The Shed Porch Project

We have a she-shed in our back yard. It was built in the 1980’s by my wife’s uncle for her aunt to use as a place to work on sewing projects. We’ve used it for storage of unused furniture, books, clothes, and dishware.

The shed had a small porch in front of the door. It was evidently built from leftover lumber, which was untreated, unpainted, and without any foundation or posts. Just perched on top of a couple of loose cinder blocks.

Each year as I mowed the tall grass around the shed, I saw that the porch looks a little more sad than the previous year. The nail heads had retreated a little further from the boards. The cinder blocks looked a little more jury-rigged. The screen door was scraping on the deck of the porch a little closer. One by one, the steps were rotting through.

It was way past time to replace this porch!

Tearout and Groundwork

Removing the old porch only took a few minutes. The nails were barely holding it together anyway. I took the time to pull all the nails and put them in metal recycle. Some of the boards felt as light as styrofoam. I found more cinderblocks buried in the soil.

I used CraigsList’s Free Stuff to give away the old wood. I don’t know what the person was going to use the boards for. Garden bed edging? Concrete forms? Even if it was for a bonfire, I didn’t mind. By giving away this old wood, I didn’t have to haul it to the dump.

The shed siding behind the porch ledger was bare wood. I covered that up using some leftover house paint.

The Foundation

I decided to rebuild the porch in its original size: four feet by six feet, with a couple of steps on the left side. So I was just doing a “repair” without changing the design. I intended to make it a lot stronger than it was before, but otherwise the same.

I had some surplus concrete deck blocks that had been loitering around our property for a long time. I finally got to use some of them. This was easier than pouring concrete piers or a slab.

I used galvanized roofing nails to connect post bases to the wood on top of the deck blocks.

The Ledger

I wanted the ledger to be level, even though I knew the shed is actually far from level. So I put a couple of 12in stakes in the ground and balanced the board on the tops of the stakes. I could then tap the stakes by small increments until the board was level. I also made sure there was space between the ledger and the door trim to fit one of the decking boards.

I fastened the ledger to the shed joists using six 4in GRK structural screws. These are plenty strong! They are rated at 840lbs. of shear strength each. A load that exceeded the capacity of six of these screws would be too heavy to store in this shed anyway.

The Framing

Now it was time to attach the sides of the frame. I clamped it to the ledger to make it flush. Then I used my stake-in-the-ground method to hold it level while I screwed it to the end of the ledger. Screws will hold the frame together over the years much better than nails.

I cut short pieces of 4×4 for the posts, from some pressure-treated posts we had left over from previous projects. I cut the posts to the right length before putting them in place. I also cut a 5 degree slope on the top of the post to let water run off.

I screwed the frame to the posts.

I tied the frame together with the front 2×8 board. It fit perfectly between the side boards. The frame was still level and square. I balanced the board on two stakes again, while I fastened it to the side frame pieces.

I cut posts like the others, placed them in the corners, and screwed into them from two sides. Maybe this was overkill?

I added interior joists, spaced every 16in. I used some extra 2×8 lumber I had. I used clamps and a wooden stake to hold the joist flush with the rim joist, while I fastened it with more screws.

DeWalt, if you want to send me any free swag for the product placement, I will not object.

The frame of the porch was finished! I used a total of 44 structural screws. If the goal was to make the new porch stronger than the old porch, then mission accomplished!

The Steps

I’ve never made stair stringers, but the process seems pretty straightforward. This seemed like a good project to practice, since this porch only needed a few steps. I had some 2×12 boards long enough to make stringers left over from past projects.

I tried making a diagram for the stringer using But it was just as easy to make a template myself on some cardboard.

I cut a 2×12 to make one stringer according to the diagram using the circular saw, and a little hand-sawing to finish the corners. Then I used the first stringer as the template for three more.

I decided to use four 12in pavers as a footing for the stringers. Not as solid as it would have been if I poured a concrete pad, but a lot easier, and I tried to keep in mind this is just a shed, and what I was building was still much better than the old porch that was supported only by haphazard cinder blocks.

Eventually I was able to fasten the stringers to the frame using joist hangers. I cheated the leftmost stringer away from the shed wall a couple of inches, so I could fasten both sides of its joist hanger to the frame.

The stairs needed risers, so I cut some pieces of plywood and screwed them on. I also back-filled some soil around the pavers. This will help hold them in place as the soil compacts.

Preparing the Decking

It’s important to prepare new lumber to help it absorb the wood stain evenly. First, let the moisture and lumber treatments dry out for at least 30 days. Then, clean the wood with oxalic acid to open up the pores.

I bought the decking boards two months earlier and sanded them. I guessed that two months was enough time, and the wood was dry enough to stain.

I brushed the sawdust off of the decking planks and the stringers, then treated them with Behr All-in-One Wood and Deck Cleaner using a pump sprayer. Then after the wood dried for a day, I applied #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks, Fences, & Siding (Light Walnut). This was my first project involving stain, and I’m sure I did a pretty amateur job. But my primary goal was to protect the wood, not to make it pretty.

Installing the Decking

I covered the top of the joists and frame with 1.5in joist tape, to protect them from any standing water. This was probably overkill, because rain in California is so infrequent, but it’s good practice.

To fasten the boards to the frame, I started from the stair stringer on the left side, and worked right. I looked around for an object about 1/8in thick that I could use to space the boards. I found a pair of leftover plastic things in our hardware drawer. I don’t remember what these were from, but they seem to fit, and they have an angle so they won’t fall through.

I fastened all 18 of the boards, and discovered I made a mistake. I was two boards short on the end. I’ll have to order more boards, sand, and stain them. I left a scrap board over the gap at the end, so no one puts their foot in it, and the joist tape won’t peel up.

Finally, there was easy access to enter the shed.

Trim Boards

I wanted to add some trim to cover the joists and the ends of the decking boards. I cut some pieces of 1×6 to the right size, then primed and painted them to match the Tudor Brown trim on the shed.

Once the paint was dry, it was a quick task to fasten these trim boards to the porch.

Finished Porch

The new porch was solid and looked a lot better than the old one. I’m sure there are some things I could have done better, but it was just a shed, and I think this was a successful project.

What I Learned

  • Decking boards are expensive no matter how one tries to economize. I thought I could reduce the cost by buying cheap pressure-treated wood, but by the time I added up all the costs and time for finishing the boards, I would have done better to just use Trex.
  • Buying cheap sight-unseen wood is a good way to get a bunch of unusable lumber with knots and even voids.
  • Digging and grading earth by hand is very time-consuming, tiring work.
  • It’s a lot harder than you might think to recycle leftover materials. They’re almost never exactly what you need for your new project, or else the materials are too old and degraded to use.


Below is a list of what I spent on this project, roughly in order of using the items.

Items with “–” for the cost are materials that I had on hand already.

ItemUnit CostQuantityTotal Cost incl. Tax
Housepaint (primer and red)*
Flat chip brush (for paint and wood preserver)$1.971$2.16
Galvanized Steel 1/2in hardware cloth, 1/2in mesh, 2ft x 25ft$40.822$89.60
Galvanized staples*
Concrete pavers8
Concrete deck blocks4
Galvanized post base 4×4$7.294$32.00
2×8 pressure-treated board, 12′ (cut in half)$13.001$14.27
2×8 pressure-treated board, 8ft (cut in half)$19.371$21.26
GRK structural screws, 5/16in x 4in (box of 45)$26.871$29.49
4×4 pressure-treated posts, about 12in each4
2×8 joists, 6ft2
2×12 board, 36in (stringers)4
Galvanized joist hanger, 2×6$1.483$4.84
Galvanized joist hanger, 2×6 concealed$2.981$3.25
Pressure-treated plywood, 6in x 4ft (stair risers)3
Butyl joist tape 1-5/8in x 50ft (2 rolls)$24.631$26.85
5/4in x 6in planks, 4ft (box of 3 boards)$43.996$263.94
0.75in x 7.25in board, 8ft (for trim)$17.082$37.23
Premium all-in-one wood cleaner, 1 gal$12.211$13.31
Premium semi-transparent wood stain, 1gal$35.991$39.23
Flat paint brush, 4in (for stain)$10.281$11.21
Deck screws, #9, 2in (1lb box)$11.472$25.00
Additional 5/4in x 6in planks, 4ft (box of 3 boards)$43.991$48.28

Tools I used that I already had on hand:

  • Impact driver
  • Circular saw
  • Belt sander
  • Speed square
  • Spirit level
  • Measuring tape
  • Plumb bob & string
  • Trigger clamps
  • Framing hammer
  • Sledge hammer (used for compacting soil)
  • Shovel, hoe, dirt rake
  • Saw horses
  • Wood stakes, 12in
  • Pry bar, nail puller
  • Work knife
  • Pencil
  • Wood preserver
  • Gloves, eye protection, ear protection
  • Miscellaneous galvanized nails, screws, and washers






2 responses to “The Shed Porch Project”

  1. Jan Karwin Avatar
    Jan Karwin

    Very nice job. Great documentation. Wonder what it would cost with all new materials. You probably saved a fortune using recycled materials.

  2. Kevin Bruce Avatar
    Kevin Bruce

    Really nice work, Bill!

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