In this episode I’ll tell you how I built a garden shed in our back yard!
Our home is one of those long, narrow rectangular semi-detached houses in Richmond Hill, which have modest (i.e. small) back yards and narrow side alleys between them. In our case, our neighbors had built a concrete slab dividing wall between us down the alley, and near the rear-most part, a brick braai with a chimney. On our side, it offered a perfect opportunity for the construction of an enclosed space – all I had to do was to put roof beams and plates between my side of the dividing wall and the house wall, and then put up partitions and doors on either side.
I began this project as far back as 2014, when I elevated the floor by covering it with building debris, which I applied as landfill between two low walls I’d built across that end of the alley. I’d always thought that part would make a lovely stoop perfect for outdoor breakfasts and such, but later changed my mind and decided it would make a more useful sunroom or greenhouse. Either way, whatever you use it for, making it is fairly simple, and if you do it the way I did, using off-cast materials, it could work out quite cheap as well.
I was lucky enough to have acquired quite a bit of imitation wood plastic decking some years back, and I decided to use some of the beams to build the outermost partition frame out of it. I did so because of its resistance to rot, which it has to be obvious, is far better than wood! Anyway, I built the frame, measuring the opening of the door, height of that end of the planned roof etc. I intended that end of the roof to be lower than the nearer garden end, because that alleyway has always been a wind-tunnel! Wind has always been directed down it by the alignment of the houses in that area, and in fact before both our home and our neighbors had built garages across the alleyways, the wind was much stronger! The point of angling the roof in that fashion, was to deflect the wind upwards, over the back garden, so that more fragile plants could grow in piece without being blasted to pieces by rough winds.
After constructing the plastic-wood framework and securing it to both side-walls with rawl bolts, I built the door frame also out of the same material. Then, once I was satisfied with the operation of the hinges and sliding bolt etc. I covered the outside surface of it with white PVC IBR roof sheets which I bought second-hand from a friend who had some left over from her own project.
Then it was time to plan the angle of the roof, which implied placement of the roof beams. This isn’t as simple as it sounds, as if anything really is – but if you keep your head and think things through from the start to the finish before actually lifting a tool, you can save yourself lots of trouble, mistakes, and also expense!
Before I even had roof sheets to put on, I planned the roof. I started from the completed PVC partition, which had already made a nice wind-break across the alley. That would be the lowest point of the roof, rising the closer it got to the other end, which still had no partition yet. I planned on doing that last, building it underneath the roof. I placed the second, highest roof beam as the next step in the process, at the corner of the house and end of the alleyway. That beam was also made of plastic decking beam, secured to the walls with galvanized steel beam brackets and rawl bolts – as were the two center beams. Placing the third and fourth beams, between the other two, was a little tricky. Aside from making sure the beams were level – for which a spirit level is critical – there was the matter of lining them up at the correct height. Too low, and the roof would dip in the center, cause water to pool, and probably leak. Too high, and the roof would bulge, and although leaks would be unlikely in that case, it might not look that good.
While the angle of the roof would help deflect the wind from that direction upwards, it would do the reverse to rain – which would run from the highest end, down. I installed a length of gutter on the lower end, above the doorway, and connected a PVC pipe to divert rainwater to the side garden.
Then I bought a few PVC IBR clear roof sheets from Builders. As it turned out, I ended up with a slight, slight bulge, which caused the PVC roof sheets to curve slightly outwards. This really didn’t hurt, so I left it. The clear roof sheets offered me several possible uses for this area in future: for example, I could leave the other end open to the garden, pave or tile the floor, and use it for a stoop or breakfast nook; or I could close the other end and use it as a greenhouse, a garden tool shed etc.
Over time, my needs changed, and so did my plans for this little project!
The most recent incarnation of this little outbuilding is as a future greenhouse. To that end, I needed to create a second partition on the back garden side, with a door, and possibly a window to help regulate the internal temperature for the plants my better half would be cultivating within! I fitted a small plastic vent to the first partition to allow for air to flow in from that side, in a measured, controlled amount.
It was in 2018 that I got around to this part of the project, and bought a few roof beams from Builder’s to make the frame for the partition, as I’d run out of plastic wood by then! Rather than build the partition right on the corner of the house, right under the edge of the roof, I decided to locate it about a meter back from the edge, so that there would be some overhang, to protect the wood from direct exposure to rain. This would also create a small verandah, which would have its own uses.
The frame was easy enough to build, also secured to the walls with beam-brackets and rawl-bolts. I had an old door handy which I decided to use for this project, and once I’d mounted it to the one frame-side which became the door post, it was easy to position the other door posts along its top and edge and secure those in place. I replaced a few of the broken window panes myself, and scratched in my parts bins for an old door lock, which came from one of our original outbuilding doors, and is probably around eighty years old! A bit of cleaning and lubrication, and I fitted it, making a striker-plate for the doorpost so it would work again!
After that, I needed to think about windows. I found an old wooden window frame at a nearby breaker’s yard in Kempston Road for cheap. It was just the right size, and was fairly easy to mount inside the frame of the future partition.
Next, I just needed to cover the outside of the partition. I opted to go for a sort of cottagey look, and used the slats of some old pallets to cover the outside of the partition, trimming them as necessary, and seccuring them in place with self-tapping chipboard screws. A cordless screwdriver makes life much easier, doesn’t it? As you can see from the photos, I also placed them in an overlapping, clinker fashion which gives it a rather nice look.
After that, I covered the inside surface of the partition with pressboard panels I cut to size. A nice coat of paint gave the outside that finished look! Sometime later, I fitted an interior light, and a porch light, and paved the little verandah with broken bricks. A wooden railing beside the steps finished it off nicely.
It’s rustic and that’s the way we like out back garden! 🙂
Now the outside is done, it’s time to start sorting the inside – more about that another day!
Pictures included – enjoy!
Have a DIY day!
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