“That’s overki-…” Bill caught himself and glanced sideways at me in time to see me roll my eyes. “Oh. Right. You want this to be as close to code as possible so you can convert it into a kitchen later.”
“Exactly,” I told him, returning my eyes to a more neutral position in my head.
We’d been having the same conversation all afternoon — and part of an afternoon on a previous day, bless his heart. “I just want to save you some money if I can,” he’d said, repeatedly, on both occasions. And he had saved me money. For instance, he’d talked me out of the 3/4″ plywood floor, which would be unnecessary because I’d eventually lay flooring over top of the standard 1/2″ plywood. But I’d stood firm on the number and spacing of structural supports in the walls, floors, and roof. I’d also added moisture barriers, insulation, and sturdy, pest-and-rot-resistant siding. Yes, it was over the top for a barn, but I hoped the building wouldn’t always be a barn.
why a prefab building?
Over the course of the 18 months or so of talking and working with locals, I heard all kinds of stories about how they — or someone they knew — built a cabin for some ridiculously tiny sum of money. They’d cut and milled and planed all the wood themselves. They’d done all the plumbing and electric and dug their own outhouses. They’d installed their own windows and built their own kitchen cabinets and…and…and…
Groovy — if you have those skills. I do not.
Don’t get me wrong: I can (and will) certainly learn some of them over time. But the expense of building from scratch, with the paid oversight of a builder and the paid guidance of carpenters and the paid assistance of a plumber and electrician — even if that paid person was all one person — would have cost me more than the cabins these men described. A prefab building seemed the way to get a decent, usable shell that I could use now for my storage needs and convert later as my finances allowed.
So…enter the shed guy. Or, in my case, guys — plural.
the angst and excitement of designing a building
In early June of 2019, I’d spent a couple of hours with a shed dealer in South Carolina, where I’d been living with my parents for a while before moving out here. He and I had hashed out several plans before he sent my analysis paralysis and me out to the builders’ website to play with the configuration software. The plan was to call him when I was closer to being ready to order, and he would have the barn delivered to North Carolina for me.
Excited by the prospect of having storage and workspace on my land, I spent hours researching buildings and walking the homesite with a tape measure and notebook, trying to decide how big the building needed to be, where to situate it in the small clearing, and which direction it should face. I returned to my original site sketches, redrawing and re-redrawing the organization of structures, trying to keep views in mind as well as how best to use the limited space.
And I’d even attempted to decipher building codes for my county. (That’s where Bill’s reference to “overkill” came in.) So I’d gone online to research building materials, window placement, types of doors, roof and siding colors, and structural considerations. I wanted my new barn/building to give me flexibility, a measure of security, and take allow me to enjoy the yurt as an easeful space instead of expecting it to house all of my living needs.
But the real angst for me with configuring my building? Dang it, I wanted it to look nice! I wanted a warm and welcoming space with lots of light and a comfortable flow for cooking and eating and bringing things in from the gardens. I wanted something I could build onto comfortably — a covered porch, a deck for grilling, maybe a larder. I wanted it to be more than a utility space. I wanted it to be home.
I knew I wanted two doors, for safety reasons. (The yurt currently has only one, which I’ll change at some point.) I also knew I wanted lots of windows to let light in. But if I put a door there would it get in the way of food storage? Would a window here limit where I could put an internal wall? What about lofts? The roof wasn’t high enough to allow for a sleeping loft, but should I build in some extra storage? And how would that affect the window and door placement?
In the end, I did the best I could with what I could afford to spend. Five windows and two doors later — as well as the sturdier, more durable Dutch lap siding, a metal roof, and structural supports spaced as they would be in a stick-built house — I was ready to order my building.
But then the next set of worries set in: What did I need for a foundation? And would a pre-built barn on the back of a truck make it up my driveway? Or even the road on which my property sat? In short, I drove myself about half-crazy. Then Sam introduced me to Bill.
consulting with a local for the win
While chatting with Sam, my fabulous homesite excavator, who was in the process of digging a miniature pond in the path of the tiny stream for me to use as fire safety, I’d mentioned my uncertainties. The foundation was of particular interest to him and his business prospects, and he suggested we talk to a shed dealer “around the corner.”
“What shed dealer?”
“Over by Smiley’s hardware store. It’s not but a mile away.”
(Seriously. I needed to start paying more attention to my surroundings as I ran my errands.)
As it turned out, Sam had driven by the lot dozens of times but he hadn’t stopped, either, until that day. And, as it also turned out, he and the guy running the lot – Bill – go way back.
After talking with me, Bill agreed to come out and look at the site – right then and there. He locked up the office, jumped into Sam’s truck, where the two of them spent the next few minutes catching up, and followed me out to Joyous Gard.
An hour later, I had a clear idea of which trees I would need to cut back to prevent damage to the building’s roof as it made its way up the tractor road and around the bend of my driveway. Sam knew where and how deep to dig holes for concrete piers (an adventure in its own right). And I’d decided to order my shed through Bill to support a small business, closer to where I’d be living – which he welcomed — and cut the costs of delivery — which I welcomed. Win-win.
delivery delays…of course
“It should be about 4-6 weeks to delivery,” Bill assured me, which would put the delivery date at about the end of September or early October. I was in the process of looking for a place to live in the area, so the timing seemed perfect.
Life got busy. By early November, after having moved my stuff into a rented house less than a half mile from Joyous Gard, I’d still heard nothing about the barn. Anxious, I called Bill.
“Our delivery guy quit a few weeks ago, putting the whole schedule behind,” Bill told me.
Did they have any idea how long it’d be? “Sorry,” Bill sighed. “There’s a guy who used to deliver for us taking over the route, but the factory’s been so busy with the crazy demand that I don’t even know if your building is done.”
Frustrated – but not surprised, the way this whole endeavor had been going up to that point – I decided to let it go. And the Universe rewarded that release just a couple of days later.
“Can you take delivery on the 6th of December?” Bill asked when I picked up the phone.
I’d have made it work if I’d had to move mountains.
In early December 2019, after more than two years of owning the land, I finally had a structure on it where I could store my tools and some of my other gear. Now, I just had to figure out how to get the yurt out of storage and put up…
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… and a vision comes closer to being
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