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We have a 20x10 shed that was built at the same time as this house (50s/60s) that we are trying to decide what to do with.

  • Wood framed, dirt/gravel bottom. Stands on six (originally, currently five) buried / mortared cinder block posts. We've pulled the right wall back in from a leaning set of cinder blocks pulling it out, and will need to pull the front together a little more to get the doors aligned again. The doors function, but its a problem for reasons below.
  • had two layers of shingled / plywood roof, and rotting trusses on the right side from water damage. We removed it all, did some emergency repair on that side, and put metal roofing and trim on it. My trusses aren't fantastic, but now that there isn't 3000lbs of roof sitting on top (according to the dump), I'm less worried.
  • Our insurance wants us to clean up the exterior. Wood siding, with two layers of paint. I verified that a decent amount of the exposed bottom layer (heaving chipping / flaking) is lead paint.

I would be inclined to leave it as is, not covered by insurance, as a garden shed for the next ten years until it falls down. It currently functions great for that! My partner doesn't like that option / doesn't think our home insurance group would go for that, and her father feels it would be a liability if / when it does collapse.

So, to fix our problem, we need lead abatement. I'm incredibly wary of doing this myself. I'm seeing google estimates of that starting at $2k. A WWT 20' shipping container is $2300 delivered to my area (a single trip one being 3300). A community garden I work with has one for storage and its great. I would consider putting a layer of corrugated metal siding on the shed instead, but I have to get the door situation resolved beforehand.

What is the least dumb, most economical solution here? Am I mistaken about the lead abatement costs?

Shed

Shed

Shed

Shed

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  • I'm not seeing any studs supporting those top rim joists that the roof trusses are supported by. If they're supported by just the siding, that is really scary.
    – Milwrdfan
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 15:58
  • Good point, but those would be wall plates, not rim joists. :) There are actually a few studs, somewhat camouflaged by the stained wall panels.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 15:59

4 Answers 4

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So looking at the pictures, it looks like there would be a lot of work to get it up to safe condition, as you have well outlined. But, it's a nice big space with some good light inside. Lead paint is just an encapsulation issue, so for that, putting a good coat or two of new exterior paint would take care of that. But it's also open along the bottom, so you have no critter or other protection against infiltration of the closed-in space.

For a shipping container, you'd need to knock down and dispose of your current shed, put a solid foundation on the ground for it to sit on, and get it there. It also would be a lot smaller space without any natural light inside, so would be smaller and dark inside. A shipping container could also be considered an eyesore in many neighborhoods, so that needs to be taken into account as well.

If it were me, I'd cut my losses, tear it down, and look for a suitable shed kit from a big box store and build something new from a kit. Or even a local lumberyard might have kits available for sheds/garages that would be cost-effective, and solve all of your problems.

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  • Does a shipping container need a foundation?
    – jay613
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 16:18
  • @jay613 It doesn't necessarily need a true "foundation", but it can't sit on bare ground. A thick layer of gravel would (I think) be enough. Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 16:20
  • I didn't mention gravel costs in this calculation since we were planning on adding it either way.
    – Zapf
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 16:33
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There is nothing wrong with prolonging the agony of an old structure for a while so that you can save up for a replacement, make unmade decisions, or pass it on to the next owner. But, that means, maybe you stop painting it, maybe you don't fix misaligned doors, maybe you don't fix a leaky roof when there is nothing inside that really needs to be indoors.

But what you have is way past that. Because this isn't a discussion or a physical site survey, I'm going to read into the photos and between the lines of what you wrote. The structure is in imminent danger of collapse. The walls and roof are sitting on an unsupported sill plate, the building is skewing (ie collapsing) and you're propping it up, you've added makeshift elements to the roof structure to create a Calvin-and-Hobbes style truss. It's uninsurable and your in-laws who presumably care about you are afraid for you. The main thing you seem to be worrying about is lead abatement, and yet, the pieces you most want to paint are rotten beyond repair. The doors are beyond repair.

Look, I might be reading too much into the photos and your statements. You can argue the details. But you asked a question and this is my answer. Every penny you put into this is a complete waste, a total loss. You won't get a few years of enjoyment out of it, you won't postpone anything for long enough to "save up" or whatever.

If you're going to throw away money on a temporary solution, knock this down and put up a canvas shed until you're ready to build one. As to the shipping container, I have no advice. It sounds, um, economical? If your partner and neighbors and zoning rules (if any exist) are ok with it, the question is purely aesthetic.

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  • I'm not sure I'd call wood, strong-tie connections, and the removal of thousands of pounds of shingles and rotting osb a "calvin and hobbes style" solution to my rotting truss, but ok! I would definitely call most work the last owner did to this house and the shed, the guy who bought it new and lived in it until he died in late 2021, calvin-esque however. rube-goldbergian in some aspects even! whispering I basically just needed permission to stop wasting money on this. Our neighbor has an identical vintage home and shed, and is planning on replacing asap.
    – Zapf
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 16:32
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    The really really really needs to be a new forum where people can argue which cartoon analogy best applies to their handiwork. :)
    – jay613
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 18:02
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You could knock it down, as lead paint will become illegal one day soon, and it looks, from the photos, like a lot of work to make it structurally sound.

In its place you could go for a shipping container, if acceptable in your area.

Or you could look for a second hand shed on Craig's list or where ever, which would probably be around the same price as a container. It would be more esthetically pleasing, make the insurance happy, and if in metal would need less work to keep it in good state.

I would go for a second hand metal shed, personally.

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I've encountered these types of sheds on older properties . It is usually wiser to knock them down and replace with something useful.

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  • If you're going to post a subjective answer to a subjective question, at least provide some supportive reasoning. Don't make it a simple vote. That's not useful to the community.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 15:58
  • It was useful to the OP.
    – RMDman
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 16:11
  • Pointing out all that is wrong with the OP's shed does nothing for the community UNLESS another person has the same issues with their shed and they need advice on weather to keep or replace. Some of the same issues or the same but to a lesser degree place that particular shed in a different category. Therefore my reasoning for this particular answer is moot for any other similar question regarding retaining a shed.
    – RMDman
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 16:50

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