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    • dr

      It'd be my first time building a shed, but I aim to do it, hoping it'd be a learning experience, with good ol' google and youtube as my trusty advisors. Right now...I'm in the design phase. I've also started demolition--clearing out the area I aim to drop it on.

      The property I'm putting it on isn't huge... just north of a third of an acre. It looks like this when you bring a google map geographic overlay onto a sketchup model I built out of a survey. That's the plot in blue with the shape of the house drawn in as well.

    • dr

      The county says I can build up to 200 sqft shed anywhere on my side or rear lot, so long as I keep at 8'-6" or shorter in height. Anywhere is great...except on this particular lot, there're a few things to miss.

      The county was nice enough to publish their stormwater management map with an ESRI viewer on their portal. So I brought that into the model as well. That's a stormwater management creek (blue and black lines) and a stormwater drain pipe (red lines) running through the property. There's an easement of course, over those things.

    • dr

      There's a bunch of other stuff to avoid too, so if I'm going to put a shed on this lot, I think the best place to drop it is in the north west corner (the top right of this view). Tucked out of the way, on the other side of the creek. It actually sits over the previous site of a smaller 7'x10' shed. The only thing that remains of that is the concrete pad (sunken). The back neighbors have a ratty half-torn down shack that would be nice to hide behind it. Maybe 10' x 16'... maybe if I aim a little more ambitiously, 12' x 16'. That'll give me 192 sqft.

    • dr

      When you bring geo information into Sketchup, it brings in not only a 2-D map view, but a projection of that satellite image onto a 3-D terrain surface. I turned that surface white so you can see its undulating shapes and shadows more clearly. Then, if you project the property down onto the terrain, you can kind of make out that the shed is down a slight hill from the main house. And it's also at the bottom of the hills coming from the back and side neighbor's house. It all feeds into that creek, and that area does receive a bit of groundwater from the surrounding area. I just spent the last two weeks trenching some drainage around that spot and noticed that the ground is ridiculously soft in some areas after the last few weeks of heavy rain, so...I'm going to have to factor that into the design.

    • Chris

      So this is how organized, smart people do things? Impressive. My wife wishes her husband was like that.

      For example, we built this treehouse in the back yard. A lot of work went into it and then the neighbors reported us to the city. I never thought of that.

      So the city came out, measured, and found that it was two feet too long. Hmmm, I never thought to check code for a children’s playhouse. I wouldn’t have for a shed either.

    • kevin

      Very exciting build. Thanks for sharing your planning. Although I’m a software engineer by trade, I secretly love carpentry. Building things like sheds and remodeling is a hobby.

      Is the 8’ 6” the max height the shed can be to the ridge of the roof or the ceiling inside? My county limits the shed height by the height of the wall plate to 8’, but the ridge height can be something like 14’. Which means it’s hugely beneficial to build sheds with cathedral ceilings in my county to max out space.

      How are you building your foundation? I bet a perimeter foundation is not allowed. Can you have a concrete slab?

    • Chris

      I invited the inspectors in and excitedly showed them all the features of the treehouse and how the kids love it so I could establish some rapport with them. And then we talked about why the neighbors reported it; it wouldn't have been for the extra 2 feet. I showed them how the treehouse was not even visible to any neighbors but the one next door, it was too tucked in the redwoods and our house backs up to a canal.

      I know the next door neighbors well and which of them was likely to have reported it, and paid a friendly visit. We do them a lot of favors like picking up their mail when they're gone.

      Luckily we never heard anything else from the inspectors or the neighbors and it has been 5ish years. Shortening it would have been hard and there was no gain in it for our neighbors.

    • vegasphotog

      I met the CEO of this company on 4th of July watching fireworks. His product blows my mind. He ships this stuff all of the world. Less-expensive, easy to build, LEEDS-green certified, etc, etc. Lame website and marketing. http://gigacrete.com/gigahouse/

      Amazing insulation properties, ZERO moisture retainment, and, can easily rebuff a 50cal mortar.

    • dr

      Dang, I love that tree house!!

      Yes, compared to our neighbors, we are doing things surprisingly "by-the-book". At least...we're designing to meet it. We'll see if we actually remember to file the paperwork. Our neighbors have stuff that's completely violating code. One put up a 4' retaining wall, and then *another* 7' fence on top of that. (code allows *either* a 7' wall *or* a 7' fence). The other has a complete disaster of a shed built way too tall, which just collapsed. That corner of the neighborhood pretty much does whatever the heck they want.

    • dr

      I'm a data analyst (python, javascript, sql type stuff) normally. But I did spend a few years in my youth as an engineer and architect. I just never *actually* built anything I had spec'd, lol.

      8'6" is max from dirt to roof ridge. So, I'm eyeballing the roof pitch pretty carefully, because at too shallow of a roof, I can no longer use cheap shingle roofing, because it doesn't shed water well enough. It'll be tight getting a workable wall / door / roof overhang height, that I won't hit my head on. :)

      Foundation--I think I'm setting skids on piers, and doing a wood floor. The biggest concerns are the softness of the surface soil and the need to accomodate occasionally significant surface water. It'll need *some* elevation. Skids will help with that. It's fairly easy to work with and fairly inexpensive.

      Perimeter foundation would offer too much center deflection unless I use ridiculously sized joists.

      A concrete slab would distribute weight nicely, and can add height. But it's an annoying proposition to pour a foundation, though because the creek prevents you from gettting any serious equipment back there, so you're humping in the concrete bags and mixing it there...setting up the rebar...then waiting for cure time.

      And seeing how soft the soil is, I certainly can't count on simple on-grade foundations; that stuff will just sink right down.

      Setting piers down deeper into the earth will keep the structure in place. I will probably be lazy and use the old small concrete slab where my skids run above it, because the idea of busting up all that mesh-reinforced concrete is back breaking, even if you've jack-hammered it to pieces.

      So...local code says frost line is 24" down. That'll be the depth of my piers.

      I think I'm going to use this "redi-footing" product, actually, for the piers. Again...no concrete sounds appealing to me. I'll still need nearly 3 tons of gravel though, to level out the land and provide drainage. So there'll be plenty of work. :)

    • bstrong

      Awesome! Sounds like you have some great plans.

      Have you ever seen the things you can do with used shipping containers? I've always wanted to build an external office or entertaining space with one. It's pretty amazing what people (and companies) are doing. I bet it could make a really awesome shed.

    • dr


      I love how creative people get with shipping containers. But this place I'm putting this shed in on is not ever going to be a "beautiful scene." It's, a forgotten corner of the property, and it backs up to a giant shithole disaster that used to be a shed, and a ridiculously giant fence...on...a...wall.

      Here's what it looks like today. Im' pretty sure if I wanted to, I could do a few things to make the wall look nicer. But at the moment, that would be project #931 on my list of crap to get done. :) So...I'm ok if I just manage to build something that won't fall down...keeps my stuff safe 'n dry, and is built to code.

      What you see in that pic is me setting up batter boards, to sight my initial layout of piers.

    • kevin

      And seeing how soft the soil is, I certainly can't count on simple on-grade foundations; that stuff will just sink right down.

      Piers and skids sound like the best approach. Frost line is a foreign concept to me since I live in the sunny, coastal California. Our groundwater never freezes. But the one thing I know: always get below the frost line if your ground ever freezes! A thin slab won't cut it, but even if you had a piers and a slab on top, 200 sq ft with a 4 in thick slab is 2.5 yards of concrete. Which is approximately 120 60-pound bags. Yikes, carrying that much concrete across a creek by hand would break your back! You'd really need a concrete pump.

      Setting piers down deeper into the earth will keep the structure in place. I will probably be lazy and use the old small concrete slab where my skids run above it, because the idea of busting up all that mesh-reinforced concrete is back breaking, even if you've jack-hammered it to pieces.

      And it's extremely expensive to remove! It's like $50 yard in my area to dispose. Like 50% the actual cost of the concrete.

    • dr

      Ok, my pier layout has been strung out on site, and I spent some time squaring it up. I love how precise the total station is. You spend much less time measuring and tweaking diagonals when you have a good transit on site.

      Now, I've wrapped up enough modeling to be able to quite definitely say how I intend to stay under the County height limit (I'm a bit more than 1/2" shy of the limit, but the shingles will eat up that margin. Any additional overage will need to be accounted for by literally raising the dirt/gravel at the side of the shed.

    • dr

      Since I have little interest in building an optimization algorithm into a Sketchup add-on, I bring it into a spreadsheet, and code in some basic rounding algorithm based on whether the piece uses over 50% of the board, and throw it into a pivot table for a quick BoM.

    • kevin

      Wow! I admire your precision planning. And delivery FTW!

      I love the design with the porch. What kind of door and window are you installing?

    • dr

      :) Standing in the rain while opening a front door is one of my (many) pet peaves. I know it looks like I started with a 12x16 shed and carved in a covered entryway. But I actually started with an 8x10 prefab concept with a 4:12 roof pitch, and the lack of cover at the front door bugged me. It's bad for the user in the rain. It's also bad for longevity, as the moisture exposure will eventually warp the door. I added a covered entryway and grew the shed around it till it became 12x16 w/ a 3:12 roof. Looking at my local code restrictions (max 200sqft before they start requiring permits and reviews) it just seemed logical...go as big as I can w/o tons of oversight, and address my pet peaves. In my experience...I can always use the extra space. :)

      Windows are going to be 24" tall prefabs. Side-sliding double-pane low-e glass...mostly so that UV-fading inside the shed doesn't get to be a problem. A square one on the gable end. A longer one on the front face of the shed.

      Doors, on the other hand...homemade from 2x4s, and 1/2" ply. I found some nice turnbuckle braces to help keep things square over the years. And I'll probably try to mortise in hinges, instead of exposed barn hinges, and keep things closed with set of flush bolts on the passive door, and a french door reinforcement kit, instead of the basic barrel bolts. The active door will have a standard lockable t-handle. But it's going to also have a rugged padlock hasp. You'll certainly be able to break into this place. But you'll have to bring a prybar and a saw.

    • kevin

      How you've got it all planned out! Smart way make strong double doors for cheap.

      What's your plan for shelves / storage organization on the interior?

    • dr

      I haven't quite got my act together on the storage. At the moment there's some Bell Labs era work tables and utility shelving planned. Not much beyond that.

    • dr

      Days like yesterday make me wonder if I had a buddy with a backhoe whether we'd save time and effort with a PTO auger, or if we'd just spend our day futzing around with the backhoe. But I just got to it and started digging. With the right tools, it's not all that hard to make progress. Body weight and leverage makes quick work getting down to 18" depth with a trenching spade. It slows down getting to 24", but not by much. Then a post hole digger makes cleanup easy. The roots required a little patience. But switching to a sawzall also makes quick work of those too. I went back to square my piers again with the transit and filled the holes back up with enough fill to keep the piers from moving too much. I've got one more pier to sink and set. Then I'm gluing and screwing my doubed rim joists. I'll need to order up a couple of tons of gravel soon too.

    You've been invited!