Preparations: Sizes and Shapes of Small Buildings (DIY Small Buildings)

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It is obviously important that the building you make will accommodate all you want to put in it. It is many people’s experience that after a period of use, they wish it was bigger. So, if you have sufficient space, it might be worthwhile to plan sizes which suit more than your initial needs. If, for instance, you are planning a building 10 feet long, it costs relatively little more to make it 12 feet long.

Your building might be purely utilitarian and a functional appearance is all you need, but if you want to consider visual appeal, remember that having all three main sizes different has a better look than if they are almost the same. Usually, the length is more than the width and the roof shape breaks up the height.

Plywood and many manufactured building boards come in 4- x -8-feet sheets. If you will be using any of these materials, plan sizes to suit them whole or cut in only one direction, for economy in cost and effort.

The ground plan of most buildings is rectangular, and there is usually no advantage in departing from this shape. The building is simple to make, and there are no problems with fitting any type of roof. Tapering the plan is unwise as you must adapt the roof, either by sloping its ridge or sloping the eaves; neither of which looks right.

figr. 1-7. You can plan buildings in many shapes and with different roofs.

An L shape is possible, maybe to provide a porch for the door, to keep the main floor clear, or reduce draughts (figr. 1-7A). For a pergola or summerhouse, you could have an octagon shape (figr. 1-7B) or a hexagon shape (figr. 1-7C). The former is slightly simpler at roof level, as, in effect, you are working with a square with its corners cut off.

You need at least 75 inches of clearance for comfortable headroom. A storage shed where you do not expect to spend much time inside might be less, or you might provide standing headroom over only part of the area. With a ridge roof you can provide this area by using a central end door (figr. 1-7D), or with a sloping roof, you might have the door at the higher side of the building (figr. 1-7E). If you plan to fill the lower parts with shelves or other storage, their limited height might not matter.

A variety of roofs are possible. The simplest roof is a flat roof (figr. 1-7F). This roof might be adequate for some purposes, but in the long term, it can be more troublesome than any other roof. If made absolutely flat, it might sag at the center. A slight slope from one side to the other or from the center outwards is advisable. Next is the sloping, or lean-to, roof (figr. 1-7G). On a fairly narrow building this roof might be all you need. A moderate slope will shed rainwater, but if you want it to clear heavy snow, the slope must be greater and that might affect accommodation and appearance.

A ridge roof with vertical gables is most popular (figr. 1-7H), and for many structures, this is all you need. To most people, it looks right and it does all a roof should do. Inside there is good headroom and if the walls are over 72 inches high, you might arrange storage capacity in the roof area. A change to a hip roof reduces wind resistance (figr. 1-7J). On a building of moderate size, you can make this change at one or both ends, to improve appearance.

A double-slope roof (figr. 1-7K) has a typical American barn appearance. More work is involved in making it, but the headroom is increased over the central area. If you make a hexagonal building, you must cut some complicated rafter angles. In effect, you are making a hip roof all around (figr. 1-7L).

Curved roofs are possible (figr. 1-7M), but they are generally better for larger buildings. They are considerably more work, unless you use curved, corrugated metal or plastic sheeting, which is almost self-supporting.

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Updated: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 16:03