How to Build Wood Shed from Reclaimed Materials for Free

Maddy Harland
Thursday, 26th November 2015

Maddy Harland and Lindy Blair build a freestanding wood shed from 100% reused materials and save money, have 'foraging' fun and design a functional and unusual structure.

I like to season wood properly. It burns hotter and cleaner, often doubling the potential output of heat (see The Log Book for more details). I cut green wood and season it for at least 2 years before burning. Well seasoned logs mean that we can heat our passive solar retrofitted house from one Clearview wood burner until the depths of winter with well seasoned wood.

This year, a friend, Lindy, and I built a log store out of recycled materials. It is 6 high x 6 long x 4ft wide (1.8 x 1.8 x 1.2m). It is the third store in my collection and it is specifically for storing green wood. I have written up this build for the forthcoming Permaculture magazine 87.

My friends, Johnny and Christine, who live in the same village, liked our store and asked Lindy and I if we would build them a smaller freestanding version that would tuck under the front window of their semi-detached house. Handy for deliveries. Like the first store, we wanted to use 100% reclaimed materials and not only produce no waste but recycle it too.

My neighbours have been building an extension and there has been an inevitable amount of waste from their building site. Waste = resources to us and they gave us free rein. We spied two window forms that brick work had been built around. They were not the same height but an almost exact fit width wise and with some deconstruction, we could make them into a two bay logstore.

The first job then was to remove unnecessary or broken parts of the frame and cut one down to size with a small sloping angle on the roof. The other side was a near perfect height (less than 3ft / 1m at the back) to enable us to tuck it under the window.

Then we collected our recycled wood, board, plastic sheeting and slab wood left over from my log store build and mocked up the design in my front garden, much to the amusement to neighbours walking by.

Next step: load up the van and take the minimum of materials and necessary tools to the store’s final location.

We began fabricating the frame. It is 7.7 long x 2.3 deep x 3.2ft high at back (2.35 long x 0.7 depth x 1m high). We needed to extend both frames at the back and front with additional supports so that the store can hold a double row of logs. Plus create an angled frame on which to screw on pieces of roofing board.

The critical thing about the design is that the store is freestanding. Not one bit touches the wall of the house. We didn’t want to create any damp. We also left the airbrick clear (wood cannot be stacked in front of it) to ensure good air circulation. At the same time this structure has to be robust as it will hold nearly 2 cubic tonnes of wood.

Next the roof boards were added.

We found a length of marine ply and added offcuts of chipboard to the structure, again all salvaged from the neighbour’s build.

We covered this in black plastic. Tarpaulin or roofing membrane lasts longer but foraged plastic was all we had. At least it is mainly protected from the sun.

We were asked to fit rustic forest thinning to cover the plastic on the roof. We could have used Ondulene or salvaged slates, but our friends wanted a wooden roof.

Then we clad the sides of the store with offcuts that came from rejected planking from a friend’s wood and slab wood that was surplus to requirement from elsewhere. We wanted to cover the softwood frame and our friends wanted a bespoke rustic feel.

There was no waste and we saved many materials from the bonfire or land fill. We even put our offcuts on our friends’ wood pile.

The subtext of this project is twofold. Firstly, the world is awash with unused materials that enter the waste stream. Collect it! Make a thing of beauty with it (well in the beholder’s eyes) and save money on materials.

Secondly, building is fun. Lindy and I want to demonstrate that two women can build log stores or shelters with 100% reclaimed materials, a few tools and that it is possible to work out techniques as you go along, providing you have a basic design. Observation is the key so before you start a project, check out the competition! There are 1000s of off the shelf sheds but few as quirky as ours.

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The Log Book by Will Rolls is an invaluable guide to woodburning and includes advice on what stove design to buy and how to seasonwood. It is available for £5.96 (25% off the cover price) from our Green Shopping site.

Maddy Harland co-founded and edits Permaculture. She has been practising permaculture since 1991.

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