Outdoor structures on a home’s property provide storage, recreational value and, in the case of fences, protection. Just as the main house requires a sound foundation, so do the outbuildings and other structures like decks, sheds and garages; some small sheds, however, need only concrete blocks or a timber sleeper foundation. Garages are required by law to have traditional concrete foundations as their structures carry more weight. In many areas, building codes require decks over a certain height to have more than one beam. Homeowners can save money and material wastage by building decks to correspond with standard timber lengths.
Before starting any renovation or construction work, always check with local authorities to ensure that the project conforms to the zoning by-laws. In most cases, for simple outdoor projects, a layout with sufficient details and measurements will be sufficient. Utility companies must be consulted before any digging is done on the property and before pipes, cables or gas lines are added to or moved. Every region or locality has a building inspection department responsible for making sure that all building work is carried out according to the regulations in force regarding safety, property, public welfare and zoning. Always display the permit before any work begins.
Outdoor sheds are available in many different sizes and styles. How to choose the right one? The first step is to determine the usage, that is, the main function of the shed. If it will be used for storage, gather up all your equipment in one place so as to measure the dimensions and volume required. Measure the length, width and height and add an extra 2' to the length to accommodate future needs. You can either build your shed from a kit or, if you are handy, use one of the many plans available to custom-build one to your needs.
The best size for your deck will have a lot to do with how you plan to use it and how much furniture you have. For example, a patio should measure at least 110 sq. ft. to comfortably fit a patio table and four chairs. Another consideration is the materials. Lumber is available in various lengths ranging from 8', 10', 12', 14' and 16' depending on the store inventory. A good deck design should incorporate decking, joists and ledger boards in these lengths to avoid cutting and wastage. Always check the local building codes for positioning of beams. In many areas, the building code requires that a deck with 2" X 8" joists can only span 12' using one beam, allowing for an extra 2' extension or cantilever.
The two main purposes of a shed foundation are to keep the shed high and dry and to provide a stable platform for storing tools and working. You have three options: concrete blocks, concrete piers buried into the ground below the frost line, or a concrete slab. Before deciding, make sure you know what type of soil you are dealing with and whether you are ready to carry out major excavation work, and estimate your budget. A concrete block foundation is the easiest to build, but frost may cause the shed to rise slightly during winter. A concrete pillar or pier foundation is stable and solid but involves more work and is more costly than blocks. Building a concrete slab is more complex and expensive; however, a slab has the advantage of being perfectly solid and keeping the shed relatively dry. To prevent the floor from cracking, the ground must be perfectly stable.
The best material for a fence depends both on the intended function of the fence and in what part of the country it will be built. For a stable, functional fence that provides good privacy, most homeowners prefer pressure-treated lumber in a shadow-box design, which allows the wind to blow through, lessening the pressure on the posts. Wood panels can also be purchased separately and hung on fence posts using special hardware. This reduces building time considerably. For those looking for a low maintenance fence, PVC or composite materials mimic wood but, unlike natural products, never need to be painted. Wrought-iron fences are beautiful; the older kind must be maintained regularly to avoid corrosion, but new powder-coated painting techniques make it possible to have an old-world look that will remain maintenance free for years.
For a long-lasting and maintenance-free paver surface, a good foundation is key. The type of soil will determine how deep you dig and how much gravel is needed. To prevent pavers from moving, stake out an area 12" larger than the actual paved area, then dig down to the appropriate depth, depending on your soil, and fill this area with gravel. For sandy soil, you will need to excavate to at least 8 7/8" deep for a foundation of at least 6" thick (0-¾" crushed stone). For clay soil, you will need to excavate to at least 11" deep for a foundation of at least 8" thick. Compact the gravel with a plate compactor stopping from time to time to moisten the base. Finish with a slope of ¼" per foot for drainage. Install edge restraints to prevent pavers from spreading. The levelling bed (stone dust) should be between 5/8" and 1" thick to ensure proper drainage. Smooth by drawing a board across the top. Always check the location of utility lines before you dig.
Pavers are manufactured to last and do not absolutely need to be sealed. However sealing them does have its benefits. First, the coating prevents stains from food, mildew and barbecue oil. Next, it can prevent the growth of moss and weeds as well as insect infestation such as ant nests. A good-quality sealer will also deflect the sun’s rays and prevent premature fading.
The first step in building a garage is to visit your local planning office to see if and where a structure can be built on your property. Check the rules regarding height and location with respect to boundary lines and the main residence, as well as the foundation requirements. Next, determine how many vehicles will be parked, whether there will be a workshop or a mudroom, and what your storage needs are. Parking a car in a garage requires a minimum amount of space to open the doors and trunk. For a single car garage the minimum footprint is 12' wide by 22' long and for a double garage it is 18' wide by 22' long.
A new deck always looks wonderful, but the effects of weathering can take the lustre away within a year. That's why a deck should be sealed right away, either by staining it or by applying a quality waterproofing sealant. If a deck has not been sealed and looks cracked and worn, apply a solid stain which you will then repeat the following year or according to the frequency recommended by the paint supplier. Use a roller, which presses the stain into the wood. In sunny areas, a clear stain or sealer will reflect UV rays.
Before building an outdoor shed, deck or other structure, observe your property after heavy rain to see where the water goes. Water will affect a structure’s foundation. If it does not drain quickly, stake out the area where it collects and run a string to the area where the ground slopes away. Dig a trench 12" wide on one side of the string to the place where the slope begins. Insert a 4" perforated drain pipe the entire length and cover with crushed gravel to within 2" of the top of the sod. Lay landscape fabric over the gravel, followed by topsoil and sod. Always check the location of utility lines before you dig.
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