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Too Much Stuff!

13th December 2009


The garage was beginning to fill up with way too much stuff. Both cars would still fit, but the growing clutter around the place made it harder and harder to get in and out of the vehicles. It was time to do something about it. A backyard storage shed was just the solution to help relieve the clutter. About 25 years ago or so I built a backyard barn from a kit bought at a local lumber yard, so I checked back with them. For a fee they would provide the plans and pull the materials list from their stock. That would have been the quickest and easiest way to go (other than having a pre-built shed delivered), however the fees seemed a little steep to me. I decided to custom build to my own specifications. As always, cost is the primary factor with any of my DIY or home projects; however, the best balance between cost and quality is the ultimate goal. One of the first ways I came up with to cut cost was to reduce the size from the standard 8? x 10? down to 8? x 8?, which would allow me to minimize waste in standard building materials.

Foundation: Just from the little experience I have had with portable outbuildings, the floor and foundation seem to be the weak link. The floor of the first shed I built was simply 5 pressure treated 4 x 4 skids, in direct contact with the ground, laid parallel with 3/4 inch plywood attached on top with deck screws. Over time the skids sank unevenly into the ground which made for an uneven floor. The parts of the shed that eventually came close to ground contact also led to some premature wood rot. I decide to use the same style of floor but beef it up a bit and also set some concrete blocks as a foundation. I had some old blocks stored in the backyard so I decided to use what I had.


The location where I decide to place the shed wasn’t quite level. I tamped down the ground around the highest ground and placed cap blocks on the surface. I buried concrete block level with the cap blocks in the lowest areas. All of the skid will have some sort of concrete under them. I realize this isn’t much of a foundation but if the shed ever does sink (which I fully expect it will), I will be able to shim the skids back to level fairly easily and keep the foundation above ground contact.


I still used 4 x 4 skids but I joined 2×4’s into the skids with half lap joints, glue and deck screws. Once I had the foundation built and set onto the concrete blocks, it was an easy task to shim and level. Before attaching the deck with deck screws, I covered the skids with 30lb roofing felt. I needed the felt for the roof anyway so this would have been left over from the roll.

Roof Trusses: Most of the construction of this shed took place in the garage. Since it is the middle of winter, the garage was definitely the place to work. Once I had the floor installed and had the exact measurements of the floor, I went back to the garage to work. I knew I wanted the knee walls to be 4 foot tall or under. This way I would be able to maximize the use of the 4×8 sheets of siding I planned on using (I sheet cut in half for the sides and 2 sheets a piece for the front and back). I laid out the bottom half of the front facade on the garage floor with 2×4’s cut to length. With the help of my girlfriend, we laid out the profile of the roof trusses with 2×4’s. Originally I had planned on designing the trusses so that they could be sheathed with only 3 sheets of wafer board and to also minimize the number of shingles required. Although it would have been possible, I wasn’t happy with the height or shape of the roof. Carri convinced me alter the roof profile to maximize for interior ceiling height and space. It was a good call. Most of the backyard barns I have looked at use simple 45 degree angles. We decide to go with 20 degrees on the bottom, 30 degees on both hip joints and 10 degrees on the ridges. These simple adjustments led to much more head space while still keeping the look and feel of a barn roof. The top of the roof is relatively flat with the steep sides, which provided a great deal more space in the interior with only a slight increase in the amount of sheathing and shingles. It worked out very well.


Frame: I built the 2 side knee walls in the garage and nailed them to the foundation, squared them true and began to install the trusses. Even though I had pre-cut all the truss pieces the same, the slight variations in each piece or the variations in putting them together caused a few problems. Not all trusses were exactly alike. I was able to correct for the differences in span of the trusses by separating with a 2×4 wedged between both sides or pulling the two ends together with ratcheting nylon straps. Once the widths where corrected, the ridges didn’t line up exactly, but the sheathing and shingles would cover any imperfections. It’s not exactly perfect, but then it’s only a shed. Next time I will either build a jig or build each truss on top of each other to ensure exact duplicates.


Once the trusses where installed and squared as true as I could get them I custom cut and fit each piece of the front and back walls. I didn’t have any written plan so I improvised as I went.

front facade

Once the frame was complete, I re-adjusted for square with the nylon straps and began to install the siding and sheathing. Once the sheathing was installed I removed all the straps and braces. I cut the side and roof panels to the exact dimensions but the front, I tacked on full sheets of siding and cut off the excess to shape with a reciprocating saw. It all went together quite quickly and easily.


Doors: Another weak point of backyard barns I’ve noticed are the doors. Many are simply constructed of siding with some trim tacked onto the surface. I decide to build a sturdier door, yet still keep the cost down. I used standard 2×4s jointed with some of the same type of joinery I used in the foundation, simple half lapped joints with rabbeted inside perimeters to accept the siding panels. The joints were glued and screwed, and the panels were glued and nailed. This made for a substantial door.



Once the shell was complete, I shingled the roof and trimmed the front and sides and door with cedar fencing ripped to width. The fencing worked very well for the trim. It’s a little thinner than standard 1×4 trim but the cost savings was substantial. It looked good and I know it will last much longer than the pine trim many of the barns I looked at used.


Finishing Touches: I had hoped to use scrap hinges and deadbolts to mount and complete the doors. Unfortunately, the typical household door hingesI had around were to narrow to use. Even though the doors where relatively small, they were still quite heavy (approximately 12 lbs/piece). I came across a local company that manufactures hinges for the fencing industry. I used two pair of heavy duty wood gate hinges from Tulsa’s Ameristar Fence Company. The quality of these hinges where outstanding. The doors hang true and operate easily with absolutely zero perceptible play. I’ve been told that these hinges will perform like this for their life. They look nice also.

I still need to paint and add a few more pieces of cedar trim to skirt the perimeter, but for the most part the shed is complete. I’ve added pegboard, hooks, shelves, and a small work bench. I also hung a couple of braces between the trusses. This allows me a great deal of storage space that other wise would have been wasted. I’m using this space to store my trailer’s side rails, but I still have room to store more flat stock. I’ll add more shelves and hooks as needed.

pegboardshelveswire shelvesbench

It’s just a shed, but it has been a lot of fun to build. A made a few mistakes, but I like to think of them as alternative design choices. The backyard barn looks good, it’s very functional and I did it myself.

Just a funny!

07th March 2011


When we were working on the “L street house” a  neighbor lady came over.  She introduced herself to me and I introduced myself and Dave as my fiancee.  She says, “Really? Even after all this? You still want to Marry him?”  LOL Still working on it!

The outlook for 2015 looked bright at the beginning of the year. All of our rental were occupied with stable renters; the past reno’s had been paid for, and it looked like the local housing market was starting to turn to the positive. I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and began to plan the remodel of of personal residence. Normally, our reno’s involve take the worst house on the block and turn it into the best, but this time we are starting with what i consider the best house on the block and making it better, or at least our own. In theory the plan was simple: Remove carpet, restore the oak floors, and open up the wall between the den and formal living room. The carpet will be recycled in one of our rent houses. It is over 25 years old, but except for the heavy traffic area through the den, it still in very good shape.

The floors had not seen the light of day for over 25 years so we were not sure what to expect. Unfortunately the den floor was covered in linoleum.  There was also a patch in the middle of the floor that would have to dealt with, and we also planned on moving the air duct so that hole would need to be patched also.

Stripping the linoleum was time consuming but not too difficult. I started by pulling and scrapping off the top coat, then wetted the backing with Henry Easy Release. It took several applications, the first application easily removed the backing, but the adhesive would take several more applications. Henry Easy Release also turned out to be a very effective solvent for the floor varnish also. I was pleasantly surprised that this solvent did no have strong odors and didn’t appear to be an irritant to my lungs either.

Patching the floor was pretty straight forward. I removed the oak flooring from a back bedroom closet and replaced it with plywood.  The bedrooms will probably always remain carpeted so no one will notice.  Even if the carpet is removed, replacing the plywood with new oak flooring should not pose a problem.

The den floor is ready to sand but I will remove the wall between the den and living room and patch the floor were the existing wall was first.


Open Wallet Part 2 Den Wall

07th October 2015


With the den floor stripped I was ready to remove the wall between the den and formal living room. I carefully laid out on the wall what I wanted to remove and started the demo.

I was extra careful removing the mahogany wainscot, crown molding  The 1/4 inch and 3/4 inch plywood from the wainscot were furniture grade. The 1/2 inch quarter round, crown molding and base board was solid mahogany. All of the material will be reused in this renovation along with the rest of the mahogany trim throughout the house. Much of the trim had been painted but it will all be stripped.

Once I had the sheet rock removed I was able to fin tune the actual opening.  I made minor adjustment to make sure the load on each end transferred below the floor to an original foundation pier on one side. the other side I will poor a concrete pad and use a floor jack to support it.

I reused the removed stud for the jack studs and to frame the old doorway to the hall. A couple sheets of sheet rock later I was ready to tackle the kitchen wall.

Kitchen Demo Part 3

07th October 2015


The soffit was just a hollow shell faced with 1/4 inch parquet panels, but the post and trim once again was solid mahogany. The bar will stay for the time being but Carri wanted me to extend the opening in the kitchen. I removed the soffit, door and frame and re-framed the wall 12 inches smaller than it had been.


To get the refrigerator flush with the cabinet we would have to create an 8 inch bump out into the garage. Before I could start I would have to remove the concrete steps in the garage

While I had the equipment I decided to create a new crawl space. The original access is under the deck on the side of the house. It is accessible but just barely. the space under the door was the perfect spot for a new craws space access due to the door framed right above it.

I left the door jamb and header intact. I cantilevered the floor joist 8 inches and famed in the and exterior bump out. I relocated the electrical outlet, ice maker water line, insulated and sheet rocked.

I had forgot how difficult it was living in a construction zone while finishing sheet rock. The last step was a nightmare but we made it through it. Before painting and finishing the floor I removed all of the popcorn ceiling. in the kitchen den and hallways. I also took the time to remove the attic fan in the hall and cover the hole. Finally I sprayed the ceiling white and was ready for the floor


The drywall dust has finally cleared it’s time to stir it up again. This time it will be with sawdust though. Since the linoleum stripped did such a good job removing the floor finish I thought I could save time and do a better finish by stripping the rest of the floors. In my mind I figured I just sand lightly with a pad sander and not risk the gouges I’ve experienced with the drum sander. After spending another 2 evenings stripping the floors, I was ready to sand. I rented a vibrating pad sander from Home depot and began to sand. In short it did not work; AT ALL! It simply was not aggressive enough sand even the bare wood floors. I quickly loaded everything back up in the truck and exchanged it for a drum sander. I made the first pass getting as close as possible to wall then Carri took over with the drum sander and continued with the edging sander.davesandcarrisand Before Carri made the final pass with 250 grit I took some of the sawdust, mixed with untinted wood filler and filled all of the crack in the floor. Fortunately, there weren’t to may sport that required filler. Even with the wasted time I spent with the pad sander I still was able to get the sander back to Home Depot within the 24 hours, but just barely. We decide to wait a couple days before we spread the polyurethane.  That would give time for the dust to settle again and we could rest up for a couple of days.

I started about 5:00 AM on Sunday morning while Cari was still sleeping. Worst case she may have been stuck in the back for 2 hours since waterbourne poly dries within that time. We had vacuumed and swept the night before so just ran over the floor with tack cloth and put on the first coat.  By 5:00 PM Sunday evening the floor was done. I considered scuffing the floor one last time and putting a fourth coat but Carri was happy with the way it looked and we called it done.

floordoneAll of the baseboards had been stripped of the paint and varnish and sanded. While waiting for the floor to cure completely we finished trim with 3 coats of poly. I used one of the door jambs to make rails and stile for the hall cabinet doors and re-purposed the wainscot for the panels. The door have a few defects but they look great.
cabs trim

Painting and replacing the trim, and moving the furniture back quickly brought everything together. We started in mid January and had everything moved back in by mid March. Three months and 3 thousand dollars in materials and it is time to close the wallet until the next project. Unfortunately the next project will be putting another rental back together often the tenant moves out next week. diningview2



Rubble Garden

24th December 2017


Several years ago on one of our remodels, we had to replace the concrete driveway. We broke into large but manageable chunks to haul off. Instead of hauling it off to a dump, I put an add in Craigslist ‘Free Concrete.’ I had 2 people come buy and load up the back of their pickups with a couple of loads. One said he wanted it to stop the erosion on his dirt drive. The other said he wanted it for stepping stones to one of his out buildings. I also got a few very strange calls checking to see if the craigslist ad was legit. A couple thought it was joke so I explained the possible uses. It turned out we had made an afternoon feature on a local radio show contest for funny and unbelievable craigslist add people post. The joke was we were just trying to get someone to haul off our debris for free. We were winning for most of the afternoon until someone submitted a post for free ‘Maple leaves, Baggged or Free Range’. In the end, I hauled off most of the drive to a house that was asking for free dirt and fill materials.

Once again, I had to break up a large concrete slab in the back yard of one or our renos. Rather than haul it to the off I decided to use it for edging along the back yard for a garden.







I used as much of the concrete as possible for the garden edging, and a bit more for a path along the back of the house leading to the deck. Even then 8 trailer loads were hauled  to the concrete recycler.  Not sure I would do this again but it was an interesting project