How to build a lean-to shed

Written by gail cohen
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Whether you're a gardening buff or you just need a place to organise and hide the kid's outdoor toys, the barbecue necessities or lawn maintenance tools, nothing beats a lean-to shed for multiple reasons. These simple storage Meccas take up very little room, can be erected in a short amount of time if you know your way around a lumberyard, and they won't break the bank in terms of cash outlay for materials. Our general directions will get you off to a terrific start. When it's done, you may want to turn the kids loose with paint and brushes to spruce up the look of your new, all-purpose storage shed.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • 2 x 4 lumber
  • Nails and screws
  • String and stakes
  • Electric saw
  • Carpentry tools
  • Pre-hung door with hardware
  • Secure lock
  • Concrete blocks (optional)

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  1. 1

    Decide whether an attached shed or one that is freestanding is the right style for your needs and exterior yard parameters. The second option works particularly well if you have concrete slab that's unoccupied, but you can build a stand-alone without a slab by using cement blocks as your foundation.

  2. 2

    Determine the size of the lean-to by measuring the area you've selected for installation, then do the math required to ascertain width and height dimensions. Your shed size must take into consideration the largest items you'll be storing there, so work backward from the tractor or lawnmower when you start your calculations.

  3. 3

    Sketch out the shed and calculate the amount of lumber you will need to accomplish the project. Figure into your equation three walls if the shed abuts the house and four if the unit is to be freestanding. Calculate the amount of lumber you will need for the roof, and factor in materials to make a door if you don't plan to hang one that's pre-made. Bring your specs to the lumberyard when you retrieve your supplies. It never hurts to get another opinion on the math.

  4. 4

    Use string and stakes to lay out the parameters of the shed floor. If you are making a freestanding shed and there is no slab, use concrete blocks as a base. Build out the floor with lengths of 2 x 4 lumber and nails, and then cover the surface with plywood.

  5. 5

    Frame up four walls to spec and add braces at the corners to reinforce the wall frames. You may choose to attach the wall frames directly to the exterior wall of the house, or you can frame up the sides and front of the lean-to on the ground before lifting them into place and anchoring them. Secure the frames to the shed floor.

  6. 6

    Determine where the door will be installed. Frame up the door area. Either build a door with 2 x 4s to fit the opening, or install a ready-made door with hinges and hardware.

  7. 7

    Nail 2 x 4 planks of lumber vertically or horizontally to the wall frames, completely enclosing the shed. Hang a plumb line to make certain all of the corners are square.

  8. 8

    Build roof rafters. If you want a flat roof, mount a series of 2 x 4s across the tops of the wall frames, then cover the roof area with plywood. If you prefer a pitched roof, join together boards to create L-shaped rafters and bolt the rafters to the wall frames before installing plywood. Nail shingles to either style roof to keep the shed's interior dry.

  9. 9

    Retrofit the interior of the shed with shelving, large utility hooks and other racking systems to efficiently stow contents and maximise interior room.

  10. 10

    Finish off the lean-to by sanding, priming and painting the structure with several coats of waterproof outdoor paint.

Tips and warnings

  • If you plan to use the shed for all-purpose family storage, never store combustibles there -- or anywhere children may have access to the contents of the lean-to for both safety and liability reasons. If you must store combustibles, take extra precautions to keep the lean-to locked at all times.

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