Building a Shed / Playhouse

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Had I ever built a shed or any structure like it before? No.  There was a definite learning curve for me.  Luckily my dad, father-in-law and several friends were willing to help me out along the way.

Dimensions: 12 ft x 10 ft x approx. 13 ft high

Products Used:

  • DuPont® Tyvek®
  • LP® SmarSide®
  • Herculiner®
  • Simpson® Smart-Tie®
  • CertainTeed® Landmark® shingles
  • Lifetime Rocket Slide
  • Therma Tru Fiberglass Door
  • Aluminum soffit and facia
  • Valspar Paint

Tearing Out the Old Shed and Koi Pond

dsc_0420-copyWhen we bought the house, it had a beautiful koi pond and water feature next to this old shed.  The water feature had leaked and rotted out part of the wall on the old shed.  Also, there were some mice that had taken residence in the old shed.  In addition to that, my wife and I were beginning to have little ones and my daughter was pushed into the pond by her cousin.  It needed to go.  I started out trying to remove the water feature with a sledge hammer.  I whacked at it for several hours over the course of a few Saturdays.  I noticed that my progress was diminishing.  Something else needed to be done.

I decided that a jack hammer might do the trick.  I went to my local Home Depot and rented a jack hammer.  I was so surprised to see how much progress I was able to make in a short amount of time.  The lesson I learned from this is that I should have rented the jack hammer on day one.  I could have had the whole thing out in a few hours.

After the koi pond was out, I had a lot of help from family and friends in tearing out the shed.

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Removing the Fitzer Bushes 

My father-in-law was kind enough to come over and help me remove the fitzer shrubs that were in front of the shed.  He dug all around the roots chopping away at them.  They still didn’t want to come out. I took a steel cable I had for setting up a zip line for the kids and hooked one end to the back of my pickup and the other end to the fitzers.  They came out pretty easily with the help of the pickup.  The length of the cable made it nice because I was able to leave my pickup in the driveway.

Using a steel cable to remove shrubs
Using a steel cable to remove shrubs

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Pouring the Cement Pad

I bought a few stakes and some 2x4s and started forming out where I wanted the shed to reside in my yard.  You may want to refer to your city for certain codes and easements.  This will tell you how large of a shed you can build without the need to get a permit.

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Luckily I had a good little helper to put down a gravel base.  I went to a place called ConRock.  I liked that I was using recycled cement and much cheaper than getting gravel.  I am not sure if I used the best gravel product for this application, but as I write this two years later, I still don’t have any cracks that I have noticed.  Be sure to consult with professionals in your area for the best products for your situation.

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I opted to use a mesh reinforcement called remesh in the event the cement cracked, because everyone suggested that over time it would and there was nothing that could be done to prevent it.  I understood that this helps keep the cement together better when it cracks and keeps it from shifting to different depths.  I picked up these sheets from the local Lowes or Home Depot store.

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For the cement I used a place where you borrow a trailer and cart it yourself.  I am from the Ogden, Utah area.  At the time a company called Save-More Products had a very competitive price.  I also made sure I had plenty of friends and family on hand to help me out.  We had to use wheelbarrows to bring it from the front into my back yard.

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I had found some old paver stones that worked great for rolling the wheelbarrows over the 2x4s without knocking the forms out of level.
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dsc_0440Luckily we have a friend that is pretty knowledgeable working with cement.   He was able to give us a nice broom finish.


Framing the shed

I have a good friend, Eric,  who used to frame houses.  He came over to show me some tips and tricks.  Using the plywood to square the walls before lifting them up was an awesome tip.   Many of the tutorials I watched online didn’t put the plywood on until after the structure was already framed.  Eric said it is much harder to square up the structure after the walls have been lifted.
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I purchased most all my lumber from Wheelwright Lumber, a local supply place.

I was a bit concerned after lifting up the wall that the 13 feet might put my neighbors off a bit especially since the old shed was so small.

After lifting the wall, I got it supported and went and spoke with the neighbor whose house you can see in the back.   I told him that I did not want me building a new shed to cause any neighborly discontent. I am not certain he was a fan of it, but gave me his blessing nonetheless.   I assured him that I was going to be using nice materials and that it would look nice once it was completed.

I continued framing the rest of the shed.

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Lifting the second wall
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Continuing to frame the shed

To fasten the structure to the cement pad I used the Titen HD anchors by Simpson Stong-Tie.  I used about 4 per side.

It is also important to add hurricane/tornado fasteners to the top rafters.

Adding hurricane/tornado fasteners to the rafters
Adding hurricane/tornado fasteners to the rafters

I went with the following straps from Strong-Tie:

  • Simpson H1 Hurricane Tie
  • Simpson H2.5A Hurricane Tie

Please be sure to consult your local code for the proper ties.  Additionally, it is important that you uses the right fastener for the job.  Again, consult your local building code to use the right products.

Finally, the framing is complete.  Next comes the roofing.

Enjoying the new view now that the framing is finally complete
Enjoying the new view now that the framing is finally complete

Roofing the shed

I was able to get a steal of a deal on some architectural shingles from a local roofer that had some spare shingles from a job where his customer changed their mind after he had already made his purchase.

The first step is putting down the roofing felt.  Be careful when climbing on your roof after this.  The felt tears easily and could slide off the roof.

Putting down the roofing felt
Putting down the roofing felt

I don’t  have any pictures of the installation of the drip edge, but you would want to install that at this point as well.

I didn’t want the shed to get too hot in the summer, so I decided to install a couple vents.

Installing vents in the top to help keep it cool in the summer
Installing vents in the top to help keep it cool in the summer

I also didn’t want it too dark in there during the daytime so I also installed a skylight. It’s one of those luxuries I am glad I added.

Installing a skylight
Installing a skylight

When installing your skylight be sure to watch all the many YouTube videos on how to properly flash around it.

I remember running out to the shed during every rain storm to see if my first attempts at roofing were a success.  To my delight, it was water tight.

Completed the install of the roofers felt, drip edge, architectural shingles, two vents and a skylight.
Completed the install of the roofers felt, drip edge, architectural shingles, two vents and a skylight.

Installation of the Window, House Wrap, and Door

One of my good friends, Eric Wimmer, is the owner of Squeaky Clean Windows.  As a result of his business relationship with Valley Glass, he was able to call them and negotiate a window from their scratch and dent section.  Since it was a window for a shed, I was happy with the savings and I didn’t mind a minor defect.  Honestly, I could not even locate a defect with the window.  The window was one of the first things I had to buy before framing the structure.  You will want to frame the opening for the window for the right size of window.  Before framing, you will also decide which size of door you go with.  Since I was going to be going in and out with a lawn mower I decided to go with a 42″ wide door.

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My first time installing and flashing around a window

I had followed a technique to install the window from a YouTube video.  In my pursuit to find the link for the video I saw, I think I found an even better one.  Please check out this YouTube video from NovaFlash®.  The method in this link seems to be a bit more intuitive.

After flashing the window, I wrapped the shed with house wrap.  I didn’t know if this was necessary for a shed.  Many folks told me that this is a step I did not need to do.  With the moisture problems I had with my old shed, I decided that I may as well just do it anyway. Besides, I was having a blast learning the process of building a water tight structure.

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Wrapping the house with house wrap

Lesson learned, I have not had any water leaking problems with my shed, but I think the method in the NovaFlash®  link I posted above is better than the approach I used.

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My dad came over to help me install my my first door.

In addition to going with the 42″ door, I also decided to go with fiberglass as opposed to steel.  I thought with wheeling the lawnmower in and out that the steel would dent really easy.  Also with the play area on top and plans for a fireman pole, I could envision a dented up door that would look terrible.  The fiberglass was a little bit more expensive, but I have no regrets going with it.


Installing the Siding

It was a real struggle to decide which type of siding to go with.  There were pros and cons to each.  The three types of siding I was considering were: an engineered wood, cement board, or vinyl. I added an extra long eve on the right side of the shed and a small privacy wall.  The idea was to hang garden tools on the exterior side of the shed.  I could not find any good solutions to mounting stuff to both vinyl and fiber cement, so engineered wood is what I decided to go with.  I went with a brand called LP® Smart Side®.  To give the shed some variety, I went with three different styles.  The paneling, the lap board and the cedar shakes.

Three types of LP Smart Side - Cedar Shakes, Lap Board and Panel
Three types of LP Smart Side – Cedar Shakes, Lap Board and Panel

I used the paneling in areas where I intended to mount stuff.  On the right side of the shed I intend to hang shovels, rakes and other yard tools.  I used paneling on the left side because I knew that it was going to be covered up by a rock climbing wall that I still get to build.

I installed the LP® Smart Trim® over the top of the paneling, but directly to the structure on the sides with the lap board and the cedar shakes.

The LP® SmartSide® side recommended using aluminum drip edge when transitioning from one siding type type to another.  I had a difficult time finding a company that made this type of siding.  I guess most siding companies have a machine where they can make it on site.  I finally found a siding company that would make me a couple pieces.  Home Depot and Lowes did not carry it.

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Installing the cedar shakes above the aluminum drip edge. You can see there is aluminum drip edge above and below the horizontal trim piece.

The paneling wasn’t my favorite look, but it was cheaper than the other two styles and went up much quicker.   I also saw YouTube videos where folks skipped using any plywood or house wrap and simply nailed the paneling to the 2×4 structure.  This method would save a bunch of money and time, but you would have to use the paneling.

Siding and trim complete...wow the yard is a mess.
Siding and trim complete…wow the yard is a mess.

Applying Herculiner® to the Playhouse Floor

I really struggled to select the right material for the floor of the deck play area. I had contemplated using tile, but thought that it could be too slippery when it got wet.  Additionally, I feared the freeze and thaw cycles of the cold Utah winters would compromise the grout lines.  I had used a product called RedGard®, a waterproofing paint-on membrane, when tiling my shower.  The thought occurred to me to apply this concept to the playhouse deck.  I thought about  calling a company that specializes in truck bed linings to come out and coat the area.  After I got a few quotes and saw how expensive it was I  turned to the internet to see if there were affordable DIY truck bed liners. This is when I stumbled across Herculiner.  Here is a video I made demonstrating how well this product worked for me.


Installing the Outlets and Lighting

The previous shed had power run to it so I was able to just use that same cable with the new shed.  I decided to put plenty of lights on it. I went with LED lights from Platt Electric.

Light on the back of the shed
Light on the back of the shed
Lights on the sides in the eaves
Lights on the sides in the eaves
Lights in the play area
Lights in the play area
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The lights underneath the play area inside the shed
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Two lights in the main area. I wanted this to be nice and bright

Painting

A splash of color really helped the shed and play house come to life. Ms. Brimmed Hat helped me pick out all the colors and her mother helped us to paint the cloud mural on the soffit in the play area. We used a color called Lyndhurst Timber by Valspar for the majority of the shed.  We accented that with a rusty reddish color for the door and the cedar shakes.  The red color we used is called La Fonda Deep Clay Red by Valspar. We painted all the trim in a high gloss white.

Make sure to caulk around all the trim before you paint
Make sure to caulk around all the trim before you paint
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Painting the cedar shakes
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I was able to get some help painting the door

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My mother-in-law was nice to come paint a sky and cloud mural in the play area
My mother-in-law was nice to come paint a sky and cloud mural in the play area

Installing the Railing and the Ladder

This is the one task I hired out.  Ms. Brimmed Hat had called around and found a guy that said he was retired.  He was nice enough to come out and do this one job for us.  Some of the elements of this design are that the railing actually provides some structural stability to the widows peak roof.  Additionally, I opted to make sure that the bar extended over the slide area.  I wanted the kids to have to sit down when getting on the slide.  The height of the play area is 7ft off the ground.  The opening on the left side will eventually have a rock climbing wall going up to it.  This is a project I can’t wait to start.  In order to get the railing in, I had to temporarily install the slide. I wanted to make sure the railing would not get in the way of installing the slide.  If my memory serves me correctly, I believe the railing and ladder set me back about $800.00.

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Installing the Slide

We had fun picking out a slide for our kids.  Finding a slide for the deck hight of 7′ limited our choices. We were able to find one from Lifetime products for about $450.00.  I was looking online to find a link and it appears the model we got has been discontinued.

I did find that there are several options on Amazon though.  Here are some quick links to help you out.







After installing the railing, I had to remove the slide again to install a cement pillar under the bottom of the slide. I wanted the slide to be able to sit securely on the ground.  It occurred to me that the slide was like a big lever and if I just let the slide sit on the dirt as it was designed to do, the kids could potentially move it side to side loosening the lag screws or damaging the plastic where it mounts to the shed.  This was a safety concern for me.

I purchased a Quikrete tube from Lowes and dug about a 3′ hole so I could set the slide on a stable surface.

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The kids having fun with the hole. Lowes was kind enough to give me a discount on the tube because it was a bit mangled. I knew I was going to be cutting off that part anyway.

While the cement was still wet, I placed a plastic garbage bag over the cement.  I reinstalled the slide by bolting it to the shed.  The plastic garbage bag prevented any cement from getting on the slide.  I made sure to push the bottom of the slide into the cement so the cement for form around the slide.  This worked out beautifully.  After the cement dried, I removed the plastic garbage bag and the slide fit perfectly into the cement pillar.  This prevents the slide from moving side-to-side.

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Please be sure to watch this tutorial from Quikrete on how to install footings. You will also want to find out the depth you will need based upon where you live.  I used this map from Decks.com and added an additional 6″ for gravel.

Please test out the placement of your pillar.  I first neglected to account for the additional height above the ground level so the slide and the pillar did not match up perfectly.  Luckily I hadn’t put in any cement yet so I was able to dig the hole a little further forward and move the pillar to better align with the slide.  You can see in the image above that there is some space behind the tube.

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The base of the slide sits on top of a cement pillar. I pushed the feet of the slide into the wet cement. This prevents the slide from moving side-to-side.

Kids Going Down Slide for the First Time


Installing the Soffit and Facia

We went with white aluminum vented soffit and facia from Lansing Building Products.

To install the soffit, I first nailed or stapled j-channel on the wall of the shed.  I then cut the pieces of soffit to size and used some white screws I bought from Lansing to secure the soffit in place. The soffit is designed to snap together on the sides. The folks at Lansing told me that I only needed one screw in each soffit at this point.  They suggested that a second screw would hold it in place when I put up the facia and screwed that in as well.

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I am holding up the soffit here so I can mark it where I need to notch it out around the light box.

 

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On this side of the shed, I extended the eve out a bit further so I could store items under the eve and protect them from the weather. I ended up putting two pieces of J-channel back to back where the eve changes angles.

 

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Installing a piece of soffit where there is J-channel on either side of it.

 

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You may have to add some support in the eves so there is something to screw the soffit to.

I am not sure if using foam is how the professionals do this, but I was worried about yellow jackets making nests in my eves.  Installing the soffit using J-channel on both sides made it such that the soffit could not fit snug into both sides of the soffit.  So to solve this issue, I purchased some tubular foam and put it in the j-channel so I could compress it while putting it in.  It would be snug when it was in and prevent insects from getting through.  Here is a little video I took to demonstrate.


Installing the Fireman’s Pole

I did some research and found that most firemen poles at the historic stations were 3″ in diameter and were made from wood.  Little kids have smaller hands, so  2″ to 2.5″ diameter pole should be sufficient. I also went to a few parks and measured the diameter of the park poles and found out that they were usually about 2″.  I decided that a 2″ stainless steel pole would work for what I needed. I purchased the stainless tube from Affiliated Metals at their Salt Lake City location.

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I notched the end of a couple scrap 2x4s to hold the pole level. So the top one had some grab, I used a clamp to hold it in place.

Similarly to the pillar I used for the slide, I dug down about 36″.  I used about 6″ of gravel at the bottom and filled the rest of it up with cement.  I think I used an 8″ diameter tube for this.

I had planned on having about 1′ of the pole extend in the cement, but just before I was to cut the pole a friend stopped by my house.  We talked for a while and then when I resumed my task I remembered the measurement incorrectly. This caused me to only have about 4″ that was to go in the cement.  To give some stability, I stuck some rebar in the bottom of the pole and extended that down further into the cement.  Lesson learned – remeasure after you get distracted.

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Periodically push down the cement to remove any air pockets

 

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Smooth off the top

I placed the fireman’s pole about 16″ from the ladder.   This gives ample room for the kids to climb up. When I first installed the fireman’s pole, my kids didn’t feel comfortable going down from the very top. They would climb up a few rungs on the ladder and then slide on down the pole.  Gradually as they gained more courage and practice they started going down from the very top.


Stay Tuned

I still need to complete the rock climbing wall.  Once I do, I will create another blog post with pictures.  Additionally, I will do another post on some of the ways I organized the shed.

If you have any questions or comments, or would like more information in any specific area, please comment below.  I had a blast creating this shed / playhouse and love talking about it. With that said, I would love to hear from you.

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