Designing and building a simple outdoor shed: advice?
July 24, 2015 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Have any of you done this? I'm looking for quality designs online and any general advice from your experience.

* I'm in the process of designing a small, simple outdoor shed which my dad and I will build.
* We are both handy, but this is right at the edge of our comfort level.
* It will be in the style of this lean-to, but bigger to fit more things, with a transparent roof.
* I'm looking for designs online that I can modify, but there is much random crap out there, or good examples (like this one) without any designs

Thanks for your help!
posted by cgs to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes you have a good bonding experience and a good outcome. But seriously look into prefab sheds. I see them all over the place. Use fresnel lenses to let in light. They let in less heat. The evil HOA chair feeling spendy bought a lifetime shed for $600 it has a light catcher along the roofline.

Another suggestion, put a simple solar light over your light catching area, so the interior is lit at night for free. In terms of resale value on your home, DIY exterior builds cause suspicion, where a recognized label ex Tough Shed seems more like an asset.

There are a lot of "earthship" sites where folks build creatively.
posted by Oyéah at 8:50 AM on July 24, 2015

hmm... I hadn't thought of impacting the resale value. Oddly enough, it was how crappy this shed looked (in Lowes' parking lot) that motivated me to go diy. Here is how it looked IRL
posted by cgs at 9:22 AM on July 24, 2015

I just recently built one myself so these are from my bookmarks. Ana White has some good plans - I built this shed using one of the plans there and actually modified it using plans from a chicken coop on the same site; I even added a green roof. (If you're thinking of resale, I actually liked this better because I was able to modify it to match our house and lot size.)

The Family Handyman also has lots of plans here. This design seems similar to what you're looking for.

Sunset has some shed making plans available if you search their site. Here's just one example, of an under the eaves shed. Some of their plans you have to buy, though, but they're good quality - they're not some random person on the 'net. They also put out a book, though some of the plans in there have to be bought online (but not all). I used some tips in there to make the shed I built much higher quality, particular with the flooring/pad. (I did not have to buy it, either - it was available at the library.)

There are plenty of books by others as well.
posted by barchan at 9:53 AM on July 24, 2015

IMO, the "good example" you show is really terrible. That horizontal framing may work for quite some time, but it seems pretty naive. It's good that it's not very big. One good snow load will buckle those unsupported 2x top plates.

I'm just finishing up this shed. I built it without any plans using basic framing principles. 2x6 on 24" centers. You could also do 2x4 on 16" centers. A shed roof, rather than a gable, is much easier to build.

The Instructables website has some good material.

I'm happy to answer PMs if you want.

Good luck. Building is great. Very satisfying.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:04 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

It almost certainly needs to be built on a slab with a rat wall. Code enforcement will catch you with aerial photos or if a neighbor complains.
posted by H21 at 2:48 PM on July 24, 2015

At work we once assembled a generic Home Improvement Store prefab on the request of a client. For the amount of time it took, we could have built a much better shed from scratch for the same price. Prefabs often really cheap out on the materials.

For one of the examples above, they set their floor frame on the dirt... ugh, please don't do this! In a perfect world you would sink concrete pillars. In a less perfect world, maybe plenty of gravel under paving stones to build over. Use pressure-treated beams for the floor.

The Code Enforcement, mentioned above, varies. A small simple outdoor shed with a minimal square footprint should be okay almost anywhere... HOA aside.
posted by ovvl at 6:53 PM on July 24, 2015

I built it without any plans using basic framing principles. 2x6 on 24" centers. You could also do 2x4 on 16" centers. A shed roof, rather than a gable, is much easier to build.

I'd note that your shed is better constructed than the vast majority of houses in the US. That's not a criticism -- but it's possible to build a shed using much less wood (and consequently faster and cheaper) without any structural concerns.

Personally I wouldn't worry about finding exact plans (most of which in my experience are terrible) but rather just designing and building it using very basic principles. 2x4s are cheap, so you can afford to screw up a few times along the way.

I agree that a shed roof is the way to go. Around here I wouldn't use a transparent roof because of heat in the summer, but in other climates it might make sense. Caulk and paint hides a lot of mistakes. There are very few consequences to a shed settling or sagging slightly, so don't overthink the foundation -- you can always fix things later if your first approach turns out to be a dud.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:07 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hey Humboldt - in your shed, is the gap between the wall and the roof (between each of the rafters) left open? If not, how did you fill that?
posted by cgs at 3:30 PM on August 3, 2015


Those are filled. They are referred to as "bird blocking" in the trade. Typically they have screened vents that allow roof ventilation, but I'm going to eventually use closed-cell spray foam insulation which doesn't use roof venting.

The rafters are 2x8s, so the blocking is a 2x8 cut to the proper width. Then you run one edge through the table saw with an angle matching the angle of the roof. 15 deg, in my case. You place them before you sheath the roof. Nail through the rafter from the empty bay next to it, and toe nail the other side.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:54 AM on August 4, 2015

Closing this out:

- I found a series of how-to videos on Youtube that were very helpful and made me feel like I could handle it
- that channel's owner (iCreatables) also sells plans, and I found one w the exact dimensions I wanted (5x12). They were cheap: $20.
- the plans came with an order list, which I was able to send to both Lowes and Home Depot and get quotes for all of it, delivered to my home. This was helpful as I don't have a truck. They came in w/in $3 of each other, which surprised me.
- I got it all done, mostly on my own. It took me much longer than I anticipated, however :-)
- here are some photos of my final creation. I modified the plans to have the funky rafter shape (which, if you've been following this thread, I got from humboldt32's shed design), and the extra overhang in the back is for kayak storage.

I learned alot and bought a bunch of new tools (miter saw, new drill and impact driver, framing hammer). Glad it is done now and happy to have a place for my grill and lawn mower this winter.

Thanks, askmefi!
posted by cgs at 12:13 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

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