Tuesday, February 10, 2015

(Feb 9) Storage Building Frame Goes Up

We were running out of room in our tiny house with all of the tools and building supplies, so we decided it was time to dedicate some time and resources (money) to building a storage shed. I've been wanting to build with warehouse pallet racks for a long time! This looked like the opportunity.

Turns out, there's a huge supply of used warehouse racks available. As the economy was sputtering along in 2008-2010, companies who sold warehouse racks (like you see at Home Depot, Lowe's, Sam's, Costco) had to convince companies to replace their racks as they moved into new warehouses. There were also a lot of companies going out of business. Landlords would sell off assets as warehouses were abandoned. Kind of like the abundance of shipping containers that we see people making tiny houses out of now, these racks have been piling up in steel yards by the ton. They're heavy duty and incredibly durable. Time to repurpose!

We started with an 8'x8' design and slowly talked our way into a 12'x12' with an open area of 8'x12' and 4' of shelves on one side. We went with the same basic shape as the house, a single floor slant roof. This time we're going to put the door on the front instead of the side. It will have an open floor all steel frame, wood rafters, OSB siding and decking, steel corrugated on the outside. We also left a little overhang (4') for a side porch. The height difference from front to back will also lend itself to putting in a 3' deep loft on the tall side. Should give us lots of storage for the things we don't want in the house all of the time - off-season clothes, seasonal decorations, memorabilia, etc.

Friday afternoon, I roughed out a CAD sketch on my Mac and got bids on the materials we would need. Placed the order and got the steel picked up the same day. The guy who was pulling the order at the steel yard looked at me a little funny when I pointed to the old Dodge. I must admit I was a bit worried when he got it all gathered. About 1400 lbs worth. It was only hanging 6' out the back of the bed. I also had to get the 3 of us in with our gear for the weekend. A quick stop to put some more air in the tires can't hurt.

Saturday, we scouted the spot and started clearing. We wanted something that was accessible to the house but not right next to it. We positioned the door so that it'll be convenient as I'm sure we'll be in and out of it all the time. We had 3-4 small trees to remove and some brush. A new chain and bar on the chainsaw meant it went quickly. Harder part was leveling the area. We unloaded the steel and went to Emory to pick up more supplies - runner beams, concrete pads and hardware for assembling it all along with some tools that we had forgotten in Arlington. We now own 3 ratchet/socket sets! :(

We marked out the beams with a chalkline to register where the footing bolts would go and drilled through with a paddle bit. Yes, one hole is larger than the other. The hardware store did not have any ⅝" galvanized bolts long enough, so I mixed some ⅝" stainless steel with some ½" hot dipped galvanized. The stainless were just so expensive, I couldn't force myself to use them on every hole. I set one stainless and one galvanized on each footing.

I put a buffer of tar paper between the footings and the beam just to reduce exposure of the metal to the chemicals in the wood.

Here's a breakdown of the components we were working with, in case (like us) you've never put together a warehouse pallet rack. lol
Upright Assembly. Teardrop shaped holes on sides give this style it's name. 2 rows of teardrops allow for beams to be attached on both the left side and right side. Alternating supports (sometimes bolted, sometimes welded) give it tremendous strength. Think of it as a vertical truss. Thicknesses of the steel runs from 15 gauge to ¼". They come in a number of sizes from 30" to 52" wide and from 8' tall to 25' or more. These go on the ends of the pallet racks with beams running between them to make a shelf support.
Beam attached to teardrop upright. Beams are typically 3"-6" tall and about 2" wide. They are made to support from 2,000-10,000 lbs, depending on the thickness of the uprights you are attaching them to.
Inside view of beam tabs locking into teardrop holes of upright. The small tab in the 3rd hold down from the top is a locking mechanism. This prevents the beam from accidentally coming up out of the upright once installed. Thus, they can be assembled and taken apart without tools.

Assembled teardrop pallet rack. An upright assembly (green & silver) on each end. Beams (orange in this pic, available in lengths from 4' to 12')  running from one upright to another on bottom and top, front and back. This pic also show pallet supports (silver) spanning the beams. Each footing has 2-4 holes for anchoring. Once bolted to the floor, it's very sturdy! Within this teardrop style, all manufacturers build to the same hole pattern so that parts are interchangeable and easily assembled by a 2-3 man team with little to no tools. 

The footing bolts are to the inside of these uprights. This means that the measurement of the beam is flush to the outside edge in this case. These uprights were listed as 42" wide and 10' tall.

Kim, standing next to the short side (10 feet) for scale. 

We got all 3 uprights on the north side mounted to the skid beam in about an hour. We used a 9" spacer between each upright to get our wall length of 12'. (42"+9"+42"+9"+42"=144") I couldn't find a supplier that had 48" wide uprights with all of the other pieces (beams, wire racks, etc) on the spur of the moment so I went with 42" and got spacers to finish out my design. Spacers come in various widths from 3" to 12". I wanted to stay with something divisible by 4' so to make good use of my other building materials like plywood and OSB.
North side uprights attached to beam.

We then started attaching uprights to the other skid and started tying them together with 12' steel box beams. Notice the lip ledge on the top/inside of each beam pair. This is to accommodate wire decking that drops into place once assembled. It's 1 ⅝" tall so you could also cut 2"x wood to make a solid shelf.
Kim, standing next to south uprights (12' tall) for scale.
After we got all of the beams attached to the uprights, we put in the wire decking. This is a welded wire grid over a series of cross supports. This will act as my subfloor. I'll line the whole deck assembly with heavy tar paper and then lay ¾" pressure treated decking over that. We're not planning on this being a workshop (that comes next), just a storage building. It just happens to be a very heavy duty, steel reinforced storage building. My wife accuses me of getting carried away with these projects sometimes but I really can't tell from where I'm standing. :)

Since the cross supports are bolted in on the tall (blue) side (the green ones are welded), I'll pull those and rearrange to leave a door opening in the center upright. It's a 36" opening.

South side upright wall - 12' tall. 

Since the uprights are made of 3" square steel members, they'll easily accommodate attaching our OSB skin. We'll just use carriage bolts at the corners and self-tapping metal screws throughout the body.

After the flooring, we set beams at the top of the 10' sections as well as additional beams on the west side wall to make shelves, thus the extra wire decking that's laying there in the previous picture.

East view of building frame. 
After the building is finished, we'll come back and add a couple of short beams to finish out the small porch on the side.

West view of building frame

Beam making up shelf on west side. Notice the locking clip (silver) in the middle 

Next - we'll start with the roofing and siding. I don't have any delusions that it will go as quickly as the frame did! Not bad though for about 9-10 hours of work for 2 old people and a 9 year old boy! :) I can't wait to get started some day on the workshop. It'll be 5 times the footprint and twice as tall as this. I'm thinking something big enough to build a tiny house in? ;)

The uprights and wire racks we purchased were used. The beams were new. The steel cost me $989, tax included and was available for pickup here in DFW same day. The 16' 4"x 6" PT wood beams were $28 ea and we spent another $100 on nuts, bolts and washers. We've got another $800 budgeted for roof, walls and flooring. That should put us just shy of $2K for this build. Add some insulation and cabinetry and you could just about call this a tiny house. 144sf with bunk beds and a storage loft. I'm predicting we'll see a lot more of these going up across the country as people figure out how easy the assembly is and how sturdy the structure is.

We'll make the next trek out in a couple of weeks, weather permitting, for round 2. This spring weather (it was 72° all weekend) has got me itching to do some gardening. Too many projects, too little time. Having to work for a living sure eats into your play time! Who knows, some day, maybe we'll figure out how to make a living out of our hobbies. How amazing would that be!

Have a great Valentine's Day and be safe!

BTW, our new wildlife camera caught the culprits that had been opening the can that we store the bird feed and corn in. Here's one of the 3 we've seen so far. :) He's much smaller than the other 2!

Night shot of a raccoon on the tree by the cabin


  1. Everyone could always use an extra storage, especially for their large machineries and whatnot. That’s why having an extra storage shed is a good thing to have. It looks like you’ve got some pretty sturdy material for your storage sheds, which is a great thing— since it will be prone to a lot of harmful stuff. Anyway, Thanks for sharing!

    Refugia Stein @ Container Domes Australia

    1. I believe that having sufficient storage is critical to our plan of going Tiny. It allows us to move items from a building that gets taxed at $100+ /sf (the house) to a building that gets taxed at $10/sf (the storage building). It gives us a great place to put tools, seasonal items and clothing and building materials. We wanted to take our house down to small enough to just hold what we needed for daily living. No need to store those items that you only need or use once a year somewhere that has to be taxed/insured/air conditioned. Thanks for following and the comment!