The steel shed

It should have been a weekend project, but it didn’t quite work out that way. I finally assembled the steel shed that I bought back in the spring. Like most of my projects, it was a ridiculously long road to get to this point, but it is now ready to accumulate clutter.

The need for storage

It looks like it may still be a couple of years before we build a garage. We have been using the old steel that the previous owner erected beside the driveway, but it’s a mess, inside and out. Besides, we will have to remove it before any new construction takes place. We won’t need a shed at all once we have a garage, but for now, we really need the storage. The plan was to build a new shed in the back yard that is big enough for the stuff in the existing shed plus some of the stuff in the basement.

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Options

I considered several options, keeping in mind that whichever I chose would only be needed for a few years.  For that reason, I was looking for economy over longevity.

  • Wood frame:  Building centers sell kits that contain all materials cut to size ready to assemble.  There is still the need to shingle the roof and possibly paint the exterior which needs to be factored into the cost.  You can also buy uncut lumber and work from a plan. The advantage of a wood frame is the ability to attach hangers and other organizers to the studs.  However, the cost of a wood frame shed exceeded my budget.
  • Vinyl:  These have become quite popular in recent years.  They are incredibly easy to assemble and don’t require additional finishing work such as shingles or paint.  And they don’t dent or rust like steel sheds.  The cost of a vinyl shed is comparable to a wood shed.  A big disadvantage is the inability to screw anything directly to the walls.
  • Steel:  By far steel sheds are the most economical, but you get what you pay for.  They tend to be small (6 feet high or less) and are prone to damage (rust, dents).  They are lightweight and need to be anchored.  Assembly, while not difficult, requires two people and must be completed once started.  Even the slightest breeze can damage a partially assembled steel shed.  There are also a LOT of small screws and nuts and bolts to contend with.

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Home Depot had a sale. 

I chose an 8×10 steel shed. I figured the cost of the shed over five years amounted to only $5 per month. A self storage unit would cost fifteen to twenty times that amount for a unit of the same square footage. However, I did not factor in the fact that a storage unit has greater cubic volume. Nor did I factor in the cost of site preparation.

Delays delays delays

The shed sat in the basement, unassembled, for the entire summer. The project always competed with work and family plans and on those weekends that I had free, it was just too hot to work with metal outside. So I ended up procrastinating until, suddenly, it was fall. I realized that if I did not get the shed up now, it would end up sitting in the basement for an entire year. Time to get to work.

Site preparation

A steel shed must be constructed on flat level ground.  We started by removing the layer of grass

Removing the layer of organic material for a more stable base.
Just like the pros.

Our yard slopes. I prepared a raised bed of limestone screenings for the foundation. The bed measures two feet longer and wider than the shed so I have walking space between the shed and our chain link fence. This space was necessary for building the shed and also for easy maintenance (ie cleaning up leaves in the fall, etc). I built a box frame using 2×8 boards to contain the limestone bed. It took roughly 3 and a half yards of screenings for the base.

Tamping down the base of limestone screening using a board nailed to a 2×4. Note to self: next time, rent the machine.

Site prep should have only taken one day, but I grossly underestimated the amount of the slope (I should have used a string and line level and taken actual measurements). I originally used a 2×4 frame for the bed, which was inadequate.  I had to make another run to the lumber store for 2 x 8s and arrange delivery of more screenings.

Fast forward a few weeks

Yes,I did not return to the project for a few weeks. The instructions for the shed clearly stated that the assembly would take “many hours” and needed to be completed once started. I wanted to have a full day to the construction, so that meant I was limited to the weekend. Well, we had family activities on a couple weekends and we lost another weekend to bad weather. During this time, I managed only to build a 2×4 and plywood base for the shed.

Building the Base

According to the instructions, there are three options for the shed base: concrete, wood frame, and plywood floor (using the floor frame included with the shed).

  • Concrete: The shed sits on a concrete pad and is anchored by concrete screws. I considered having someone lay down a pad for me but decided against it because of the labor that would have been involved in removing it in a few years. There was also the cost to factor in as well– this was the most expensive option.
  • Plywood floor: Included with the shed was a steel floor frame that is installed inside the shed once it is built. The plywood floor is screwed to the floor frame and keeps the shed contents off the ground. This allows the shed to be built directly on the ground, but it must be anchored by using a kit that is purchased separately. The cost of the anchoring kit and the cost of 2 x 4s for the wood frame were roughly the same.
  • Wood platform: The shed is assembled on a wood base of plywood attached to a floor frame of 2 x 4s (16 inch on center). I chose this option because the shed is screwed to the base. The weight of the base and the contents of the shed should be enough of an anchor that an additional anchoring kit is not necessary.
Wood platform of 2x4s and plywood. All pressure treated.

Sub-assemblies

There are a number of sub-assemblies that need to be completed before the shed is built, such as the floor frame, the roof beams and the wall channels and angles. Once these are done, the actual assembly of the shed does indeed take “many hours” as the instructions warn. There are hundreds of 3/8 inch screws and bolts to contend with. Much of the assembly is a two person job as a second set of hands are needed to hold panels while they are screwed in place, and help with the nuts and bolts. The helper’s job is not terribly difficult– my wife, who was feeling pretty ill at the time, helped as much as she could. And when she needed a break, our 8 year old daughter took over. This shed was truly a family project.

Once the corners were up and the channels and angles were in place, it was just a matter of screwing the rest of the panels to the channels and angles.

Next came the gables. The gables attach to the wall angles. Then the roof beams attach to the gables.  And the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, etc.

Finally, the roof panels and other trim pieces were attached and the doors were installed.  An important note about the roof:  the panels are the same gauge as the rest of the shed and are not designed to be leaned on during assembly. 

The drawback of thin metal

The first dents in this shed are the ones I put there myself. I also managed to put a small hole in one of the wall panels when I dropped my drill and the bit pierced the thin metal. I was able to bend flatten the metal using a screwdriver. A little weather stripping tape on the inside and some silicone on the exterior serve as a patch.)

Oops.

Plenty of storage

Once completed, this 8×10 shed has plenty of interior space. It should be no problem moving the contents of the other shed to this one, as well as storing a number of item here that are currently in the basement. I am also hoping to squeeze in our patio furniture, since none of the shed contents will be needed during the winter months. 

Inside the shed.

This picture of the main roof beam highlights one of the major drawbacks of the steel shed, for me at least. There is not a lot of head room. This shed is for storage only.  Using it for workshop space is not an option. Heck, standing upright is not an option. No doubt I will be banging my head off the beam many times over the next few years

Potential future owie.

The final word

It ain’t pretty. And it ain’t terribly strong. It will get dented by the nearby trees (branches, fruit, etc). The sliding doors don’t slide easily (and will only get stiffer as dirt accumulates in the tracks). There is no head room, so ingress and egress are awkward and will likely result in a sore noggin. But it’s good enough for what I need for now.

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