Building a 3-Sided Farm Woodshed
by Jon Rubin
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A bit of background: I never enjoyed any formal education or on-the-job training in carpentry or construction. Any informal learning was done at my father's elbow and involved little more than holding an end of 2x4 or a flashlight, but what I did learn from him is the value of research and patience. Both of these have paid dividends over the years, and thus far I've built a fair share of complex projects. This woodshed was not one of them, but it was entertaining nonetheless and provides a great place to season and store the acres of ready ash, much of it dead standing and the victim of the green ash bore.
As a full-time military pilot and part-time horse farm owner ("free labor," as the only full-time employee and my wife puts it) it means many projects take longer than ideal. This was no exception and as the photos will prove, between multiple demands upon my time, over-engineering, and the aforementioned patience and research, it meant a 3-month affair.
All construction involved treated lumber and deck screws, both of which add to expense and time. I've long since given up on nails for anything but stick framing and a northern Midwest climate means the lumber would quickly work itself into all sorts of problems after a season or two. The treated lumber, laid properly crowned, I called for out of necessity because of exposure to the elements and sure presence of insects from the environment and the split wood.
To begin, all quality structures require sound foundation. Establishing such took a bit longer than I thought it might: site selection, light excavation, rough grading for drainage, and 6 point prep and leveling all required a full weekend. After I set six concrete deck blocks, I quickly built a basic free-floating "deck" upon them using 2x10 doubled headers and footers (did I say over-engineered?). 2x8 joists set 12 inches on center means plenty of support for even the wettest and greenest of fresh split wood.
Upon this framework I laid 2x6 planking with 1 inch gaps between each board for the purpose of encouraging and allowing free flow of air. The secondary purpose for this practice is to ease sweeping out small debris, bark, and dirt as it breaks free from the freshly chopped wood.
Without much experience building vertically, I did some research and initially planned a 2x6 corner L-bracket type support for the roof. Being a bit over 6 foot tall, and no fan of stacking and pulling firewood stooped over, the plan included a 6 foot clearance to the rear of the shed with a 10 foot ceiling at the front of the shed to allow for tool, kindling, and lighting space. However, this also quickly proved the bracket idea was far too flimsy for static weight, much less any appreciable winter snow load. I modified the plan to include 4x4 posts interior to the L-brackets.
1/2 inch plywood over 2x4 joists, self-adhesive eave protection across the entire roof, felt, and drip edged on all four sides means the roof shall survive standing and snow melt for a long time. The eave protection was a leftover from a previous project; a Trex deck where I overlaid the self-adhesive protection across the top and down the side of every joist and framework. Did I mention I tend to over-engineer? 25 year shingles overlaid the whole affair and means years of overhead protection.
However, this also represents the only error I suffered due to lack of research: shingle overhang. Over the drip edge I got a little overenthusiastic and trimmed the shingles to a 1 inch overhang versus the industry standard of 2 inches. This meant I had to go back after everything was complete and fill in a thick bead of asphalt adhesive under the perimeter of the shingles to inhibit water intrusion.
Finally, the floor was laid and the roof was up, so time for an unexpected trip courtesy of Uncle Sam. While this meant a month delay in project completion it also meant some time to ponder wall construction. How to support and encourage ventilation without allowing precipitation to enter the structure? Further, how to build something durable and attractive, while keeping with the character of farm life, consumed what free time I had during my trip.
After more research, and finding photos of repurposed pallets, the genesis of an idea was born. I elected to use deck planking, offset, gapped and spaced 1 inch to wall-in the shed. This means summer breeze can easily flow through the shed while deterring autumn and winter precipitation. It also reinforces the roof structure by sharing and spreading the force away from the corners and across the entire vertical componentry. Plus, the look is fun and visually unique! Even my wife begrudgingly remarked, "yeah, it's kinda neat."
Now, to the façade. Because it's the south facing, and the side presented to the house, it needed to enclose the open space above the 6 foot line for many reasons. I originally planned to utilize leftover deck planking and simply run vertical pieces across the front of the shed. However, this quickly drew less than pleasing remarks from my wife and required a quick run to the lumber yard for more supplies. The next photo shows the final product, with angled ends to more smoothly transition the façade to the corners. What isn't shown is the 1 inch aluminum faced Styrofoam board insulation behind the façade, and the 1 inch plywood behind that and the interior to the shed. This was trimmed and fitted because the workhorses of the shed spend their off time safely and securely suspended above the opening in stainless steel S-brackets. My Gransfors Bruks axes, splitting maul and felling axe, wait readily and handily for late winter duty when it's time again to begin filling the shed.
With a paint job matching to the horse barn, minus a few details (tinder box, kindling shelf, and interior lighting) this 10'x10'x10' woodshed is complete and easily stores a half season's worth of split ash. Overall, the project required 3 months of weekend effort and approximately $1,000 worth of materials. Easily a quicker task if you have dedicated plans and a dedicated helper, but being a part-time project and done solo meant considerably more time than I originally planned.
If you have any questions, you can email Jon at