Thursday, September 15, 2016

The [not so] Temporary Garden Storage Building

Doesn’t it always seem like you have more stuff than you have places to put it?  We run into this all the time.  We’re tidy people, but we’re thrifty and we hate to get rid of something we may need later.  So we have a lot of stuff.  We’re equipped.  When people need something, they call us.  Whatever it is, we've probably got it.  So despite two garages, a garden shed and a chicken coop we always have over-flow.  And we hate over-flow.

The old building loaded up and ready for delivery
For an overflow building we had a “temporary” tarp storage shelter with a 10 year warranty.  It has served us well and at times has been full to over flowing.  The 10 years are up so rather than push our luck and have the tarp tear in the middle of winter under a snow load we took it down and gave it away to more adventurous souls who want to take a chance on it or spend a few bucks renovating it.

The old building mid-tear down
We also have the thing we call “the Outhouse”.  This was a collapsible building designed to take out on the gas pipeline and cover a gas meter.  The sides and roof store flat and bolt together.  It was my original garden shed but it’s no bigger than a small closet.  You can stand at the doorway and pull things out.  In fact standing outside is recommended because going into the outhouse when it’s fully loaded is a dangerous proposition.  You are guaranteed to be buried in an avalanche of fencing and wash tubs.

The Out House
The obvious choice was to buy a new temporary building, relocate it to a more convenient spot, and outfit it for outdoor overflow.  It is so much more satisfying to store things neatly when you have enough space to do it in.  And storing things inside instead of leaving them out to be buried in snow not only extends their useful life but also makes them accessible if you perhaps need to use a wheelbarrow in March before the snow (ice drifts) melts.  

In years past I've brought everything in from the garden and stacked it in the garden shed.  That makes it impossible to get into the garden shed for six months.  The attached chicken coop holds the over flow.

Outside items that need to come inside for the winter:

  • 2 steel wheel barrows
  • 1 vintage wheelbarrow
  • 2 sets of wash tubs
  • Large stacks of large outdoor pots, tubs and planter
  • A potting bench
  • Various and sundry flats and small pots
  • A stack of pea fence
  • A stack of cucumber grids
  • Two stacks of tomato/pepper ladders
  • Lots of stacks of grow-thru grids
  • Wire Cloches
  • A Bird Bath
  • The garden gnomes and toad houses
Now temporary buildings are essentially designed as tents to shed water, snow and sunlight.  The real benefit is their cost effectiveness.  If you spend as much money as you have in the structure on site prep, and spread that cost out over the warrantied lifespan of 10 years, it will cost about $10 a month and you won’t need a permit and you won’t pay any taxes.  And when the ten years are up you can either put another one in the same spot, or remove it completely in under an hour.   The instructions state that two people can set it up in two hours.  Well sure, you can get through the assembly process in two hours but then all you have is a rudimentary water shed sitting in your lawn.  What you really want to do is over-engineer it and spend at least two days in site prep, two days in assembly and a few days tweaking and tinkering.  When you’re done you will have something that resembles an actual building instead of a tent and is really very functional.

Tim is renowned for over engineering things.  He drives himself crazy.  But I will say this for him:  the projects look nice, the stuff works and it lasts.  With the last building the provided cables that held it down did eventually rust through and last winder a high wind lifted one corner and bent the frame a bit.  So this time Tim designed his own hold down system which involved burying some heavy duty guy-wire under the stabilization mat and over a foot of compacted bank run.  Those cables aren’t going anywhere.  And as an added benefit, the building frame is grounded in case it ever gets struck by lightening.  That was reassuring the day he got stranded out there last week during a sudden thunderstorm.

Site Preparation in progress
Stabilization Mat saves so much gravel.
 It keeps the gravel from disappearing down into the mud
After the site was prepped we began assembling the building.  These go up pretty quickly especially considering that we’d just taken one down a week ago and were intimately familiar with all the nuts and bolts and cords.

Pieces and Parts
Once the frame is assembled – well wait, “frame” is a misnomer.  “Frame” suggests a rigid support system.  This thing is not a frame, this thing is an articulated skeleton.  When you move one rib it affects the position of every other piece.  Anyway, we took the "frame" and set it on two repurposed 2x6 treated planks.

The fun part was over and the frustrations began.  We had to square and level the planks and then square level and plumb the articulated skeleton.  The previously flat gravel pad had settled a LOT in the back corner.  Nothing was level front to back or side to side.  We shimmed up the planks and added gravel under them until they were once again level and we measured on the diagonal to make sure they were square.  It took a crap-ton of gravel.  We couldn’t believe how low the one corner had sunk in a couple of weeks.  Darn that old stump hole – they’re unfillable.  But we had the material (we also have Premium Gold Star Member Status with our excavator for being such regular customers) and we wanted it done right. So we began to fill.

We had to shovel gravel under the planks and
pack it in on both sides to hold them in place
All our gravel projects get worked over by Bertha 
the 1.5 ton rock crusher [lawn roller - another case of Tim's over-engineering].
After the plank base was set and the gravel base was level again all we had to do was square up the ribs on top of the planks.  That took the rest of the day.  We loosened every nut and went through everything with a four foot level leveling and plumbing each rib and brace.  Twice.  Snugging nuts as we went.  Finally, we were satisfied that the frame was set.    

The end of day one assembly
Now all we had to do was get the cover up on the skeleton without disturbing things.  You start with the end panels and cinch them up.  It’s not difficult.   We put down plastic as a vapor barrier and layered washed gravel on top of that. There was a lot of raking. And shoveling.  And more raking.  The vapor barrier is essential.  These tarp buildings act like a green house and they will pull every drop of moisture out of the ground and let it condensate on your stuff.  That’s bad.  You don’t want that.  Plastic is an easy and inexpensive prevention of rust and rot.

The end panels on and the vapor barrier going in
More Gravel to finish the floor
Next you drag the main cover over the top.  Again, surprisingly easy.  And now the fun part of day two was over and the frustrations began.  The design assumes you will allow the flaps to flap in the wind and lay on the ground.  But we want the structure to be much more critter proof.  We went with Tim’s proven solution of tucking the flaps in under the edges.  He did this with the last two buildings and there was no problem.  You just have to cushion it enough so that the sharp ends of the ribs don’t cut through the tarp.

The main cover is on and ready for adjustment
We started with a sill plate foam sealer then tucked the flaps under.  The trick was getting the cover perfectly centered side to side and front to back.  It sounds like an impossible task but we accomplished it.  We added some scrap rubber squares to cushion the ends further.  The last building the cover came off undamaged after 10 years of the ribs sitting on it. 

Then we had to makes sure the skeleton was again square, level and plum before we began securing things.  The cover ratchets down on all four corners then you lace the sides like a shoe.  **Note:  this would be a good time to make sure the end panels still zipper down easily and have not been pulled too tight.  We’ll have to remember that next time.

After the cover was secured, the last thing to do was to finish the gravel floor.  We filled the edges with gravel (not compacted) which will help to hold the cover snug.  Remember – this thing isn’t going anywhere!

The kit comes with some bungee cords to hold the rolled up panels.  But of course that won't suffice.  Tim always rigs up pulleys to raise and lower the doors.  There are pockets sewn in at the bottom hem to slide a pipe through to give it weight and allow the panel to roll onto itself.

This is the same system used on canvas porch panels.  He mounted a cleat to the pipe to wrap the rope.  The next issue is getting racks and shelves inside to organize things.

This shelving unit was in the garden shed.  Everything on it is coming out here and that frees up another wall in there to hang tools on.  My garden shed already feels twice as large.

So here is the finished product.  Note the sand bags along the ground in front of the door panel. There is another row on the inside.  This keeps leaves from blowing in under and also stabilizes the panel so it is not moving back and forth against the gravel which would abrade the tarp.  I sewed them out of scrap pieces of landscape fabric that came with tree tubes which we discovered when we emptied the shelves!

Tim repainted and installed the vents from the other building which helps get some fresh air moving through.  I assure you the building is already full mainly because there was room to put our utility trailer. Tim often wants to use it in the winter and has to shovel it out of the snow and ice. We were just discussing this evening how we're going to get the rest of the large items in.  There will be stacking involved.  But at least we won't have to reach through the stacks to get a shovel off the wall this winter.  Time to fill it up.

No comments:

Post a Comment