Trip by trip, nail by nail, a kit becomes a shed

My wife and I had just bought a home in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and we needed a new shed for our overflow of stuff. My brother in Florida said he'd come up for a winter's visit to help us build one. He said he had already built three sheds.

My wife and I had just bought a home in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and we needed a new shed for our overflow of stuff. My brother in Florida said he'd come up for a winter's visit to help us build one. He said he had already built three sheds.

"Great!" I said. I had never built a shed and wasn't sure I could build one.

My brother arrived just as a light snow was dusting the valley. Snow is very special to a Floridian. Where he's from, Georgia is "up north."

"Let's go hiking!" my brother said.

I looked at the shed kit lying in the yard under a thin coat of ice and snow.

"We've got to get that thing built before it gets water damage," I said.

We went hiking.

I took my brother to a couple of lakes in a national forest. We walked around one, fresh snow creaking under our boots. My brother kept talking about how cool the snow was. Cold, actually. A wind was howling off the lake, enough to lift us from a cliff if we stood close enough to the edge. "Tomorrow we'll get started on that shed," I said.

We did. But first we had to set the pads. No problem. This can be done in a couple of hours, "max," my brother said. Just set a base stake at the highest corner, make measurements, set the other three stakes, measure the diagonals, use a line level, measure some more ... and try to figure out why you can't seem to get the thing square and level.

We did a lot of digging, rearranging pads, remeasuring, and moving pads again to get it right. We still got it wrong - but close enough to right for amateurs. My wife even dug around in the mud with us. By the end of the second day we had the floor in place, ready for the shed to be constructed on top.

But first we had to take a trip to the builder's supply warehouse. We needed good lumber to replace the lousy lumber that came with the kit. We needed more screws and nails, a better latch, more shingles, more trips. In four days we made five trips to the store - not counting the previous trips when I ordered the shed kit and bought paint, tools, nails, screws.... This was getting expensive.

We were racing a storm; a big front was heading our way.

"We gotta get this thing up," I said.

"I hope it snows," my brother said.

"We gotta get this thing up," my wife said.

"You know," my brother said, "after we knock this out, we can build a little deck around the shed."

He wanted to landscape, too - the same day.

"I just wanna get this thing up before it rains," I said.

"We'll get it up."

My brother thinks rain is a Florida thunderstorm that comes and goes. In Virginia, it can rain for two days straight.

The weather turned sunny and warm. We stripped off jackets, sweaters, flannel shirts. It was turning into Florida.

But big rain in the forecast.

"We gotta...."

"I know, I know."

I was in a foul mood, even if the weather wasn't. We'd been at this five days.

"You're going to be glad we did this," my brother said.

We worked on, my wife banging nails with the best of us. With each nail, the concept of a shed became a shed.

"If we put enough nails into this thing, it'll be a metal shed," my brother said.

The rain was approaching.

"We gotta get this roof on, we gotta get it shingled," I said.

On Day 6, at 10 a.m., we were looking out the window at a cold gray day. The shed still needed shingling.

"We gotta get out there," I said.

But we needed one more trip to the store for this, that, and the other. My brother kept coming up with ways to improve the shed, even as rain approached.

"I've built three of these things," he reminded me.

Sure.

We made the improvements, which in truth made a stronger roof. By 8 p.m., under the beams of two flashlights held by my wife, who was perched on a ladder at the edge of the roof, one light shining on the nails I was banging, the other on the nails my brother was missing, we hammered in the last nail on the final shingle.

That night the cats and dogs fell.

In the morning, the rain continued; the yard was flooded. We took a look at our work by light of day. The shingles looked as if they'd been nailed on in the night by flashlight in a race to beat a rainstorm.

"I've seen better roofing jobs," my brother said, "but it works."

I had never seen a worse roofing job.

But it does work. Not a drop inside the shed. And somehow, I'm glad we built it.

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