Cassandra’s Greenhouse

After completing Cassandra’s bench, the next project at her house was a greenhouse. Cassandra is converting her entire backyard, even the blacktop driveway into a urban garden oasis. She had planned to buy a greenhouse, but I pointed out that she could build one cheaper. My 4×8 Lean-to shed only cost approximately $500 in materials, a fourth of what she had planned to pay. She asked if I would help her and I said yes. Since I had successfully built my shed, by myself, I told her to check out the greenhouse plans at Plans Design, where I bought mine. Their greenhouses were similar to my lean-to, so I thought the learning curve would be eliminated.

She didn’t like their plans, but found one she did like.  It called for setting nine 4×4 post in the ground.  That seemed like an odd approach and I knew making nine holes, especially in the location of her yard that she wanted would be difficult, but once past that it seemed like a simple plan.  While weather did play a small part in slowing down progress this project took six weeks to complete, way to long.  I don’t know the final cost of all the material, but I’m sure it was over $1,000.  The plans did not call for a floor, we added one.  The plan didn’t have windows, we added one and another is planned.  This build tested my resolve, stamina, ingenuity, and patience.  

Now that the greenhouse is complete I really question the design choice of using 4×4 post for the structure. The person that designed it lives in Canada, so perhaps this is standard for sheds in that country. It called for pressure treated (PT) wood. Traditional wall framing with regular 2x4s would have cost far less and the project could have been completed much faster. I was ready to throw in the towel after digging the first hole because we hit so many tree roots. For that reason I’m not going to list where she bought the plans as I wouldn’t recommend them. Too much of the build was left for you to figure out; they were not complete or concise and now she has a structure that can never be moved even though its size made it moveable. The plastic sheeting was easy to work with and it does provide a visual airiness. If you have no concerns about security, I could see making my lean-to shed with traditional framing but covering it with this plastic; perhaps even a combination of wood and plastic siding.

The Last Time. The She Shed is Ready

I retrieved my lawn mower from a storage locker for the last time, the shed is complete.  The only items left were installing the soffit and front side trim.  I thought 30 minutes top.  The soffit went fast, the real work with that was already done.  The plans called for attaching with 2″ 6d nails, but screw that.  Nailing upwards bites, I pulled out my mini gun and shot with 2 1/2″ 16 gauge nails.  My fit was almost perfect.  Where it wasn’t I put a bead of caulk.

I ran into a snag with the trim.  I followed the plans, but there was a gap at the top.  I looked over the plans and really don’t see what I missed.  Maybe they intended for there to be a gap, but that just invites bees and birds to find a home.  As with the soffit I needed to notch the front corner trim.  Unfortunately I had already cut one side, so I installed it and as I did with the back, added a filler piece.  The opposite side I notched.

More caulk, touch up paint and the shed project was practically complete.  The missing t-hinges for the doors came in, so I added them.  I also added about a 3″ wide strip of scrap T1-11 board, painted yellow on inside of one door to cover the gap between the doors.  At the bottom of that same door I added a surface bolt latch, so the side stays closed until I pull the latch.  While I was building the doors constantly blew open and shut and I figured that couldn’t be a good thing over time.  Those last two steps was just me over achieving and so are the tool racks I will make out of the scrap 2x4s.  I did one just to see if it would work, it did.  You can’t tell by the picture, but I cut the back side at a 20 degree angle.  I knew the upward tilt would help keep them in place.  It does.

People have commented to me, why not just buy a shed.  I could have, but I’m so thankful in this stage of my life that I have the skill set and physical ability to build something of quality myself, ESPECIALLY, given these trying times we’re in.  This project gave me something positive to focus on when the world is filled with negative thanks to Covid-19.  I built that…….from scratch.  There is nothing I can’t do when I put my mind to it.  I need these projects to reaffirm that I am essential because the world is telling me I’m not.


She Has A Roof

Gazebo Roof 1This is not my first shingle project.  In 2010, my father helped me build a new deck with a gazebo at my old house.  He worked for 19 days before needing to return home.  I had to finish the shingles and all decorative trim myself.  That’s me in the picture.  The shed is a piece of cake compared to the gabled roof of the gazebo.

I bought Owens Corning Oakridge shingles, color Driftwood, from Menards to match the shingles on my house.  The plans called for two packs and I did not want to run short.  In laying shingles the first row you actually lay upside down, it’s your starter row.  Remembering that I went to the Cincinnati ReUse Center and spent $2 on 4 loose shingles.  With the starter row in place all you really need to do is follow the installation instructions on the shingle packaging.  My mother always told me if you can read you can do anything and she was 100% right.  The instructions called for six courses, starting from the left  after row 1 that started with a whole piece; the next 5 had to be cut 2, 6 1/2″; 3, 13″; 4, 19″; 5, 26″; and 6 32 1/2″.  A scrap piece of the roof sheathing was a perfect cutting board, becoming the perfect jig.  I only got half done before the rains came, which was fine because I needed to go back to Home Depot and get a different drip edge.

It appeared I had already gotten the widest drip edge, I kept what I had, but also bought 10′ roll of 6″ wide aluminum flashing.  That covered the gap at the top and I was able to attach the drip edge.  With that complete I laid my felt paper and continued with installing the shingles.  When I got to the last row, which I knew wouldn’t have strong nail contact, I applied roof cement caulk.

It was a cold, muddy, day, so I decided to call it quits after painting the foundation gray to match the house.  I also took the measurements for the soffit cut outs I’d have to make.  I must have read something wrong in the instructions because the top trim piece for the door was too high and it interfered with the soffit placement’; I would need to notch around it.  The T1-11 siding was to be used for this.  Luckily I had plenty of scraps thanks to my mis-cut of the door.  I got the right side spot on with the first cut.  The left took three tries before I got it right.  I drilled the vent holes, painted them, and applied the screen mesh, so they’d be ready to install.  I also cut and painted the front corner trim.  Unless something unforeseen happens the shed should be completed the next day I work on it.


Calling An Audible

Properly cut rafters I believe was the most important aspect of building my shed.  I messed up on my one attempt and gave up on trying again.  My former neighbor got the job done, but he wasn’t neat about the cuts.  I would have been.  He used a jig saw, all hand cuts.   I would have used my miter saw to at least ensure the lengths were consistent . They weren’t the same lengths, depths of cuts on the angles weren’t consistent.  It was noticeable to the naked eye, but not significant or so I thought.  He joked that its just a shed.  Well………I believe those imperfections were the main cause for my panels not meeting on the corners.  The gaps weren’t consistent either.  The plans did not call for any trim on the back of the shed.  I would have to add to hide the gap.

First step was putting the fascia boards on the front and sides.  When I did the front it revealed how crooked the roof sheeting was.  This would not have happened if the Voerhang plates had been installed correctly. The left side extended past the fascia, so since that was a small panel I decided to remove it and push it back.  Doing so narrowed the gap in the back that bothered me when I hung it with my neighbor.  The plan called for two 52 1/4″, 1x4s.  Since I needed to purchase more pieces for the back, I got 10′ lengths, so that could be one solid piece.  I couldn’t see why there was a reason for two pieces outside of the plan listed all 8′ length boards.  Putting the drip edge on top of the fascia makes total sense to me now.

The side fascia had more thought involved.  Adding the back trim meant I was extending the back of the shed, which I would need to account for.  It meant altering the length called for in the plan by the width of the trim board, 3/4″. I cut it an inch longer as the gap at the top was wider than bottom.  The plans called for a 67 degree angle, which is beyond the range of my miter saw.  After the rafter issue I bought a digital angle finder from Home Depot.  Worked like a charm, especially when I applied my straight-edge technique before cutting.

Adding the trim on the vertical sides would mean there would be a 3/4″ gap between the trim pieces at the top.  I wasn’t sure how that would impact installing the drip edge or shingles at the top, so I decided to add a horizontal trim piece as well.  I could have easily installed the 1×4 board cut to the right length, but I knew the slope of the roof was 23 degrees.  I decided to rip the side of the board at 23 degrees also (ok, I was showing off at this point, for who I don’t know).  Once I got the piece installed, it revealed how crooked my back panel install was.  This is where working solo was not wise.  No worries, I used my reciprocating saw to remove the excess with my 23 degree angle as my guide.

I had already cut the rear side trim per the plans, so that created another gap at the top that probably wouldn’t be an issue, but I decided to create to cap pieces to conceal a crevice I thought would make a great place for bees or hornets to nest in.  At this point I considered myself an angle master.  The top angle was 23 degrees, while the bottom was 67.

With the sun setting fast I wanted to get the rear drip edge on, so I could jump on the shingles on the next dry day, but the gap between the back siding and roof sheathing was wider than the drip edge.  More audibles would be in store and the shed project would carry over into another week.

She’s So Cute

Painting the shed in my house colors was brilliant as it confirms that my house is going to be gorgeous when I get it painted.

This will be a short post as I didn’t do a lot, but what was done was substantial.  I put the 1×3 trim around the door opening.  I painted it before hanging with Lowe’s Valspar Duramax tinted in Sherwin Williams’ Incredible White.  Lowe’s didn’t carry the Weathershild I bought for the shed in quarts.  I ordered the T-hinges from Amazon and stupidly only ordered two sets.  I needed three, so the shed won’t be officially complete until Monday when the third set arrives.

Hanging the doors was amazingly easy.  I pulled out my house jack again which worked like a charm.  I had both doors hung in less than an hour.  Rains are returning on Sunday, so tomorrow I’m going to focus on the roof, with hopes of having the shingles on by end of the day.  Even if I don’t get everything finished, with the doors it’s a functional storage unit and ready to store my yard tools.

Joy (and Clarity) Comes in the Morning

With more rain in the forecast and my days tied up with clients, Monday evening I was determined to get the two narrow pieces of siding up over the door opening and the back siding installed.  The goal is to be entirely finished by the weekend as its supposed to be beautiful and my grass needs to be cut.  If I finish the shed I can retrieve my lawn mower from my cousin’s storage locker one final time.

I decided to paint the back panels first, so I brought my saw horses up from the basement in order to paint outside.  Even though I was able to carry the full sheets downstairs to cut the side panels, it was a struggle and I decided against that just to paint.  I got one panel complete, but realized I would not have enough paint for the entire second panel.  I quickly installed the small strips above the door and decided to call it a night.  Tuesday I was able to pick up a quart of paint from Lowe’s on a lunch break, so Tuesday evening I started up again.

I painted the second panel and then proceeded to hang the first.  I pulled out my house jack thinking this would be a piece of cake.  NOT!!!  First off it was windy with winds blowing towards me, which meant the panel was being blown towards me and not the shed.  I was able to turn my clamps into helpful extra hands, but I could not get that board positioned correctly.  I struggled for over two hours, until dark.  I accepted the revelation that my wall studs weren’t level; I had a lean that was making it impossible to split the middle of the center stud.  I was real close to getting my work light, plugging it in and working until the back panels were hung, but my inner voice spoke to me and said, remember your final door, go to bed.  So I re-tarped the panels and did just that.

Rain was headed our way late morning, so I struck out early.  Clearly the walls weren’t level, but I knew my floor was, so I screwed three screws to span the 48″ width of the panel were the bottom of the panel should set.  They became my ledge.  I used clamps to hold the top as it was windier.  I got the bottom corner aligned and revealed that the top extended past the edge of structure by about 2″.  I needed to draw the structure to meet the board and that I accomplished by using my 50″ clamps.  I cranked it as far as it would go and only closed half the gap, so I grabbed my 36″ clamp, piggy backed it on top of the other clamp and cranked until the top corner was flush.  Doing so made that panel almost perfectly centered on the middle stud.

The second panel was much easier.  I did have to use the house jack as I placed the screws slightly too low. I needed to raise the panel about a half inch.  I’m not quite sure what I would have done if the roof rafters weren’t exposed for me to anchor to.

In less than two hours the back was complete, just as the rains started to fall.  I know now that placing the rafters exactly perpendicular to the wall joist is crucial.  Having level wall studs is crucial, however all in all for a shed rookie working as a solo act, she ain’t half bad.  Doors and trim and this shed is a wrap.


Sugar Tin Pies

Why am I featuring a picture of a pie in the middle of my shed build project?  This was my reward for the end of this phase of work.  Sugar Tin Pies (@sugartinpies) is a new cottage industry that just started up in Cincinnati by Cassandra Jones, a person I met at one of my client’s conferences.  This is her 6″ pie, the perfect size for me.  I’ll get three servings out of it.

I was looking forward to the weekend, so I could put a full day into the project.  Rain was 20200424_163317coming in the afternoon on Saturday and expected to rain all day Sunday.  Bone head move on my part, I decided to start the day installing the drip edge followed by the roofing paper.  Well the drip edge actually also goes on top of the fascia.  I’m not sure why or how I managed to skip several pages in the plans, but I wasted valuable time and will have to remove it when I do get to the fascia.  Fortunately only a waste of about $10 in material.

Per the plans, I ordered 6 sheets of T1-11 siding.  I cut the two front pieces from the same sheet.  The two sides were a sheet each.  The back would take two full sheets, so I realized I didn’t have enough for the two doors.  In hindsight I should have cut a door and one front piece from the same sheet, it would have been nice if the plans told you to do that. This was a bit more expensive mistake as it meant buying another sheet at $35.  I got it from Home Depot, so they could cut it for me otherwise I couldn’t get it home.  I had them cut it to the exact length of 70 1/2″, but only cut enough width that allowed it in my car.  I did the fine tune cutting at home.  In route to home I picked up my pie, but Cassandra also made me some spaghetti sauce.  I could smell the rain coming, so if I had any hope of getting the sides up I needed to work fast.

The front pieces are only 18″ wide, so very easy to handle and nail up.  The plans called for 2″ 6d nails, so I had to bag my little friend and pull out my hammer.  Nails every 8″ on each stud.  The side pieces took a bit more work.  I really could have used another person, but I pulled out my house jack and that worked amazingly well.  So well that I jacked the roof rafter up.  I expected it to stop/give resistance once the top met the Voerhang plate, but it didn’t.  The ease in which that rafter came up was concerning.  One bad storm with gusty winds and I could see my shed roofless, so I decided to reinforce the connections with 4″ Timberlock screws that I had.  Now the two extra rafters Bill had me add had a purpose.  For the back side I was able to easily add the screws into them as the were offset from the wall stud.  The front was a bit more complicated because of the additional support beams and angles to reach the right part of the rafter.  In the case where I could drill straight up, but had three boards to go through, I drilled a 1/2″ hole through the bottom board.  That would allow the screw to go into the rafter by at least an inch.  For the rafter where an angle was involved.  I drilled at an angle and then inserted the screw.  I could see the rafters drawing up tight.  This was a very smart add on.

I got the left side and front up with sunny skies.  The right side up in steady rain.  The back would have to wait for another day.  The beauty of this rain is it forced me to stop working at decent time to eat and I had not worked to the point of exhaustion that day.

The main reason I lost so much weight on my house restoration project is I was too tired to cook, or stopped to late to order delivery, or it was too late to eat if I did (I don’t like to go to bed on a full stomach). Thanks to Cassandra I had dinner waiting.  My cousin Alex had stopped by to bring me 20200425_190815face trimmers for my dogs and she was kind enough to stay long enough to cook some pasta noodles for me.  I just had to heat up some garlic rolls.  I’m not sure how I got to age 55 without ever having a significant other in my life, but I sure hope Mr. Right can cook and would enjoy preparing a meal for me to eat at the end of a hard days work.  The sauce was fabulous, hearty with a slight kick.  I ate it while watching The Way Back on Amazon Prime (not as good as I hoped it would be).

It was only about 8:30p, so I decided to wait on that first slice of pie and go in the basement to work on the doors.  I used my straight edge method again and got the width made.  If you haven’t figured out yet the shed colors will match the house colors, right down to yellow doors.  I had about a half quart of the yellow left and same of wood primer.  I knew it wouldn’t be enough for both doors, but buying quarts would be cheaper than gallons.  On my full stomach of pasta I lost all track of time.  I got both doors built, but ran short on primer.  It was after midnight at this point, too late to enjoy pie.

Sunday I ran to Sherwin Williams to get another quart of Harvest Yellow and Ace Hardware in Clifton for a quart of primer (no way was I paying SW prices for a shed door-I had used up some Kilz 2 primer I had in basement, so bought more of that, $10).  I applied the primer and let it dry while I worked on a client’s project.  Cassandra called to let me know she had made me another treat, a garlic cheddar, tomato, and spinach quiche.  I’ll have a great breakfast or lunch tomorrow.  She brought it around 6pm, so that prompted me to return to the basement and apply the yellow paint.  Doors complete.

I finished early enough to enjoy a bacon cheeseburger for dinner and my first slice of peach pie.  It was worth the wait.  The crust was made from scratch and it was flavorful, 20200426_235525flaky, and tender to the chew.  Honestly this is one of the best peach pies I’ve ever had.  Not overly sweetened, which made the scoop of vanilla ice cream I had not feel like a put a teaspoon of sugar in my mouth.  The peaches were firm, not mushy like so many that I’ve had.  She definitely did not use can peaches.  Her blend of spices were point on.  I most certainly tasted cinnamon, perhaps a hint of ginger and lemon peel too.  I’ll definitely get another as a reward for the finished project, this time cherry.

I Was So Close To Getting It Right

Close only counts with hand grenades, so I put out a call for help to my go to jack of all trades guy Tom.  He already had plans that day, so I went back to a blast from my past, my former neighbor Bill.  I didn’t expect him to drop everything and rush over to my house, but that’s exactly what he did.  When I called him I was in route to Home Depot to pick up the wood Lowe’s failed to deliver and the 10′ 2x4s. He beat me home, but fortunately I had mistakenly left the back door unlocked so he was able to grab the plans from the basement.  I didn’t think he’d work so fast and I failed to say don’t use those uncut 8′ 2x4s, but by the time I got home he used all of them.  Sadly, I still don’t know how to measure for a bird’s mouth cut.

Bill decided to alter the plans by adding two additional rafters, one on each side of the door opening.  I’m still not sure why the door needed more support, but I figured what’s the harm and I had two extra pieces from the 10’ers that were already cut in half.  He also added some bracing cut from the waste left by his using the 8’ers.  The last pieces involved with the rafters were the Voerhang (overhang) plates, which are attached to the outside of the outer rafter.  They needed a 23 degree angle cut also and Bill did this as well, but he cut to match to the angles of the rafters and he had me nail the flush to the rafters.  I was pretty confident that was incorrect as it didn’t match the picture in the plans.  Beggars can’t be choosers, so I let it go as he was also willing to help me put the OSB roof sheating.  I definitely would have struggled doing that by myself, especially the large center piece.

After Bill left I studied the plan to figure out exactly how the overhang plates should have been installed.  They should have been nailed perpendicular vs. flush.  The 23 degree angle should have been cut across the face of the board vs. the side.  My miter saw could make that cut.  Unfortunately he used my last two boards and all the stores were already closed due to Covid-19, so  his correction had to wait until the next day.  Without this correction the side panels would not have attached flush.

Rains 20200426_223708were forecast for Thursday, so I decided to move two of the T1-11 4’x8′ side panels to the basement, so I could cut and paint them.  One of the best things I learned by going to the Camp Washington Wood Shop was how to use a straight edge to guide a circular saw cut.  These panels were too big to run through my job site sized table saw, plus the side piece cuts were at angles, 23 degrees, according to the plans.  I didn’t need to find the degree as the plans showed the low side measurement at 20 1/4″ drop.

I made my measurement and used my clamps to hold the string from my chalk line at the top, while I pulled the string to my mark to strike the line.  I’m not sure what this tool is called, but I used it to find the distance from my saw blade to end of saw plate.  I laid the end of that tool on my chalk line and placed my straight edge next to the end of the sliding ruler and clamped it to the board.  I repeated this action on the opposite end and then checked various points in the middle.

The only bad judgement I made is that I stacked both sides together and tried to cut both boards at the same time; I figured they weren’t that thick.  About a third of the way through the saw got bound up and kicked back at me (scared me a bit).  Not deterred, I left the boards clamped together and altered the depth of the blade to only cut through the top.  Once done I lowered the blade to cut the second.  This action meant only setting my guide once, virtually ensuring both would be cut the same.  With the cuts made I pulled out the paint, which I got from Lowe’s.  I bought HGTV’s Weathershild by Sherwin Williams.  It’s paint and primer in one, so one coat.  I have so drunken the HGTV coolaid.  Take a guess what color?



Say Hello To My Little Friend

I love using my framing nailer.  I’ve never fired a real gun and have no desire to do so, but I would have to think the sensation is about the same.  The end result of using a nail gun is much more rewarding than what comes out of most hand gun use.

My goal was to have the shed under roof before the rain forecasted for end of week.  Thanks to Covid-19 I’m tackling this project solo.  I ordered most of my materials from Lowe’s and paid for their delivery.  It took 10 days to get it and even though they sent me an email stating it would be delivered on Monday, April 20 between 8a-8p if I had not called to get a shorter window I would not have gotten the items at all.  Apparently there was a breakdown between the online order system and delivering store, Ridge Avenue Lowe’s.  They got that fixed and gave me a window between 11a and 3p.  They arrived close to 3 and failed to deliver the full order.  Missing were all the trim pieces, so at least that didn’t stop me  from getting underway.  I’ve had the worst luck with the Ridge Avenue home improvement stores (Lowe’s and Home Depot).  I asked for a refund on the missing items and will pick up from Home Depot Western Hills where I’ve had great experiences.

I decided to use pressure treated 2x4x8s for the floor joist.  This was not spelled out in the plans, but I thought given they are located near ground that would extend life of shed floor.  I actually picked these up over the weekend from Home Depot, along with the 4’x8′ OSB board needed for the roof, which I had them cut to size.  I knew I would struggle cutting a board that size by myself and it wouldn’t fit in my car uncut.

The floor called for seven boards 45″.  I set the fence on my miter table to that length, which allowed me to measure once to cut .

I don’t remember what I was working on, but I shot a 16 gauge nail into my knuckle (not deep, fortunately) while holding two pieces of wood to form a corner.  To prevent that from happening again I bought two Bessey angle clamps. I hadn’t used them in over a year, but they were very handy for this project.  Making sure my floor is square is key and I was spot on, corner to corner, an early victory.

I also decided to strap the floor with pressure treated 2x6s (3), so that I could set the shed on three, pressure treated 4x4s beams.  I ordered a 12′ and cut it to size.  This was a complete departure from the plans, but I did that to aid in my ability to move it.  I nailed the 2x6s to the 2×4 frame, but used SDS Heavy-Duty Connector screws, 1/4 x 3″, that I had leftover from when the City made me strap floor joist that had been cut for the original cast iron pipes to bolt the beams to the floor, nine total.   I also departed from the plans and doubled up the floor panel, only because for two years I’ve had this piece of 4×8, 1/2″ OSB board that my cousin Terry gave me, but never could put to use.  I wanted it gone, so doubled the floor.  All of this work was done in about four hours, floor done day 1.

Day 2 was all about the walls.  Definitely probably a two-person job, but thanks to some clamps I was able to get them up by myself.

This was the easy part.  Next on tap are the roof rafters, which means mastering the bird’s mouth cut, something I’ve never done.  I don’t have a tool to measure degrees, although degree markings are on a carpenter’s square which I do have.  I just don’t know how to do it.  At this point the 20200421_202413plans are working well, easy to follow, but they could have taken a lesson out of the Marion Kent How To Create a Material’s List text book.  When my father gave me my material list for our framing projects in the house I had to get various lengths.  He maximized cuts from boards, so material waste was minimal.  Plans Design listed all 8′ lengths for the 2x4s.  Massive waste is occurring.  I actually plan to return my roof joist 8’ers and buy 10’ers for the as I could get two from one board.  Home Depot would cut them in half for me, need 57″, so easy to get home.