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Building a garden shed: walls

To build the walls for my shed I used 2×4 dimensional lumber, six feet long.  Each stud is 16 inches from center to center, with two nails in each end.  Once assembled, it’s a simple matter of lifting the wall into place, nailing the bottom plate into the floor, and bracing the wall to hold it in place while you assemble the other walls.

shed wall framing

shed wall framing

In the bottom right of the following picture, you can see an angled piece of wood which is fixed with four screws to both the wall and the base.  I used screws just to make it easier to remove afterward.

shed wall braced upright

shed wall braced upright

As you can see below, the corner studs are doubled with one wall so that there are three studs in total where the walls meet.  This allows the width of the studs to match where they make contact.

corner of framed walls

corner of framed walls

Once the walls are in place, the top plates get a second 2×4 to overlap the corners, and I’m ready for the roof.

Building a shed: the foundation

There are many ways to approach the foundation of a shed.  Some would have you dig the entire perimeter, make forms for the concrete, and pour over bolts for a bottom plate, just as you do for a house.  However, my rules are simple: keep it cheap, keep it simple, build it fast. I admit to cutting some corners, but hey–it’s a shed.  We don’t have to live in it.

I’m afraid I don’t have step-by-step photos this time around, so I’ll try to narrate the process through the photo below.

shed foundation and floor

shed foundation and floor

As you can see, I have dug out a hole for the cinder blocks of the shed foundation, but only at the four corners and midpoints of the span, not the entire perimeter.  First I measured and then marked the spot for each block, then dug down deeper than the depth of the cinder block. Each cinder block should be at least an inch beyond the floor measurements so that the perimeter of the shed floor is fully supported at the corners.

To the bottom of each hole I added gravel, both for drainage and to set the depth so that the cinder blocks are all level with one another.  To do this, I set a long two by four from the cinder block at the point of highest elevation and ran it to each of the other cinder blocks, checking for level.  Once they were positioned properly, I back-filled around the blocks and filled the holes with more gravel.

Then it was simply a matter of laying down the pressure treated joists (2 x6, 16 inches on center) on the shed foundation, tacked together at the ends with galvanized nails, and checking for square before laying down the 5/8 plywood for the shed floor.

Then I put a large tarp over the works and waited for the rains to give me a chance to continue with the walls!

Building a cheap garden shed: the plan

If you plan to build or renovate a house, be sure to save leftover two-by fours and plywood (or OSB).  All those throwaway scraps can form the bulk of a small garden shed, saving you money and saving the scraps from the landfill.  Which is what I am doing now.

Even if you aren’t going to build or renovate a house, over the next series of posts I will show you how I have built myself an inexpensive garden shed, saving myself more than half the cost of a typical cedar shed kit commonly advertised.  I will be building a shed that is approximately 8′ x 8′, with a three foot porch and corbelled overhanging roof.  Here’s the plan:

garden shed plan

garden shed plan

Never build a shed — or anything, for that matter — without a plan.  The more you can visualize the project, the more you can anticipate your needs and possible problems.  And since this garden shed is for my wife to organize her plants, it’s important that she like the design.  This one met with approval.

You may notice that I haven’t got measurements listed here.  I do write them down, but after I download and print my graph paper (via Google) I just work with the scale to create an accurate drawing.  The floor joists will be two-by-six pressure treated lumber, and the studs will be two-by four.  Joists and studs will be separated 16 inches on center.

A cedar shed kit for this size is usually advertised at between $800 and $1000.  The kit usually includes a bevelled edge cedar siding, plus all the two-by-fours, plywood, and roof shingles you will need.  However, they usually don’t include any foundation materials, tar paper, or windows, so factor these costs into your total as well.  But money isn’t the only consideration.  If you want anything different from what the kit offers, you are better off doing it yourself from scratch.  My plan will end up costing me about$300 in total, though keep in mind the cost would be higher if I hadn’t saved some two-by-fours and plywood from building our house.  Without that, I’d have to add another $100 at least.

Next, I’ll show you how to get started preparing the foundation.

Best deck coating product?

It’s time, now that the winter rains have subsided, to think about refinishing our front steps.  They are made of pressure-treated 5/4 by 6 deck boards, and last year we used the Behr Waterproof coating recommended to us at Home Depot.  It didn’t work.

Old deck boards

Old deck boards

I used this same product on our fence, and had the same result on the horizontal top plate.  However, the vertical fence panels look as good today as when I applied the coating.  The stairs, as you can see, did not fare so well.  The water getting in under the coating, combined with the friction of many footsteps, served to rub most of this coating off of each exposed step.  To address this, I’ve decided to try a new product: Behr DeckOver, which is a heavy, acrylic, slip-resistant coating.

Behr DeckOver

Behr DeckOver

Step one was to remove the old coating.  Rather than pressure wash, which can force water into the wood and delay the dry-time, I chose to sand using my belt sander and my orbital sander.  Before I could do that, though, I had to make sure all the nail heads were tapped into the wood.

Using nail punch to set nails

Using nail punch to set nails

Once the nails were below the wood, I was ready to sand.

Deck boards after sanding

Deck boards after sanding

After sanding, I cleaned the stairs with Behr #63 Wood cleaner.  Then I taped along the edges so that the DeckOver would not get onto the fascia boards along the sides.

taping edges

taping edges

And then I was ready to paint it on.  I used a roller for the most part, which helps with giving it a little more texture, and just used a brush for the edges and corners.  This product requires two coats, so after the first coat dried, I applied the second.

One thing to note: as the coating dries, it cures, and in the process a powdery white substance appears on the surface.

DeckOver after curing

DeckOver after curing

But don’t worry.  This substance is water soluble, and comes off easily with a hose or a wet sponge.  In fact, we just waited for the rain, and that took care of it.

finished stairs

finished stairs

We’re very happy with the look and feel of the refinished steps.  Check back with TheBuild.ca in a year, and we’ll let you know how well it lasts over the winter!

Demolition sales: a great way to save on building materials.

So it’s spring, and the flyers are out advertising for all the outdoor projects you and I have been waiting all winter to begin.

My first project happens to be a small shed.  I had some materials left over from our construction, but no siding.  I priced out 1×8 cheap cedar siding at the local building supply store, and it worked out to somewhere between $1.40 and $2.00 per square foot of siding.  For a shed that needed approximately 200 square feet of siding, I was looking at $300.  The truth is, there just is no such thing as cheap cedar siding, not anymore.  And James Hardie concrete fiberboard siding wasn’t going to be significantly less–maybe 10-15%.

I don’t have $300 to spend on a shed.  If I had $300 just lying around, why I’d…I’d…actually, I’m not sure.  That doesn’t happen too often.

What I do have is time and energy.

I searched “demolition” on craigslist and found several homes slated for demolition whose owners were selling anything from doors and windows to cabinets, lighting–you name it.  A few quick emails and I found one that was wrapped in cedar siding.  For $30, I got more siding than I need for the job.  Plus, it is 1×10–not beveled–which means it was nice and thick; almost none of the pieces were damaged by removal.  They may not look like much now, but once they’re put on and painted, they’re going to look great!

So if you are on a budget and have some time and muscle to put into it, consider reclaiming some used materials from a demolition.  You’ll save money, and you’ll help keep some of that material out of the landfills.

How to clean your dirty floor grout

We saved some money during the building of our house by electing not to have the tilers seal the grout.  “I can do that myself,” I said.  Why pay someone to do something I can do?  But one thing leads to another, and a year and a half later, our grout still wasn’t sealed.  Our light grey grout was now uniform in colour with our dark grey tiles.

dirty grout

dirty grout

What is the best way to clean grout?  Elbow grease has no substitute, but you still need a few things.  Here’s your shopping list:

  • Baking soda
  • chlorine bleach
  • grout brush
  • rubber gloves
  • old rags and towels
  • grout sealer
  • grout sealer applicator bottle

I tried using bleach spray cleaners, and CLR to clean my grout; neither seemed to be any better than the other.

cleaner comparison

cleaner comparison

What really worked the best was a grout cleaner recipethat my wife discovered somewhere:

  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup bleach

This grout cleaner recipe is easy and cheap, especially since you probably already have the ingredients.  Simply mix these in a bowl and start scrubbing with a grout cleaning brush.  Dip the brush into the mixture as you need to apply it to the grout.  Don’t try to save money by using a nail brush or toothbrush, or a toilet bowl brush!  They won’t work well.  This brush is specially designed to be thin enough to get into the grout lines, and has very stiff bristles.  It only costs a couple dollars at Home Depot.

scrubbing grout

scrubbing grout

After cleaning an area, the bleach will evaporate and the baking soda will leave a white residue.

dried grout cleaner

dried grout cleaner

This must be rinsed and scrubbed again, and it is important to get it all up with a towel.  I actually used a mini carpet cleaner to suck up the rinse water first, then rubbed it with an old towel.  That did the trick.  Alternatively, you could simply mop it, but if you don’t towel it up afterward, you will have baking soda streaks across your floor.  You don’t know where they are until they dry.

Also, you will likely miss some spots that you won’t see because they’ve been hidden under the grout cleaning solution.  But you’ll spot them right away when you rinse.  Here’s the contrast:

clean and dirty grout

clean and dirty grout

When you are all finished cleaning and rinsing, it is time to seal.  Grout sealer is a bit pricey ($30 for a bottle), but it goes a long way.  We only used about 2/3 of a bottle to do two coats on our 15×20 foot kitchen.  Here’s what you need:

grout sealer and applicator bottle

grout sealer and applicator bottle

You can see how the applicator works.  It is a small wheel that gets coated with the sealer as you roll it along the grout lines.  It rolls on wet, but dries invisible, so make sure you get each area well saturated and move in a logical sequence. Once it dries, you won’t be able to tell what you’ve sealed just by looking at it.

Two or three coats  is all you need, and it goes pretty quickly.  We did all the cleaning in one afternoon, and all the sealing the next afternoon.  The results speak for themselves.

dirty grout

dirty grout

clean grout

clean grout

Adding railings and a privacy screen to a pressure treated wood deck

With the deck boards laid, it is just a matter of adding the railings.  First, though, we wanted to put in a privacy screen.  We get a lot of sun in the summer around suppertime, and it can be downright unpleasant to eat outside in the heat and glare of that setting sun.  At the same time, we didn`t want an oppressive wall next to us.

cedar privacy screen

cedar privacy screen

By putting spaces between the cedar slats, we allow some light and airflow, but also provide privacy and shade.  To prepare for this, I made sure that the main posts were long enough to go up nearly 8 feet above the floor of the deck. Here is how we did it:

After the privacy screen was up, we put up the railings and voila!  Wooden deck with pressure treated lumber and a cedar privacy screen.

 

nearly finished wooden deck

nearly finished wooden deck

Lovely.  Can`t wait until we return to it next summer!

Go back to Part 6.  Go all the way back to the beginning of this project.

How to build a wooden deck with pressure treated lumber, Part 6

We’re just about ready to lay our pressure treated decking boards, but first we want to lay boards along the perpendicular edge so that our main boards have something to butt up against.  This will also allow us to stain the borders a different colour if we wish, to give it a more aesthetically appealing finish.  To lay that border, I’ve had to put in some small spacers between the joists:

Once the border is in, we can cut the pressure treated decking boards to the same length (assuming the deck is square–never assume anything!).  I used two nails in every joist rather than one so that as the boards dry out they won’t curl up on one side.The only tricky part is mitering and jigsawing around the posts, as I hope you can see in this video:

Go back to Part 5.  See the end of this project.  Go back to the beginning.

How to build a simple wooden deck with pressure treated lumber, part 5

Last time, we looked at using hurricane brackets to hold the floor joists in place.  Now we are ready to add our 2×8 pressure-treated joists to our wooden deck.

The first thing to do is decide which edge of your joist should go on the top.  Assuming it is straight, there is often one edge on pressure treated joists that is rougher than the other, as you can see here:

You will also want to make sure that as your joists connect to the facia board in front, they are perfectly level.  Even a quarter inch here or there will be noticeable as you are laying your pressure-treated deck boards down.  Here’s a simple trick to ensure your joists all come up to the same level:

Lastly, once you have the pressure treated joists in place and tacked in at the outside edge, you are ready to use galvanized joist hangers to secure the joists to the house.  Remember that they must be galvanized joist hangers as the chemicals that leach out of pressure treated lumber will rust non-galvanized steel.  Here’s a video showing you how these go on:

That’s it for now.  Next step: laying the pressure treated deck boards!

Go back to Part 4.  Go on to Part 6.  Go back to the beginning.

How to build a simple wooden deck with pressure-treated lumber, part 4

At this point, the posts are in place and the main support beams are ready to have the floor joists laid.  To keep them properly spaced, we use hurricane brackets every 16 inches.  The hurricane brackets do nothing more than keep the joists in position.  Once the floor joists are fastened to each end, there’s no danger of them tipping over.

And now we can see what the hurricane hangers look like when put in place:

Next, we’re ready to lay the floor joists.

Go back to Part 3.  Go on to Part 5.  Go back to the beginning.