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Stylish Custom Tool Shed

Ken Bastida shows how to organize your garden tools in style for a tool shed that is both functional and attractive.

If you're like most do-it-yourself homeowners, you've accumulated a lot of garden tools over the years. Sometimes finding a place to store all these tools can be a challenge. Ken Bastida shows how to build a tool shed that is not only functional but attractive. It features windows, a window box for colorful plantings and a custom country style to match the house. He also shows how to brighten any setting with containers that overflow with color.

Homeowner Cyndy Caldwell is eager to organize her garden tools, but she thinks that ready-made tool sheds are not very attractive. Landscape designer Blanche Lenine-Cruz designs a tool shed that complements the house, which has a charming, country, weathered look. The shed will have a cedar shingle roof, Dutch door and two windows.

It's easy to take an ordinary tool shed and make it extraordinary with a few details borrowed from the house. However, don't get too heavy-handed with ornamentation or the shed will compete with the house. Keep the accents simple so that the overall look balances the style set by your home.

Figure B

The site for this project is a modest-sized backyard with some basic landscaping already in place (figure B). The tool shed will be set in front of a perimeter fence, and the surrounding area will be enhanced by an assortment of potted plants.

Blanche estimates that a professional would charge about $2,800 to custom design and build a tool shed (not including the cost of plants), or you can buy a custom kit starting at about $3,000. However, do-it-yourselfers can cut that cost to only $550 for the materials. This project is rated a 4 on a difficulty scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (difficult). The project requires basic carpentry skills, and with the help of a friend, it can be completed in two weekends.

Figure C

Step One: Constructing the Floor

Make sure that the location you choose for your shed is smooth and level. The floor will rest on pier blocks. To figure out where to place them, lay down a plank of wood that is the same length as the back wall — eight feet for this project — and set a block at each end. Measure out four feet for the front wall and place two more blocks in those corners (figure C). Check that the layout is level and square.

Figure E

Master carpenter Tim Rice uses 2x6 pressure-treated lumber ($6 for an 8-foot board at home supply stores) to frame the floor. Create a 4- by 8-foot box using two 8-foot rim joists and seven 3-foot by 9-inch joists set every 16 inches on center to which you will attach a sheet of plywood for the floor.

Check each floor joist as you lay it out so that the natural curve of the lumber points up for more strength. Then fasten them to the rim joists (figure E) with 3-inch deck screws.

Figure F

Set the frame on the pier blocks (figure F) and center the corners so that there's still room on the blocks to build up the shed walls.

Figure G

Lay a 4x8 panel of 3/4-inch, exterior-grade plywood (about $20 per sheet) over the frame. Toe-screw the frame to the pier blocks and secure the plywood to the floor joists to complete the shed floor (figure G).

Figure H

Step Two: Framing the Walls

The design calls for a flat, sloped roof, so the back wall is built taller than the front, with angled side walls. Walls with no windows or door have studs spaced 16 inches on center. Walls with a window or door need additional support.

Rice uses Douglas fir 2x4s ($1 per foot) for the back wall studs. Mark the top and bottom planks every 16 inches on center and nail on seven 7-1/2-foot-long studs. Mount the frame so that it lines up with the back edge of the floor (figure H) and secure it with deck screws.

Check that it's plumb, and then tack on a temporary brace.

Figure J

Next, frame the front wall, which is 6 inches shorter than the back wall. Because it will support both a door and window, it needs extra support.

Attach planks as shown.

Figure K

Once it's complete, attach the wall to the flooring and add a brace to link it to the back frame (figure K).

Figure M

To accommodate the change in height between front and back frames, angle the top ends of the side studs — longer in the back and shorter in the front — for a perfect fit. Add the other side wall frame in the same manner (figure M).

Figure P

Step Three: Setting Up the Roof

The roof is flat, sloping to the front, with 2x4 rafters between the high back wall and lower front wall. The 2x4s are covered with plywood, tar paper, and cedar shingles.

Cut the rafters to six feet long, notching them near the ends with a jigsaw so that they will slip into place on the front and back frames (figure N).

Nail the rafters to the top planks, spaced 16 inches apart. Cap the rafter tails with a 10-foot-long plank to complete the roof's overhang.

Figure Q

Place 4x8 sheets of exterior-grade cedar plywood (about $20 apiece) over the framing and nail them to the studs. For the front and back walls, notch the plywood at the top to fit around the rafters (figure Q). Cut the side walls to fit, angled at the top.

Cut out the openings for the door and windows from the inside of the shed using a reciprocating saw. Lay a plywood panel on top of the rafters for the roof, and nail it in place.

Figure R

Step Four: Adding the Extras

Cover the roof with cedar shingles (figure R) (about $72 per bundle) on top of weather-proof tar paper ($8 per roll). Nail 1x4 trim around the windows and door to give it more style and charm. Then apply two coats of an exterior latex paint (about $20 per gallon), with a contrasting color for the trim. To tie in with the house colors, Blanche selects a creamy-yellow paint for the shed with a muted "driftwood" gray trim.

Figure S

Add a simple Dutch door, shutters, and black metal handles and hinges (figure S) to give the shed a homey look. For the crowning touch, add a window box to bring in seasonal color.

Figure U

Planting a Country Garden

To emphasize the country look of the shed, Blanche adds charming containers and rustic wine barrels overflowing with seasonal plants and shrubbery in muted, variegated gray tones to pick up the trim on the shed (figure U). She also plants a window box to soften the lines of the shed and make it a focal point in the yard. The plants she selects include:

  • blue potato bush 'Royal Rube,' Zone 11

  • trailing African daisy (Osteospermum fruticosum), Zones 10-11

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