  1. Coming soon to HGTV: Extreme cupolas!!! LOL

  2. 15 tons! Good grief, my arms & back hurt now. And, 15-20 people at once...we've already been close to that in tours alone!