Saturday, 30 April 2016

Blog awards - the one that got away

Life is just soooooo unnnnfaaaaairrrrrrr sometimes!!! <stamps feet><sulks a bit>

The UK Blog Awards 2016 took place last night down in that there London, where more than 600 guests had a wash, fuffed with their hair and donned their finest finery to hob-nob and glad-hand the night away and maybe win some gongs if they were lucky.


This is what winners look like
(pic @HillsBalfour)
You didn't know that, did you? Well, you learn something new every day, as they say.
That's exactly why Incubator More (that's us) was on a shortlist of 10 in the Education category, what with us being all brainy and stuff and being willing to teach our lovely readers how not to do things.
Your generous and irresponsible voting helped us along the way, of course, so ta for that.

To be perfectly honest I had forgotten all about it until yesterday afternoon, so later on I nipped on to the Twitter and followed #UKBA16 just before it all kicked off.
Judging by the pictures and tweets I think it was far too formal and networky for me (Dawn would have managed, mind, because during working hours she's a soulless corporate robot) and I was pleased that I was tucked up in bed with pizza rather than fighting with a clip-on a bow tie and gurning at strangers all night.

Maybe next year
(pic @MissUnderground)
Anyway, we didn't win. Not even a Highly Commended.
But we don't need to put on a brave face while secretly drowning our sorrows - I'd have been mortified if we'd won anything because the other nine worthy entrants on the shortlist were actually educators.
We're just a couple of nuggets who have somehow been lucky enough not to get electrocuted, flattened, exploded or otherwise generally deaded in the last year. Making the shortlist is more than enough for us.

So congratulations to Lee James and Grange Park Primary School in Shropshire who together actually teach things to tiny people which is far more than we'd ever be able to do. Here's the winning blog.

We might end up going for it again next year in a more relevant category, just because, so get exercising those voting fingers in preparation!


Back on with the job at hand



An Edison light bulb
This is a clue to what we bought today
for a paramedic-summoning
amount of money
Changing the subject completely, here's a list of all the jobs - in rough order - that currently need to be done in the Living Room now the plastering debacle is out of the way. We've decided to compromise on the skirting and architrave and buy it in (I had wanted to make it) in an attempt to make up a little bit of recent lost time.
I've left off jobs involving the actual oriel window itself because that's an ongoing discussion about a potentially-massive job and I have no idea where it'll end up.

The thought of some of these scares the life out of me (plumbing and electrics to name but two) but we'll get started on Monday morning and see how injured I am come the end of the list.
If I play my cards right I might end up with a Darwin Award after all...

(EDIT: I've decided to update the list as I go along so I can keep an eye on where I am and ground myself during moments of panic) 

  • Buy oak skirting (acclimatise!)
  • Buy oak architrave (ditto!)
  • Buy radiators + feet
  • Buy switches and sockets
  • Buy light fittings
  • Buy door knob
  1. Sand ceiling (03.05.16)
  2. Sand walls (esp around sockets etc) (04.05.16)
  3. Scrape out chimney breast pointing
  4. Brush down original exposed pointing in feature wall (13.05.16)
  5. Sand beams above oriel window
  6. Caulk ceiling edges to walls
  7. Strip door frame reveal in to hall (06.05.16)
  8. Fit oriel window wall light and chase electrics
  9. Make oak window sills x2
  10. Remove old radiator pipes from pantry
  11. Install new copper pipes to repositioned Pantry radiator
  12. Replace copper pipes to front radiator
  13. Brick acid chimney breast brick faces
  14. Brick acid feature wall brick faces for final time and stabilise
  15. Patch delaminating sandstone window sill?
  16. Fill missed areas in front window ceiling with lime putty
  17. Putty-up Pantry wall where radiator pipes used to be
  18. Fill all accidental holes from previous jobs with lime putty
  19. Repoint chimney breast
  20. Cut skirting and architrave to size ready for fitting
  21. Re-sand mantelpiece
  22. Repaint around edges of register plate
  23. Decorate
  24. Wax and finish door frame reveal (07.05.16)
  25. Replace switches and sockets
  26. Replace light fittings
  27. Fit window sills x2
  28. Restore floor
  29. Fit skirting
  30. Fit architrave
  31. Fit radiators + feet
  32. Fit refurbished door (07.05.16)
  33. Fit door latch and knob
  34. Rob bank to pay for new custom-made oriel window frame


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Lime plastering: a cautionary tale

"So, the lime plastering's finished."
"Oh."


As an entire conversation it isn't much, but it's how we're expecting to greet the end of this particular chapter in the project... kind of non-plussed... although at least it's a step up from our recent range of attitudes towards it.

You see this isn't my first attempt at writing this particular blog post. In fact it's not even the second, third, fourth or fifth.
<counts on fingers>
Actually it is the fifth, but that's still three more attempts than usual, mainly because I literally have no clue how to phrase what's in our heads. I got quite far during the third attempt, while the work was still supposedly going on, but it was during an angry period and I was tying myself up in knots trying to explain how I was feeling about it all.
Bits of this particular version were started while I was more resigned to the delays ahead but now, as I wait for the final few hours' work to be done, I'm in the Fed Up To The Back ****ing Teeth stage so I have no idea how it'll go. Nevertheless I'll send it live when everything is done and dusted (however long that takes), by which time the following line will be true (edit: just a few hours later, as it turned out to everyone's astonishment):




So, the lime plastering's finished.
Almost three months after period property renovation expert Andy Skinner walked in to The Lodge, trowel in hand, and knocked up his first bucket-load of lime plaster, the Living Room and Bedroom 1 are done.
That equates to about two months over schedule and two months of trying to occupy myself, waiting for the time I could get in those rooms and do all of the jobs that hinged on the plastering being finished before we could get them sorted out and move in.

That's two months of mounting frustration for us both for just two rooms. And one of those was just a single wall and some patching.


Andy got loads done in the first three days, including our Living Room
feature wall (this is one of two base layers between which are sheets of fine mesh)



But it doesn't really begin there.

It all begins back in August when we started looking for lime plasterers (a rare breed, and good ones are even rarererer) and ended up calling three people for quotes.
One, who had worked at our friends' house so we knew his work, couldn't fit us in before our arbitrary finishing date of 'Christmas', and another one (who came loosely recommended) brought his mate so they could each stand like statues and stare at the walls in rooms they wouldn't even be working in. In total silence. They were very strange.
They were broad mumblyIrish too, so I couldn't understand a word they did say. I have a sneaking suspicion that I agreed to have Dawn either jetwashed or covered in Tarmac but they never came back to do it. Their loss - I can be a generous tipper.


Finished: The underside of the roof above the oriel window in the Living Room, before and after.
We plan to install a small light at the back of the beam to show off the plasterwork above it.







And then came Andy from Severn Plastering (not to be confused with our pal Andy from SamTheDog), who really impressed me from the get-go because he seemed to know his stuff. He was friendly, chatty, enthusiastic and although he was busy he could get done by Christmas. It would be a couple of weeks' work spread over a month or so because he would be fitting us in during lulls in a bigger job he was doing somewhere else (a common occurrence on bigger projects with more trades) and, besides, different coats would need time to dry.
That sounded good enough and fairly typical for such a trade (I vouched for him because Dawn was at work) so we settled back and waited for the quote - which didn't come.

I gave it a not unreasonable fortnight then called Andy over a few days until he eventually answered. He apologised and said that some 'life problems' were happening which had derailed things a bit but he'd get the quote to us by the end of the week.

It didn't come.


Finished: Countless cracks in both ceilings have been
lime puttied-up and repaired. There's still some gentle
sanding to be done but I said I'd take care of that.
But his knowledge and understanding of period property renovation seemed excellent and I really wanted him to do the job so we gave it another not unreasonable fortnight before we gave up.

Cutting a longer story short the first plasterer (who we went back to) couldn't fit us in for a while, so in desperation, I gave Andy another call.
He came out again full of apologies and met Dawn this time. Yes, he could still do the job in the early new year (we'd given up on Christmas) and the big job he was on was delayed so things would probably move smoother and quicker for us.
He gave us a verbal quote there and then, which we accepted - good lime work is very expensive, and he turned up on February 5 and 8 to lay tarps and size things up properly before mixing that first bucket on Tuesday, February 9.

Actually, no.
The morning of the 9th started with a message from him to say there was a delay and he'd see me the following day, which is pretty much how the rest of the work went.
That day became another day here, two days there, maybe a week. The 'on my way' texts and occasional calls became reasons why he couldn't come that day, then for the most-part they dried up altogether only to be replaced by no communication at all.

When he turned up he would do full days sometimes, half days sometimes, or just a few hours. I understand that lime plaster needs to cure in stages which takes time, so there's a limit to what can be done in one sitting, but after giving him the benefit of the doubt for the first five or six weeks we came to the conclusion that there were significant reliability issues going on and although some 'reasons' were probably genuine, we were being given little more than plausible excuses for others.

It was just impossible to tell one from the other.


Finished: The south-facing wall of Bedroom 1 has steel bars bracing the brickwork beneath the window where
I think the heat from the radiator has dried everything over time and forced the bricks to crack and spall.
We decided to keep the jack arch and sandstone lintel revealed to retain an original feature and to break up what would otherwise be a plain wall. The lime edges curve in (pillow) towards the brick to keep a more authentic and original feel.
The wall directly opposite between Bedrooms 1 and 2 is already lath and lime plaster and the walls to either side we've decided to leave as bare brick to keep the room tied in to the fabric of the building and create a warmer feel.
(The top coat is whiter than this in reality but the pic was taken at twilight with the light on)








You might be wondering why I didn't say anything to him at the time, and that's a perfectly reasonable thing to ask.

In my defence I did ask every time, but when you're being drip-fed what could easily be genuine reasons in their own right and you start off taking them as such, there comes a point when you simply can't say anything more just in case you're wrong.
And that's complicated by the fact that good plasterers are thin on the ground so if you somehow scare one off you're left in the lurch. And on a purely personal level he's a nice, likeable bloke with a great line in movie-chat, which makes it even more difficult.

Anyway, Dawn and I have put our heads together to come up with a list of reasons we were given - some more than once and some related to each other, for why he had to arrive late/leave early, couldn't make it that day or didn't turn up for longer periods of time during the last three months:

  • Poorly partner
  • Burglary
  • Police visits
  • Waiting for deliveries which didn't show or were late
  • Meeting with officials on another job
  • Hospital visit(s)
  • Doctors' visit(s)
  • Collecting child from school
  • Lost float (plasterer's trowel)
  • Short on supplies and specialist shop closed
  • Shoulder injections
  • Elbow trouble
  • Hand injury
  • Family illness
  • Unspecific delays on another job

And just to prove to ourselves that we're not imagining things, we've also gone through text messages and photos to plot the days that Andy should have been here. We're not sure about the few days marked in yellow but a weekend and Easter Monday are on there, both of which we were also told would be worked.



And then at some point over Easter came the death of his father.
  • Family bereavement
Now what were we supposed to think? We were already wondering how one man can be so unlucky (a phrase we had literally used out loud) and then along comes something which makes us look like awful people for doubting him.

It took around a week of me texting and calling Andy to find out why he wasn't at The Lodge and by the time he got back to work almost three weeks later I simply didn't know what to think.
Outwardly I was understanding and sympathetic but a little area of my brain was wondering why he seemed to avoid the question when I asked when it happened. It was processing his unprompted-but-offered reasons for not putting an obituary notice in the paper (security) and to be entirely honest it was wondering if he had died before.

They're terrible things to think, I know, but Dawn used the words "crying wolf" and that's exactly what it boils down to.

Finished: We think this might be a bit Marmitey.
Where the dog-leg in the Living Room turns in to the
Pantry (left) we found the old door frame beneath the
plasterboard. It was tied in to the bricks with wooden
blocks, leaving these recesses. Highlighting it like this
not only creates a talking point but gives Dawn
somewhere to put tealights. Everyone's a winner, baby.
He came back on Thursday, April 14, promising to make up for lost time that weekend.
He didn't turn up either day, but he did two full days and two half days in a row after that, then didn't show up for the next two days at all. 

In the meantime he made a point of apologetically insisting that he doesn't usually work like this. He thanked me for our patience and said he hopes we'll use him again.

I'm genuinely sorry to say we won't.

The plaster finish and detailing is great and just what we asked for, but we won't be having him back.
He has delayed significant progress in The Lodge by three or four months in all (including the quote palava), we've cancelled plans on promises that came to nothing, gone months without any form of heating in the house during the coldest parts of the winter and a fortnight ago had a rare, huge row caused by sheer frustration, so to knowingly put ourselves back in that situation would be nucking futs.
(I'm ashamed to admit that I was too cowardly to tell him this in person today - I came close but couldn't do it)

The kicker came during a chance conversation shortly after Easter between Dawn and a work colleague who she rarely sees.

It turns out he had some lime restoration and building work done a few years ago which eventually failed (not the plastering but rebuilt walls and suchlike) and he was in the process of threatening legal proceedings against the mystery tradesman. This person had apparently been unreliable and difficult to contact, stretching a short job in to a number of months.

"Whatever you do, don't use a bloke called Andy Skinner," he said without any prompting.

His emails really say the rest:

Email #1
"...he text[ed] me back yesterday after 18 months..." follows on from the conversation with
Dawn in which her colleague said he was also having communication issues


Email #2
Although I have no way to verify any of this, I'm told that the meeting happened
a week or two ago and a settlement was agreed



Note: I've thought long and hard about whether or not to name Andy Skinner and Severn Plastering (also known as Severn Lime Plastering) in this post.
I liked the man in a way - he was good craic and the final result is excellent, but his work ethic was terrible and I need to write about it because above everything else this is a warts-and-all account of our experiences. And it's Fair Comment (legally).

So I have decided to use it as an opportunity to let other people make a more informed decision if they decide to do some research. We did and found nothing either way.
Finally I've been specific about the company identity because I'd hate for anyone to get confused between him and other plasterers with the same name, who do exist.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

...one year later

Today marks exactly 8,760 hours since we moved to The Lodge and started trying to knock the place in to shape.

Other than the fact that living in a shed for a year isn't as bad as you might think (for the most part), we've learnt a lot of things on the way that we thought we would share to mark our anniversary, so we’ve put our thinking caps on and concocted a list each, which I’ve mixed together below. If you're considering setting sail on a project of your own, take heed because I guarantee that almost all of these will prove to be relevant one day.

We also thought we'd share a few random photographs that haven't made it into the blog before, mainly because I had no idea what to say about them. Nevertheless, many still tell tiny stories all on their ownsome.

So, our one-year anniversary. Some of you may be wondering how we’re going to celebrate this landmark occasion.
Well tonight we’re going to cook pies, peas and chips and eat tea in our camping chairs in front of the wood-burning stove which has been lit just once in the last 10 weeks. We’re going to sing Kumbaya, spend a fruitless hour looking for the Scrabble board then talk about light fittings.
(Disclaimer: some of this is not true but the pies, peas and chips in front of the fire bit is).


Dawn and Muz
putting the why? in to DIY since April 17, 2015






Yesterday
Dawn decided to go scrambling around on the roof to look at a missing tile.
She does that kind of thing whereas I don't. Ever. She found three in all, knocked
a fourth one off herself then came back down having waved at passing cars.
I've told her she's not going up again. We're getting A Man in to sort it out.


  • Your 'best' T-shirt is the one you've done least angle grinding in and/or has fewest holes
  • Tradespeople are utterly hit-and-miss. If you find a good one, keep hold of them
  • Hooting and screeching owls are wonderful at 10pm but an air rifle target at 4am
  • Small talk gets easier - although not easy - with practice
  • Glamping is fun. A big shed with your own bed is way better than a poky old caravan and much more versatile when you move out
  • Glamping is less fun after a year of getting fully dressed and traipsing to an entirely different building every time you need a wee [EDIT: not every time though, eh? Dawn? Eh?]
  • Consider putting a Portapotty thing in your shed

June 2015
After the bee swarm emergency in the front garden a small colony stayed behind
to set up shop in a pile of patio slabs for a few weeks. By the time we returned
from holiday they had left for warmer climes.


  • Tradesmen don't always know what they're waffling on about but will still try to talk you in to doing it their way. If you know you want it a different way, don’t cave in
  • Friends are excellent providers of food, shelter and gin
  • If you stand in the shower long enough your eyes will actually prune
  • The things you need most will be: tape measure; Stanley knife; gaffa tape; pencil; bumper box of screws; cordless driver
  • The things you will lose most often will be: tape measure; Stanley knife; gaffa tape; pencil; bumper box of screws; cordless driver; patience

August 2015
Bedroom 2 has been a no-go zone since the beginning when we decided to use
it for storage. One day Dawn went missing. I found her trapped under an avalanche
of boxes, where she had been for 20 minutes. She was less than impressed
that I then made it 21 minutes by taking a photo or two. Or three.


  • Time is fluid. If a tradesman tells you he'll be there at 9.30am today, expect him a week on Tuesday when you're getting in the shower at 7pm. If he tells you he'll see you tomorrow... don't bank on it
  • Randomly turning up on people’s doorsteps in similar situations to yourself can end up in unexpected friendship, sometimes with added coffee cake*
  • Oil-filled radiators take all of your electricity, chew it up, spit it out and demand more NOW!
  • Mentioning 'Blue Tits' (the bird) continues to be amusing even when you’re surrounded by them day in, day out
  • You'll know it's time to change your jeans when you forget which month it was when you first put them on
* Not a guarantee!

October 2015
British Telecom has the worst customer service in the history of the universe.
After problems, complaints, compensation and more problems relating to half a dozen unconnected things (sometimes literally) we eventually got hooked up to BT Infinity Broadband. Or did we?
Here I decided to set Dawn a fun text quiz to work out this week's excuse for why the engineer, who was at the door, couldn't make our broadband run any faster after we'd been paying for it for six weeks.



  • Parish newsletters (available by wandering randomly into your village church and posting 50p into a slot), are a handy source of local tradesfolk
  • Productivity decreases dramatically as the weather deteriorates and picks up again when the sun comes out
  • Using your own two totally unskilled hands to make something out of wood - which doesn't then fall apart and/or over - is incredibly satisfying
  • Community Facebook page recommendations for tradespeople are often just nods to their useless pals rather than actual useful tradespeople. Don't learn this lesson the hard way. Ask your neighbours instead
  • Shaving is for office workers
  • Even if you aren’t full-time ‘on-site’, you will find yourself living in a uniform of walking boots, thermals and waterproofs most of the time


June 2015
This is on our doorstep. Literally almost literally literally on our doorstep.
It's easy to forget how gorgeous it is come winter when the rain drips through the Living Room window and you can still see your breath in the shower.


  • Flytippers, who are much more common that you'd care to think, need to see the business end of a shotgun
  • The most important question to learn during a renovation project is: "Do you have a cash price?" but because circumventing VAT-based legal stuff is generally frowned upon by the Government, make sure the words don't leave your mouth unless you're in a soundproofed room by yourself
  • When you don't watch UK television for a year (apart from the Moto GP) you realise how mind-numbingly banal most of the shows were anyway, but...
  • ...an Amazon Prime subscription is a sanity-saver



October 2015
At £400+ a pallet of 120mm Kingspan (seconds from eBay) isn't cheap - and Dawn needed some persuading - but it made the winter more than bearable in the shed, it made it pleasant.
We only covered about a third of the inside in all, concentrating on the bed end, and the rest of the packs are still cluttering up the Dining Room where they are likely to stay for some time yet. When the shed eventually becomes our workshop we'll get the rest in then.

  • Deep in the countryside, wing mirrors are sacrificial
  • Your best 'casual footwear' will be walking boots that you have to run under the outside tap to get the plaster dust off
  • Neighbours whose houses you can’t even see are often exceptionally friendly
  • If you want to meet said neighbours, owning a dog - or them having a dog - greatly increases those chances. If neither apply, take cake

February 2016
Back when we had some form of heating in The Lodge


  • Blue Tits


March 2016
Dawn's IKEA bag full of soggy washing can't save her from a trip to the iPhone repair shop courtesy of an untied pair of bootlaces. Again.


  • Kevin McCloud is right - every job you do will cost 3.6 times as much and take 73 times longer than you think it will
  • You won't be in by Christmas
  • Cats are lovely when they're all curled up asleep at 10pm but when they're scratching to be out at 4am only to want back in at 4.05am you'll consider lining them up next to the owls


March 2016
Having looked at old maps as part of our research, we found an old quarry (1700s-1800s) within the estate boundary which was just a half-hour walk away through the woods.
It took us nearly a year to make the journey but we found a gorgeous 60ft steep-sided horseshoe-shaped scar in the sandstone, beneath which were deep pools inside low caves that we couldn't see the end of.
The best thing about the place isn't that it's almost untouched by latter-day humans (other than a tiny bit of fly-tipping) it's that the sandstone is pinky-red which is exactly the same as that used back home on the outside of the house.
We're now thinking of this quarry as The Lodge's birthplace, which is ace.

  • Don't assume that getting hooked up to gas will cost an arm and a leg - check with the National Grid before you buy a million litres of fuel oil for a smelly old boiler that heats neither water nor radiators. It might be much cheaper than you think
  • An electric blanket will take the immediate sting out of winter, but…
  • …when your other half suggests spending good money on good insulation for the shed that you were only planning on spending the summer in, just agree. You won’t regret it
  • Surrounding farmland throws up all manner of new and overwhelmingly-nauseating smells but sometimes, just sometimes, it's you
  • This is the final bullet point. On to the photos:

April 2016
This, I think, is a female Smooth Newt.
I found her on the driveway at the back a week ago, hidden in some damp leaves under a bag of rubbish.
She was very dry and nowhere near a water source so I took her to the front garden where there used to be a koi pond in the 80s. Underneath a bush there's a small murky pool-thing which used to be a water feature of some kind to feed the pond. It's permanently full of rain water and leaves and yummy newt stuff so after spending 10 minutes on a leaf making her mind up, in she plopped never to be seen again.
No calls, no emails, no chocolates, no nuffin'...

*

March 2015
The INCUBATOR MORE sign takes a sinister turn

*



March 2015
Technically-speaking we started work before we officially got the keys. We can probably legally admit this now that a year has passed but telling you how we got in will likely get us jailed. I must brush up on my property law.
One of the very first things we did was to set my folks (let's call them Viv and Ken for legal reasons) to work stripping wallpaper in the Living Room so we could begin to work out what we were dealing with beneath. This pic is shot through a window looking in to the Pantry from the Courtyard, in case you get confused.

Important note: we're outside, not inside. Outside of the building. Completely.

*
March 2016
Beyond the woods are thousands of acres of farmers' fields followed by more woodland. Living among that lot are muntjac deer which are no bigger than old, fat labrador dogs but more delicious to eat with a little rosemary and ground black pepper.
This one couldn't have given a stuff that I was there and came to within about 30ft before meandering off, chewing the crops with little more than a sniff in my direction.

*





April 2015
Just lined up in jars, looking all squidgy and that.

*





March 20, 2015
Total eclipse of the sun over The Lodge.
You can only really tell because of the lens flare towards the bottom right, though.

*
May 2015
A few miles away is The Old Post Office, which is in a different village altogether.
Identical in almost every way to The Lodge and also a former Crown Estates property, it had just been bought by John and Jess (who we later made friends with) and was about to be gutted. We reappropriated much of the skipped timber, some of which was used to build the woodshed.

*





July 2015
Just two samples of the wallpaper which once tastefully adorned every vertical surface in the Living Room.

*
June 2015
An early version of our NatureCam CCTV caught a tawny owl landing on a patio chair which had previously been used to dry washing in the front garden.
Despite NatureCam moving elsewhere every now and then we've never seen another one on the cameras.


*
October 2015
After a brief stint as 'OUR BACON REMIT' this is how the garage door
sign has remained ever since.

*





NOW
Dawn is giving the front garden its first mow of the year while I sort this blog out.
In fact I've just heard the mower go CRUNCH!
When I set this post live I'll pretend I'm still doing it so I don't have to help because I'm mean like that. Besides, I've pulled my neck, etc...





EDIT: Monday, April 18

By coincidence, after my thoughts about flytippers not 24 hours ago, I drove past this today. It's about a mile-and-a-half from here on a beautiful country lane, right in the gateway to a field and around the entrance to a peaceful footpath/bridleway.
Seriously. There's just no need. I can normally at least understand how other people think about certain things even if I don't agree with them (see my fox hunting posts) but this... I just don't get it. I mean, that's a perfectly decent bucket.







Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Cabin fever sets in

So I've went and gone and added a subscribe widget thingy over <--- there somewhere.


Give me a month...
If you enter your email address then click a confirmation linky sent to your inbox you should, in theory, get an email alert whenever a new blog post goes live. Like this one.
I have no idea if it'll be useful or not, but give it a shot. It'll provide a much-needed short break from looking at cat videos and dirty women.

When I say I "added" the widget I kind of made a bit of it. That's why I'm not entirely sure it's working - my behind-the-scenes dashboard is telling me nobody has subscribed even though both Dawn and I definitely have. It's under construction, let's say. (EDIT: It doesn't work. I've ditched it.)

So yes, I made it. Ish.
I stole the envelope picture using Google as my willing accomplice and made it pretty. I reminded myself of a little HTML to make the whole widget (that's what they call those bits) smaller. I changed the words. I set up an account to handle the automated emails...

...then I topped-up the rat poison.
Lugged a few tools around from one place to another.
Incinerated all the rubbish wood I could find in a fire that lasted almost three days
Made two big veg planters for Dawn out of new half-sleepers.
Emptied the water butt by the woodshed. Four times.
Pointed our CCTV NatureCam at a tree.
Lumbered around in the woods for a bit.
Angled my bedside lamp so it points more at the wall.
Sat by the window watching the raindrops trickle gently down the Perspex.
Tinkered with the blog page background, making it a more loggy one.
Emptied the ash pan from the criminally-underused log burner.
Realised I've run out of land to go metal detecting on...

Things are slow at the minute, I won't lie.
I can't really explain the reasons just yet, but we have a job on at The Lodge which should have taken a reasonably short period of time but has rapidly become much more of an unexpectedly-lengthy affair.
By that I mean 'it's at a standstill and is holding up every other job that can possibly be done inside the house at the moment'.


I can't find a suitable picture to go at the end of this post,
so here's a piglet in wellies
So I have been finding things to do, which is how the woodshed was born and why I on-and-off spent the best part of a fortnight carefully crafting a gargantuan blog about it which I dare anyone to read to the end. Even I fell asleep when I was writing it, possibly more than once.

So that's it, really. I don't suppose even this post is necessary, but it's something to do.
Please subscribe to our (mainly my) ramblings using the gubbins at the top of the left-hand sidebar. If not before, you should get a new post alert on Sunday when it's our one-year anniversary at The Lodge, so if it doesn't arrive it's buggered.

I'm going to sleep now. Tomorrow I plan to rearrange the cutlery drawer. I might break with tradition and do it alphabetically. Then I might blog about it. With a picture gallery.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

How to build a woodshed for (almost) free!

The supplementary title for this post is:
"In The Time It Has Taken Me To Write This Blog I Could've Built Another One"


Part-way through filling the finished wood store, before the rains came
I've always harboured the need for a giant woodshed in which to prepare fuel for my fire, keeping my family warm while I hunt buffalo and forage for berries at the Co-op.
It's just a man thing, I suppose.

Now, roaring fires need lots of wood and having looked around the interwoz for ideas and inspiration for a structure in which to store it I have discovered three things:
  1. Web-bought, flat-packed, man-sized woodsheds (or wood stores, whatever) cost an absolute fortune. Many hundreds of precious shekels.
  2. Some people decide to knock up their own but will throw together any rickety old tat, chuck a flappy and torn tarpaulin over the top and make do. Horrible, grotty things next to the shed, providing a subtly-desperate ambiance to any drizzly summer barbecue.
  3. A minority of people make their wood stores out of free, reclaimed wooden pallets and a few of those even make a decent stab at it.
I like the word 'free', so with the desire to save our funds for curry and wine and having decided that The Lodge deserved more than just a couple of beer crates with sticks jammed in to them I did what any enthusiastic DIYer would do and went blindly ahead with building a pallet store, possessing neither a plan nor the brain power to come up with one. It needed sides and a roof. That was my limit. Oh, and pallets.

First of all a quick tale: We are friends with a lovely couple, John and Jess, who live a few miles away in an 1800s house - a former village Post Office - that's identical to ours.


The 'tarp over sticks' look might work for this chap in Alaska,
but at The Lodge a good-looking wood shed is the only thing
we have to compete against the neighbour's new Ferrari
It's one of just three such-styled houses that we know of (including ours - the other appears to be dropping to bits), but when we brazenly rocked up last spring to introduce ourselves and demand a tour, J&J had just bought theirs and were gutting/renovating it at the same time as us. The crucial difference being they had drafted in teams of builders, chippies, roofers and sparkies to do it all in one fell swoop that spanned a few months.
Jess makes amazing chocolate cornflake cupcakes, by the way. If you'd had one you would want to tell people too.

Over the last year they have created a beautiful home, and while some of the things they've done won't work so well for us we plan to shamelessly steal at least part of their extended kitchen idea and maybe open up the upstairs landing in a similar way to theirs too.

But because they haven't taken quite the same approach to the project as us their work created waste, a great deal of which we stole from their skip to use here because we 're cheap like that. Besides, reclaiming stuff is our thing.

As a result we got a ton (probably literally) of sturdy main timber framework and a good amount of green corrugated box-profile tin roof from them in exchange for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
Trevor also managed to bag the pallets for the sum total of nowt, and we carted somewhere around 20 of them back to The Lodge in our cars because this all started way back before the Man Truck came on the scene.

So, to business.
I'm not sure how a How To Guide will pan out, given my Make It Up With Confidence approach, but let's see what happens.
All of this took a good five or six weeks, but work going on in the house and some terrible and/or freezing cold weather took up most of that time. So at a guess I'd say it took maybe 14 days overall with an unskilled workforce of one, then two (Terminator Trevor appeared for a couple of days, bringing the classic food combo of cupcakes and radishes), then back to one again.

For obvious reasons, many of the steps below would work better using two people, but if you're careful and patient - and there's no wind to blow everything over - you should be able to manage alone, albeit with a few snapped screws and wonky bits here and there.

But "you're not building the Taj Mahal, it's just a woodshed", as people kept on telling me.



A bodger's guide to building a wood store


Get some pallets


The pallets on the right were all the same size so were used for the main
base, back and partitions. The others were pulled apart for the sides.
How many you'll need depends on how long you want your wood store to be and how high you want it. Roughly, think of one trimmed-down pallet (like you'll be using) being 4ft x 3ft, so a store that's two pallets long and two high will be about 8ft long x 6ft high at the back x 3ft deep. Some pallets are a different size altogether, of course, so work with what you can get but try to get them the same size as each other if possible. It'll save a load of faffery later on when you just so happen to want the back as long as the base... which you will.
You'll also need some extra pallets for dismantling to make the sides and any internal partitions that you decide to create. Plus a few more as spares, just in case.


Important: the pallets I have used (not deliberately - it's just what we were given) are 'two-way stringer' pallets rather than 'four-way block' pallets. The difference being how the top deck of slats is separated from the bottom deck. With stringer pallets, once the ends of the slats were trimmed off we could securely attach two pallets together simply by screwing the exposed edge stringer of one pallet (which helpfully runs from one end to the other uninterrupted) to the same on the next.
If the decks on your pallets are separated by corner blocks then things will be a little trickier and you'll have to make things up as you go along. Much like I've done here. 

Get your hands on any decent-looking and sound old timber you can find


Bolts and nails everywhere
I've said how we did it, but you could go skip-diving (with permission) or whimper outside the gates of a nearby house building or renovation project or something. Use your imagination. Basically scrounge, is what I'm saying because you don't always have to buy and even the tattiest looking length of wood can scrub up well enough for this job, and even if the ends are rotting you can always trim them off. 
You'll need two good, solid posts that are at least 3x3 for the front corners, but more if you're planning to build a long structure. We used three, with one in the centre. The rest of the wood can be mismatched lengths of different-sized timber - it doesn't really matter, but nothing too thin for structural work or it'll bend, snap or split. Make sure you get any nails out and tidy them up before you use them if safety and looks matter to you.

Get some corrugated iron or bitumen roofing sheets (not, not, not asbestos)


Box profile roof sheets, as blown over
by Storm Katie
This one is a bit tougher, especially if you want a roof that's in decent nick, but if you can skip-dive some or beg some from a friendly farmer then do it.

At a push you might need to buy some, but if we had to then I'd have gone for the black wavy corrugated bitumen roofing sheets from Wickes. Or you could get some sturdy marine plywood from a timber yard or even B&Q and cover it with roofing felt. It's up to you, your budget and your imagination.

If you do end up scavenging, make sure the profiles of the sheets match each other or you're going to have a problem when you want to start overlapping them along the edges as you build the roof.

As long as they're in generally good fettle it doesn't matter about any holes or gouges because you'll be plugging them up later on and painting everything black, which hides a multitude of sins.


Tools you'll need (no particular order):

  • Claw hammer
  • Extension lead
  • Electric drill/driver + metal drill bit to suit roof screw diameter
  • Jigsaw with 'wood' blade + a spare or two
  • A dozen or so hard, modern house bricks or similar
  • Crowbar
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Belt sander
  • A straight-edged length of wood or a carpenter's square
  • Spirit level
  • Plenty of good quality wood screws of various lengths and diameters
  • Roofing screws with waterproof caps and/or a roll of flash band waterproofing sealant and/or a tube of black mastic
  • Angle grinder with metal cutting disc
  • Dustpan & brush/broom
  • Compound mitre saw or, if you're absolutely mental, a handsaw
  • Optional - guttering with brackets and angles and stop ends and downpipe and suchlike (Wickes' Miniline range is probably the cheapest you'll find)
  • Optional - cheapo wood stain and paintbrushes
  • Optional - Budget metal primer/paint
  • Optional - Dremel Multitool with deburring attachment or a simple metal file
  • Optional - something to measure angles with (or just use your eyes)
  • Optional - water butt

1. Select and clear the area

As my complete lack of injuries during the entire Lodge project will attest (discounting burns, cuts, bruising and a really annoying habit of banging my head on every low doorway), my entire Being is based around the principles of health and safety and it's very rare I even leave the shed without a full risk assessment. And you should treat this exciting mini side project with the same life-preserving approach.

There's hard standing under all this danger
Find a location for your wood store where it will be most sheltered from the brunt of the bad weather, but preferably gets a lot of sun in the warmer months. It should be close enough to the house so you don't get knackered just keeping the fire going every day, but far enough away so it isn't in the way of normal life.
Best not build it against the side of your precious house or anything else combustible like a fence or conservatory either. Wood has a habit of burning quite a lot and if a stray BBQ spark gets lucky or someone accidentally flicks a cigarette end in there... it does happen!

Make sure you choose somewhere with a good, solid base so your very heavy fully-laden wood store doesn't start sinking in to the mud this time next year. An area of old hard standing or solid paving slabs will do, and if all else fails try old railway sleepers or a gravel bed. You want a surface that will drain and dry out after it rains or your store will eventually begin to rot at the base.

Wherever you choose, get rid of all the rubbish and trip hazards. You'll be falling over various tools and extension cables enough as it is, so the last thing you want is to step on a rake or stand on a piece of Lego in just your socks.


2. Lay out the wood store

Start with a row of pallets side-by-side flat on your chosen surface, with the slats running front-back. This will give you a rough idea of how long you want the store to be and, as a result, how many partitions you're going to have in it, assuming you're having some.

Prop up some more pallets, with the slats running top-bottom, along the back against the wall (or wherever) at right angles to the base to give you the lower half of the back then, if you're feeling brave and your life insurance is up-to-date, rest at least one more pallet on top of the first row to show you generally how big the whole thing will be and (roughly) how high it'll be at the back.

Don't let that carefully-balanced pallet fall on you, though. If you die you fail the task.


In the end I went for just four pallets long (should've done five).
You'll notice I forgot to take a photo with a pallet balanced on top of the back row - this will
be a recurring theme for this How To Guide...


The finished back won't be quite as high as it looks at this stage because you'll shortly be trimming off the ends of all of the vertical slats, losing quite a few inches in all. But at least you're getting the idea now, so make any size adjustments you need to at this stage or you'll regret it later on.

3. Start screwing bits together

Remove everything from the work area apart from one pallet on the far left or right of the base and its corresponding upright pallet which will become part of the bottom row of the back. If that makes sense.

Taking the upright pallet, use your jigsaw to trim the slats, removing all of the overhanging ends (about a couple of inches each side) and leaving the long flat surface of the outermost stringers exposed.
Now measure halfway along the longest edge of this pallet and chop it in half through the stringers in the same direction as the slats, giving you two identical baby pallets. Put one half to one side where you won't fall over it.


Span the joins between pallets with strips
of wood to stop them pulling apart
Using your house bricks or solid blocks of off-cut wood (preferably treated against rot), get your end base pallet exactly where you want it and level.
Stand one of the trimmed-up pallet halves at right angles along the rear edge of the base pallet, making sure the outside edges are in line with each other and the stringer that's in contact with the base is directly over the base pallet's rear-most stringer.
Use your spirit level to make sure it's perfectlyish upright in comparison to the base then screw straight down through the stringer in to the stringer of the base pallet to join them. The slats will be sandwiched between them, but that doesn't matter providing your screws are long enough to keep it all solid.
Use as many screws as you want but remember that this will be part of the overall strength of the structure, so make sure you're happy with it.

Take another full pallet and lie it on the ground with the slats running front-back again, butting it up next to the first section of base.
Use your bricks again to get it level and aligned with the base section that you've already created, then secure them both together a couple of inches back from the front edge using a random length of wood to span the two across the join. This will stop the base sections drifting apart from one another.

Next get one of the whole pallets you chose earlier for the back and trim off all of the ends on the top and bottom decks again.
Offer this up to the edge of the first half pallet you screwed in place, again sitting directly above the stringer at the rear of the base pallets. Screw it down as before - you'll notice that because you used a half pallet earlier this one is now spanning the join between the two base sections like brickwork and because you screwed it firmly in place it is stopping the base pulling apart at the back now, too.


Trimming the ends off the slats
lets you screw the stringers directly
together, giving more strength
Just like you did with the base, secure these two pallets together using a length of wood spanning the join between both. You can do this across the stringers at the very back if you want to keep things neater, but whatever you do don't use the pallet slat off-cuts like I did at first because they're too small and split far too easily.

Finally (for this part), trim-up another pallet, sit it carefully on top of the upright one-and-a-half pallets, align the edges and screw down through its bottom stringer, straight in to the top of the one below it. No sandwiched slats this time.
Give or take an inch or so, this is the height your wood store will be at the back, although the angle of the roof will make it a little lower at the front.

By the way, can you tell I didn't get a photo of just the first few pallets screwed together? Working right on the edge of disaster has a habit of making you forget about keeping picture records.

4. Get your first corner post in

Rummage through your reclaimed timber pile and find the two thickest, strongest posts you have because these will be your two front corners. All-the-better if they match each other. These should be somewhere around the height of the section of back that you've just knocked together - in our case we used two 4x3s which were nominally 6ft long (the word 'nominally' came up a lot during this build, it has to be said). A third matching 4x3 was used as a centre support later on.
Spend a few minutes tidying them up and pulling out the nails, angle grinding them off or punching them in. If you want to sand everything down later on you won't want to miss any!

You need to have your first post at the very front corner of your structure, which means you may have to jigsaw off the overhanging end of the outermost slat on the base to get it in place, but once you've done that either get someone to hold it upright or drive a couple of long screws in at an angle in to the base's stringer to temporarily hold it there.


See the bit where I cut the corner post in the wrong place
then had to glue some back on and brace it with more
wood? No? That's the correct answer.
Take a step back and look at the beginning of your frame.

Now convention seems to say that your finished roof should run at a slope of about 15 degrees for optimum rain-sheddibility, but opinion seems to be split between the slope running back-front or front-back. I went for the former, just because.
I was also a little concerned that at 15 degrees the front would be a little too low for me because I'm 6' 1", so I decided to lessen the angle a little and hope for the best.

Now you need to work out your roof line so you can see where to cut your corner post in order that the sloping sheet which will be fixed to it is flush.
If you have an angled spirit level like we do (dirt cheap at Aldi or Lidl or somewhere a few months ago) then all you need to do is set it at the angle you want, hold the upper horizontal section at 90 degrees out from the top of the back then draw a sloping line across the side of your corner post, following the angle of the lower section of the spirit level.

Or you could just use your eyes and guess.

Once you've chopsawed your corner post at the required angle screw it back in place again and offer-up a section of sheet roofing just to make sure you're on the right track.
Now grab another piece of sturdy timber (again, having a second identical one will be handy for the other end), de-nail it then offer it up horizontally to the structure as a side brace between the corner post and the back. Now draw a line and chop through it.
Screw this side brace firmly in place against the very side edge of the structure, starting at the point where the two layers of back pallets meet and ending straight across at the corner post. If you've got your post in the right place this brace should screw right on to the outside of it.

Do the same with an angled brace running down from the top of the back to the top of the post (again on the outside) then, if you're feeling flamboyant and have enough timber, put in a diagonal brace from the inside bottom back corner up to a reasonably high point on the back of the post to ramp up the rigidity.

Now go and have a cup of tea, happy in the knowledge that your corner post won't fall over.

4. Repeat until happy

What happens next depends on how long your store is going to be.

It's already two pallets long with the back extending along one-and-a-half pallets on the bottom deck and one pallet on the top deck.
If that's enough for you, find the second half pallet that you tucked safely away and fix that to the end of the bottom row of back pallets. Trim-up another full pallet and fix that one to the end of the top row and to the top of the bottom row, remembering to brace all of the joins with random lengths of wood.

If you want to make the entire thing longer, add however many base pallets you need and keep going until you're done. But still end the bottom row of upright back pallets with that dinky little half pallet. This way you're ensuring that all of the joins between pallets are off-set from the identical joins in the row above or below, like courses of bricks.

Once you're happy with that lot, repeat the process described loosely above on the other side to fashion the corner post and side of the frame.


Upright. Nominally.
6. Fix your centre post in place

Depending on the overall length of your wood store, you may need a post in the front and centre (or more) for extra strength and for something to support the roof to stop it naturally drooping in the middle.
If you have a length of timber which matches the corners then this is where to use it, although it doesn't have to be quite as chunky as those if you don't. The main strength already comes from the sides and the way you've screwed all of your pallets together.

This stage is very much like attaching the corner posts, so find the centre of your structure which, if you've used an even number of pallets for the base, should be where the middle two join. Trim off a couple of slat ends at that point, enough to accommodate the post.

Slot your post in, get it roughly upright, then drive a couple of screws in from the side through the post and in to the stringer, holding it in place.
Offer-up another cross beam across the centre, front-to-back, resting it gently against the side of the post at the front with the back end going no further back than the front face of the first slat it comes to. Using your octo-arms to hold it in place, draw a pencil line on the beam at the front edge of the centre post then trim it to length.


Well, there were off-cuts to get rid of...
Offer it up again and note where the beam's back end naturally wants to rest against the slat of the pallet it meets. Draw a line on the slat to mark the place then screw in a chunky vertical batten down this line against which you will butt your beam (I know - I can't think of another phrase) and screw it in (ditto).
Your centre post is now firmly in place, held there by the cross beam which in turn is providing more front-back stability.

The next step is to attach an angled roof beam at the top from the centre beam to the back, but as this is only needed to provide support for the roof sheets that will rest on it (which aren't very heavy and are rigid enough in their own right from front-to-back), it doesn't have to be a beast - a length of old pine skirting or something will do.

Trim it to length and attach it with a batten in the same way as you did the horizontal beam below it, being sure not to have any part of this top beam poking above the level of the highest point on the back, or your roof will have a hump in it.
You may have to trim the ends of this beam at angles to get it to fit where you want it.
If you want you can add another angled brace from where the back joins the base up to the beam as we have done (and like you've already done at the sides), but it's not strictly necessary.

Finally, find some more pine skirting or similar to run from corner post to corner post across the front at the top, via the centre post, for roof support at the front and for something to attach the gutter to if you're planning to have one. If what you have to hand is pretty wide you might want to jigsaw it straight down the middle to split it in two, the bonus of which is you've now doubled the amount you have.




Now... just screw it in place.
When I nipped in to make a brew Terminator Trevor fashioned some fancy corner thingies to finish it off too, which is something I wouldn't have thought of and they look good on the finished product.

7. Add partitions

I was going to say that adding partitions is entirely up to you, but having now filled the woodshed with all of the wood we currently have available I think they're pretty much essential to keep the contents in order.

If you're going for the 'chuck it all in and let it fall where it may' look then knock yourself out, but we have three main batches of wood, all of which are seasoned differently to each other, so I needed to keep them apart. One batch (bought) is seasoned and ready to burn, while the second lot (donated) is slightly reluctant to burn properly so needs a little longer to dry. The third (also donated) pile, on the other hand, is manky. It has been sitting out in the rain and snow and damp for months so it's muddy, slimy, fungi-y and wormy. So it needs at least 18 months to season and for me to want to touch it again.


You may have to take a notch out of the slats for a
better fit. Note the angle of the screw. You don't have
to screw directly in to things to make a fix. Going
in at an angle - or from the side - can be useful.
Adding partitions is simple because in our case they're just single trimmed pallets screwed in place, as you can see from the picture above.
To be honest it's really just a case of jigsaw the ends off and screw it firmly in place anywhere you can - there's no particular trick to it. If you have screwed lengths of wood across where the base pallets join at the front you might need to notch a little bit out of one of the bottom slats, but that's the only real technical thing about this stage, although the rest of it isn't exactly particle physics...

One thing you'll probably notice is that there are more slats on the top deck than on the bottom deck of your average common-or-garden pallet, so this is where your crow bar and hammer will come in handy. Pry apart one of your spare pallets (which isn't easy, but if you're careful you won't split too much wood) and attach some of the slats to the bottom deck(s) of your partition(s). This will stop the logs falling in to the dividers once you start stacking.

While you're at it, pry a few more pallets apart and screw slats in place on both sides of the central support structure (creating another partition), because I learnt the hard way that they come in handy. By the time I figured out that I really needed some there I had already stacked one bay and could only fix slats in place on one side. It works but it's not ideal for airflow around the wood.

While you're still prying those pallets apart, do some more because you need to...

8. ...get creative with the sides

Imagine your finished wood store, which is now full of wood. It looks lovely from the front, doesn't it? All those split logs and different colours and textures.

But what does it look like from the sides?
If you want the finished product to give the illusion that you've put some thought and effort in to it, I think you need to get fancy with the only real part of the structure that will be seen, other than the roof. It's all-too-easy to throw a bunch of horizontal slats at the two sides and make then look like regular pallets, but spending a little bit of extra time to fix the slats at an angle makes all the difference.

The only point of note is that you may find your available slats are too short to reach from one corner to the other at the longest span, so you'll need to join a couple together. Being an occasional practicing perfectionist I first tried Gorilla Gluing two pieces together but that failed miserably so I went for the quicker option of butting two lengths together, battening them at the back, then trimming them to size. Much simpler.

9. Sand it
(you might want to do this before you add the side slats so it's less fiddly and awkward, and you can always sand the edges and corners of those slats afterwards, once they're in place)


Rounding the edges and corners off softens
the look of the whole thing
This takes a bit of time and you don't have to do it but, again, it's worth it. It adds to the overall finish.
A good old brutish belt sander with a medium-grade belt is the tool for this because it will cover greater swathes of wood than if you were tickling your creation with a detail sander.

The good news is that you're not sanding everything down - that would just be silly - and as for attempting to sand the faces of the slats, forget it.
I started with the timber of the main frame, some of which had been coated with limewash at some point in its life. The rest of the timber was generally a bit scruffy so I sanded all of the surfaces that would still be visible when the store was full to clean them up so the wood stain would take better later on. Remember that I was de-nailing the timber as it was being constructed!
I then moved on to the roof/gutter support across the front which, having served its original purpose as skirting board, wasn't helping anyone by being painted gloss white.

Once that was finished I then decided to use the belt sander to take the corners and edges off all of the timber which would be visible from the front. I just think it looks smarter and it has already been noticed by awe-struck admirers so it was worth the effort.

10. Stain it

Once again this isn't essential and to be honest it's a pain in the backside, but a coat of stain helps elevate things from a bunch of tatty pallets to a decent-looking woodshed.

One thing you need to know is that pallet wood is generally horrible, rough stuff. All of that splintery roughness gives rise to a lot of surface area which needs to be stained, so find the cheapest stain you can that's still a reasonably respectable colour, and get more than you think you'll need. I completely misjudged how much I'd need and when my 5l tin ran out I supplemented it with a 2.5l tin, followed by a 1l tin in to which I had to pour five 25ml tester pots of different colours (I've been testing skirting stains), and even then I used every single last drop in just one coat.


I find that podcasts really help alleviate the tedium of crappy jobs like staining.
This part of the project was brought to you by Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast or, as all
the cool kids are calling it, RHLSTP (pronounced ruh-huh-less-tuh-puh)
As well as the 'natural' stain I used for the main body of the store I pushed the boat out and got black ('ebony') for some of the side timber, to break up the expanse of brown, and for the front roof support so it would blend in with the roof and gutter.

Another thing to mention is that you only really need to stain the surfaces that are visible so you don't have to do the back, for instance. To make the stain go further I considered leaving the insides of the bays bare but full woodsheds don't stay full forever and it would keep me awake at night to know that one day I'll remove a log only to see a pale yellowy slat staring back at me.

11. Roof it

First things first - if you're using reclaimed roofing sheets give them a good scrub with soapy water and a stiff brush to get the muck off. It's much more awkward to do once they're in place.

Second things second - if you're fitting a gutter (you don't have to but it'll prevent water bouncing off the floor back on to the front of your woodpile) you might want to consider doing that now unless you're happy enough to do it after the roof is fixed in place. If you don't want guttering, put some thought in to how to protect your soft, squishy forehead from the sharp roof edges when you're stumbling around in the dark on a drizzly winter's night.


Overlapping the roof sheets will help lock them together
Secure them further with bolts for 100% peace of mind
To work out how long you want each sheet to be simply measure from the top of the back down the diagonal to the top (the very front edge) of a corner post... then add two or three inches for overhang at the front and a tiny bit at the back. It's all nominal. If I remember correctly mine were about 51" or thereabouts.

Take your first reclaimed sheet, measure it up and cut it to length with an angle grinder, then lay it carefully on the roof of your structure, overhanging the side by an inch or two and the front by a similar amount. It'll feel like you're leaving the side very exposed to the wet weather but there's no way around that and, besides, the design of the structure is to allow as much airflow as possible through the wood while blocking the worst of the bad weather, so it'll still do it's job.

Measure and cut your next sheet then lay it over the edge of the first, heading towards the centre of your roof, making sure to overlap the edges of the two sheets. The profile of the corrugation should mean that you can interlock the edges together, creating a stronger join.

Keep doing this until you get to the other side of the roof, where you might have to shimmy the whole thing by an inch or two from one side to the other to make sure it's in the right place.

The following fixing method is what I did, but how you do it depends on what you're using:


The caps on the screws were crap but the
rolled squares of flash band should be more
than enough. I didn't get any tar on Dawn's
hairdryer either. WIN!
Using a cordless drill with a metal bit I drilled a pilot hole at the bottom outside corner of the first roof panel, cut a 1.5 inch square piece of flash band off the roll, popped the pointy end of a 70mm roofing screw, complete with transparent waterproof cap, through the flash band patch then drove it through the hole and in to the top of the corner of the main frame.
I pointed a Nicky Clarke hairdryer at the flash band for a few seconds then rolled it as flat as I could with a piece of stainless steel bar I found lying around. Like a rolling pin.
I then snapped the waterproof cap over the top 25 times before I decided to glue the useless bloody thing in place. In fact the same went for about half of them... rubbish.

Repeat this process for all four corners, then put plenty of screws in to all of the sheets at various points along all four sides, with some screwed down the central roof support from front-back. The general idea is that the more screws you use, the less likely it is that your roof will wipe out a tractor three miles away when Storm Megalolz comes around next winter.
If you want to go full belt-and-braces you could always bolt overlapping sheets directly to each other to lock every one of them together, but I couldn't be bothered and the roof has already passed the test of Storm Katie.

Finally for this bit, hairdryer and roll more squares of flash band over any holes and gouges you find that water might drip through. I couldn't be bothered to flash band right along all the overlapping edges either but if you're extra picky and still have the energy, feel free.


I couldn't really reach to get many screws along the back edge but I'm hoping the wall will protect it from
any major gusts. It has already survived one storm, so fingers crossed it'll hold on


Next comes another optional element - tidy up the exposed edges of the roof.
I used a Dremel Multitool thingummy with a deburring attachment fitted to smooth the roughly-chopped metal edges off. Like most people, I suspect, I had no idea what the deburring tool looked like but it's the pinkish conical stony-feeling thing that lives among the dozens of other mystery attachments at the bottom of the box. That one.


That's what it's for!
Finally, finally, finally, give it a couple of coats of paint. I've read that a black roof is preferable because of the heat absorbency properties (the sun will heat the roof quickly, which will then transfer faster in to the firewood, getting it warmer faster so even if the sun goes in the wood is already as warm as it can get)... but in any event it looks pretty smart too.
I was tempted to use Hammerite, but it's 'only' a wood store so I picked up a tin of No Nonsense No-primer Metal Paint from Screwfix and did the job with that. The only reason I didn't pre-paint the roof before fixing it in place was because I didn't want to scratch the sheets while shimmying them around and I also wanted to paint over the screws and caps so everything would blend together.
Doing the actual painting wasn't easy given the awkward balancing act, but the roof was pretty strong so it could take a little weight as I leaned across. I didn't tap dance on it, but you know what I mean.

And that's it!


As has been pointed out many-a-time, it doesn't look level at all - I know.
But the wall isn't level and the base heads off in a different direction altogether.
The woodshed, believe it or not, is perfectly nominally level.
I should've boxed-in the bit between the base and the ground, though. It looks a bit tatty as it is so I might take a look in the summer. Nevertheless this is the finished wood store, the only difference being that I retrospectively added about 10 horizontal slats to the central partition once I realised I needed them - which is when it was already half-full of wood.


Building a woodshed with pallets is a big and time-consuming job but it's not all that difficult when it comes down to it. If you're not in a rush to get it finished, take the time to take your time. Think about how you want it to look when it's done, how much effort you're willing to put in to it and how much money you want to spend.
You could theoretically do it for absolutely nothing but if you want a few bells and whistles it'll cost as much as you want it to.

All-in our woodshed cost somewhere around the £50 or £60 mark, but that was mainly because I had the probably-mistaken belief that the wood stain should be 'quality' (I got Sadolin), and we forked out a little for guttering... which we may or may not have been accidentally undercharged for. We already had the water butt, not that it's being used for an actual purpose other than to finish the drainpipe off. I've already had to empty it three times.

The very last job is to fill the wood store, but don't underestimate the effort needed to get there.
I've been chopping and chainsawing wood for a week and I've done my back in twice. I've also become weirdly precious about my wood pile - we've had the fire on tonight for the first time in two months and I didn't want to spoil my creation by taking logs off it.
I'm really going to have to have a word with myself about that.


SamTheDog popped over yesterday. His help was somewhat limited.

Meanwhile, the wood in the bay on the far right was bought-in and is ready to be used. There wasn't quite enough to fill the bay so I tried making a fancy pattern with it to show the three 'stacks' inside.

The jury is still out on whether it works or not.
The next bay contains another three levels of firewood, all of which was chopped by hand so it's a little bit rougher than the first lot. The full bay at the other end holds two layers of that manky, wormy stuff which needs 18 months to season and the emptyish bay currently contains a bunch of sticks I don't quite know what to do with, but I'm booked in to help chop down a few trees on Monday with Trevor and his friend, so I'll see what I can get in the back of the ManTruck.






EDIT: Tuesday, April 5

It was only one tree - an 80-year-old sycamore. I managed to get a little bit of it.






Make that almost all of it
We're gonna need a bigger boat