Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Operation: Shed - A Serious Outdoor DIY Project

I fear that my blogs are starting in similar ways but there's no way to avoid what will become blatantly obvious - I am not a born DIY-er. I can build it, I can fix it but I will need to take my time and think things over.

I also realised that The Review could easily slip into "I read this..." territory but this should rectify that issue for I have built my first shed. Just to get you into the mood as I review the journey and the product itself, here's how it all began...

All looking good huh? Yep, that's what I thought. This is a Economy Overlap Apex 4' x 6' BillyOh shed consisting of 
Eeze-base instructions
  • two roof panels 
  • two back panels
  • one side including two slots for plastic windows
  • one blank side wall
  • one door
  • two panels for either side of the door
  • two roof gables
  • "modesty" wood strips
  • door hinges, nails and screws
I would also recommend you have the following to hand (or at least know where they are) before starting:
Day 1: Unpainted
  • club hammer
  • hammer
  • power drill - charge it!
  • screwdriver
  • wood saw
  • shed paint
  • step ladder
  • hacksaw
  • sharp craft knife or scissors
We also invested in an Eeze-base to stand the shed on due to the somewhat uneven nature of our garden. Now according to this YouTube video and as I have already stated, this should take four hours, start to finish. Let me tell you that this is absolute and total codswallop. Good video though and does give you some idea of what you're going to be doing if you've never built a shed before - so perfect for me.

Day 1: Four hours work
The ground where the base was to stand was uneven and needed clearing of crazy-paved concrete slabs. Once they were removed then it was a case of levelling the ground. Now, before you do anything else, lay out the Ezee-base (if required) and make sure that it will fit. With ours the basic frame was too big for the shed and The five horizontal beams had to have about a foot of wood chopped off otherwise the entire shed would have been resting on them. Once laid out, we marked out equal points on the vertical beams and then laid the supports in at these locations - three internal and two at the ends. They need to be double-screwed at either end with 100mm screws. There are four metal "L" shaped supports to help settle the base level and these were of good use here and you will need two of you to ensure that the base is level as you screw them into place with 45mm screws.

Paint first; build second
Next screw into place the four corner spikes and, using the club hammer, secure the base into the ground. Now this all seems pretty straight forward but it's the laying out, marking and cutting that takes the time here. If it was all pre-cut and on a bowling green it would probably be all done in an hour or so. Just beware that a lot of this is taking DIY in the literal sense.

At the same time as you're laying out and setting the base it's worth having your helper (in my case Daniel) painting up all the shed panels in preparation for construction. We chose to use Wilkinson's Timbercare dark oak which is why it's a different colour at the beginning and end! Also if you are painting it there's no way this will take four hours. Indeed, in the video referenced above they don't even show the shed some paint and dependent on weather conditions it can take between two and four hours to dry. Now for us at this point the light faded and our first day's work was cut short ready for Sunday and some proper man-sized construction work.

The "generic" instructions
Sunday came and, lo, it did rain. It rained all day which is not the best when you have a lot of unbuilt shed sitting in your garden. Getting the floor down was the first move. Our Eeze-base was slightly larger than the floor but I'm happy with that and am happier that it was larger than being smaller! Now I have a massive issue at this point. The instructions you get with the 4' x 6' shed are very, very generic and you need to have a bit of nous about you to ensure that it goes together correctly. They seem to be for a 6' x 6' or even a 12' x 8' given the inclusion of four windows and a double door. Great that they cover all possibilities but when you're dealing with the baby of the range it's not a great help.

Day 2: Fixing panels
Having all the panels painted by this point pays off because all the hard to reach points are covered as you become aware when placing the first rear and side panels into place. I would recommend that this isn't the side with the window so you get a strong section to work from. Having everything laid out ready is also recommended as you can easily select the next piece without too much hassle even if the instructions are, frankly, rubbish. In fact the next rear, window side and two door support panels went together very easily. Make sure you're drilling pilot holes for 45mm screws and don't be too worried about losing one or two as there are plenty in the bag. Now at this point it's feeling like it's about six degrees below zero and all feeling below the neck is rapidly fading but with the rain still coming down getting the roof on was becoming something of a necessity. I must also apologise for this picture mid-construction. I only wear tracksuit bottoms for such tasks as heavy-duty gardening and decorating. They are not a clothing item of choice.

Ok, the evening was drawing in as we lined up the two roof gables. One is clearly for the door so don't get them mixed up at this point in the build or you'll be in for some fun later on. They should go on pretty easily and then comes the interesting part and you will need two people. Each of the roof panels needs to be aligned with the gables and you will need someone to hold it as each one is nailed into place. Oh - did I mention it was also raining at this point?

Day 2: Felt roof next
Once in place you'll need to cut the roof felt to size. If you've never used it before, this stuff is both gritty and will rip in an instant so be careful how you handle it. I would have waited for better light as our was fading fast but due to the weather conditions it needed to go on asap. Looking back it would probably have been wiser to measure and cut the felt BEFORE putting the panels on the roof but there's the benefit of hindsight and sense. Again two people are necessary for holding and tacking the felt into place - one for each panel and then a third piece to close any gaps across the top. At this point we called it a day - it was dark and neither myself nor Daniel could hold anything metal due to the temperature!

Day 3: Starting point
Now it would take a week and a slight snow shower before we could get back out to the shed although at this point it was more like a wooden lean-to with no windows or a door attached (above right). Getting out to finish it on a sunnier, warmer Saturday morning was great. First job was a bit of touch-up painting and then trimming down the felt and attaching the edging boards. This was done and dusted quite quickly in comparison to the previous weekend's activities. Be gentle with the boards because a bit too much hammering can crack them - and the same goes for the finials at the roof top. I had to glue one of the latter back together after a fairly rough knock with the hammer.As you will note from the picture to the left, this was our starting point on Day Three. There was quite a bit of felt to cut away and some minor painting to finish due to the previous weekend's weather. I'd also point out that even at this stage the shed was not fixed to the base - I wanted to make sure the door would fit before we attempted setting it firmly in place on the base forever more. Also it meant that there could be some painting touch-ups at the back where necessary.

Day 3:Union tea break
Using the batons for guidance, the door hinges attached with 30mm screws and it was straight onto the frame with no concerns. The only thing I did notice was that there was a slight gap down the opening edge of the door but I'll cover how that was resolved in a bit. I also added both the swivel catches to the main frame of the shed to ensure the door closed fully, again with 30mm screws. Next on were the two window panels. The last time I assisted in shed-building with my dad in the early 1990's I remember these being glass so I was more than happy to find the ones supplied with the BillyOh shed were plastic.They, as with most of the shed, fitted very easily and were held in place by three strips of wood nailed to the frame. This made me realise that you need to be careful where the screws holding the panels together are placed back at the initial construction stage as it could affect how you fix in the plastic windows. I would say this was one of the few stages where I referred to the instructions - also helpful when working out why there are several long strips of "modesty" wood and how they should go to cover up corners and panel joins around the structure. At this point you can screw the whole structure down to the base with 45mm screws. There are more than enough in the pack so don't worry about how many you use. From personal experience I would say one at either end of each panel is a minimum and then possibly 2 more central if you're concerned it might be flimsy. I chose to do the latter however it was pretty rigid before I did.

One thing that the instructions don't account for is the padlock. I would say it's worth having some spare wood to hand because however you attach the fixing the screws will go through the door and frame. Having that extra few bits of wood will suffice to give the screws something to drill into. The gap down the side of the door was easily covered by placing some extra strips of "modesty" wood into the gap, gluing and screwing them together. The end result, while a little "A-Team" was more than enough to solve the issue. Also the padlock itself doesn't come with any screws if you order it with the shed. However, saying all this is great but how about we take a look and see it in glorious HD...

Thanks for that opinion and tour of the shed, Clive. Much appreciated. The overall result (as you have now seen) is much better than I expected and does the job it was intended for. The instructions are little better than guidance in a very general sense so don't take them as gospel at any point as common  sense is probably more reliable and accurate. It's a good structure and for the price and size it's thoroughly worth it and has solved some storage problems. For someone who has never built something like this before it was very easy to work out but you do need two people for some of the lifting and adjusting. I found that keeping it off the base until the last possible moment meant I could check everything at the back of the shed was in place and right as there is very little gap between it and our existing outhouse. To any of you thinking of having a go, this is the perfect way to start - and make sure you paint it first though as otherwise you might end up with fiddly gaps exposed!  I've not been disappointed and look forward to my next DIY challenge. 

Day 3: Operation Complete
Thanks also to Daniel for helping out for the weekend through rain, wind and freezing temperatures. Your help was appreciated all the way! Thanks also to my partner, Melissa for supplying sandwiches and tea throughout the experience - and ensuring the heating was on!


  1. That's not a shed, that's a wendy house made of match wood!

    1. It's not a 12' x 8' workhouse by any stretch but it's still a shed and I built it. It only needs to be this big because of what we bought it for. It's not something I've done before and I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who have never built a shed and will, hopefully appreciate this. Anyway, thanks for the comment. Nice to get a response.

  2. You did a great job! Don't DIY for other people, DIY for you! I need a shed like that for my husband's yard tools!

    Don't let haters hating get to you! Keep up the good work! And thanks for the blog. (I can build all day long, I can't blog though!)

  3. No worries! Thanks for the comment! Worked out well and suits the garden. Does the job very well and has freed up room elsewhere.The haters don't worry me at all - after all, I'm glad that they can pick up on the fact its more about the ease of construction, clarity of instructions....