Today’s blog post features my very first column for Shed Builder Magazine.
I began building portable buildings at the ripe old age of 17. For more than a decade I’ve breathed in the rich aroma of sawdust and sweat. I’ve nailed, sawed, carried, thrown, caulked, painted, swept, and even laughed a few times. I have read stories about bold adventurers or famous icons of our day and wished my life could be exciting like theirs. Have you ever noticed that bold adventurers never need to shave, brush their teeth, or any other boring daily necessity? Well, it is high time that the world heard of some of the excitement we shed builders get to enjoy. I’d like to share a few of my experiences as a shed builder with you. Very likely, you’ve had similar experiences if you’ve built a few sheds!
My very first job as a “shed builder” was to cut some shims to level a building. Do you remember trying your best to make a good first impression? Boy, let me tell you, I did forevermore cut some shims! Later on I realized my boss was just trying to keep me out of the way so he could get something done. Since that time I have used the same strategy to keep the rookie from slowing me down too much. That was my first introduction to the shed building family.
Early one summer morning, my boss (Vance) and I set out to construct a 12×20 on a slab for a repeat customer. We drove up to the job site just a few minutes after daylight. The home was a nice place in a rural home addition, sitting just up the hill from a very pretty pond. The slab for the building sat about halfway down the hill between the house and the pond. Our customer planned to use the building to house some guineas.
We exited the truck, stretched, and headed down to the slab to look around. It was a beautiful morning! Our summer morning excitement soon gave way to amazement as we surveyed the slab. Never had either of us seen such an interesting concrete job!
The end of the slab which was to be the front of the building was pretty normal looking. The right hand side was also reasonably straight and almost level. That was about the end of the good stuff. Everywhere else was bowing, sagging, or otherwise misshapen. We stood there, shaking our heads for a few minutes and wondering what to do. The homeowner made his way down to where we were and began to apologize. It seems that his concrete man hadn’t made sure his forms were braced well enough and the concrete got away from him. Then, to make things worse, the concrete man had to leave before he could do the finish work! Our customer owned a couple of radio stations and was a pretty smart fella. He did not, however, have the skills required to finish concrete. He did his best; it just wasn’t quite enough.
He and Vance talked it over and agreed to try to make it work. The back end was more than a foot out from one side to the other, so a 12×20 was out of the question. It was decided that we would attempt to make a 12×18 work.
We started on the front right corner and snapped some lines. With a little ingenuity, it looked like it just might work! Soon the right side wall was up. So far, so good. Then we built the left side wall. Things began to get a little tricky. The left side was the side where the form had given way, so it was a mess! We managed to get the wall stood, but leveling it was a booger. There were places where we could stick our whole arm, up to the elbow, underneath the bottom wall plate. (This is not standard practice, but the customer wanted us to make it work no matter what.) The back wall was tough as well, but we stuck with it. After a while, all four walls were in the air.
The trusses didn’t take long, and then we decked it. Everything seemed to be turning around and going our way. Our youthful energy and optimism propelled us throughout that long morning and into the early afternoon. The heat of the summer sun began to cause us to slow our pace as early afternoon turned into midafternoon. How we longed for some relief from the sun’s rays! Little did we know that help was already on the way.
I don’t know if you’ve ever lived or worked in Oklahoma. We say to newcomers around here, “If you don’t like the weather, stick around a few minutes!” See, our weather is pretty volatile. I’ve seen weather extremes on the same day many times. This day was no exception.
Suddenly, from out of the west, we heard the rumblings of thunder. Then, we felt a cool breeze. I quickly began to try to gather up our tools and put them in the building so they wouldn’t get rained on while Vance jumped up on the scaffold and began to roof. In less than five minutes, it was raining so hard we could barely see straight! We both ran into the building to join our tools.
As we stood there catching our breath, we noticed the water pouring in through the breaks in our decking. It looked like three sheets of water. We quickly noticed a couple interesting facts about our customer’s concrete floor. First, remember the use of the building – a guinea house. The gentleman had installed a floor drain in the center of the floor so he could just hose the building down when it needed cleaned. The building was going to drain fine, just not through the floor drain. It was the highest point on the floor! The only dry place in the whole building was that floor drain! The building was going to drain under the left side wall with no problem, however.
After about a half hour, the rain went away and the sun returned. We slogged back to work. The roof was finished, the doors were hung, and we only lacked sheeting the interior when night fell. We decided we could finish in the dark, so that’s exactly what we did. The homeowner helped us with a couple lights and we quickly installed the sheeting. I finished loading up the tools while Vance settled up with the customer.
We climbed in the truck, exhausted and ready to be home. Vance started the engine and put it in gear. Remember that little rain shower? It had turned the area into a swamp. We tried to leave, but the truck wasn’t going anywhere. After some time, we unhooked the trailer and thought we could make a run for it in the truck. Nope. The truck was stuck fast. We pushed and pulled and tried for quite some time. We finally consented to allow our customer to take us to the nearest town. We climbed into his late model luxury car in our muddy, sweaty, work clothes. He dropped us off at the truck stop, and a family member came to pick us up. We returned home around midnight, worn out from a shed building adventure we have never forgotten.