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Forum topic by Sam posted 11-12-2015 11:01 PM 1834 views 1 time favorited 49 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 346 days

11-12-2015 11:01 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question shed heating workshop heating shed work shop insulation workshop climate control

After 2 years of struggling with no real shop space, I’m about to have a 20’ x 14’ wooden shed completed in my back yard. I chose to hire someone for the shed build, and by next week it will be finished. Now I need to figure out how to heat it for the winter, and I am having a heck of time deciding what the best option would be. It’s 2×4 framing 16 o.c., with T1-11 siding. The roof is a peaked with a ridge vent running the length of 20’, and the height of the shed at the peak is 13’. I won’t have a gas line near my shed, but there is electricity, and I’ll have a switch box with some breakers to run a 220 outlet and a few 110 outlets, plus lighting. Because of this, I thought electric heating options would be the best to consider. I actually made a bit of an impulse purchase yesterday at a big box store, and bought a in-wall a/c & heater unit, (17,100 heating BTUs) of the type you see in a hotel room. It was over $1,100, and now I’m starting to think that I could have found a lower cost option. I already have a good 8,000 BTU window a/c that I could use in the summer (I’ll have 4 large windows), so the heat is really what I’m concerned about. I want to have heat that can be controlled with a thermostat so I can keep the heat at at least 60 degrees all the time. I’ll probably be in the shed/shop about 10 – 12 hours a day, and I want to be totally comfortable throughout the cold Pennsylvania winters. (I know 10 – 12 hours a day sounds like a lot, but it won’t all be spent woodworking.) I would really appreciate some advice on what kind of insulation to use on the walls (I was planning on rolls of R-13, covered by ply-wood panels for walls), as well as what I should do for roof insulation. I’ll have a loft at each end of the shed, so there won’t be a ceiling. How can I add insulation to the roof? Can those green styrofoam-type sheets of insulation be used? And how do you attach insulation to a roof? I don’t think I could nail it because I’d probably poke holes through the roof. And then there’s the floor. The floors are being made from really good quality T&G plywood that will be sealed. Should there be insulation attached attached under the flooring? If so, what type of insulation is used for that? And finally, I would really appreciate any advice on what type of heater would work to keep my shop climate controlled in a safe, effective manner. This is my first post on LJ, but I’ve been reading these forums for a couple of years now because I always learn so much from the vast base of knowledge within. I will be very grateful for advice and suggestions. Thank you.

-- Sam, Pittsburgh PA

49 replies so far

View clin's profile


485 posts in 415 days

#1 posted 11-13-2015 05:26 AM

Insulating is the most important thing to do. With the 2×4 framing obviously insulating the walls with R13 batts is trivial and apparently your all set for that. I assume this same 2×4 framing supports the roof.

I’m not a building expert, but I think given that you have a ridge vent, you’d want to keep a space between the roof sheathing for airflow to pull moisture away. This of course requires venting at the soffits (if there are any).

Assuming the 2×4 framing supports the roof, you could use rigid insulation nailed to the 2×4 framing, leaving a space between the insulation and the roof sheathing created by the framing. If that space can be vented at the bottom, I think you’d have a great setup.

If venting isn’t a possibility, or even needed, plug the ridge vent, put batting between the framing and perhaps still add some rigid insulation to increase the R value beyond R13.

I know nothing about insulating your type of floor. But you will want to insulate it. While it needs to be insulated, I’m sure there are concerns about moisture coming up from the ground. So I do think there is a right and wrong way to go here. I would think mostly don’t have anything touch the ground. Of course you can build up insulation on the inside with plywood over rigid foam.

As to your actual heater and AC, unless the heater is a heat pump, it’s all the same thing when using electricity. As to the AC, you’d want to compare the efficiency of the window unit you own vs the one you just bought. My guess is what you just bought is more efficient, but it still might take a long time for it to pay off.

But since you don’t have a heater yet, obviously some of that cost is necessary anyway. But that space isn’t all that large. If you get it well insulated, you could probably heat it with a common space heater. Though I’m sure your winters are pretty demanding, so perhaps that isn’t enough. Windows are a real load. A single window can lose as much heat as an entire wall. So consider storm windows for the winter, or go old school with stapling plastic across the windows. Anything to improve them for the winter. Even properly sized piece of foam insulation you can stuff in the windows. will do wonders, even if a bit crude. Certain kinds of window film can help as well.

Don’t forget, power tools and shop lights put out some heat. My shop vac is seems to think it is a part time space heater and you are also quite a heat source. Point being, you might find you don’t need all that much more heat while you’re in there working given that it is a modest size space.

-- Clin

View Sam's profile


13 posts in 346 days

#2 posted 11-13-2015 07:26 AM

Thanks Clin. I really appreciate you taking the time to give me such a detailed reply. I’ve been having anxiety since this work started and am feeling really overwhelmed. I’ve been a homeowner for 3 years now, but this is the first time I’ve ever dealt with a major home renovation type of project (My complicated 30’ x 32’ deck is also getting all new deck boards, railings, etc. and of course there were issues – $$$- once the old boards came up) And this isn’t a typical hired-contractor job. I hired someone I know with deck and shed building experience to handle the labor aspect, but I took partial general contracting responsibilities as far as design, selecting and purchasing all the materials (with some guidance from my builder), arranging for all the necessary items, like dumpster rental, arranging for an electrician to handle the electrical necessities (another thing I just found out is insufficient, and is going to be more $$$ to correct), etc. I planned to finish up the build myself by installing the insulation and wall paneling (I plan to use 1/4” or maybe 1/2” plywood for interior walls to cover up the R-13 fiberglass insulation, but maybe there’s a better option?). I plan on running the electrical outlets and lighting myself too, as I’ll already have the breaker box on the wall and ready to go.

I’m finding out my builder doesn’t have much knowledge when it comes to structures that are going to be occupied. He’s a deck, fence, and shed guy – and I mean sheds that are used as simple storage sheds. When it comes down to it, what I need is more of a little house than an actual shed. I’ve been waiting 3 years to get a proper woodworking shop, and I want a shop that will last for many decades. I also want a shop I can work comfortably in all year round. I figure since I’m already making such a significant investment, I should go the extra mile. I don’t want a shop that necessitates wearing a jacket and working with chilled fingers in January, but I don’t think my builder quite gets how important these things are. I was hoping he could at least give me advice about the proper way to handle insulation, etc., but it turns out that that is another thing I’m going to be responsible for figuring out myself.

To answer your questions about soffit vents – Yes, there will be soffit vents. I had a ridge vent in my plans, but as I was researching today, I learned about the soffit vents and about keeping an inch of air flow between the roof and insulation. I ordered the soffit vents that will run the full length of the eaves to be delivered with all the rest of the building materials that will be arriving tomorrow – well, actually today (it’s 2 a.m.).

Do you think it would be possible to get enough R value from the rigid insulation you referred to for the roof? I was researching info about insulating cathedral ceilings (essentially that’s what I’ll have), and I now know that the airflow is very important. I think your idea of nailing the sheet insulation to the 2×4 rafters would be the best way to go if it will provide enough protection. I do have a question though – Do you think the highly flammable the nature of the rigid foam insulation would be a problem if left exposed? If it’s nailed to the rafters, it will be the ceiling above my head. I read something where someone said to cover it with something non-flammable. What would fit the bill for my application?

As far as the floor and potential moisture, what my builder is doing is putting a moisture barrier down under the flooring. But what I’ve read today is that insulation is absolutely necessary. Apparently the foam board can be placed in between the joists, under the floor boards. It’s a bit labor intensive from what I saw online. I read that it’s best to nail furring strips to the joists so the insulation sheet has a ledge to sit on and be nailed to. I’m trying to figure out if a barrier of some sort should go on top of the insulation, between it and the floor.

Thanks again for the reply, Clin. I’d be grateful for any further suggestions from you and any other members who have any helpful advice.

-- Sam, Pittsburgh PA

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 595 days

#3 posted 11-13-2015 12:59 PM

Depending on how cold your winters get, if they are above a low temperature of 5 degrees consider a heat pump. They are efficient for both heating and cooling.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View johnstoneb's profile


2104 posts in 1591 days

#4 posted 11-13-2015 03:10 PM

For the floor you need to put down a vapor barrier below the insulation You want to prevent the moisture from the ground from coming up into insulation. If you are going to use the rigid foam board furring strips to support the insulation would be best. you do not want a barrier on top of the insulation.

The purpose of the vapor barrier is to prevent moisture from condensing in the insulation. In a heated space warm air travels through the walls cools and condenses out moisture in the insulation so the vapor barrier goes between the heated area and the insulation. Floors have more moisture in the ground than the air so that moisture travels up into the floor joists and etc providing an area conducive to insects etc The vapor barrier under the joists prevents that moisture travel. heated air rises so you don’t have to much moisture from inside going down into the insulation from the heated space above.

I read your post again/ You don’t say what size your rafter are and spacing. My shop had 2×6 rafters so I went with R-19 fiberglass it conforms to the vent material I ran between the roof and insulation.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View clin's profile


485 posts in 415 days

#5 posted 11-13-2015 11:53 PM


Since you’re going to be set to ventilate the roof, I think this is going to be easy for you. There are sheet materials just for maintaining this space. Used mostly in attics so insulation can be blown in, but not touch the roof sheathing.

I think these may be called roof vent baffles. I think these add a bit of R value as well.

Since your framing is 2×4, and you can’t even fit R13 in the space and still have a ventilation space, I’d actually just and furring strips to the exiting roof framing to making it deeper.

You could add on 2”x2” (actually 1.5” x 1.5”), but given the vent space, you might want to go to a 2×3 or full 2×4. Then you could probably get R19 batting between them.

Then just finish off the roof as you would the walls with something like plywood or OSB. Plywood is nice because it is strong and you can easily screw stuff to if for mounting.

Don’t forget to seal the building as much as possible. Air infiltration is a big deal in terms of heating.

As mentioned, I’m sure having a vapor barrier in the floor is a good idea. You don’t want ground moisture to get in. But recently I was looking into vapor barriers in general, and it seems the opinions are changing.

For example, the standard way of having the vapor barrier, insulation, then siding is clearly good for keeping inside moisture from migrating through the insulation and condensing or even freezing on the inside of the siding. But apparently some research has shown that most of the moisture in walls actually gets in from the outside. And that NOT having an inside vapor barrier gives this moisture a way out.

In other words the vapor barrier might create more problems then it cures. The other impression I got, was that there is no best way, only what is best most of the time for your area. Big difference between Florida and North Dakota. So I would seek out local information. Local building codes can go a long way to giving you guidance.

Also, in most places what you are building is really just that a building, and not just a shed. So a permit might be needed and then building codes apply. It sounds like you are not getting a permit and perhaps don’t need it.

In the end, a little extra effort now to figure out what is best, will go a long way to ensuring many years of use. And of course that’s one reason you’re here at LJ asking questions. None of this is rocket surgery, and it generally is pretty easy to do things right, you just need to know what the right way is.

I’m already talking outside my pay grade here, so please take anything I say as food for thought and not specific advice on exactly what to do.

-- Clin

View Sam's profile


13 posts in 346 days

#6 posted 11-14-2015 07:43 AM

Thanks for the replies. I’ve gained a lot of insight, along with some specific direction for my own research. Clin, your info has been very informative. I found the changing opinions on vapor barriers that you mentioned, and after reading a few different sources, I think I need to focus on the best option for colder climates (zone 5 to be exact).

To Johnstoneb: I’m intending the roof to be 2×4 rafters. I already got the materials delivered, but now, with recently gained knowledge, I’m considering buying the necessary 2×6 rafters and changing the plan. I don’t think it would be an issue to ask my builder to use 2×6 for the rafters instead of 2×4. Would there be any additional work required at this point if I switched to 2×6? I can’t think of a reason why there would be, but I obviously didn’t plan this properly from the start.

New Question: I read today that certain brands/types of XPS rigid foam board can act as a vapor barrier as well. That if installed with a tight friction fit between the floor joists, with furring strips attached to the joists underneath the foam boards to prevent them falling out if the friction fit loosens over time, that the XPS boards will be all the vapor barrier needed. And that the foam is also treated so it will repel insects and critters. Is this true? If not, what should I use as a moisture/vapor barrier under the foam boards in the floor? And how is a vapor barrier attached? Does it stretch across the bottom of the entire floor, meaning that the entire floor structure has to be flipped over after the vapor barrier is attached so that it is underneath the foam boards? And will the space of air between the foam boards and a vapor barrier be ok? Originally, before my builder fully grasped that I wanted this structure to be more of a little house than a shed, when he didn’t realize that I wanted the floor to be insulated, he said he was going to seal the bottom of the plywood flooring to prevent moisture. He convinced me that this was better than using exterior plywood as flooring. I instead purchased really nice 3/4” T&G plywood so I could just leave them as bare plywood floors inside my shop. Now that I’m going to be using the foam board between the floor joists, and possibly a vapor barrier under them as well, is there any need to coat the underside of my plywood floors with any type of sealant?

For the walls, the plan was to simply install T1-11 siding to the studs. I was then going to use the fiberglass rolls of the pink insulation between the 16” O.C. studs, then use plywood panels as walls ( so I can hang tools, etc on the walls. Now I’m wondering if I should use some type of house-wrap under the T1-11 siding. And maybe using only foam boards for wall insulation between the studs. That would leave me enough space for a 3 inch thick layer of foam board. I know it’s more expensive, but at this point I’d rather spend the money now to get what’s best for my needs. If the walls do need some kind of house-wrap product, what kind? And in what order do these things get layered? Should there be air gaps between anything?

Again, thank you guys for your replies. I promise all my postings on LJ won’t be never ending onslaughts of questions. I’m just really worried about getting my shop built correctly. This shop is a long time dream of mine about to come true, and I would hate to have turned into a nightmare instead. I’m a man of modest means and I really only have this one chance to make sure this gets done right. Once I’m in there, I can actually focus on woodworking. This building structures stuff is very different from building simple furniture. :)

-- Sam, Pittsburgh PA

View dhazelton's profile


2284 posts in 1715 days

#7 posted 11-14-2015 01:58 PM

I think you’re going to be really underinsulated if you want to keep that building at 60 AFFORDABLY.

First, ditch the ridge vent. Ridge vents are designed to be used with soffit vents to keep a roof deck cold so you don’t get heat melting the snow and causing ice dams. Unless you put soffit vents in and leave an air space between those rafters the ridge vent is useless. (google ‘cold roof deck’)

You really need R19 in the walls and R38 in the ceiling if you want to stay comfortable in the northeast. 2X4 rafters (WAY undersized structurally) don’t give you much. The only foam that gives you a vapor barrier is the closed cell foil faced stuff. Pink boards are open cell foam and not very efficient.

As far as you rafters I’d go with 2X8 rafters if you don’t want your roof to deflect under a snowload. Is there a ridge beam supported by the gable walls and maybe one pole in the middle? You’re building a structure you want to last. I have to ask if you’re just winging this or of you bought a set of plans, which would be money well spent. At the very least go buy a book that has building codes in it.

View rwe2156's profile


2112 posts in 899 days

#8 posted 11-14-2015 02:52 PM

I find a wood burning stove quite quaint in a woodshop.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View clin's profile


485 posts in 415 days

#9 posted 11-14-2015 08:43 PM

For some reason I thought this shed was already built. Didn’t realize it wasn’t. I agree with dhazwelton. It really isn’t that much more expensive to increase the size of the framing. 2×6 walls (R19) and larger for the roof to increase the insulation there.

I wouldn’t be surprised that it would be less expensive to increase the size of the framing and then use standard fiberglass batting, then to stay with smaller framing and use more expensive insulation.

Seems to me you need to take a step back on this. You really are constructing a small building and should approach it that way, rather then as a conversion of a shed to a shop space. You’re making a large investment here, and might as well do it right.

If I were you’d I’d start asking around. Someone you know has friend who has a friend type thing. I would think an experienced local builder or architect, could probably cover most of this in 20 minutes. Do this …, do this .. do this ….

I would think your shed guy would know others in the building trade and could get you the help you need.

Or just bite the bullet and find an architect or builder like you would any other professional and see what they say.

-- Clin

View Sam's profile


13 posts in 346 days

#10 posted 11-15-2015 08:53 AM

Thanks again for the replies. I think I need to clarify a few things though from my initial post: I’m not winging this by myself. I hired a contractor/builder with the deal that I would purchase the materials myself and he would provide all the necessary knowledge and labor – even helping me to select the proper building materials. Included in the job is also a large deck that is getting all new deck boards, steps, and a bench running the full length of the railing. I already paid a lot of money. ($14,000 and counting total cost so far.) This project is going on right now as I am writing this. The old, deteriorating shed was demolished this past Monday, the rest of the demolition was finished up Thursday, All the materials I purchased were delivered on a big flat bed truck from the big box store on Friday (yesterday). The site of the structure has already been marked with string and stakes, my deck has no deck boards, and I have a 20 yard dumpster on the curb in front of my house that is filled to the rim from the demolition. The builder and his worker (his son) are going to be back early Monday morning to continue work. And while this man and his son are experienced fence, deck, and shed builders, I’m realizing that this is more of a residential structure. I did explain all this to the builder – exactly what I wanted – but I’m now coming to see that his advice has not been of the caliber I had expected. So this is why I am having anxiety and trying to figure this out quickly. I have no time. I have no one to consult locally, and the work is progressing daily. Whatever I am going to do as far as changing the building materials, I need to do it FAST. This structure is going up, and will be completed by the end of this upcoming week, by Nov 21. Of course I can buy new 2×6 or 2×8 roof rafters and have my builder pick them up in his truck, or maybe even get them delivered if it can be done in time (I can’t fit it in my car), but I know my guy is not going to be willing to take back lumber that has already been delivered. Even though he assured me that once he was done, I would have no problem finishing out the structure with insulation, etc, by. myself But apparently building basics sheds & decks doesn’t mean you know how to build a structure appropriate for occupancy.

I’m totally willing to take a hit on the 2×4s already sitting in my back yard that are intended for the roof. I’m already in so far financially, and I want this to turn out right. I can purchase the 2×6 or 2×8s, and I’ll just have left over 2×4s. But if I could at least leave the walls at 2×4, that would be a help, even if it meant more expensive insulation.

And as far as the ridge vent needing soffit vents – I did do my research on that. It was after work had already begun, but I did find out the hot roof and cold roof info. And yes, there are going to be soffit vents, along with the ridge vents. I clarified that with my builder yesterday.

So could I get away with leaving the walls at 2×4? And if so, could I still use 2×8 on the roof, or should I limit it to 2×6. My plan at this point is to leave an air gap between the roof and 2” thick XPS rigid insulation cut to fit between the rafters and then sealed with canned foam insulation or tape (although tape seems a bad idea to me). Then another layer of 2 inch XPS rigid foam in full sheets, attached to the roof rafters. But if I upgrade to 2×6, or 2×8, perhaps I could use fiberglass insulation, and then cover that with the 2” XPS foam boards attached to the rafters. Would standard fiberglass insulation still leave me an air gap for the air to flow from the ridge vent to the soffit vents?

I just need to figure this out within the next 48 hours definitively so I can get what I need in time. I appreciate the advice from all.

I attached a photo of the site in it’s current state. I just took this pic Friday. You can see the deck boards have already been removed, and to the left, out of view, a big section of my fence has been removed as well because it was on top of the deck boards. The blue circle is there because I was showing an electrician where the current wiring comes up out of the ground. There was a smaller shed on that site that was torn down on Monday. If you can zoom in, you can see the yellow string where the new building is going to be. It’s going to be larger than the old one, and part of it is going to be on top of that little pond you can see above the retaining wall at rear of deck. That pond is going to be filled in Monday morning, and the holes will be dug for the 6×6 posts. They will be over 36” down in concrete footings, below the frostline.

I have “before” pics, but they’re on my phone. I will add them too though. And I’ll add photos as the progress continues in case anyone’s interested. I really appreciate the advice, so I will at least post some pics to to show how I’m using that advice as the project progresses each day. No work Sat or Sun, but by Monday evening there will be more visible progress and I’ll post updated pics of it. Thanks again.

-- Sam, Pittsburgh PA

View dhazelton's profile


2284 posts in 1715 days

#11 posted 11-15-2015 01:03 PM

Well, they build houses down south with 2×4 walls, but bear in mind they usually have intersecting walls to add rigidity. A lot depends on the pitch of the roof and how it will be framed. If he plans on building trusses with the 2×4s for the ceiling that would be a different story. If he just plans on the roof joists sitting on the side wall and having them extend up to a ridge beam you will definitely have problems and the first heavy wet snowstorm could be disastrous. There should also be some type of horizontal members tying the two outside walls together so they don’t spread outward letting your roof sag. I see you have a pool and it looks like you live in a residential area. Did you get a permit for this? Will it be inspected? Again, are there any building plans you can look at? All those Amish shed places build fairly large structures only with 2×4s but they use truss construction and none are ever that wide as the have to go over the road.

View Pezking7p's profile


3097 posts in 1070 days

#12 posted 11-15-2015 01:12 PM

The big box store will always take back the 2×4’s, you just have to get them there. Do the insulation right. Put in as much as you can afford, and seal the heck out of the Windows, doors, and walls, that way heating and cooling will be easy and CHEAP.

As for the builders, ask them to take a day or two off. It’s your building, not theirs. Don’t get stuck with something you don’t want because of their advice and timeline.

-- -Dan

View Tennessee's profile


2410 posts in 1933 days

#13 posted 11-15-2015 01:42 PM

Boy, reading all this, I think you have to step back a bit and slow these guys down. They are probably wanting to finish as many jobs as possible as soon as possible since their workload will slow down appreciably in a month or so, when the snow really hits.

This guy, as far as I can see, is not knowledgeable in buildings beyond the “shed” stage. That means thinner walls, unheated areas, improper moisture retention.

Lumber can always be returned if not used.

One thing I’d want to know is this: Do you live in the Southern half of PA where snowfall might be 25” a year and temps are actually moderate, or are you in the Northern half, where you can see 70” of snow with temps that can go below freezing and just stay there for three-four weeks on end? Huge difference in stud size, insulation considerations, and to be honest, heatpumps just don’t work worth a hoot at 5’. They just run and run.
Your location means everything here. And this is an occupied space, a building…not a shed. He needs to think in those terms.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 595 days

#14 posted 11-15-2015 02:25 PM

You could use the extra 2×4s to turn the 2×4 walls into 2×8 walls. I don’t think it would add any structural strength but would widen the walls so you could fit R-19 insulation in.

If you want the best insulation, and can afford it, spray (Styrofoam) insulation is considered the best. It will get into all cracks. You would have to run your electric first or use thin wall conduit so you could pull wire latter.

As for returning extra materials, if your contractor will not do it you could go to U-Hall and rent a pickup truck for a day. I have done this to pickup hardwoods or sheet goods that don’t fit in my van.

How are you building this without a building permit? I would have thought that the building department would have asked many of these questions. Also, you may have to get permission to make changes if you are going the permit route.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View Sam's profile


13 posts in 346 days

#15 posted 11-16-2015 07:24 AM

Thank you for the replies. Dhazelton brought up an interesting point about roof trusses that I hadn’t previously mentioned due to my own ignorance of the difference. The builder told at the beginning of all this that YES, he was going to build roof trusses from the 2×4s. And he said he was building the roof with a 4/12 pitch. The walls will be 8’ high. What does this mean as far as the rafter size issue that’s been discussed? Does that mean the 2×4’s would be sufficient if the purpose is to construct roof trusses? I haven’t mentioned trusses earlier in this thread because it didn’t occur to me – I just called it “a roof”. But I did send a text to my builder today asking him to call me if he was stopping at the store before starting work here tomorrow morning. I had intended to ask him to purchase 2×6s or 2×8s for the roof, but if the fact that roof trusses are being built changes this necessity, perhaps I should leave it alone? Or should I tell him I want a rafter roof instead? Almost all the materials for the job have already been delivered, but there are still a few things he said he was going to pick up from the store himself. Since I’m funding the purchase, I can ask to add some lumber that will fit in his truck. But maybe trusses would be better? Whether he calls from the store, or whether he comes here to work first, I am going to have a discussion about the roof and the walls. And as far as asking him to take a few days off, that’s not really an option. I chose to only have them work Mon – Fri, and we made an agreement that the project would proceed daily, weather permitting. And this week is supposed to be really nice, Sun and temps in the 60’s. But I do have the days I need to make any changes because the deck is being done first. A few repairs and a few posts have to go into the ground for that, and then the deck boards, and the built-in benches, followed by putting the section of fence back in place at the side of the deck. I specifically asked the builder to do the deck first because I want the fence back in place as soon as possible.
Specifically: Why would a builder want to build trusses for the roof of my building instead of a traditional rafter roof?
And secondly: Would it be in my best interest to request that a traditional rafter roof be built?
3rd: If so, would a traditional rafter roof be any more, or any less, labor intensive?

I was about to ask what the difference is between trusses and a roof, but I just looked it up instead. Now I understand the difference, but it leads to new questions.

To answer other questions I was asked: I live in southwest PA (suburbs, 15 miles north of Pittsburgh), where the snowfall is less than the northern part of the state.

As for the roof pitch/slope, I know the the plan is for it to be 4/12. And the walls will go all the way to 8’. My builder said he’s doing it this way to provide me the maximum space in the loft areas I requested at each end of the building. The lofts floors will be about 7’ high, and I’ll have about 4-1/2 or 5’ of space under the roof. Not enough to stand up straight, but plenty of room for storage.

As far as building permits: I stopped in at my township office before any work started and spoke to the woman who handles everything in their entire office – from building permits to water bills. It’s a very small township. In fact, this woman is the only person I’ve ever seen or spoken to at my township office in the 3 years that I’ve lived here – and I’ve been there a few times. There are a couple of elected officials, but I’ve never seen them. So I asked this woman (who is always pleasant and helpful) about how I could get a permit for my deck and building project. I was told, because the structure was non-residential and under 1000 sq. ft., that a building permit was NOT required. Instead, they have something called a Zoning Permit, which has to do with distance from property lines. But because I was tearing down an already existing shed structure, and building on the same spot, this township employee advised me to save my $40 and “just go ahead and build it”. I also asked about a permit to have a 20 yard dumpster on my street for 7 days (no driveway, just on-street parking), and to this she answered that there have never been any issues on my street with dumpsters, and that I really didn’t need that permit either. I was concerned because I see the police patrolling my street sometimes, but the township woman told me that unless someone calls in a complaint, the police won’t bother with it. And she was right – they’ve ignored it for a week so far. But I did talk to all my neighbors before hand – the neighbors on the left and right, and to the neighbors behind the fence in the pic I posted. I also talked to my neighbors across the street (in the front of the house, not seen in photo), and they’ve been super helpful with leaving space for me to park since my 2 spaces are occupied by the dumpster. I’m lucky to live on a really quiet, dead end-street where all the neighbors know each other and are helpful and respectful of each other. My neighbors behind the fence where the workshop is being built often spend time in their back yard, and before any work started, I asked them if there were any days they would prefer to have peace and quite. I also asked them if they cared what height I built the workshop to, if they cared if it was a bit higher than my gazebo that’s seen to the right of the building site (They said they didn’t care, but I doubt they’d be happy if I built one of those 2 story shed structures that would loom over their backyard. But because I respect them, I wouldn’t do something like that.) I think all of these reasons are why there is no issue about a zoning permit. But it’s not as if I want to build something sub-par that would be a danger or risk to anyone. I want a structure that is of quality construction. For example, even though this builder would do the electrical wiring, I chose to hire a licensed electrician to handle all of that. Sorry for the long explanation, but I thought this permit issue deserved a complete answer because I don’t agree with cutting corners and/or risking safety when constructing a building of any type, official permit or not.

Spray foam insulation was mentioned for the walls if I was willing to spend more. I’ve realized now that I’d rather invest more now, and save $$ in the long-run, so I’ve abandoned the idea of trying to keep costs down. Now that I’ve already spent so much, I just want to spend however much more is necessary to get this finished right. If spray foam in the walls would be best, I’d like to know. Would spray foam give me enough R-value in 2×4 walls? The only reason I’d like to keep the walls at 2×4 is to avoid lose more interior space.

I also was wondering if I need some kind of house-wrap or similar? For a structure like I need, that I’m going to be spending many hours in, what is the order that the walls are assembled as far as insulation & moisture barrier/wrap, and any air gaps if needed. In what order are these things layered? I found so many different opinions when searching.

The bottom line is this: At this point I am willing to spend more money than I had planned because I was not fully informed at that time. I have a few days to get the materials, and I’m even going to tell my builder that I’m willing to pay him more if it is more labor intensive. I think he is operating with the assumption that I am unwilling to pay more than originally agreed, yet I keep wanting more than originally discussed. I don’t want to be taken advantage of, but neither do I want to take advantage of this man (who I met because he is the father of a guy I’ve worked with for years). Tomorrow morning, hopefully in person, I am going to have a talk with this builder. I am going to tell him in no uncertain terms, that this building is not to be thought of as a shed, but as a structure for full-time human occupancy, like a mini-house.

Thanks again for all the replies. I’ll post pics as the project proceeds this week.

-- Sam, Pittsburgh PA

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