Homeownership, Uncategorized

I Built a Shed

The “best” picture I had of the old 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:


In Pursuit of Curb Appeal

If there is one lesson I learned during my renovation efforts so far, it’s that a little paint can figuratively go a long way. My front yard, while responsibly drought-resistant, is boring and just not nice to look at. At all. Curb appeal? Forget it.

I decided the easiest way to get a quick win on that front (get it? 😉) was to freshen up the front door and garage door, sporting a faded light brown or tan until that point. The rusty security door didn’t really do anything to improve the picture either, so that turned out to be the first change I made. I ended up putting it on Facebook Marketplace actually and making a few bucks off of it.

With the security door gone I could focus on the front door itself. After filling the holes the bolts left behind and a thorough wash of door and frame, I started with a coat of primer. The washing part took considerably longer for the garage door, I had to do three rounds to finally get rid of all the dust and pollen. There too, I started out with priming it first. Both doors didn’t really have stains or were considerably darker than the new color, but I wanted a high-quality paint job and was hoping that it would let the paint adhere better to the fiberglass and aluminum.

For the actual paint job, I went with two coats of Dunn & Edwards’ Novelty Navy. Using a foam roller and a high quality angle brush have me pretty good results. So good actually that I even deferred on a third coat of paint. There are plenty of tutorials available on how to properly paint a garage or front door, so I don’t think I need to go into details here. One thing I do want to pass along though is: Don’t be stingy on masking tape for your stucco! While I managed to keep the front door surround free of paint, I ended up with quite a few spill-overs around the garage door.

In terms of bang for your buck, I doubt there are many more projects around your house that let you exceed this one’s. All in all I spent less than $100 on it, between primer, paint, and supplies. And while I’d stop short of calling it a transformation, it is a vast improvement over what it looked like before. Coming home and rolling up that garage door has definitely been a lot more satisfying recently.


Dining Room Pendants

One of the things that are high on my priority list of home improvements is to replace the ceiling lights that the previous owners left behind. Both the living room and dining room chandeliers are not at all to my taste, and with the added let down of daylight fluorescent bulbs they really don’t add to a homey feeling at all.


The existing chandelier

The existing chandelier was not only a sore sight in the center of the open layout living space, it was also hung off center to both the patio door and the kitchen island.

I had a West Elm gift certificate and while I tried to figure out what to spend it on, one of their pendant lights, plainly called Globe Pendants, caught my attention. They were on special, so I decided to go with them and take a first step towards a more hospitable living space! Continue reading


Home Sweet Home

In a twinge of serious adulting, I decided to take a leap of faith and do my part for an improved millennial homeownership rate in the United States. It took me the better part of 2016 to find a place that I liked, I could afford, and that no one else outbid me on. No small feat in California’s very tight real estate market it turns out. The home I ended up going with will definitely need some “Tender Loving Care”, but it has great bones and a convenient location.

I hope I’ll get to write a few follow-up posts with more details on the journey that brought me to this point, taking a look at the process, and depict some of the events in the final weeks before closing. In the meantime I’ll try to cope with the anxiety of having mortgaged my finances for the foreseeable future.