Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Doctor Handyman and the Horse Shelter

So, my first job as a certified Doctor: build a horse shelter.

Searching for ways to make money this Summer I posted an ad on Craigslist for a handyman. I figured I would get calls for small household jobs that someone didn't want to call a skilled contractor for. So, to my surprise, my first real call was from someone who wanted me to build a horse shelter for them. After debating whether this was too much for my first job, I decided to take it and it has been a wonderful experience. Below I will chronicle the last two weeks of building this shelter.

It started with a few days of internet research for plans and calls to my architect father to work out the details of how to build this thing as a one man job. The client wanted a shelter 12' x 12' x 8' tall.

Here is a list of materials I used:

4 4x4x12 weather treated lumber for posts
Quikrete concrete for the posts
6 2x4x12 for the top and bottom of the stud walls between the posts on the two sides and back
21 2x4x8 for the stud walls
9 pieces of 4x8 wood siding
12 2x6x14 for the rafters
14 pieces of 2x8 corrugated tin roofing
Rafter ties
Wood screws
Decking nails

The first major obstacle was how to get this material out to the job site which was a half an hour away and I have no truck. I ended up renting a truck at Home depot. They charge $19.99 for the first 75 minutes and $10 for each additional hour. The key here is to pick out and purchase the materials before you rent the truck. It took me about 2 hours to load the truck, get out to the site, unload, and return the truck. The charge was 29.99. Here is a picture of the materials at the site.

The first task was to stake the location of the holes as a 12 foot square. This involves staking a square with a stake at each corner each 12 feet apart. Then, to make sure you have a square and not a parallelogram, you have to measure the diagonal distance. The distance between the diagonal stakes should be equal. Using the pythagorean theorem, ( √(144" x 144") + (144" x 144") = 203.6 inches). I got the stakes to be equal at 208 inches. I thought that this was close enough. The owner of the land had a tractor with an augur bit, so he dug the holes in preparation for me to start the job. I found out when I showed up to work that I should have been more careful in my laying out the holes. They would not line up with a 12x12 square. I was able to line this up perfectly with when I set my 12 foot 2x4s in a square over the holes. Two holes had to be enlarged with a post hole digger.

With the holes dug, I began by building the walls on the ground. To do this I set two 4x4x12s 12 feet from the holes and 12 feet apart. I then cut the 2x4x12s to 137 inches (144" - 7' for the two 4x4s). I wanted the outside dimensions to be exactly 12 feet. Here is a wall under construction.

Once the stud wall was built, I put on the 4x8 siding. This involved putting one sheet on and lining up the edge with the 4x4. I then nailed along the 4x4 edge. Then, I had to move the opposite 4x4 until the top of the stud wall lined up with the siding (this was essentially squaring up the wall). Below is a picture of the two outside walls completely built, and the back wall without the siding.

Each wall is built at a distance from the dug holes, allowing them to be tipped over once, and then tipped up into the holes. This was the moment of truth. Could I tip the walls over and then up. My dad said it might be a bear to lift these walls, but that I should be able to do it. Well, he must have thought I was Hercules. I tried the first wall and, I'm sorry, but there was no way. I was able to flip over the back wall (without the 4x4s), but tipping over and up the side walls was impossible for me. Luckily I caught my friend Jonathan Martin on a free day and he came and helped. It was much easier with two men, but we still struggled with it. The hardest part was, after we had flipped the walls over, to tip the walls up and set the posts in the holes. This was made more difficult by the wind which wanted to blow the walls back over. Jonathan then held the walls while I placed diagonal braces on the wall and staked them to the ground.

I picture before we lifted the back wall.

With the back wall in place.

At this point, I could finally see that this was going to work. with the three pieces joined, the structure was fairly sturdy and surprisingly square. It was perfectly level from side to side and not far off front to back. As you can see in the picture, I attached one 2x6 across the front that would later make up the roofing header.

The next step was to level the front posts and pour the concrete. Leveling the front posts was actually quite easy. I placed a level on the side walls measuring level from front to back. I then used my car jack next to the front post to lift the post until the wall was level. I then poured sand in the hole and made sure to stir it around in the hole, coaxing it under the post. I then lowered the jack and the post stayed level. At this point, I mixed and poured concrete in the holes and allowed them to set for a day.

The next step was to construct the roof structure. First, I attached another 2x6 across the front wall to form the header and the support for the rafters at the front.

I should have learned from the wall lifting debacle, but I did not, and built the roof rafter structure on the ground. It was 14 feet from front to back and 147 inches wide. I nailed it together (which was made difficult by the fact that some of the 2x6s had warped slightly, including the ones that I had cut for the front and back of the roof structure). I got it all nailed together and went to lift it. It was a bear, but doable. Yet, in trying to tip it up to lean on the structure, I must have jerked and the wall started to twist, and then proceeded to fall apart and crash to the ground. I gave up on trying to build the structure on the ground and decided to build the structure in place on the roof. The hardest pieces were the outermost rafters that had the header to rest on in the front, but nothing to rest on in the back. I was able to work these into place. Here is a picture of the structure with the outermost rafters and the front and back of the roof structure.

I proceeded to add the rafters and complete the roof structure. The next step was to put on the tin roofing. At this point I realized a design flaw. As I tried put up the first piece of tin which went lengthwise from back to front with the rafters, the tin would sag between the rafters making it impossible to secure it in place. I had to make a quick trip to Home Depot to get a 2x4 which I then secured between the rafters as a support for the tin. You can see these 2x4s in the picture of the finished roof structure.

Finally, I put the tin on the roof. I was dreading this, thinking I would have to actually climb up on the roof, using a piece of plywood for support between the rafters. Yet, it turned out that I could secure all of the pieces of tin from the ladder. I secured the roof with special tin roofing screws which had a metal and rubber washer to prevent leaks in the roof.

The last thing I did was to tie the rafters to the header and the back wall with rafter ties. Now the structure was very solid and I think will make a great place to loaf for the horses.

Here are some pictures of the final structure.

In the end, it was an immensely fulfilling project to actually build something and have the clients like what you built.


  1. curious how much it cost to build this?

  2. I looked through tons of photos online. I liked your design the best, for a simple & practical design, and especially considering that I am on a tight budget. Thanks so much for posting this. The material list and pictures help immensely.
    robyn from south texas

  3. Really love the style and simplicity of the project. If using this shelter for horses, I would add some plywood kick walls though, just to keep the horses from kicking through the walls. This would not add much to the total cost of the project though. Thanks so much for the awesome project!

  4. I am in the process of building this right now for my goats. I have the posts and the walls in and will be doing the rafters and roofing tomorrow. Because I am in South Florida and deal with heavy winds and rain, I have made two modifications. I am using 12-foot tin panels with a one foot overhang on each side and I have different rafter ties for the ends of the 2x6's that look like Pac Man and hold the wood in place to allow it to be screwed on both sides. Thank you so much for your plans and pictures!

  5. Does anyone knoe how much the materials cost?

  6. I priced the materials and it roughly costs $600 based on Home Depot prices in North Alabama.

  7. Enjoyed reading your blog. Wonderful work and description.waiting for a more new post. Handyman Service in Fulton County
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