The Rustic Shed

While we were living in Black Forest, Colorado, I bought a small lot a couple miles from our house at a tax sale in an area called The Brentwood Country Club, more or less as a lark. That area had been subdivided into small lots, most about 50 by 90 feet, in 1920 as a resort area where people could build cabins. It never amounted to much with perhaps one out of every ten to twenty lots ever having a building on them. Most of the people bought the lots so they could play golf at the country club associated with them. The developers pulled out with the stock market crash and the whole thing fell into disrepair. Perhaps a couple dozen people were the only actual residents of the area.

Then when the county established zoning rules, they effectively rendered the undeveloped lots useless for building purposes because there was no water or sewer and the minimum area on which both a well and septic system could be installed was five acres. Some of the people living in that area began to pick up adjoining lots to extend their holdings to where they would comply with the county zoning rules.

After we sold our place there and moved away, I got to thinking that lot would be a neat place to park our motorhome in the forest. It would be strictly a dry camp because there were no utilities of any sort available. The second time we parked there, I made arrangements with the local REA to provide electrical power to a construction pole where I could plug the rig in to run the refrigerator on something other than propane and so our TV would work. I also had a parking spot leveled and built a small deck so we could step out the door of the rig and onto the deck.

As the old saying goes, "Man will expand to fill his universe" and it held true for us. I decided that we needed some sort of place to store a few deck chairs and other things that we would like to have available but didn't want to haul in each trip. Since it needed to be built it in only a week or two and in between other things that would occupy my time, it would have to be easy, cheap and fast to built. I decided on the box method of construction with board and batten walls. That way there are no studs or framing to be done.

The foundation was five old railroad ties which are basically 8" x 10" by 8' long. They were pulling up many miles of railroad in those days and they could be found in huge piles for something on the order of a dollar each. If you can't find used ones, most garden shops have new ones. They are treated with creosote and will last half a century in the ground. Find the lowest corner and use a shovel to level the ground away from that point to where the floor will be level. Three of the ties should be laid with the center one half way between the two outer ones which are 8' outside to outside. Then the other two ties laid across the ends making a frame which will measure 8' front to back and a little under 10' wide.

There was a sawmill in operation not far from there, producing rough mill run lumber an inch thick and eight to ten inches wide. They also cut four inch wide boards from the slabs. They were all roughly eight and a half feet long. Mill run is the cheapest lumber you can find as it's rough finish and not milled to a standard size. Not only is it cheap but also gives the shed that rustic look.

Measure the width of the boards and divide that into 106 to get the number of boards across any direction on the shed, then multiply that number by six to get the number you need. Then multiply that number by four to get how many battens (the narrow boards) you will need. Ask if they have any scraps about an inch wide that you could have. They usually do from trimming boards to a standard width. These will be used to cut "mouse blocks" (Tell you about them later) Also ask if the mill could run three 2 x 6s ten feet long. If not, you will need to buy that from a lumber yard. You need them across the front and back and to support the center of the roof. Pick out the longest wide boards and lay them aside. They will be used for the roof.

Begin with the floor laying the boards across the middle tie and shoved firmly together because they will shrink as they dry. Turn any cupped side down. The boards won't all the exactly parallel on the edges so you may have to turn some of them around to keep them even all the way across. Use only one nail in the middle where they cross the middle tie and two at each end. When you are done, cut the ends to flush with the railroad ties all around.

Begin at the front by nailing two of the wide boards along the edge to make corners. Nail one corner at each end of the front side. Let the boards extend down at least 4" onto the railroad ties and use one 16p nail to attach them. Check with a level to be sure they are vertical and add two more nails to each of the boards. Do the same thing at the back. These corners must be vertical and parallel to one another because the establish the rest of the building.

Cut one of the 2 x 6s to fit across the bottom at the front and the other across the rear. Nail the one across the front near the top of those boards and check to be sure it's level. Then measure a point one foot lower and nail the other across the back at that height. You have now established the slope of the roof. Nail a 1 x 4 batten from front to rear flush with the tops of the two 2 x 6s to set the angle of the roof. Double check each distance to ensure that the corners are all vertical.

Cut a few of the narrow 1" strips into 6" sections. These are the mouse blocks that I mentioned. Their function is to space the boards and keep mice from being able to come inside using the cracks between the boards. Begin at any corner with a mouse block bottom and top and then a board shoved tightly against them. One nail is sufficient to secure each mouse block but use three nails at the bottom of each board and two at the top. Another mouse block and another board until you have gone all the across. You will have about one inch spaces between each of the vertical boards. You might have adjust the width of some of the mouse blocks to get the boards to come out correctly, no big deal. When you get to the front, you need to determine where you want the door, which should be somewhere between four and five boards wide. Nail a 1 x 4 across the inside at the top of the door (a standard door is 6-8 (80") high and place the bottom an inch lower. Nail 1 by 4s down either side extending an inch into the door opening, This is something for the door to close against.

Cut the tops of all the wall boards even with the rim that you established. Next you install the center roof support midpoint between the front and rear walls. Set it at an angle to match the roof line. Measure and mark reference points both front and rear. These are used to keep the roof boards running parallel. You are now ready to begin installing the roof boards. You can adjust the gap between them as needed to keep them even. Use three nails at each end and one in the center.

Let the first roof board extend out over the side about 3" and centered with an equal amount of overhang front and rear. At the midway point, turn around and come from the opposite direction. You might have to rip a board or two where they join in the middle. Mark and cut the ends off leaving as much overhang as possible. Rolled roofing is the least expensive and easiest to install. Each roll covers 32 sq ft including overlap so three rolls should cover it. Install according to the instructions that come with the roofing.

Finally, cut each batten to fit and nail them over the spaces. Use 10p nails and clench them over on the inside when finished. Clench them across the grain of the boards with someone backing them up on the outside to tighten them.

Building the door is rather straightforward, just like building the walls but be sure to install an angle brace to keep it from racking from it's own weight. Use heavy duty barn door hinges. You will now have a rustic shed that will serve you for many years.



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Copyright 2006 by Jim Foreman