Workshops (DIY Small Buildings)

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A common small building need is a workshop. A workshop might be for any craftwork, such as woodwork or metalwork, but an enthusiast for macramé, leatherwork, or collecting and repairing all sorts of things might want a shop where he can carry on his hobby. Whatever the craft or activity, the advantage of a separate workshop is that you can equip it as you wish, and then leave it ready for use the next time. You do not have to clear things away, as is necessary in a room you need for other purposes as well.

If yours is a dirty or noisy activity, the separate shop avoids annoying others in the house. If you need to keep bulky stock, as you might for woodworking, storage in the shop is tidy and away from other people. If you use machines, the separate building gives you scope to arrange them permanently so you can use them to their best advantage. The considerable noise you often create will be kept away from those who do not appreciate it, much more so than using a room in the house or basement.

Whether your craftwork is a hobby or a part-time or full-time business, consider the space you need and your probable future needs. Most experienced craftwork enthusiasts soon reach a stage where they wish they had more space. If it's a woodworking shop, consider any machines you have now and what you might get. A guiding size is a 48-inch - x - 96-inch sheet of plywood or manufactured board. Ideally, you should be able to move it in any direction around a table saw. Practical considerations might dictate a building too small to permit this turning, but you should think about how you will deal with large and long pieces of wood. Allow for assembly space. Do not fill the shop with equipment so that you can't put together a table or cabinet, if the weather is reasonable, you might have to manipulate large things through doors or windows.

Obviously, a shop should be strong and weatherproof, but besides standing up to anything that might happen outside, some activities might require strength inside. Scrap wood or metal accidentally flying off a machine might hit a wall or roof with considerable force. Hardboard is unlikely to make a strong enough lining for your workshop. Strength in the building also is valuable when you want to brace something to it. If you lever against a wall, you do not want the wall to distort.

There should be plenty of light, both natural and artificial. Windows normally should be above bench and working level, to reduce the risk of them becoming broken too often. You do not want the shop to be a greenhouse, but make sure enough light gets in. It could be dangerous working in shadows. Windows in the roof can provide plenty of light, with a good spread, but they are not so easy to make watertight. In most shops, have some opening windows. Besides ventilation, you might need them to get long materials in and out of the shop.

If you live where there is a mild climate, a building with little or no insulation might be all you need, providing it's waterproof. Elsewhere, you should consider insulation, particularly if you suffer from extremes of climate and you want to be able to use the shop all year round. Windows are a source of heat loss, so do not make them any bigger than necessary. Double-glazing is possible, but unusual in this type of building. Curtains or sheets of hardboard over the glass will have a similar insulating effect when you are working by artificial light. Remember roof and floor insulation.

Although a concrete base is desirable as a firm foundation for a shop, its unprotected surface inside the building is undesirable. If you drop tools and other items on it, you might damage them. The surface is cold and uncomfortable to your feet. It might produce dust that you do not want in some activities. It would be better to have a wooden floor, preferably with an air gap over the concrete. If you can't arrange that, provide some protection with boards or plywood directly on the concrete. Rubber mats will prevent much damage to dropped chisels or other edge tools.

You will need electricity in the building. Make sure you install this properly and adequately for your needs. A temporary cable from the house supply could be dangerous and almost certainly would not cope with all your needs. Have plenty of lamps. Individual lamps on adjustable arms are better than a few fixed, general lights. Do not rely too much on fluorescent lighting, particularly if it's close to machines because of the risk of the stroboscopic effect. You could meet a situation where light and machine frequency agree and you assume a part is not moving, when it's . Individual filament lamps might be better. Install the necessary main switches, trip switches, fuses, etc. for more than your initial needs, so there will be no problem when you add more load, as you certainly will.

It is easy to be so occupied with all the practical needs in your new workshop, that its effect and appearance on others not so enthusiastic on functional aspects might be lost. Locate the building and arrange its external appearance so ‘it is as attractive as possible.


The size and arrangement of a building you make for use as a hobby shop will depend on many factors, including the available space and the situation. You will have to consider the actual craft or occupation and its needs. However, a building with about an 8-feet x 12-feet floor area with working headroom and several windows, will suit woodworking and metalworking as well as many other crafts. The building shown in Ill. 5-1 is of basic, partly prefabricated construction. It has a door wide enough to pass most pieces of furniture or light machinery and the suggested windows should give enough light if most activities are on a bench which you arrange at one long side.

At the entrance end, a window is shown in the door. The wail alongside it then would be available for shelves and racks. Two windows which open are shown over the long bench (Ill. 5-2A) and you might put another window which opens at the back (Ill. 5-2B). Besides providing ventilation, these windows allow long or awkward work to be extended outside, if that's the only way to handle it. You might leave the other long side without windows, but that will depend on your needs. If you want to have a lathe or table saw near that wall, arrange more windows there, not necessarily ones which open.

Ill. 5-1. A basic workshop with boarded walls and ample windows.

Ill. 5-2. Suggested sizes for the basic workshop.

This structure is not intended to be a portable building. It is not intended to be moved once you have assembled it fully. However, you can prefabricate much of it. You can make the four walls elsewhere, then assemble them to each other on-site and add the roof. Nearly all the framing is made from 2-inch x 3-inch-section wood. The covering is shiplap boards about 6 inches wide, but you could use exterior plywood or other covering. As described, the building is not intended to be lined, but it would not be difficult to line and insulate the finished building. If you build in a full-length bench, it will give rigidity to the structure as well as help to brace the building. Fix shelves, racks, and other storage arrangements directly to the walls.

Start by making one end (Ill. 5-3A). Halve or tenon external-frame joints. Halve or notch internal-meeting joints. Halve crossing parts. At the top, bevel the rafters to rest on the other parts and nail through. Check squareness by comparing diagonals—a door or window out of true will be very obvious.

Cover the end with shiplap boarding, or other covering, starting at the bottom edge. Cut board ends level with the uprights. At the top, fit the covering under the roof (F 5-3B). Leave some excess here for trimming to fit later. At the apex, leave space for the 2-inch x 6-inch ridge piece, with a supporting member under it.

Make the opposite end (Ill. 5-2C) to match the overall size. Arrange uprights at about 24-inch intervals. Put pieces across at window height, which might match the windows in the side (Ill. 5-2D). Cover this end in the same way, leaving a ridge notch and allowing for trimming of board ends later under the roof.

Make the side heights to match the ends, and bevel top edges to match the roof slope. Like the ends, all the side framing has the 2-inch width towards the outside, except for the top piece, which you arranged vertically (Ill. 5-2E). If the overall length is to be 12 feet, the constructed side length will be about 8 inches less (Ill. 5-2F) over uprights. Make a side frame with rails for the windows. If one side is without windows, arrange two intermediate rails equally spaced. Uprights are shown about 32 inches apart, but you might alter uprights and rails to suit benches and shelves you might wish to build in. Do not have fewer framing parts than suggested. Use joints similar to those in the ends for the side frame parts.

Check squareness, then cover the framework. Where the sides meet the ends, carry the boarding over, so it will go far enough on the end uprights to allow you to put a filler piece in to cover the board ends (Ill. 5-3C).

Line the doorway sides and top with strips level with the inside and outside (Ill. 5-3D). Do the same at the sides and tops of the window openings, but let the outside edges project up to ‘/z inch (Ill. 5-4A). You can treat the bottom in the same way, but it will be better to make it thicker and extend it further to make a sill (Ill. 5-4B).

Make a door to fit the opening, with its boards overlapping the bottom frame member, with ½-inch ground clearance. Three ledges and one diagonal brace are shown in Ill. 5-5A. If there is to be a window, arrange it between the upper ledges and frame the sides with strips (Ill. 5-5B). After covering with vertical boards, preferably tongue-and-groove boards, line the opening with pieces which overhang a little (Ill. 5-3E and 5-5C). You can make the window in the door by simply holding glass between strips (Ill. 5-3F). Cut the glass a little undersize, to reduce any risk of cracking. Waterproof the window by embedding the edges in putty or a jointing compound.

Ill. 5-3.

Ill. 5-4. Window details for the workshop.

Put strips around the doorway sides and top to act as stops and draft-proofing. Keep the ledges on the door short enough to clear them. You can put hinges in the edge of the door, or you might fit I hinges across the surface. Fit an ordinary door lock with bolt and key, if you wish to secure the shop, otherwise a simple latch might be adequate.

You can make the windows with standard molding, but these windows might be a much lighter section than the usual house windows. It would be better to prepare simple, rabbeted strips (Ill. 5-4C). If you use a standard window molding, you probably will have to increase the width of the pieces around the window openings.

Make up the windows with mortise-and-tenon joints (Ill. 5-4D). Leave the sides too long until after assembly, to reduce the risk of end grain breaking out. Make the windows so they fit easily in their openings. Put stop strips around the inner edges of the framing (Ill. 5-4E). Hinge the windows at the top and arrange fasteners and struts inside at the bottom. You might want to lift the windows horizontal occasionally, but you can do that with a temporary strut or a cord from higher on the wall. When you are satisfied with the fit and action of a window, you can putty in the glass, although it might be better to putty after you have painted the wood. The building will look attractive if you paint the window frames and bargeboards a different color than the main parts, so you could paint the window frames and glaze them in advance of final assembly.

The roof is supported by the 2-inch x 6-inch ridge, 2-inch x 4-inch eaves laid flat, and 2-inch-square purlins halfway down each side of the roof. Nail the eaves strips and purlins to the sloping top frames of the ends and bevel the ridge to match (Ill. 5-6A). Let the ends project about 3 inches at each end of the building. Cut the shiplap-covering boards around them and trim their top edges to match the roof (Ill. 5-6B).

On a 12 foot length, it should be sufficient to prevent sagging of the roof by having rafters only at the center. If you make the building longer or have doubts about the stiffness of the assembly, use two sets of rafters, spacing them equally. Cut a pair of rafters to fit between the top pieces of the side frames and the ridge (Ill.’ 5-6C). Check straightness of the sides while cutting. If you get the length of a rafter wrong, it could make the side bulge or bend in slightly. You can have a nailing block at one or both ends of each rafter. A block below the purlin will locate and support it (Ill. 5-6D). Put a strip across the rafters below the ridge (Ill. 5-6E). No other lower tie-down is needed.

Ill. 5-5. The workshop door with a cutout for a window.

Ill. 5-8. Roof details for the workshop.

Materials List for Basic Workshop

You can cover the roof with exterior-grade plywood, but Ill. 5-6F shows it boarded. Finish level at the eaves. Put covering material over the structure in single lengths from one eaves to the other, if possible, turning the ends under and nailing them. Any overlaps should be wide and you should arrange them so water can't run under. Nail on battens (Ill. 5-6G) at about 18-inch intervals to prevent the covering material from lifting.

Simple, narrow bargeboards are suggested in Ill. 5-6H, nailed to the roof ends after covering. You could make more elaborate ones, as shown on some earlier projects to use your own ideas. Make sure there is clearance for the door to swing open, at least to 90-degrees.


Some activities involve the movement of large items in and out of the shop. You might wish to work on a large piece of machinery or a car conversion. You might want to build a boat. Even on something like a luggage trailer, prefabricated parts of another building, or parts of a deck, you need access doors larger than the ones you would use for more modestly-sized projects.

The shop needs large doors, but if the project will be inside for a long period, you might not want to use the large doors for normal access, so you need a smaller door elsewhere. if the project and all that goes with it will occupy a lot of space, you will find it advantageous to have your bench and most machines at the back of the shop. The second door allows you to get in and out away from the clutter in the main area of the building.

It is possible to arrange the layout of a ridged or lean-to building to suit this sort of work, but the design shown in Ill. 5-7 has a flat, moderately-sloped roof and a porch. This design allows the double doors to be big enough, yet you can keep them shut to protect you against bad weather. The porch lets you get in and out away from the bench and machines. It might shelter you from rain and wind, and you could hang clothes on it.

Size will depend on your needs and the available space, but those shown in Ill. 5-8A are suggestions which you can modify considerably. The high end will have to be big enough to allow the doors to admit whatever you are making or working on. At the other end, you must have adequate headroom. Couple these requirements with the slope of the roof. You need a moderate slope, even if your rainfall is slight and infrequent. Steeper slopes are advisable for heavy rain areas. Snow will not slide off this type of roof; you must make it strong enough to take the weight. Whatever your climatic situation, it's unwise to have a horizontal roof.

Ill. 5-7. This workshop has large doors, a sloping roof, and a porch entrance at the back.

The design shows a shop area about 7 feet x 10 feet, with a porch 3-feet square (Ill. 5-8A). It is assumed that the building will be clad with ¾-inch- exterior plywood, although you could use shiplap boarding or other covering. The framing is mostly 2 inches x 3 inches, arranged with the 3-inch side in the front to back direction of the building. The sides have the 3-inch side to wards the skin, and the front and back assemblies have the 2-inch side towards the skin. The bottom rails of all parts, however, have the 3-inch side towards the foundation. The main doors are about 66 inches wide and 7 feet high. The door under the porch 1827 inches wide. Two windows are at each side and two or three are at the back. You can arrange windows to suit your needs by adjusting framing when making the walls.

You might prefabricate the sides and back and front, then assemble them on-site and add the porch and roof. The pair of sides are the key assemblies which govern the shapes of other parts, and you should make them first.

Make the side that will have the door under the porch (Ill. 5-9). Use any of the usual joints between the frame parts. Cut the sloping top to fit against the horizontal rail at the low end and nail it in place. Cover with plywood to the edges on the uprights, but at the top, the plywood should reach as high as the 3-inch rafters which you will lay on. Allow extra plywood for this area, so you can trim the edge level during assembly.

Make the opposite side to match as a pair, except you do not need the doorway. Carry the lower window rail across what was the door opening, to provide support for the plywood covering. You can move the upright to take the place of the window upright, or you could increase the widths of the windows on that side. At the rear edge, take the covering plywood over the frame 2 inches to allow an overlap on the back.

Place the back over the two sides and extend it to form the rear of the porch (Ill. 5-8A). Arrange one upright between two windows or you could have two uprights equally-spaced between three windows (Ill. 5-8B).

Ill. 5-8. Suggested sizes for the large-door workshop.

Make the height of the back to match the adjoining parts of the sides and bevel the top edge to match the slope of the roof (Ill. 5-10B). When you nail on plywood, cut it level with the sides. At the top, leave enough plywood to trim later, since it must reach the roof and since you must notch it around rafters (Ill. 5-1OG). When you assemble the building, cover the plywood corners with strips (Ill. 5-10D).

Although the back will fit over the sides, the front is made to fit between them. With the large area cut out for the doors, it needs all the support it can get. Overlapping the sides gives some stiffening. Diagonal bracing above the doorway provides additional stiffening.

Ill. 5-9. The side of the large-door workshop.

Make the front as shown in Ill. 5-11A. Although it's shown 78 inches across the frame, check this measurement with the back as a guide, allowing for the actual thicknesses of side framing and plywood. The overall width at the front will be the same as that over the sides where they meet the back. Similarly, check the height against the sides, allowing for the beveled top to match the slope of the roof (Ill. 5-11B). Make sure the frame parts are straight, particularly those which come around the doorway. Arrange strong joints and have the assembly square when you fit the diagonal struts in the top space (FIG-11C).

Cover the framework with plywood. If necessary, pull the side framing of the doorway straight as you fit the plywood. At the sides, let the plywood extend 1 inch to overlap the building side, and allow a filler strip to go in during assembly (Ill. 5-11D). At the top, the plywood will have to reach the roof and you will have to notch it around roof rafters (Ill. 5-11E) as you did on the back.

Make the side of the porch the same size as the main side which includes the door, so it has the same height and top slope. Extend it so it gives good protection to the door. Frame it the same way as you framed a side, with enough plywood left at the top for trimming after you add the rafters (Ill. 5-12A). It will fit against the back in the same way as the main sides.

Make a front to the porch, framed and covered with plywood, to go across above the door level (Ill. 5-12B). You could put a bar across at ground level, but if you bolt the porch side down, that should be unnecessary. Cover the front edge of the porch side with a strip (Ill. 5-12C). Round its outer edges.

Make the porch door with two pieces of plywood with framing between them (Ill. 5-12D) and thin strips covering the edges (Ill. 5-12E). Fit the framing to one piece of plywood with waterproof glue and fine nails, then add the other plywood. Widen the internal framing, if necessary, where hinges and a lock or latch will come. Put strips around the doorway edges and stop strips on them (Ill. 5-12F).

Ill. 5-10. Back of the large-door workshop.

Ill. 5-11. Front details of the large-door workshop.

Ill. 5-12. Details of the porch and its door for the large-door workshop.

Make and fit the pair of front doors in a very similar way as the other doors. Allow for stouter hinges. One door should have bolts up and down and the other door should lock to it. If draft-proofing is important, put an overlapping strip on the inside of the door which shuts first.

The roof should overhang about 6 inches all around, including the porch. Support it with rafters laid from front to back. Put one rafter directly above each side and space three others evenly across the roof (Ill. 5-13A). Put matching short rafters over the porch, with a board across its front (Ill. 5-13B). Notch the plywood walls around the rafters where necessary and level the top edges.

Lay plywood or boards across the rafters (Ill. 5-13C). Thicken all around the edges with strips underneath. Put roofing material over the boards, turn it under and nail it securely underneath. Lay battens from front to back at about the same spacing as the rafters to prevent the covering from lifting.

At the front, make a fascia board to cover the roof and rafter ends (Ill. 5-13D). You should not need one at the back, but if you do, put one there, for the sake of appearance. Keep it low, so it will not interfere with the run-off of water.
Materials List for Large-door Shop

Ill. 5-13. The roof of the 1w workshop.

You can use windows which are fixed or which open. Make them similar to the ones made in the last project. Start by lining the window openings with strips at the sides and top (Ill. 5-4A) and use wider sills at the bottom (Ill. 5-4B). For windows which open, arrange stops and make the window frames as described for that project (Ill. 5-4C,D,E). You can make fixed windows in the same way, attaching the windows to the stops. An alternative would be to putty the glass directly against the stop strips. It would look better if you would use rabbeted strips instead of the stop strips.


Anyone practicing an art form needs good, all-around light which doesn’t glare. This fact applies to three-dimensional carving and sculpture as well as to painting. There should be plenty of windows that let in light where needed, as broadly as possible, so there is no glare and harsh shadows are not cast.

Sloping windows will pass light without glare better than upright windows and they will spread the natural illumination. An artist usually wants one wall without windows. The size of a studio will depend on the work to be done and how many people are to be accommodated. The studio in Ill. 5-14 is designed for a single worker on projects of only moderate size. You can use the same construction for a studio of a different size. The suggested sizes are for an 8 foot square floor space and the same size maximum height (Ill. 5-15). Lined walls and roof are advisable. The smooth interior, painted a light color, will help to disperse lighting evenly. Although you might use a concrete base, a wooden floor over it would be comfortable and kinder to dropped tools. Cladding is assumed to be shiplap boarding, but you could use plywood. The 8-foot-square size makes for economical use of standard plywood sheets.

Start with one side which has a door (F 5-16A). You can use any of the usual framing joints at most places. Where the sloping and vertical fronts join, use a halving joint, with screws both ways (Ill. 5-16B). Cover with boards, cut level at the back and front edges, but with enough left at the top to trim to the same height as the rafters (Ill. 5-16C).

Make the opposite side identical, but instead of a doorway, you might allow space for an opening window, the same width as the door (Ill. 5-16D). Cover with boards in the same way as the first side.

The back is a simple, rectangular frame (Ill. 5-17A). Divide the width into four and put a central rail across. Check the height against the matching parts of the sides, and bevel the top frame member to match the slope of the roof. At the top, let the covering boards project about 3 inches. When you assemble the studio on-site, notch the covering boards for the rafters and trim level with their top surfaces. At the sides, allow the covering to extend by the width of the end uprights, then when you assemble, the board ends will overlap and you can put a square strip in the corner (Ill. 5-16E).

Make the lower front (Ill. 5-17B) to match the back width. The covering boards are level at top and bottom edges, but they extend at the sides in the same way as on the back.

Fully glaze the upper front. Divide it into five glass panels (Ill. 5-18A). The overall length should be the same as the lower front, and the height must match the sloping parts of the sides. All of the parts are rabbeted—¼ inch deep and /8 inch wide should be enough. The outside parts have rabbets on one edge (Ill. 5-18B). The intermediate pieces have rabbets on two edges (Ill. 5-18C).

Ill. 5-14. This studio gets good light from sloping windows.

Ill. 5-15. Suggested sizes for the studio.

It is possible to dowel parts together, but the best joints are mortises and tenons (Ill. 5-18D). Treat the corners similar to the intermediate joint shown, but re duce the width of the tenon at the outside. Do not fit the glass until after you have erected the building.

Arrange a sill on the lower front for the upper front to fit over (Ill. 5-18E). You can extend the sill inwards to make a shelf (Ill. 5-18F). It would be difficult to waterproof the joint between the upper frame and the sill with glue. It is better to embed it in jointing compound. Cover the ends of the upper front with strips over the edges of the studio ends, when you assemble it.

Make the opening window in the end the same way as described earlier (Ill. 5-4). Make the door with vertical boards and ledges and braces, as de scribed (Ill. 5-5). If you do not include a window, put a second brace across. Braces should slope up from the hinged side. Line the doorway and arrange stop strips in the way described earlier for the door you are using.

Ill. 5-16.

Ill. 5-17. Back and front of the studio.

Ill. 5-18. Glazing arrangements for the studio.

Materials List for Studio

Ill. 5-19. Roof details for the studio.

Make the roof with rafters laid from back to front (Ill. 5-19A). Let the rafters project about 6 inches at back and 12 inches at front. Notch the plywood at the back. At the front, fill the gaps between the rafters with 2-inch x 3-inch pieces, level with the front of the glazed part (Ill. 5-19B).

Cover the rafters with boards across (Ill. 5-19C) to give a 6-inch overhang at the sides. Thicken all edges with strips underneath. Bevel the front so it's vertical (Ill. 5-19D). Turn the covering material under and nail underneath to the strips. Put battens on top from front to back.

At the front, put a fascia board across (Ill. 5-19E). Do not make it too deep or it will restrict light in the windows. You could give it a decorative shape if you wish.

When you have completed assembly, you can line the walls and under the rafters with plywood or particleboard. If you mounted the building on a concrete base, there could be a wooden floor. Place the boards over the bottom framing parts and lay stiffeners across underneath at about 18 inch intervals. Fit the floor before lining the walls.


If you need a small building to use as a shop for year-round work, or you want to install several machines or other heavy equipment, the construction ought to be more substantial than many shops which have sectional construction. The sectional-construction building are satisfactory for lighter or occasional use. If climatic extremes affect the contents, insulate the building adequately. This insulation also will improve your personal comfort. It is probable that you will need to use plenty of electricity, which would include the accompanying switch- gear and fuses or cutouts. Electricity is installed more safely in a building such as a house rather than a temporary shed.

Such a substantial shop obviously will be more costly than one of lighter construction. Building it will involve more work, mostly on-site, but if you want a long-lasting shop of the best construction, this shop is it. Line and insulate the walls. You also might line the roof. A wooden floor covers a concrete base. You can place a simple, single door in one end or you can enlarge it to double doors or you might fit double doors at the other end. Even if your normal activities do not need wide doors, make sure your door is wide enough for you to pass the largest machine you wish through it. You can place windows in one side only, with more natural light coming from the opposite roof, or you can arrange windows to suit your needs, during the initial planning stage. You probably will have a bench at the window side, for hand work, assembly, and the use of portable machines. Check the sizes of fixed machines. Locate them so you can move around them safely and there is clearance to work with sheet and long material. Think of storage. You might arrange racks inside, although a lower lean-to shelter could cover racks along one side. This design might be valuable for natural seasoning of wood.

Ill. 5-20. This workshop has an extra-strong construction to withstand the activities of many occupations and crafts.

Available space and access to it might control sizes. For example, it's assumed that the building is 10 feet wide, 14 feet long, and that there is a lean-to store 4 feet wide (Ill. 5-20). The height is 8 feet to the eaves. One wall and one end are solid. The solid wall gives firm and adequate attachments for machines which you need to mount on the wall, and plenty of space for shelves and cabinets. Windows and doors take away a surprising amount of wall space, and you will have to weigh the value of cutting through these walls against their use when left solid.

The building will be fairly heavy. The equipment and stock you add will represent more weight. If you add machines with plenty of cast iron in them, the total weight on the base might be more than you first visualized. If an inadequate base allows part of the building to sag, rectification at a later date will be difficult, if not impossible. Fortunately, you can prepare a concrete base of sufficient strength almost as easily as a thinner, poorly-supported base. Dig deep enough to fill under the base with compacted stone, then lay more than 4 inches of concrete on top of it, taking it about 6 inches outside the building area and keeping the top surface above the surrounding ground.

Although it's possible to put the wooden floor directly on the concrete base, it's better to raise it. Several ways are possible. You could cement bricks or concrete blocks in place. You might use railroad ties. If you use new wood, it should be pressure-impregnated with preservative. This type wood would be advisable for the floor framing as well. Use 2-inch x 4-inch wood, or larger. You can arrange the supports all around, but it would be better to have them only under the floor joists, so there is ventilation (Ill. 5-21A). Spike or bolt the wood to the concrete. Alternate bearers might be full-length. You could place short pieces intermediately, depending on the stiffness of the floor. Put poly ethylene, or other plastic sheeting, between the wood and concrete to reduce the amount of moisture meeting the wood.

You could put the floor joists in position and nail full-length floor boards to them, but if you prefer to put the floor together away from its final position, it could be in two parts which you would bolt together (Ill. 5-21B). Boards might be plain, but tongue-and-groove boards will prevent gaps, if there is shrinkage. Alternatively, use particleboard or thick plywood. Polyethylene sheeting between the floor boards and the joists (F 5-2 IC) will act as a vapor barrier. For maximum floor insulation, sandwich insulating foam between the floor boards and plywood from below (Ill. 5-21D).

The floor settles the shape of the building, so take care to get it and its supports square. Compare diagonal measurements. Before proceeding with the walls, it's advisable to fix fine, metal mesh at open ends (Ill. 5-21E) to keep out leaves and vermin, without restricting ventilation.

Ill. 5-21

You can do much of the assembly of sides and ends flat on the floor. The square corners of the base will serve as guides in squaring wall assemblies. Make the walls so the outside of a frame comes level with the outside of the floor and take the siding a little way below the floor level (Ill. 5-21F). As you mark out the frames, allow for the corner joints. Bolt the 2-inch x 3-inch uprights together and cover the siding with an upright corner strip (Ill. 5-21G). Include a fillet (Ill. 5-21H) to support the lining. Joints between frame parts might be the same as in earlier buildings, preferably with open mortise-and-tenon joints at the corners. Shallow notches or halving joints are suitable elsewhere. Diagonal- strut-sway bracing is advisable in a building of this size, particularly if it will be exposed. This bracing resists wind loads and relieves the skin material of racking loads under strain that it might otherwise get. Covering with plywood sheets might provide stiffness without the need for diagonal struts, but with shiplap siding, they are advisable.

The two sides are rectangular frames the same length as the floor. They are shown 8 feet high, but if you will be covering with standard plywood sheets, you might reduce the height a little to allow for the sheets to project over the edges of the floor. For shiplap-board covering, you might keep the height to 8 feet, which will then suit the standard sheets you use for lining.

The closed side (Ill. 5-22A) has uprights at 24-inch intervals, and two equally-spaced rails are halved to them. At the end, fit the cleats (F 5-21H and 5-22C), if you are going to line the walls after assembly. The four sway- bracing diagonals should fit closely and you should securely nail them to the framing. You can arrange this bracing easily by puffing blocks in the corners and cuffing the diagonal ends to fit against them (Ill. 5-22D).

Cut the cladding boards level at the ends. Along the bottom edge, allow a projection to overhang the floor (Ill. 5-21F). You can finish the top board level with the top of the frame, or you might prefer to fit it after you have assembled the building as you will have a gap to fill after you have boarded the roof, and you might continue upwards with a wide board. If you cut the boards flush with the frame, you can put filler pieces on top later.

The side with the windows has the same overall size (Ill. 5-22B). You can arrange the window opening to suit your needs, but the arrangement shown has three windows about 36 inches square, 48 inches above the floor. If you plan a different window layout, have sufficient uprights not more than 36 inches apart to support the cladding. Fit cleats and arrange sway bracing in the same way as on the other side. Put the cladding boards on in the same way. At the window openings, cut the boards level. You can cover their edges when you frame the windows.

The two end frames are almost the same (Ill. 5-23A). Make the closed end like the door end, but take the central rail right across (Ill. 5-23B). Although an overall width is given, it's important that the ends fit between the sides (Ill. 5-21G,H). Check on the floor that the ends will hold the sides the correct distance apart for you to take the cladding down outside the floor. Also check that the eave’s height matches the sides.

Assemble the frames squarely. Halve the sloping tops to each other and to the uprights. The doorway is 42 inches wide and the top is 84 inches above the floor. You could modify these sizes at this stage, if you wish. Include sway bracing similar to that on the sides.

Three 2-inch x 3-inch purlins are on the edge at each side. In this building, there is no separate ridge. Instead, the top purlins are fairly close to the apex, to support the roof boards there. Arrange lower purlins close to the eaves and the others midway. Put supporting cleats on the frame (Ill. 5-23C).

Ill. 5-22. Walls of the substantial workshop.

Ill. 5-23. End and roof truss of the substantial workshop.

Cladding has to overhang on all edges. At the bottom, allow the same amount to go over the floor as at the building sides. At the vertical edges, let the cladding project 1 inch, so it will overlap the side uprights, and leave a space for a filler (Ill. 5-21G). At the top, the cladding has to fit around the purlins and extend high enough to be level with their top edges under the roof boards (Ill. 5-23D). You might trim these boards to shape at this stage, or leave fitting those above eaves level until after you have erected the building. Cut the board edges level with the framing around the door opening.

You need two roof trusses, spaced at about 56-inch centers to support the purlins and prevent distortion of the roof or development of a sag. Make the trusses (Ill. 5-23E) with their 3-inch size vertical. Check that they match the ends and have matching cleats for the purlins.

Bolt or nail the ties to the surfaces of the truss rafters. During assembly of the building, check that the rafters are vertical and in line with the ends. Nail the rafter ends between supporting blocks on the tops of the side frames (Ill. 5-23F).

Nail the purlins to the end frames and trusses via the cleats. Let them extend about 6 inches at each end. Cover the roof with boards about 6 inches wide, preferably with tongue-and-groove edges. Cut the boards to fit closely at the ridge (Ill. 5-24A) and let them overhang about 5 inches at the eaves. Cover completely and tightly, except if you want to fit a roof light (directions to follow). Use roofing felt or other covering material (Ill. 5-24B) preferably taken from one eaves over the ridge to the other eaves in one piece. If you must make a joint in the felt or covering material, allow a good overlap arranged in the direction that will allow water to flow away from the joint. Turn under and nail at the eaves. If there is any tendency for the board ends to warp or go out of line, nail strips underneath before turning the covering material under.

You can nail another wide strip of the same material along the ridge (Ill. 5-24C) and put wooden capping strips over them (Ill. 5-24D). Nail battens down the slope of the roof (Ill. 5-24E) at about 18 inch intervals.

If you want to make one or more roof lights, arrange them most conveniently between the upper two purlins (Ill. 5-24F). Cut the opening in the boards. A width of 24 inches is the maximum advisable. Line the opening with strips which stand 1 inch above the roof level. It is important that the joints around the opening are waterproof. Use waterproof glue in the wooden joints, then cover the roof with felt. Turn the felt up the projecting frame, and embed it in jointing compound and nail it closely.

Make a frame into which you can putty glass. Allow ample depth for the glass, which might be a reinforced type about ¼ inch thick. The inside edges of the frame might come level with, or inside, the lining of the opening. Make the top and both sides of the frame with rabbets to take the glass and putty (Ill. 5-24G). So you will not trap rainwater, let the lower part of the frame only come under the glass, which might project there slightly (Ill. 5-24H).

Ill. 5-24. Roof, bargeboard, and roof light details for the substantial workshop.

Mount the frame in position by gluing and screwing it to the lining pieces. Complete painting this woodwork before embedding the glass in putty. If you have doubts about the putty being able to prevent the glass from slipping, nail two sheet-metal pieces to the lower part of the frame and bend their ends around the glass (Ill. 5-24J). Fit bargeboards to both ends of the roof. They could be straight or you can decorate them in the ways described for some earlier buildings. A different decorated pattern is suggested in Ill. 5-24K. With this pattern goes a turned final on a square part notched over the apex of the meeting bargeboards.

Line the door opening (Ill. 5-25A) with strips at sides and top. Round the projecting edges, and at the floor continue the lining pieces over the floor boards.

Ledge and brace the door in the usual way, except there is a covering piece at the top, with the brace immediately below it. At the bottom, the door overlaps the floor, as weatherproofing. Put stop strips in the sides of the doorway (Ill. 5-25B), but leave space at the top to clear the covering piece.

Ill. 5-25. Door and sections of the window parts of the substantial workshop.

Material List for Substantial Workshop

Use tongue-and-groove boards for the door. At the top, glue and screw the covering piece on (Ill. 5-25C). Make the ledges short enough to clear the stop strips. Fit the braces sloping up from the hinge side. Arrange hinges and fasteners over the ledges.

If you are going to line the building, you might do it before you fit the windows, so their framing can cover the lining boards, which might be plywood or particleboard. Include polyethylene sheet as a vapor barrier, if you wish. You can include insulating material in the space.

At the roof, close any spaces around the edges with cladding carried up to the roof boards or with pieces on top of the side frames. Nail lining material to the undersides of the purlins.

At the sides of the window openings, fit lining similar to that at the sides of the doorway. You can line the top in a similar way, but it would be more weatherproof if a piece extends and there is another strip below it for the window hinges (if you wish to make them open) (Ill. 5-25D). At the bottom, make a wider sill to shed water (Ill. 5-25E).

Make the windows with rabbeted strips, with mortise-and-tenon joints at the corners (Ill. 5-25F). Fit hinges at the top and a stay and fastener at the bottom, if the window is to open. Screw other windows into their openings, preferably embedding them in jointing compound.

As the shop floor is above the surrounding concrete base, you might make a wooden or concrete step at the doorway. If there is to be a storage lean-to along one side, you can make it with a roof similar in construction to the main roof, with open-frame supports and racks underneath.


A greenhouse is a gardener’s workshop. Besides growing some things completely and starting others before puffing them in the ground, it's a shelter to work in when conditions outside are uncomfortable and it's a place to plan new horticultural projects. It extends the gardener’s season for his occupation or hobby. For an enthusiastic gardener, a greenhouse is almost essential. A second stage in preparing plants to be put outside is to place them in a cold frame to harden them off. Quite often, that structure is a crude improvisation. In this building, a cold frame is included as part of the same unit, so you can efficiently tackle that stage of gardening (Ill. 5-26).

Construction of a greenhouse can be very similar to that of any other building of the same shape, except you cover large areas of the walls and roof with glass instead of wood. You can prefabricate this building to a large extent, with ends and walls ready to bolt together. You make the roof on-site and glaze after erection, although a careful worker might prefer to fit some glass while the walls are flat on the floor. One problem is flexing, which could loosen putty or even break glass. In most cases, it's better to leave glass until you are satisfied that you have finally, and rigidly, assembled the greenhouse.

The sizes suggested are for a building of modest size (Ill. 5-27A,B), but you can use the same method for other sizes. Most of the structure is made from 2-inch-square wood, with some wider pieces where you need extra strength. Use shiplap boarding outside to near bench level. Above that, use glass. The door is at one end. A shuttered hole provides control of ventilation. Locate this hole low in the door and another one high in the opposite end. Make the cold frame by extending the sides, so you can finish it with access via a lifting top. It does not have any connection through to the inside of the greenhouse. As a result, it's not affected by any heating in the greenhouse and if you put soil into it, it's kept away from the floor of the main building.

Ill. 5-26. You board this greenhouse to bench height and then build a cold frame onto the end.

The greenhouse could have a wooden floor, but because of water often running about, it would be better to lay a concrete base. The concrete base could go under the cold frame or that might be preferable with a soil base. You can cut drainage channels in the concrete and lead them under the greenhouse walls to take away surplus water.

The two ends fit between the sides. For an overall width of about 96 inches, you can arrange the uprights to be 30 inches between centers. This spacing gives a suitable width for the door and you simplify glass cutting by making all panes the same width (Ill. 5-28A). Joints in the upper parts of the frames will be without the additional strength of boarding. It is advisable to use open mortise-and-tenon (or bridle) joints, with waterproof glue and drive either nails or dowels across each. The lower joints can be the same or the simpler, halving joints.

Start with the door end (Ill. 5-28B). The bottom rail goes right across. Other short rails mark the height of the doorway and the cladding. At the apex, leave a gap to take the 2-inch x 6-inch ridge standing 2 inches above the framing (Ill. 5-28C), and put a short rail below the opening to brace the rafters and support the ridge (Ill. 5-28D).

Let the cladding project on each side to go halfway over the side posts (Ill. 5-28E). You will fill the space with a strip when you assemble the building. There will be a sill above the cladding (Ill. 5-28F). Since the sill looks best if you miter it around the corner, you might want to install it after you have assembled the walls.

Ill. 5-27. Four views of the greenhouse, showing sizes and proportion.

Ill. 5-28. The door end of the greenhouse and sections through windows and corners.

Ill. 5-29. A greenhouse side (A,B), rafter details (C,D) and the end of the cold frame (E).

The opposite end has a matching outline, but the rail at the top of the cladding should be taken right across and another short rail put 12 inches below the one in the door top position. The space between the railings is the ventilation opening (Ill. 5-28G). Clad that end across, up to the same level as the opposite end. Let the board ends extend to fully cover the side uprights. Make rabbets in all the openings for the glass with strips nailed in. Use ¾-inch x 1-inch pieces making them level with the inside edges of the framing (Ill. 5-28H). At cladding level, allow for the sill to be fitted. The sill will have its own strip.

Arrange the uprights on the pair of sides so they are 24-inch centers and as a result, you can cut all glass the same width (Ill. 5-29A). Put cladding up to the same height as at the ends. Include the cold-frame extensions, boarded to the top (Ill. 5-29B). The top member is a 2-inch x 4-inch section. Rafters have to rest on it. Instead of cuffing its top to suit the roof slope, leave it square, except for notches at the roof angle where the rafters will come directly over the uprights (Ill. 5-29C,D). After you assemble the building, you can put filler pieces on the squared tops to close the gaps between the wall and the roof glass.

Cut off the ends of the cladding boards level with the end uprights. At the end of the cold frame, make a piece the same width as the greenhouse ends so it fits between the sides (Ill. 5-29E), with cladding to the top. Cut the cladding at the same angle as the sides. Let the ends extend to cover the side uprights in the same way as the door end (Ill. 5-28E).

Assemble all the parts made so far, using ¾-inch bolts at about 15-inch intervals through the posts. Put filler pieces in the corners of the cladding. Check squareness and fasten the bottom frame members down to the base.

Fit a sill all around. Level the sill inside and taper it outside from just outside the edges of the uprights (Ill. 5-28F). You can extend it a few inches inwards if you want to make it into a shelf. You can make the sill in sections, but you can obtain the neatest finish by making it continuous on the sides and ends. For the strongest construction, notch the sill into the uprights about ¼ inch (Ill. 5-30A). At the corners, extend the sill parts to miter together (Ill. 5-30B). Put rabbet strips in place.

Make the 2-inch x 6-inch ridge to fit in the slots in the ends and be level outside. Mark on it the positions of the rafters, to match the positions of the slots on the tops of the building sides. Prepare the rafters with rabbet strips on each side of the intermediate ones (Ill. 5-29F) and on the inside edges only of the end ones. Using the angle of a building as a guide, cut the tops of the rafters to fit against the ridge (Ill. 5-30C). Make the length of a rafter enough to overhang the walls by 6 inches. Prepare all twelve rafters, so they match.

Nail the end rafters on top of the frame ends (Ill. 5-30D). At the other positions, put a supporting strip underneath (Ill. 5-30E) as you position each rafter. Nail the lower end into its recess. Make rabbet strips with sloping tops to go between the rafters (Ill. 5-30F).

This procedure completes the assembly of all parts that you must glaze. Putty and the alternative compounds do not bond well with untreated wood, so either paint all the woodwork or just the rabbets, so they will dry while you work on other parts.

Glaze the door to the same level as the walls. A ventilation hole is in its bottom panel. The suggested construction has ¼-inch-plywood panels on each side with a frame of i-inch x 2-inch strips inside (Ill. 5-30G).

Make the door an easy fit in the doorway, with its bottom above the bottom framing strip. The plywood could go to the edges without further protection, hut it will be better to cover with ½-inch strips (Ill. 5-30H). Allow for this covering when marking out the plywood panels. Make one plywood door pan el first and check its sizes. Glue and fix with thin nails the framing strips around the edges and openings (Ill. 5-30fl. When you are satisfied with this panel, make the other panel slightly oversize, so when you have fixed it, you will have true edges.

Ill. 5-30. Constructional details of the greenhouse and the way you assemble its door.

Materials List for Greenhouse

Line the window and ventilation openings with strips that are level inside, but project with rounded edges at the front (Ill. 5-30K). As movement of the door, particularly if it's slammed, might loosen putty, it will be better if the door glazing is held between two fillets (Ill. 5-3 DL). Use jointing compound to embed the glass tightly.

Cover the ventilation opening with fine-mesh wire gauze, to keep out vermin. To control ventilation, hinge a flap on the inside of the door, with a cord to a hook above to regulate the amount of air allowed to pass (Ill. 5-30M). At the other end of the building, arrange a similar flap inside the high opening there, with a cord up to a ring or pulley and down to a cleat within reach.

Strips inside the doorway framing (Ill. 5-30N) will act as stops. Hang the door to swing outwards on three, 3-inch hinges and fit a handle and catch or lock.

Although pieces of glass could be as large as the openings each panel has to fit, you might prefer to use shorter pieces, with the upper pieces overlapping the lower ones, to shed water. This design might be more economical and the first fitting might be handled easily. It also might be easier and cheaper if you ever have to replace a broken pane. Embed the glass in putty, with fine nails (sprigs) holding the glass, then neatly putty over them (Ill. 5-31A).

At the cold frame, cover the top edges with strips (Ill. 5-31B). At the end of the greenhouse, fit a piece of 2-inch x 3-inch wood over the cover strips and bevel it to fit close to the cladding on the greenhouse (F 5-31C,D). Make the lifting cover to fit against this strip of wood overhang with a 6-inch overhang at the bottom. This cover is built up with a 3-inch-wide piece at the top and all other parts are 2-inches square, with ¾-inch x 1-inch rabbet strips (Ill. 5-31E).

Mortise-and-tenon joints are best for the joints to the top rail, but the 2-inch- square bottom piece has to be kept down below the glass level, so water will run off. Halve the ends of the sloping pieces and glue and screw the crosspiece to them (Ill. 5-31F). When you glaze the frame, carry the glass to the edge of the bottom piece (Ill. 5-31G).

The frame with glass will be fairly heavy. Use four strong 4-inch hinges at the top. Arrange a strut to hold the top open.

Finish the ends of the greenhouse with bargeboards. They need not be elaborate, but they will improve appearances by covering the ends of the roof structure (Ill. 5-27B).


Canoes and kayaks might not suffer much if left outside, but open storage lacks security, particularly for paddles and other loose equipment. A building will protect these crafts from the weather, as well as allow camping gear and paddles and other associated equipment to be kept secure. The building might have a bench, and you might make repairs and alterations on the spot and in comfort.

Ill. 5-31. The cold-frame cover and its construction and mounting.

Ill. 5-32. This canoe shed has racks for canoes and their equipment. The roof admits the only light, so the walls are secure.

Adjust sizes and details of the building to suit canoes, kayaks, sailboards, and similar craft which you wish to store. The canoe shed shown in Ill. 5-32 is intended to provide storage on racks for four canoes or kayaks about 16 feet long. Racks are about 36 inches wide and there is clearance vertically of about 18 inches. At one end of the building, there can be a bench, either built in or loose. The opposite side can have canoe racks with racks for paddles and other items. If you have sailing gear, you can hoist it into the roof. It is possible to have the canoe racks on the high side and get one more canoe in. Then, however, you have the problem of lifting the canoe above your head height and the slope of the roof does not allow for easy access. The sizes and layouts are for four canoes on racks and floor at the lower side (Ill. 5-33A).

Most of the framing is 2-inch x 3-inch wood and the cladding suggested is shiplap boards, but you can use plywood or vertical tongue-and-groove boards. The sides do not have any windows, but there is one in the roof. If you plan to use a bench often, you might wish to put a window in the end. Having no windows in the walls helps security, as breaking in is more difficult. Board the roof and cover it with tarred felt.

Start by making the ends. All of the framing has its 2-inch side towards the cladding, except the rafter, which is better with its 2-inch side at the top. The ends are a pair, except one has the doorway (Ill. 5-34A). Make the other end the same, but put a rail across at half the door height and board that end all over. Cut cladding level at the edges.

Make the back (Ill. 5-35A) with all its framing with 2 inches towards the cladding, except the top, which is the other way. Bevel the top edge to match the slope of the roof (Ill. 5-35B). At the corners of the building, the back and front cladding extends halfway over the end posts (Ill. 5-35C) and a filler piece is fitted in. Cover the back completely, with the cladding extended at both ends.

Ill. 5-33. Suggested sizes for the canoe shed, to hold four canoes up to 16 feet long.

Ill. 5-34. The door end of the canoe shed, and spacing of racks.

Ill. 5-35. Back (A) and front (1)) with corner arrangements (B,C).

The front (Ill. 5-35D) is made similar to the back. Bevel the top to fit the roof slopes the other way and equally space two intermediate rails.

Vertical spacing of the rack is suggested at 21 inches (Ill. 5-34B), but you might want to adjust this, if you have one deeper canoe. One rack will only take shallow surfboards or a kayak, if made quite shallow. Allow plenty of vertical clearance or you might have difficulty in stowing craft. Width is not as important as boats can overhang a rack.

Each rack has a front piece the full length of the shed (Ill. 5-36A). Pieces come from the back framing (Ill. 5-36B) to tenon into it. There could be one piece at every back upright, or you could fit them to alternate ones, but if you will use the racks at different times for crafts of different lengths, crosspieces at every upright are advisable. If you have comparatively fragile and flexible racing craft, close support is advisable. For greater support you might lay plywood on a rack.

Do some preparation for the racks before assembly. To allow for slight variations, the actual fitting is best done after you join the walls and attach the building to its base. Join the building corners with 3 bolts at about 18-inch intervals.

It might be sufficient to merely bolt racks to the back uprights, but plywood brackets are shown in Ill. 5-36C,D. Use screws in the plywood, but bolt the racks through the uprights. At the outer ends, tenon into the long support (Ill. 5-36E). At the ends of the building, bolt the long piece to the end uprights (Ill. 5-34C,D). Cover the edges of the doorway with strips (Ill. 5-34E). Put stop strips inside this doorway and fit a ledged and braced door, made in the way described for several other buildings.

Ill. 5-36. Details of canoe rack construction and a method of paddle storage.

There is plenty of space for shelves and racks on the high wall. Battens across the framing will make paddle racks. A shelf will keep paddies off the floor (Ill. 5-36F).

Materials List for Canoe Shed

Make the roof with rafters on the same level as the tops of the ends, spaced about 24 inches apart (Ill. 5-37A). Notch the rafters into the back and front (Ill. 5-37B), securing them with nails or screws. At the roof light position, halfway along, unless you need it elsewhere (Ill. 5-33B), put pieces across (Ill. 5-37C).

Lay boards lengthwise to cover the roof (Ill. 5-37D). Allow a 3-inch overhang all around. If you need joints lengthwise, make them over rafters. Trim the boards level around the roof light opening. Put a framing of boards around the opening (Ill. 5-3 7E) to hold the glazed part a few inches above the roof level.

Ill. 5-37. Roof and roof-light details for the canoe shed.

Cover the roof with tarred felt or other flexible roofing material (Ill. 5-37F). Take this over all edges and nail underneath. At the roof light, trim the covering so you can turn it up the framing boards (Ill. 5-37G). Nail it there. If there have to be any joints in this vicinity, embed them in a jointing compound.

For the roof light, make a rabbeted frame for the two sides and the top, but at the lower end make a piece to go under the glass only, so water can run off. Have the size of the frame so it will fit over the framing boards and so you can screw to them from inside (Ill. 5-37H). Although you could glaze the window when it's on the ground, it's easier to get the frame closely fitted and the glass accurately puttied in, if you delay the glazing until the roof light is in position.

No bargeboards are shown, but if you want to give the roof a more solid appearance, couple bargeboards to a fascia board along the front edge. If you put a board at the back, make sure it does not interfere with water running off. Lay battens down the roof at about 18-inch intervals, to hold down the covering.

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Updated: Thursday, March 17, 2011 8:28