DIY Network

How to Build a Backyard Retreat

Paul Ryan, host of Weekend Handyman, demonstrates how to build a backyard retreat. This 8' x 10' getaway cottage comes in a kit that can be used for a relaxing escape, an art studio or a playhouse for the kids.

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Step 1: Choose the Site

Choose a site that is nice and level and has good drainage to make sure the water flows away from the foundation.

Pick a site that's close to a road because the gravel and the kit itself have to be delivered by a large truck.

Be sure to check with local building authorities to see if you'll need a building permit.

Choose an area that is 1' larger all the way around than the building itself. For our 8' x 10' building, we leveled an area 10' x 12'.

Make sure the plot of land is level to within 6" from one end to the other, and you can use a shovel to move the dirt around.

Step 2: Prep the Area

Lay 4x6 timbers around the perimeter of the bed (Image 1). Each leg of the perimeter is longer than the 8-foot timber, so we used a circular saw to cut the pieces we needed to extend the sides.

Pre-drill pilot holes into the corner pieces of timber and use spikes to hold them together.

After the timbers are hammered into place, cover the entire area with landscape fabric. This will prevent weeds from growing, yet allow water to escape. The oversize fabric will also keep gravel from getting all over the place.

For this size area, you'll need to have 2 to 3 yards of pea gravel — sometimes called buckshot.

Step 3: Lay Out the Kit, Skids and Cement Blocks

Gather tools. After the kit is delivered, place it on lumber or pallets and cover with a tarp.

Place concrete blocks onto gravel.

Lay out all the pieces of the kit in a logical order.

Lay a 4x4 center skid, front to back on two of the cement blocks.

Lay out the two 4x6 side skids, also front to back.

place concrete blocks onto gravel

Step 4: Measure and Adjust the Skids

Measure the width of the foundation, for this project is 10'-10" — that tells us the center line for the center skids needs to be at 5'-5".

You don't want to see these blocks so set them back about 6" from the front and back of the skids.

Then, measure from the center skid out to the side skids. The shed is 8 feet wide and the side skids sit in from the sides about 6 inches. So, for the center skid, we measure out to the center of the side skids 3'-6" and make the adjustment.

Next, move the blocks in 6 inches from the front and back of the side skids. These measurements don't have to be perfect, just close.

Using a 6-foot level, adjust the skids up or down by either adding or taking away gravel.

Step 5: Set the Platforms

Set the first platform flush with the rear of the skids.

It should be centered along the length of the center stud.

This will leave 6 inches of the platform to extend over the side skids (Image 1).

Once the base is in position, toenail it into place using 16-penny galvanized nails.

The rest of the base platforms go on in the same manner.

Note: If it rains, cover the wood with a tarp to prevent warping.

There are four main base platforms and once the first one is in place, the rest should line up (Image 2). Toenail the pieces together to draw them tight.

Step 6: Put Up and Secure the Walls

Once the platform is complete, put up the first wall section. The planks of the siding overlap the wall plates.

The second wall sets in at the corner with a half lap joint in the top frame to connect the two sections together (Image 1).

The rear wall is next.

Tip: When assembling the walls, don't hammer the nails all the way in. Let them stick out a bit in case adjustments need to be made.

The rest of the wall sections go in the same way.

Note: The best way to attach the walls is to slide the wall along the foundation floor until the two overlapping joints come together (Image 2). A little pounding with a hammer will most likely be needed to get the joints snug and fit.

After the wall sections are in place, it's then time for the first front-wall gable end section to be attached.

Then the last wall section — it overlaps at the corner just like the rest.

Then the front gable end (Image 3) that fits over the doorway.

Next secure the walls by pounding nails through the sole plates into the base platforms. Also, nail through the lap joints (Image 4).

On the exterior, hold the joints tight together and then nail through the bottom of the sheathing into the platforms (Image 5).

Step 7: Attach the Roofing Sections

Next, put the first roof section up and the 2x4 framing slides in behind the header over the door and gets hammered into place.

The second section goes up the same way and lays against the first.

Both sections then get nailed into place.

Nail both through the top and the sides (Image 1) to secure the sections.

The first triangular section (Image 2) sits on edge to create half of the gable peak. Nail the two sections together through the 2x4 framing and that's enough to temporarily hold the gable section.

The opposite gable section goes up the same way.

On the reverse side of the panel are braces that set right into the gable frame. Nail the section into place using eight-penny nails.

Continue to put up the roof sections one by one.

On the opposite side of the shed, install a panel with a louver in it that will provide some extra ventilation — it fits snugly and gets hammered into place.

Step 8: Assemble the Porch

Start the porch overhang by setting the post on the center point (Image 1) and then toe nailing it in place with 16-penny nails. Four nails will hold it till the roof sections are up.

The next step is to put up the first porch roof section. The beam rests on the hemlock post (image 2). Then nail the frame into the wall. The power nailer really saves a lot of time.

The opposite porch roof section goes up the same way.

Once both sections are up, nail them to each other at the peak and then toenail the roof to the post.

Put up trim pieces and corner trim (Image 3).

Step 9: Attach the Roofing Panels

The first step to the roof is to put up lightweight aluminum flashing (Image 1). Nail it into place in all three gable valleys. (Use a hammer tacker for this thin material.)

Let the flashing extend a couple of inches over the edge to carry water away from the sides.

Next comes the pre-cut and pre-drilled roof deck materials. We put translucent fiberglass panels over the porch to let light come through.

Fasten the corrugated panels with the gasketed screws (Image 2) using a magnetized bit driver in the screw gun.

Tuck the first steel panel under the fiberglass (Image 3).

The rest of the roof panels go in the same fashion, using the gasketed screws to fasten the panels to the slats of the roof decking.

The steel ridge cap goes on top of the panels.

Step 10: Complete the Assembly

Put in the window (Image 1). Invest in a screen to keep the bugs out.

Treat the wood or paint it with Linseed oil.

Decorate (Image 2) and enjoy.