Thursday, August 25, 2016

Backyard Observatory Using SkyShed Plans


This project took approximately 3 months to complete from start to finish.  It can be done quicker but I had other commitments, i.e. a job and a family, so I worked on it part-time.  Although it is highly recommended that you have a helper building this, I built the SkyShed without help and, therefore, had to be creative while doing some parts.  The shed is 8' x 8' so I had to hybridize the plans from the 6' x 8' and 8' x 10' plans to construct it.

Note: I used deck screws of various sizes rather than nails to attach the all the boards.

STEP 1 - Identify the Site and Build the Pier (4/14-5/3)

This was done in a previous post: Building a Concrete Telescope Pier and Adapter.


STEP 2 - Construct the Floor (4/23-5/19)


After leveling the ground as best as possible, six 7' 10.5' pressure treated (PT) 4x4s were set on paving stones and cinder blocks until they were level. A seventh 4x4 was cut in half and added to the center for additional support. Roof shingles were used for further leveling.  Two 8' - 1 x 4s were attached to the ends of the 4 x 4s.  The SkyShed plans called for laying down 1x10s for the floor, however, I decided to put a sub-floor of half-inch PT plywood and then add PT 1 x 10s.  After a couple weeks the 1 x 10s started to warp so I removed them and and made my floor out of 0.75" plywood.  I added two coats of all-weather varnish for protection.

STEP 3 - Construct the Walls (6/13-6/21)



I the frames of the walls separately and then attached them to the floor with deck screws.  Since I was working alone I did not attach the walls to the frames yet.  I pretty much followed the plans from SkyShed except I purchased a 14" by 21" aluminum window from Amazon.


I had to be creative in order to hang the T-111 walls.  Fortunately I have numerous clamps to fill the job of a helper.

STEP 4 - Construct the Roll Off Rails (6/29)



I followed the updated plans from SkyShed for the roll off support for the most part.  I built my Roll Off Support Jacks out using 1/4" thick 4 x 4 steel plates from Lowe's (I cut them to size) and 5/8" diameter 8" galvanized bolts.  I had to chisel a hole in the paving stone to make room for the bolt.  The cost to make my own was a little less than $30.  Lastly, I had a problem with leveling the far beam as an uneven very large boulder or bedrock was exposed on the surface.  I had a bag of concrete leftover from the pier so I built a small berm using local rocks and poured the concrete into the berm to make a level platform.

STEP 5 - Construct the Roll Off Track and Support Runner (7/1)




Getting the garage door track was little time consuming as I had to check with several garage door companies before I found that would order it for me.  I ordered 4 - 9' sections and screwed them onto to roll off support beams.  I contacted a SkyShed installer for advice on what screws to use to hold the track, they recommend #10 or #12 panhead bolts 2.5" or 3" in length.  At first I used the #10 screws but when I was sure they would not hit the roller balls, I used the #12 screws.  Also, I ordered 20 nylon rollers and hinges from Amazon.

STEP 6 - Build the Roof Frame (7/12)



I followed the plans from SkyShed for the the gable and roof construction again using deck screws.  I build the gables on the ground and then attached them to the secured roll off slider.  For building the roof frame I used a 2 x 6 for the main cross beam and used a 2 x 4 support to level and hold in place.  I then added 2 x 4 angle braces for added security.  Next, two 2 x 4 trusses were added to each side of the structure.  Following SkyShed plans, I attached 2" by 4" hangers with #9 Simpson screws and then the 2 x 4 support beams into the hangers.

At this point, the roof is ready to be attached, however, I did not realize the metal roof had to be ordered and it would be at least thee weeks to be delivered (that's what I get for not checking).


The above photo shows the shed with the temporary roof consisting of 1/4 inch plywood with 30-gage paper.  The good news is, it did not leak!

STEP 7 - The Door (7/13)



The door was pretty much to the SkyShed plans only I used the T-111 rather than the 10" boards. Also, I used higher quality poplar 1 x 4 rather than pine.

STEP 8 - The Roof (8/10)




After removing my temporary roof, I installed the charcoal gray steel roof.  Again I followed SkyShed's plans for this but just a couple of notes for the non-roofers:

1) the screws are specially made for installing metal panels as they have a rubber washer attached to seal it from rain,
2) it is extremely hard to find a beam to screw into, you might want to turn the crossbeams onto their side so you have a larger target.

So what do you do if you do miss the beam?  I missed four times.  What I did to fix this was remove the screw, attach another board next to the beam I was aiming for, then put the screw back only now there is a board to catch it.  It may not be pretty but it works.

STEP 9 - Weather Proofing (8/12)


For weatherproofing I attached a 1 x 6 onto the backside of the roof about 1/4 inch above the wall.  On the roll-off side I attached a 1 x 10 onto the roof covering the opening.

STEP 10 - Electrical (8/17)




I purchased a 30 amp circuit breaker box and ran 14/2 Romex wire in 3/4 inch PVC conduit out to the shed.  The conduit was buried to a depth of six inches.  The shed has 2 outlets on the wall and one at the base of the pier. 

FINALLY - The Happy Frog Observatory is done!  (a.k.a. BMAS North Observatory after the local astronomy club I belong to)


 


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