When It Comes To Sheds, Mother Knows Best
About three years ago, my mother requisitioned a barn-style storage shed for her back yard. She wanted a little red barn, like the one she found at the sheds website. Having a construction company of my own, I quietly scoffed at the idea of having anyone else’s prefab or kit, and I certainly didn’t need someone else’s plans to build something as simple as a Gambrel roof shed! “I’ll handle it mom,” I promised, and put pencil and CAD program to the feat.
But mom wasn’t having it. She was about to “I don’t like this,” and “I don’t like that” me to death. We were out at the local Maynard’s Building Supply looking at windows for this project, when she spotted some prefab frames and insisted we could simply buy their kit. (It’s amazing how our mothers refuse to trust our professional capabilities, but they still see us as kids, in some ways.) Rather than argue with her, I conceded and went over to the Contractor’s Desk to order the parts and schedule delivery.
The next day, the truck arrived with a fork lift to deliver the prefab frames, sheeting, roof deck material, shingles, and hinge kit for this “so easy anyone can build it in a day” kit. As I checked in the invoice, half of the pre-fabricated frames were so badly put together that they had to be sent back. Some of the lumber had warped, some of the machine-pressed joints had huge gaps in them. Overall, it was rather shoddy, but I stifled myself, thinking “It’s just a shed, it doesn’t need to be build like a house. That’s what mom wants, so let it go.”
The replacement parts were eventually delivered, and we were finally ready to roll. The next Saturday, my sisters and their husbands came over, as did the next door neighbor. Mom fired up the grill, and we commenced the barn raising party.
The frames were sent folded in half, held together by folded mending plates. The material was 2×2 frame, and flimsy is being generous. Each was 12′ wide by 12 feet tall. These giant “ribs” had to be laid out flat on the ground – itself a feat, while they were so wobbly. Sheets of Smartboard were then attached, with us pulling and pushing and prodding the frames into being square to match the boards. Then came the fun of cutting the odd angled pieces that would sheet the front and back of the barn. There was no plan of any kind. This kit came with a couple sheets of paper, Xerox copies of the scant instructions. If I wasn’t an experienced builder, I’d have been totally lost. We finally got the first end panel sheeted, and stood up, and all I could think of was that this heavy thing was going to crumple and fall over on us any moment now. We managed to pick it up and move it, leaning it up against the garage. Mom saw how it dwarfed the garage, and stood there in shock as she watched it swaying in the breeze. It didn’t take her more than a few seconds to echo my own thoughts: “Take that thing down before it falls down, take it apart, and send the junk back!” The store didn’t even argue about it. I guess it wasn’t the first time they had one of those outdoor storage shed “kits” come back.
What did I do? I built the plan I’d drafted, board at a time, from the ground up. I spent a small fortune doing it, and when it got to the roof rafters, even with a jig, each piece had to be custom measured and cut while I was hanging off a ladder, 10 feet up in the air. When the walls were stood up, they had to be forced to square. Then came the task of mounting the upper half of the building’s structure, which I’d designed to rest atop 6′ tall walls. It got done, but it wasn’t exactly a one-man job. In short, this outdoor storage shed took a LOT of work. All told, I spent almost six weeks building the thing. Now that it’s all built, it is strong, but there are several things I’d have done differently. Experience does matter, and the things that work on a house aren’t necessarily a good idea for building outdoor storage sheds.
In the final analysis, the junk kit bought at the hardware store would have been a disaster, and we were right to send it back. The building I did from scratch was solid, probably overbuilt, and still stands strong and looks good, but I spent thousands of dollars on the frame and sheeting alone, had many trips back and forth to the lumber yard to pick up materials and hardware I’d not thought of or had forgotten the last time I was there. It was a huge hassle and expense, and took up a tremendous amount of time. Even though it’s finished, (except for those corner trims I forgot about,) I still cringe every time I visit my mother’s house and look at the thing, remembering the hell it was to build it.
My wife is not a stupid woman. She really liked the idea of having a little (well, big) barn in the back yard, but she had the sense to wait a couple years before starting to campaign for a similar shed in our own back yard. She’s clever, my wife, so she started off with flattery. Painful flashbacks kept me resolute in my “No way” reply. Her “Why not?” precipitated a torrential downpour of all the reasons I was NOT building another one – not for her, not for me, not for my mother, not for anyone.
“Rent one of those ocean-going metal containers if you want more room,” I suggested, already knowing she’s say that they’re too ugly.
Weeks went by. The subject kept coming up. Finally, she hit me up with “I know! How about getting one of those units that your mom was looking at in the very beginning?” She was wily. By the time I realized I was being set up, it was already too late. She’d been planning this all along, even had the model picked out.
I’m stubborn at times, but hardly stupid. The price of the kit from Bettersheds.com included a much better quality of wood than I could have purchased locally. The designs were already stress and load tested, flaws already worked out, unlike my prototype. Boards, panels and trim all came pre-cut, to ensure that everything was square the first time. I wouldn’t even need to get out the saw! It didn’t take long for me to realize how much easier this was going to be, and how much better it was going to look, how much faster it would go up. Using their kit, I really could get done over a long weekend!
The outdoor storage shed kit came exactly as described, and every piece and part was perfect. There was no wasted material, and assembling the pre-cut pieces made it nearly impossible to do anything wrong. When the trim was on, it looked pretty much exactly like the pictures. It was faster, looked better, cost less, and was a lot less work. I have to admit, they make a pretty snazzy kit.
When it was finished, my wife invited my mother over to see it. She was obviously impressed.
“Why didn’t you make mine like that,” Mom quipped.
I was spared having to say it myself. My wife did the dirty deed for me: “Oh, we ordered this one from that place you told us about,” she replied, “BetterSheds.com.”
Mom shot me a nasty look, but she was grinning as she smacked me in the back of the head.
We all knew it was coming. She’d said it many times before, but she had to get it in one more time anyway:
“When are you going to learn that Mother knows best?”
For once, I didn’t mind her being right.