Step 3: Set the first course of timbers

Setting the first course of timbers, using a drill/driver and level.
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Using a drill/driver fitted with a ½-inch extended spade bit, drill holes through the four base timbers every 2 feet.

Lay the timbers in the trenches with all the pilot holes vertical. Arrange them so the butt end of one meets the side of the next in a clockwise fashion.

Using a 4-foot level and framing square, level and square the four timbers, adding or removing gravel as necessary.

Place the level atop a scrap of lumber laid diagonally across the timbers to check for level corner to corner.
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    Tools List

    • circular saw
      Circular saw
    • hand saw
      Handsaw
    • trenching spade
      Spade
    • trenching shovel
      Trenching shovel
    • hand hoe
      Hoe
    • framing square
      Framing square
    • four-foot level
      4-foot level
    • drill
      Drill/driver with an extended 1/2-inch spade bit
    • sledge hammer
      Sledgehammer,
      to drive rebar
    • speed square
      Speed square
    • caulk gun
      Caulking gun
    • hack saw
      Hacksaw,
      to cut rebar, optional

    Shopping List

    1. 6X6 TIMBERS

    The bed’s 4 sides each need 3 courses of timbers to rise more than a foot above ground, for a total of 12 timbers. Because it’s best to have full pieces on each side, buy stock lengths at least as long as the dimensions of your bed. Make sure each timber is straight and clear of knots on at least one side.



    2. 2X8 LUMBER

    to make a railing to cap the bed’s walls



    3. 1/2-INCH REBAR

    to secure the first course of timbers to the ground. These are usually sold in 18- to 24-inch lengths. Both are long enough to secure 6x6 timbers at least a foot into the ground.



    4. 10-INCH SELF-TAPPING TIMBER SCREWS

    such as Timberlok and Timbrex brands, to fasten the sides together.



    5. CONSTRUCTION ADHESIVE

    to fasten the railing to the timbers



    6. PEA GRAVEL

    for drainage under the walls and at the base of the bed. Most home centers carry either 1/2- or 1-cubic-foot bags. To determine the cubic footage you’ll need for 3 inches of fill at the base, divide the square footage of your bed by 4. To figure out how much you’ll need for 2 inches of fill under the timbers, add the length and width of the bed (in feet) and divide that number by 6.



    7. TOPSOIL/COMPOST MIX

    Most home centers carry 2- or 3-cubic-foot bags of properly amended soil. Because the bed is just about 1 foot deep (with the gravel layer at the bottom), the square footage of the bed roughly equals the cubic footage of soil you’ll need to fill it. Throw in an extra bag to account for settling.



    8. 3-INCH DECK SCREWS

    For fastening 2x8 cap rails.