Building a Lean-to Garden Shed: Part 1 —Repurposing an Old Shed

This past Spring I mentioned to a friend of mine how much I really wanted to get my gardening tools and supplies out of the garage and into a space of their own. Firstly, my workshop is in the garage and therefore sawdust blankets everything. Secondly, though it is a good size garage, we, as a family demand too much of it: bikes, outdoor equipment, lawn and garden paraphernalia, a canoe, camping gear, ladders, power tools, and every winter we make space for the car. You can imagine how tricky it can be to access the table saw most days.

As the conversation ran its course she explained to me that her own shed had some rot on the bottom and they were hoping to replace it soon. I replied: “if you are serious about this, then allow me to remove the shed from your property. I would be happy to recycle the wood and materials for you!”

She took me up on the offer. It was win-win all round. I get my new garden shed for little to no cost. She gets free labour to remove the old shed with the added comfort that nearly all the materials from the demolition will stay out of the landfill.

As an added bonus I now had a project I could hand over to my two older boys. One of whom was home from university without a job and the other was enduring a disrupted school year due to a local teacher’s strike. They needed something to do, and fast!


The demolition was easy. The shed had obviously been put together with common nails and staples. Which offered minimal resistance when coaxed out with a hammer and crowbar combination. We were done in a couple of hours.


At least one of us was happy for the brief rain delay 😉 Here, you can see that we left the roof intact as we remove the trim and panelling from the exterior. This strategy later presented us with the challenge of how to safely remove the roof, heavily laden with shingles, without causing bodily harm. In the end we cleared the lawn area in front of the shed of any obstacles and the three of us pushed and steadied the shed from the rear. It collapsed with a thud!


Having previously removed the braces which connected the rafters, the roof came apart easily. Eventually, the shingles were stripped off, but for today we loaded the heavy panels in the truck as is.


Some of the stud walls were pried apart on site others we took home in one piece. At this point I wasn’t fully aware of how the reconstruction process would go. In the end everything was broken down and we started from scratch with the raw materials.


The removal of the staples and nails became my job. To be frank, I was the only one on the team that had a true vision of what this scrap lumber could become with just a bit of effort. The nails were easy to remove with a clawfoot hammer. The staples proved to be more stubborn. I found a pair of vice-grip pliers most useful for firmly grabbing the staples. Using the back end of the pliers as leverage I was able to extract each one.


I won’t lie. There were moments when I wondered if my time wasn’t worth more than my money. But as my pile of clean timbers grew, so did my happiness. Eventually I found that a little nail pulling can be quite therapeutic.


Lucky us, these patio stones upon which the former shed sat were also part of the deal. Laid out carefully they made a perfect—not to mention free—foundation on which to rebuild shed at our location. Since I pulled the nails, I left this task of laying out the stones to the stronger, younger backs on the crew. Do not be deceived, these suckers are HEAVY. Lift with your legs!!


After all the stones were leveled and set in place I swept sand into the gaps. Funny enough, I had a box of this in the garage from a previous job. The boys used some of it to level the patio stones as well. Sand or limestone screening will eliminate a lot of frustration when attempting to level a surface.


With the stone pad in place we are ready to lay out the shed plans. At this point I was starting to feel very good about the future storage potential of this small piece of realestate on our property and secretly start making plans to build another lean-to on the west side of the house 😉


Sometimes I improvise with my supplies. It’s not every construction site that uses sidewalk chalk in their layout. Our little notebook was referred to often as we progressed through the project. It kept us from making the wrong cut on several occasions.


Our first step in the shed construction was to install a ledger board on the exterior of the house to support the rafters according to our predetermined roof hight. After drilling pilot holes into the boards, the location of those holes was transferred to the the exterior wall. In this manner we could accurately pre-drill the location of the wall anchors


Using a carbide bit, a high powered drill, and little more muscle we managed to get through the masonry without too much difficulty. A hammer drill is best for this work. I didn’t have one and so made do with this. Fun fact: that Black and Decker Drill shown above was the first power tool I purchased, shortly after getting married, twenty-three years ago December.


These are the anchors we used to attach the ledger board to the house. I was later informed we went more heavy duty than needed. But hey, I say better too much strength than too little in this application.


Lining the anchor bolts up with the predrilled holes took some patience. Eventually we had success.


After tapping each anchor bolt in place with the hammer they were hand tightened with a wrench.


We used Tapcon Screws to secure a 2×3 perimeter base on which we then nailed the stud walls. The bump out for the chimney caused me some grief trying to ensure a square foundation. Looking back at this image I realize I could have measured off two separate rectangle and confirmed the square of each.


If the cross-measurements (blue) are equal to one another you will know that your foundation is square. Use chalk lines to layout where to the 2x3s will be attached.


The pneumatic nail-gun simplified the construction and installation of the stud walls. This part of the the project was the most satisfying of the day.


The salvage material starts to look pretty good as the walls come together.  The next phase of the project will include cutting roof rafters and cladding the stud walls with plywood sheathing. Inspiration and tips for constructing this shed came from these Youtube videos here and here.


2 thoughts on “Building a Lean-to Garden Shed: Part 1 —Repurposing an Old Shed

  1. We just a very similar lean-to on the side of our house. Very handy! We use it for bikes and gardening tools.

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