too many words by laura lemay

How to Convert an Old Shed to a Chicken Coop in 45,732 Easy Steps (Part Two)

(read Part One here)

After Greg delivered the old shed onto my driveway it sat there for close to nine months. I was too busy to clear the road to the chicken yard, and Greg apparently didn’t need his trailer back, because he never called me to demand that we finish moving it.

Even braced and tied to a tree, the shed was not stable on top of the trailer. When Greg and Jesus had been cleaning up after delivering the shed I had gone to look inside to get a closer look. I put my hands on the door sill, and the shed leaned over toward me with a loud creak. I started backward like I had been burned and darted well away from the crush zone. The shed rocked back to level. “Whatever you do,” Greg warned me, ” do not get into the shed!”

I was too frightened to get into the shed. But once in a while I would go out onto the driveway and look into the shed. Greg had emptied the shelves of everything but the dirt, of which there was a lot, and the kerosene smell inside was quite strong. But I had been right in my initial assessment; the shed was sturdily built, entirely of redwood, whitewashed on the inside, and huge. The door was a pretty light blue and although it didn’t open very well it did open. The shed was sound. It would make an awesome chicken coop when it was done. If I ever managed to get it down off of the trailer.

I started thinking. Even if I cleared the road to the chicken yard it was going to be tough to get the shed up into the right spot; the road was narrow, and uneven, and to even get to the road would require maneuvering the shed past the garage and through a carport that was, unfortunately, shorter than the shed. The magic 8 ball in my head was blinking FAIL. I was going to have to dismantle the shed, and take it up to the chicken yard in pieces.

In December I got up on a ladder with a crowbar and a hammer. On top of the roof I found four layers of rotting asphalt shingles and redwood 1x6s as underlayment. Slowly I started building a messy pile of asphalt and roofing nails and lumber on the ground next to the shed. Once I had a few rows of roofing materials off, I moved the ladder inside the shed itself.

“Do not get into the shed!” Greg had warned me nine months before. It’s usually good advice that if some activity scares Greg then that activity is probably way, way too dangerous for anyone other than Greg to attempt. But I was confident at this point that the shed was not going to tip over. I had been testing the shed by going out and wiggling it once in a while (and then running away). Like a Weeble, it wobbled, but it didn’t fall down. I could tip it several degrees off center on the trailer, but it seemed to want to come back to vertical every time. Leaning the ladder against it had proved stable. I was feeling more confident.

Lack of imminent death didn’t mean it was at all easy to stand on a ladder inside of it, or that I had any fun at all standing on that ladder. The shed still listed from side to side as I worked, like a small boat in a very big storm. If I didn’t move very slowly as I worked, or have the ladder oriented in the right direction, the shed could lurch, leaving me hanging on a rafter with my feet dangling in the air. There were a number of times I finished working on the shed for the day and staggered queasily inside to take a dramamine and lie down for a while.

It took me a week of afternoons and a weekend to get the roof fully off.

I could stand on the ground to pull off most of the siding. As it fell around me a lot of it splintered from rot. The light blue panel door came right off its hinges, and then came apart. Underneath the siding I found more rot, rot in the framing, and rot in the foundation. My free shed was looking like less of a good deal. Every time I stuck my crowbar deep into a chunk of wood that peeled away in shreds I became slightly more uneasy. What, exactly, had I signed up for?

Taking down the rafters took me another two weeks, because they had no rot whatsoever and were nailed down with giant eight-inch spikes. Whoever had built my shed years before had planned for those rafters to stay put, maybe forever. I got most of them off with persistent prying and cursing, and a few by cutting through the spikes with the Sawz-All that Eric got me for my birthday a few years back. Some girls get jewelry. I get power tools.

The next step was to take apart the frame of the shed, and I wasn’t altogether sure how to do that, given that each wall was nailed tightly to the floor and to each other, and I didn’t want to destroy them to take them down. I was still puzzling over the problem when Greg came back up to the house to do some tree trimming.

“Wow!” He said when he saw the skeleton of the shed up on his trailer. “You’ve done so much work!”

I explained what I was up to, and my plans for the rest of the shed demolition. I told him that when I finished taking it apart that he could have his trailer back, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take me. Greg looked at the shed. He looked at me. He got that look on his face that usually makes me back away in alarm. “Let’s just take it down now!” he exclaimed.

“Now?” I asked, backing away in alarm. “Right now?”

“Yeah! It’ll take like fifteen minutes!”

I watched as Greg snatched a hammer out of the back of his truck, jumped up into the shed, muttered “whoa!” once as it heaved underneath him like a bull, and then fearlessly began to pry at the corners of the framing. Within minutes all four corners were loose, and then with the help of a rope and some further prying we had lowered all four walls outward down to the ground. The shed looked like it had been exploded outward.

With some heaving and 2x4s as levers we managed to push the shed foundation off to one side of the shed, and flip it upside down on the ground. Greg hooked up his truck to the trailer and moved it out of the way, and then we picked up the foundation and turned it back right side up onto the ground.

He was right. In less than half an hour the shed was in parts on the ground. We had made more progress together than I had in weeks. Greg trimmed his trees and left with his trailer, leaving me with a stack of wood on the ground. Shed demo was done. Now it was time to rebuild.

(Continued…in Part Three)