Author Archives: Konstantin Obenland
I Built a Shed
After the back yard saw significant work last summer, I chose to spend my winter break building a new shed. The previous was neatly tucked in a corner of the yard, but protruded the planter it sat next to. With sod laid now where the shed used to stand, I wanted to build the new one on a smaller footprint, inline with the planter, yet making the most out of every inch available.
With the site being right up against the fence to two neighbors, it was a challenge to keep the shed as unobtrusive as possible while still having enough room for all the equipment it needs to store. It should also have an access that would be comfortable use for someone of my hight.
I settled on a “lean-to” shed with the short side facing the fence and the doors being on the tall side. At a 3/12 roof slope, the door side is 10″ higher than the fence side, allowing me to almost stand up straight inside. Being tucked into the corner of the yard, every inch of space inside the shed was valuable. Particularly in depth and hight, so I tried to maximize those as much as possible.
To plan out the shed and calculate the required materials etc, I used a mix of two shed plans that I found online, plans for a 4×8 lean-to shed and a 4×8 firewood shed. Out of those I pieced together wall structures as I needed them. To calculate the exact measurements for the rafters, I used a tool from block layer.com that made it really easy to get the cuts right. Highly recommended.
As a first building step I dug down 4″ to make room for a concrete pad. While it’s probably the most expensive option for the foundation, it’s also the most shallow one, giving me the most vertical space. It also comes with the benefit of being able to tie down the walls to it and not having to deal with a lot of wood with ground contact.
I spent the better part of an afternoon trying to dig my way down to a depth where I could start pouring concrete. It was tedious work, the dirt rock hard, and I didn’t even try breaking up the concrete footing for the planter wall that once stood there. At the end of that afternoon I was ready to hire a landscaping contractor to prep the footing. And I’m so glad I did.
They made short work of it. Not only did they manage to cut out the ground perfectly straight below the fence, the also poured a slightly pitched slab, and helped me set the concrete anchors for the walls. Like I said, I’m glad I hired them. I don’t want to imagine what the slab would have looked like had I attempted it myself.
With the slab cured and the planter wall completed (that was a challenge in itself), I was finally ready to start framing out the walls. The back wall needed to account for the fence pole footing in the back, so I had to kind of build around that with a notch in the sill plate. After that I built the front wall and the side walls.
Don’t tell anyone, but the header on the door side is a little undersized. I built it out of 2x4s and it’s only sitting on single jacks on either side. At a length of 5’–6″ however, it is not made to support much load. I wasn’t too concerned about it, as the roof structure will not be very heavy with a 1/2″ OSB sheathing and some asphalt shingles. I also didn’t want to further lower the door height, as I already have to duck quite a bit to get in as it is. But if it was supposed to carry a bit more load, a 2×6 would probably have been more appropriate. And maybe a second jack stud.
With the slab being so small and right next to the fence, I didn’t really have room to build the shed in place. Instead I decided to build it in five modules on the patio, the four walls and the roof, and move them onto the slab one-by-one.
Installing the sheathing presented its own set of challenges. It was my last chance to square up the walls, so I spent a good amount of time measuring diagonals, making adjustments, and triple checking the numbers add up before sinking the first screw. I also had to account for the height of the roof rafters on the front and back walls before making the top cuts. Finally, the shed doors are supposed to be made out of the scraps from cutting out the front sheathing, so those cuts had to be straight and the door square. Little room for error.
With sheathing and the top trim in place, it was finally time to put the roof shingling knowledge to good use that I had accumulated by watching This Old House for three years!
Instead of actual #30 felt paper I used a thinner house wrap paper and doubled it up to save a couple of bucks. And maybe this experience can help you down the line: When you get the cheapest shingles at the home center, make sure they’re not metric! I went around and around trying to figure out reveals and offsets and the numbers just didn’t want to add up—until I realized I had bought the wrong size. Once I realized what happened though, it was pretty easy to just install them relative to one another instead and not bother with exact measurements.
With the roof built up, including a rain diverter to avoid shedding water into the neighbor’s yard, it was time to disassemble the shed and start installing the wall modules on the new slab:
The final piece of work was to paint and install the doors, including the trim work:
Voting Precinct Board Member
Like many people after the 2016 Presidential election, I’ve been following politics and the news a lot closer. Short of volunteering for a campaign however, my ability to create the change I want to see is limited, since I’m not allowed to vote as a Permanent Resident.
Looking for a way to give back to the community I’ve been calling home for the past six years, I learned about the possibility to serve as a precinct board member (more commonly known as a poll worker) on Election Day. In order to promote civic engagement among residents of the state and to provide additional members of precinct boards, California allows non-citizen permanent residents and high-school students 16 and over to serve as precinct board members.
Ventura County, where I live, offers an online application form for volunteers to get started, though in my case it wasn’t until I picked up the phone that I was accepted and assigned a precinct. So far there has not been a ton of communication or guidance from the Registrar’s Office, but there is a mandatory training and lab class that I’ll have to attend before Election Day.
Admittedly, I’m not exactly sure what to expect and how I’ll be able to stay sharp for the 14+ hours that I’m expected to be there. But I am looking forward to be working the polls during this year’s midterm election and contribute my small part to further democracy in the world!
This year’s group picture of Automatticians who self-identify as tall—and Cami for scale.
📸: Alex Shiels.
Thank you to everyone who donated to and/or shared this fundraiser to fight family separation at the southern border of the United States. Through your generosity we ended up raising more than 5x the amount I initially thought achievable—incredible.
I’ve always had reservations towards these types of fundraisers. Asking friends and family for money is something I’ll never grow comfortable doing, and on top of that for a cause that can be politicized so easily. Using Facebook as a platform for them is also something I would have loved to avoid, but they do make it incredibly easy to set up these fundraisers and reach an audience.
All of this is what makes me so so grateful for your donations! I could not have asked for a better and more meaningful birthday present.
Birthday Fundraiser for RAICES
For my birthday this year, I want to offer a way to donate to RAICES, a nonprofit agency that provides legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas.
My ability to fight family separation at US borders is limited, but I can help others in their fight to end this cruel and unamerican practice. I’m not asking you to donate, but if you feel like me and have been thinking “I should do something about this”—this is probably the easiest way you can.