Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota

Project Completed April, 2002

Project Completed April, 2002

Well, this isn't so much of a project display as it is a rant/warning to those of you considering the purchase of a shed "kit" as advertised by the home centers. Hopefully you'll find it entertaining as well.

When I purchased my house in the fall of 2001 there was a 10' square concrete pad located in the corner of the back yard. According to the neighbors, there was a rusty, dented metal shed that sat there for about 30 years before it finally fell apart. The old owner showed mercy on the rest of the neighborhood and tore the shed down. Rumor has it that another neighbor took the old shed and tried in vain to resurrect it in his own yard, but finally gave up and bought one of those Rubbermaid jobs. Anyway, the previous owner's plans were to put a gazebo in the place where the shed sat, but lucky for me, she decided to sell the house before the gazebo was built.

My previous house did not have a storage shed, and I was forced to store all of my lawn equipment, bicycles, garden supplies, etc in the garage. This house had even less room in the garage than my previous home does, so I welcomed the open concrete pad and the opportunity to erect a more convenient place to stow my implements of destruction (friendly nod to Arlo Guthrie.) Of course, when moving you always have plenty of little projects and expenses that crop up, so I was not able to get a shed in place before the snow flew that first winter in the new house.

Fast forward to the following spring (March to be precise.) I had been eyeing the weekly big-box home center advertisements looking for a good deal on a 10'x10' shed. It seems like there are plenty of rectangular (8'x10', 10'x12', etc.) sheds available, but square ones are less common. Finally, a sale flyer came around with a shed that fit my needs. I went down to the city hall and bought a building permit and started plotting my new project.

On a bright, crisp, 20 degree Saturday morning in March (remember, I'm in South Dakota; it doesn't get warm until July and then the leaves start falling off the trees) I arrived at Menards around 8 AM in order to beat the crowds. After much digging over in the storage building section, I finally found the part number of the shed "kit" and went to the order desk. I told the friendly man in blue the part number, and he entered it into the computer. Yesiree, just like the jingle says, I was ready to "save big money."

Mistake #1

The salesperson asked if I would like delivery on this item for $30. I thought, "no, that's why I own a truck," so I declined. Certainly this is another one of those rackets designed to further line the pockets of the home center overlords, kind of like the extended warranty plans. I thought myself pretty savvy for saying "no" to this extra charge and coming out with $30 more in my pocket. I even conveyed this sense of pride in my voice, like I had resisted the siren's song without being tied to the mast. The guy behind the counter ignored the inflection and kept tapping on his keyboard. As you will discover in the upcoming paragraphs, I spent far more time and effort getting this thing home that I ever anticipated. I would have been much further ahead had I just paid the $30, went home and waited for the shed to arrive.

Mistake #2

I expected the printed receipt to list the shed "kit" along with the part number that I could use to drive around to the lumber yard an load the "kit" (notice I keep using parenthesis around the word "kit"; there's a reason for this.)

Instead, I was handed a four page listing of separate materials along with part numbers and quantities. The "kit" was not really a "kit" but a printout of (supposedly) everything you need to build the shed. Hmmm. After looking at the list I came to the conclusion that it was going to take quite a while to locate all of this material and that some of it would be a bit much to load on my own. When I thought the "kit" all came bundled together (a big box maybe? not sure what I was thinking...) I figured I could just pull up to the shed area in the yard, convince a sales associate to help me load it on the truck, then drive home and find someone there to help me unload it. Now that I saw the list of materials, I realized that I should have brought help because it wasn't going to be that simple. Time to call in reinforcements.

I retreated back home and gave my father a call. Fathers are good for situations like this because if they don't agree to help they feel guilty like they're not being a good father (I know this because I'm a father). So he agreed to help me. I don't think he realized what he was getting into either. Were he to do it over he probably would have just risked his fathering credentials, tell me "no way" and stayed home to watch Norm Abram.

We went back to Menards and spent an hour and a half running around, fighting the now jammed Saturday home-improvement crowd, searching for items on the list (why don't they categorize them by the area they're located in?) Ah, drive-through lumberyards: we spent plenty of time getting mad at the people who park their vehicle in the middle of an isle and block our ability to park our vehicle in the middle of the isle so we can wonder why the people behind us can't have a little patience? Approximately half-way through the list we realized that the truck was full. So, I guess it is going to take two trips. I made arrangements with the security people at the gate to let me take half of my items now and come back for the other half in a few minutes.

Mistake #3

So, we head home with the first load. It really never occurred to me how heavy a shed is until I started loading all of the pieces into a truck. I mean, really, when have you ever had to pick one up? As it turns out, there's a lot of treated lumber in one of these things, and even with the truck loaded with only half the shed materials it was quite a bit of weight. We were still a few miles from home when my father noticed that the load had shifted and was starting to slide out of the back of the truck. A wise person would have pulled over, then moved the items by hand back into position. Not me; I've had a physics class! I reasoned that if I slammed on the brakes really hard, the inertia of the load would force it back into the truck. And believe it or not, it worked! The only oversight I made was not informing my dad about my idea prior to execution. The force of me slamming on the brakes sent him careening into the dashboard. Then the load slamming into the back of the pickup cab forced him back into the rear window. I was amazed at the speed of which this all unfolded, and it certainly would have made for an excellent discussion had I still been in that physics class, but alas, I wasn't. Another result of this action was my father subsequently writing me out of his will, but that's another story for another day.

Once we were home and had the first haul unloaded, we went back to Menards and spent another hour and a half gathering the remaining shed ingredients. In all reality, we should have made three trips instead of two, but by this point we were both so sick and tired of running all over Menards that we were bound and determined not to make yet another trip. So we loaded the truck well beyond it's rated capacity. Once we verified that we had all of the items on the list, we set off for home.

Mistake #4

However, the truck being loaded down even more so than the first load (and much higher, I might add) made for the load to be unstable to an even greater degree than before. We had everything tied down, but my father felt we needed a more active approach to securing the load and that one of us should ride in the back on top of everything. Remember the morning's temperature? Well it had raised a few degrees since then, but it was still below freezing. I couldn't bear to make my father sit on top of that load, so I volunteered. However, my truck doesn't have power steering and my dad hates to drive it, so he insisted to be the one sitting in the back. Besides, his jacket had a hood and mine didn't.

So, off we went again, this time with my father sitting on top of the load looking like the wise man up on the mountain. Only the mountain is a pile of lumber and the wise man now has blue skin. Once again the load shifted, but I didn't dare try my physics trick again, as slamming on the brakes would certainly have launched my father into orbit. A great technological feat for a civilian, but one that doesn't make you popular at family gatherings. We finally arrive home and my father looks like he could have been Steve Martin's double in the truck scene in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." But hey, I saved the $30 delivery charge! (Well, subtracting the lunch I had to buy my dad in compensation and gas money, I saved $5) And it only took six hours of work to save it!

Mistake #5

A week passes with my garage full of shed parts and both of our cars sitting in the driveway. My wife keeps mentioning the irony of how I justified purchasing a shed so that we would have more room on our garage. I try to ignore her comments and stay focused on the goal: a fully assembled shed sitting in the back yard.

Wait a minute, to assemble a shed "kit", one would think that you just have to follow the instructions. Seems easy enough, had I received any instructions in the first place. I double checked my receipt thinking I just forgot to pick them up, but behold, none are listed. I returned to Menards to ask about the missing plans and was told that this particular shed "kit" didn't come with instructions. Boy, what was I thinking? After pleading my case with the man at the desk, he finally dug around and found a sheet of paper with some general notes about how people in some cultures might build a shed. The instructions boiled down to these four "easy" steps:

1. Assemble the wall frames and attach the siding.
2. Stand the walls up in proper position and connect them to form a frame.
3. Install the roof.
4. Attach the flooring to the shed bottom.

I kid you not, the instructions were really that vague. I wish I had scanned them to post here, but in a fit of disgust I crumpled them up and destroyed them (grrrrrrr.... Thag make fire!)

Anyway, over the next few weekends my father and I were able to piece together the shed from the most of the supplied materials. I did have to go back for some additional materials because I discovered that the materials list gave you enough linear feet of the pieces you need, but not necessarily the right lengths. For example, if you need 40' of 1x4 to wrap around the outside of the shed, they supplied 5 8' 1x4s. That certainly gives you 40' worth, but not in any usable lengths. So, I wound up taking some stock back and exchanging it, and purchasing more of other stock.

There were other stories that could be told from the building process including my bright idea to build the walls in the driveway (because all the materials are already right here) and carry them to the back yard. Did you know that even though the wall weighs a couple hundred pounds with the siding attached, when you're carrying one in a 40 mph wind it still turns into a kite? Or the concussion (no joke) I gave myself being the good son I am and leaping to my father's aid when he needed help. Too bad I was crouched under a beam at the moment. Or my arguement with the building inspector as to whether I really needed to anchor the shed to the concrete pad, because if a tornado really did touch down in my back yard the last thing I would worry about is that my snowblower tipped over. Yes, many more stories. But I've probably bored you enough as it is...

I like to think that my father and I aren't complete idiots (leave me to this fantasy). While we did manage to get the shed together it was no small feat. My dad has had quite a bit of carpentry experience over the years, and while I'm not a pro, I'm not a newbie either. I shudder to think what would happen to someone with no construction experience who bought the shed after looking at the "four easy steps." Oh well, at least it's done, I have somewhere to keep my lawn mower. Oh yeah, and I saved $5!

The Tundra Man shed.

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This page last updated on 06/28/2018