Shed the lean-to; built yours to last

Garden shed exterior in Spring, for gardening and outdoor lifestyles. Not Released EDWARDSAMUELCORNWALL / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Today we finalize the plan for what will be your 10’x10’ backyard shed.

Even though this shed will not be subject to the scrutiny of a building inspector, due to it covering an area less than 105 square feet, and thereby not requiring a building permit, we’re not building a dog house.

In other words, we’ve eliminated the babysitter, and any professional advice an inspector could bring to the project, but this shed is going to be a whole lot more than just a few sheets of plywood tacked together.

Now, and after completing this fine shed, should you decide on a late night of carousing and mischief as a means to celebrate the construction of the project, inevitably bringing shame upon your once proud family, the fact this shed now provides you with a quiet space for somber thought, essentially defined as having landed yourself in the doghouse, should in no way be a reflection on the overall integrity of this structure.

First, decide on what type of platform your shed is going to rest on.

A concrete pad is best, but obviously quite permanent, and time consuming to construct, whereby a wooden platform can be assembled within a few hours.

Prepare the platform site by staking out the 10’x10’ space, then remove the grass and dig down about four inches. Next, fill the bed with four to six inches of compacted three-quarter-inch gravel. Now you’re set to either build a 2×6 form, then pour a 4-6 inch concrete slab overtop, or frame a platform using 2×6 lumber and three-quarter-inch treated plywood.

The pros to a wooden base is that it’s an easy build, while being strong and lightweight enough to make this shed somewhat movable. The pros to a concrete base is that it’s of course rock-solid, is there for the long-term, and can handle whatever weighty items you choose to park on it.

Furthermore, 100 square feet of platform will require anywhere from 80 to 100 bags of pre-mixed concrete, making the task of mixing an excellent occasion to initiate a couple of teenagers into the responsibilities of manhood.

As stated last week, the key to this shed being truly functional will be the inclusion of a roll-up, or sectional garage door. Essentially, that’s all you need as a point of entry.

Now, if the idea of a square building with one sectional door seems too commercial for you, then you can certainly make your shed look a little more homey, by adding a single entrance door and a couple of small windows.

Walls? Plan on framing your shed with 2×4 lumber, not 2x3s, and certainly not 2×2 lumber. When the big bad wolf threatens to huff and puff, we don’t want our shed blowing away, or developing a lean, should you happen to bump it with your riding mower.

Plus, walls remain square, while doors and windows tend to operate more smoothly when things are framed with 2×4 lumber.

Next, plan on ordering engineered trusses. Cost- and time-wise, there’s little to save by attempting to re-invent the wheel, so to say, by designing some lean-to type of roof system, or by figuring out the angles needed to arrive at a 4/12-pitchzaed truss.

The roof is a key component to any building, no matter what the size.

As a result, you need an engineered roof that’s designed to handling snow loads, thereby protecting what’s inside the shed, which at times will be you, as well as your precious tools. Plus, your roofline should look perfectly smooth and even, which is what you’ll get with a proper engineered truss.

Siding? Choose something that will complement what’s on your home. Smart panel, readily available in 4×8 sheets, is a good choice because it’s an outdoor, woodgrain panel that installs easily, looks attractive, and can be painted, so the colour choices are unlimited.

Otherwise, vinyl or composite sidings always look good, and offer the homeowner a variety of decorative stone, horizontal, or board-and-batten textures.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Building better backyard storage

Julie Oliver/Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia Network JULIE OLIVER/OTTAWA CITIZEN

The backyard shed is one of those projects that, similar to a backyard deck, every do-it-yourselfer should attempt once.

The assembly is pretty straightforward and allows the qualified homeowner the opportunity to dabble into a few areas of construction, such as siding and roofing, that they most likely wouldn’t have encountered in their previous decking project.

Bonus to building your own shed? One, everybody needs more storage space. Two, this wooden structure will be far superior to one of those plastic or aluminum jobs that assemble quickly, look pretty, then tend to crumple up and fly away with the first strong gust of wind.

Not that our wooden structure can’t be stylish, with perhaps a window flower box and a few gingerbread moldings along the roofline to soften things up a bit.

However, our 2×4 framing will provide us with rock-solid construction, allowing us to more efficiently divide the interior of our shed into shelving, pegboard, and if required, a few heavy duty hooks and brackets as well.

First, understand we are building a shed, which is somewhat defined as a structure equal to, or less than 10 square metres (about 105 square feet) in area. Any structure larger than 10 square meters falls into the category of garage, or warehouse, which will require a building permit, and preferably the hiring of a professional contractor.

So, look to build something in the 8’x12’ or 10’x10’ range. If you run out of room, which always happens, either build something bigger next season, or build a second shed.

Actually, a homeowner can have up to three accessory buildings. Check your local zoning bylaw, which will spell out how many you can have for your home.

Now, creating this type of shantytown decorum in your backyard could draw the ire of your upscale neighbors. Regardless, they’ll certainly understand your desire for more storage space, and hopefully accept the general construction opinion that the value of gardening and green space is grossly overrated.

As always, start with a plan.

Restrictions? Besides the 10-square-metre floor space confine, the only other shed bylaw restrictions are those relating to spacing within your lot, and building height.

Essentially, your shed will need to be distanced at least 0.8 metres (2.62 feet) from your property line.

So, know the exact location of your property lines. Otherwise, you could end up having to share your wall of rakes and shovels with your neighbour.

Plus, don’t attempt to maximize your 10-square-metre shed footprint limit, by building this structure three stories high, somewhat adopting a Dr. Seuss type of house plan.

Maximum shed height is five metres (16 feet), providing more than adequate room for a cathedral ceiling, or the very classy turret, should you have chosen a medieval theme for this structure.

As mentioned above, your best bet – and before starting this shed project – is to check with your building permit office regarding the local zoning and building regulations. They’re not the same in every city and township.

Things to consider? Your entrance will be key. A wide single door, or double doors are good, but a roll-up or sectional garage door is far better. It all has to do with convenience and accessibility.

When I’ve got yard work to do on a Saturday, my first task is to open our garage door. I don’t necessarily like opening the garage door for the same reason we don’t usually open all our closet doors when guests come over to visit. Essentially, you’ve got to have quite the organized and neat garage in order to proudly put it on display for the neighbourhood to pass comment on as they walk or bike on by your home.

However, when requiring access to a tool or garden hose, I’d rather walk through a nine-foot opening, than push through a three-foot swinging door.

As a result, and regardless of our garage’s state of messiness, the garage door stays open for the duration of the task. So, make sure to squeeze both a single entrance door, and garage type door (available in 4’, 5’, and 6 ft. convenient shed widths) into your shed plan.

Next week, more shed tips.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

That’s a wrap

When building, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion exposed so that the wood may be allowed to ìbreatheî or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate. Postmedia Network

I think the inventors of Baggies sandwich bags, and Saran Wrap, are two of the most intelligent and opportunist people in the world. Intelligent because they’ve managed to develop a lightweight, flexible, and user friendly manner of sealing and protecting foodstuffs. Opportunists because they’ve not only developed something useful, but have enabled us, as humans, to fulfill one of our most instinctive and powerful needs, and that’s the simple desire of wanting to wrap things.

What do we do with a newborn baby? Although it’s referred to as a swaddle, we’re essentially wrapping ‘em. Bloody finger? Wrap it. Christmas gifts, sprained ankle, hole in the car’s muffler? Wrap, wrap, wrap.

After supper the other night, I wrapped or bagged 10 different leftover items and tossed them in the fridge. Approximately 50 per cent of these items will see action in the immediate future, two to three things might be caught in time for use, with the last one or two items forgotten and allowed to develop into 15 types of mold. Regardless, they were all good wraps.

What do we do with a staff meeting that’s gone 30 minutes into overtime? We wrap it up. So, what do we do with basically any wood project or structure? Well, if you’re still not sure as to the theme of this week’s rant, for the good of the wood, you wrap it. For all intents and purposes, plywoods, basic framework, and wooden posts, will stick around for the long term if they’re kept dry. The strategy to keeping wood dry in a four season climate such as ours is challenging because wood is a product that naturally absorbs moisture. So, with a “dry season” unfortunately not forming part of the four seasons we experience, our plywoods and 2×4 framing lumber are always in a state where they’re retaining some level of humidity, regardless of the fact the lumber was kiln dried at some point in its production. As a result, we can’t simply saran wrap every piece of lumber because that would trap the humidity, which would lead to our lumber looking like the aforementioned science experiment regarding the 15 types of mold. Instead, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion of the plywood or lumber exposed (with these exposed sides usually facing the interior of the building) so that the wood may be allowed to “breathe” or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate.

So, whether you’re building a shed, or 3000 sq. ft. home, we always protect the plywood walls with a house wrap. Because the interior, or what’s referred to as the warm side of a standard, insulated wall, must have a plastic vapor barrier, in order to prevent moisture from entering the wall cavity, the outside wall cannot be saran wrapped, or covered in the same manner, because that would trap the moisture already in the plywood, and stud framework. So, we cover the exterior wall with a house wrap, a product that sheds water, should rain or snow makes its way past the siding, but is still porous enough to allow the wood to breathe.

Our plywood roofs require the same type of protection. Although asphalt paper was for the longest time the product of choice, synthetic felts are the better product. Similar to a house wrap, synthetic roof felts shed water and breathe. However, they differ from house wraps in that they reflect UV light, and are far superior to paper felts because they can protect a roof for up to six months, which is a real bonus when inclement weather causes unforeseen delays.

Other areas in need of protection are the wooden framework around windows and doors. When the caulking around a window or door frame begins to shrink or crack, water infiltrates into the wall and puddles on the sill, leading to mold or rot. For this reason, we now wrap three out of the four sides of the wooden frames with a rubberized membrane.

Next week, more on wraps. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Ye old shed, and how to fix it

Just a guess, but we're thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Just a guess, but we’re thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

“How do you fix up an old shed?” This was the question posed to me by a lovely, 20-something young lady, who just recently purchased an older home with a handsome, 20-something young man.

I mention the ages of the participants because timing is significant, and will certainly affect the strategy in addressing the crooked shed issue. If this were an elderly couple, I’d say forget about the shed, concentrate on booking your next tee-off date and getting your meds straightened out, then let the next guy worry about it.

If you’re middle-aged then I’d recommend taking a flamethrower to this mess, or plowing it into the ground with a bulldozer, depending on which ‘over the top’ method of ultimate doom you prefer. Then I’d recommend building something brand new in its place, at least three times bigger (because by this age we all collect too much stuff) along with the real possibility of adding a finished loft area over top.

But, if you’re young, full of dreams, with the weight of the world having yet to have you cry out in pain as you attempt to pull your socks on in the morning, this old shed project will provide an excellent learning experience in basic framing, siding, and roofing.

First, are we talking an old wood shed, or banged up steel shed? Wood we can possibly work with, whereby a steel (or tin) shed, in poor condition, has the approximate value of a couple of Bell Center playoff tickets in Montreal.

What to do with the pile of dented, steel panels, once you’ve completed disassembly? Toss them in the back of a borrowed pick-up truck (make sure all the participants are wearing gloves) and drive this mess over to the local metal scrap yard dealer. At between 100-130 bucks per ton in reimbursement value, this procedure, whereby 200 lbs. of scrap metal might cover the breakfast special at the local diner, is far from a get rich quick scheme. However, it’s recycling, helps fill your tummies for a few hours, and certainly beats the ‘toss it in the bush’ method used by previous generations.

So, what’s the procedure regarding our decrepit wood shed? First, assess the damage. Crooked we can work with, rot or decay we can’t. And, we definitely don’t want to take the risk of this shed collapsing. Therefore, if once the shed’s contents have been removed, you discover that the sill plates and wood flooring are soft due to decay, secure a chain from the shed to the aforementioned pick-up truck, and pull this baby down.

In most cases, the siding (be it wood paneling, plywood, cedar shake, or vinyl) as well as the roofing shingles, will have been severely neglected, and will need to be removed. Once that task is complete, re-assess the floor and stick framework. Wet’s not a problem, soft and splintering into pieces is. So, if all is good, or a few problem pieces can be safely replaced, get the shed back to square and level by adding a few wall studs, and steel cross bracing if necessary. Building permits aren’t required for sheds of 100 sq. ft. or less. Therefore, if your shed is of the popular 8×8 configuration, I suggest extending the floor and framework to the more spacious 8×12 size. What makes a shed more easily usable, while effectively keeping out the varmints, is the entry door. So, spend a few extra dollars on a more reliable double steel door, or roll-up garage door type of system.

Windows or skylights? Natural light is always a good idea.

Type of siding? Choose something that will either match or complement the home. Vinyl siding is a popular choice, due to it’s easy to maintain good value. However, a painted wood siding, such as a board n’ batten, or channel siding, will look quite charming, and definitely enhance the look of one’s backyard.

Thanks for the suggested topic BB, and good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Suiting up your home with siding

Conrad Hofmeister, installs siding in this July 6, 2015 file photo in Grande Prairie, Alta. Alexa Huffman/Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune/Postmedia Network
Conrad Hofmeister, installs siding in this July 6, 2015 file photo in Grande Prairie, Alta. Alexa Huffman/Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune/Postmedia Network

Whether you’re building a new home, addition, garage, or storage shed, one of the big decisions is going to be choosing the kind of siding that will best suit your investment.

Key to success? Don’t fret over which siding will be the easiest to install, or conceivably last the longest, resist dents or scratches, require painting, or cost you more or less money.

If you’re going all brick, or all stone, then there’s nothing to worry about. But, if you’re going to require a siding other than brick or stone, whether it be to accent the home, or completely cover it, then siding your home with the proper product, or one that best “suits” the home, is key.

Basically, siding choices can be slotted into four categories, vinyl, composites, cement board, and real wood.

Vinyl siding can be the least expensive of the three, if you’re considering the standard horizontal lap pattern, or the most expensive, if you happen to like one of the heavier stone or simulated cedar shake sidings.

One thing to keep in mind about vinyl siding, it doesn’t play well with others, and tends to look best on its own. So, if vinyl siding is what you’re leaning towards, then go vinyl all the way.

It’s often been the strategy, when building a modest sized new home, to install brick on the facade, with the three remaining walls relegated to regular vinyl.

This “looks good from the street, because the sides and back don’t matter so much” mentality only cheapens the structure, and let’s everyone know your house plan is fresh out of the 70’s.

So, if you can stretch the budget in order to have four brick walls, then terrific, you’ll end up with the classic “wolf will never blow me down” Ontario type home.

If the budget is fixed, then consider putting your brick facade money towards a higher quality, deeper tone, more refreshing and updated vinyl colour scheme on the entire house.

“Doesn’t vinyl siding fade, or break easy should it get struck by a hockey puck in the winter” is a question we field often.

Fade? Yes, and like everything else exposed to the sun, perhaps a little over time. And break easy? Well, things break easy when hit by hard, fast moving objects, just ask Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadians.

The convenient thing about vinyl siding is that it’s probably the easiest type of product to replace, even if the damaged panel is in the middle of a wall.

Solution to the puck issue? Build your kid a decent perimeter of rink boards. Otherwise, vinyl siding is a respected, harsh weather product.

Matter of fact, vinyl siding is the preferred product in the Maritime provinces and along the east coast, which arguably endures Canada’s toughest weather conditions.

Although style and affluence minimally affect the numbers, where cement-based products have failed, due to the constant moisture and corrosiveness of the sea air, and where wood and composite sidings require constant paint touch-ups and general upkeep, vinyl sidings do very well.

Composite sidings include such brand names as Canexel (wood fiber base) and Goodstyle (wood chip base). Composites are the closest thing to looking like real wood, and have the advantage of being significantly more stable than wood, which means they don’t warp or crack like wood.

Like real wood sidings, composites are a good accent product for stone and brick homes. Cement-based sidings, such as James Hardie board, work extremely well in our weather zone, and a super tough, fire proof, good looking siding that can work on its own, or act as an excellent complement to your brick or stone home.

Like wood, composite and cement products will require painting every 10-12 years, but don’t let this fact discourage you from the many great features of both these sidings.

Good building

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard