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How to Build a Trash Shed

Create an outdoor waste and recycling shed with flip-open lids and easy-access bifold doors.

Nothing mucks up the curb appeal of your house more than a bunch of beat-up trash cans and overflowing recycling bins scattered next to the side door. What you need is a sturdy storage house that hides your waste while keeping it organized. This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers recently spent a weekend building one big enough for two 32-gallon trash cans and several stacked recycling bins.

Steps for Building a Trash Shed

Flip-open lids give it easy access so that you can quickly toss something away in the right place. Bifold front doors make it easy to move heavy cans in and out.

And handsome siding that matches the house camouflages the whole structure. That means you can put it right up against the house and the focus will still be on the beauty of your home instead of the trash around it.

Step 1: Building a Trash Shed Project Overview

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Day-to-Day Timeline

  • Friday: Size and assemble the frame.
  • Saturday: Attach the sheathing and build the doors and lids.
  • Sunday: Install the doors and lids.

Step 2: Size the framing

Photo by Kolin Smith

This shed can house up to three 32-gallon trash cans (24 inches wide by 33 inches high), but you can adjust it for any size container by setting the container on its side and laying out the framing around it.

For the base, cut a 2x4 to 36 inches with a jigsaw.

Set two 2x4s on the ground, parallel to each other and ends butted against the base. These are the legs of the side frame. Square up the corners. Mark the front leg at 42 inches from the base and the back leg at 48 inches.

Lay another 2x4 on edge across the legs at the marks. This represents the shed roof, which will have just under a 10-degree pitch to direct water away from the house. Transfer the angle to the legs.

Step 3: Cut the Side Framing Pieces

Photo by Kolin Smith

Lay each leg on the flat. Adjust the blade of a jigsaw to match the angle marked on their edges. Cut the legs to length at this angle.

Step 4: Cut the Top

Photo by Kolin Smith

Put the legs back down on the ground in their original position. Cut a 33-inch-long piece to fit between them as a middle brace.

Place a scrap 2x4 on end against the front leg to represent the crosspiece that will later connect the two side frames. Butt another 2x4 over the tops of the legs. Mark the 2x4 to length at the outside of the assembled framing, using a Speed Square to transfer the leg angles. Cut the 2x4 at these angles.

Screw the base, legs, and middle brace together with 3½-inch deck screws. Attach the top flush at the back and hanging over at the front.

Duplicate this framing assembly for the other side of the shed.

Step 5: Build Supports for the Front

Photo by Kolin Smith

Position a 40-inch-long 2x4 in front of each front leg on both side frames, flush with the bottom of the base.

The gap at the top leaves room for the crosspiece that will connect the two sides. Screw the 2x4s to the legs with 2½-inch deck screws.

Step 6: Install the Front Crosspiece

Photo by Kolin Smith

Cut a 2x4 to 87 inches (the shed's inside width plus the 7 inches of framing on the sides).

Stand the two side frames up and slide the 2x4 into the gap above the supports. Secure this crosspiece at either end using 2½-inch deck screws.

Step 7: Build the Back Crosspiece Supports

Photo by Kolin Smith

To follow the pitch of the roof, the back crosspiece sits slightly tilted inside the side frames.

To create the angled supports for it to sit on, place a scrap 2x4 on edge on the ground and stand a 2x4 on top of it, then mark the angle of the roof support onto the upright board. The scrap 2x4 represents the space taken up by the back crosspiece. Cut the 2x4 at this angle at the mark. Make a second support for the other side.

Secure the supports, flush with the base, inside the side frames using 2½-inch deck screws.

Cut two 15-inch pieces of 2x4 and screw them to the bottom of the angled supports, flush with the base.

Step 8: Build the Back Crosspiece Supports

Photo by Kolin Smith

Cut two 80-inch-long 2x4s. Glue and screw them together with construction adhesive and 2½-inch deck screws to make the top back crosspiece.

Set the top back crosspiece on edge on top of the angled support legs and flush with the roofline. Secure it with 2½-inch deck screws angled up through the supports.

Cut a 77-inch-long 2x4 to act as the middle back crosspiece. Rest it on the flat on top of the short 2x4 pieces and secure it to them with 2½-inch deck screws.

Step 9: Create a Lid Support

Photo by Kolin Smith

Screw an 80-inch-long 2x4 on top of the front crosspiece and flush with its face using 2½-inch deck screws. This piece will act as a ledge for the flip-top roof lids to rest on.

Step 10: Attach the First Piece of Siding

Photo by Kolin Smith

Raise the frame off the ground onto flat stones, pavers, or tiles so that the wood rests on masonry and can't come in contact with water. Shim the frame until the front supports are plumb and the front crosspiece is level when the back sits against the house.

To square up the frame, measure the inside of the frame from corner to opposite corner in both directions. If one measurement is longer, push the corners closer together until the measurements are equal.

So that you don't end up with a sliver of siding as your last piece, dry-fit the pieces of siding across the side and adjust them until the two end pieces are relatively even. Mark a piece to fit in the space closest to the house.

Rip this first piece down to size on the groove side. Set the cutoff strip on the ground along the base of the side frame and rest the siding on it as you sheathe the shed. This will create an even gap at the bottom of the shed to keep water from wicking up the siding.

Hold the cut edge of the first piece against the house, with the base of the board resting on the cutoff strip on the ground. Mark the roof angle on the board and cut the board at the mark.

Apply construction adhesive to the frame, and press the first board in place on the adhesive. Nail it at an angle through the inner edge of the tongue and into the framing using 1 5⁄8-inch stainless-steel siding nails. Sink the nailheads with a nailset.

Step 11: Finish Siding the Frame

Photo by Kolin Smith

Apply more adhesive to the next part of the frame. Slide the second board's groove over the tongue of the first board and nail it in place through the tongue. Install the rest of the boards this way, leaving the excess above the roofline.

Mark the overhang of the last board flush with the face of the frame, and rip the board to width. Nail it in place through the face, and set the nails below the surface.

Sheathe the other side of the shed in the same manner.

Tip: If you're having trouble closing the seam between tongue- and-groove boards, take a scrap of the material, slide the groove over the tongue of the piece you're trying to fit, and tap the scrap. This protects the tongue of the installed board from being damaged by the hammer's blows.

Step 12: Trim Off the Excess Sheathing

Photo by Kolin Smith

Using a jigsaw, cut the excess sheathing flush with the roofline on both sides.

Remove the spacer below the sheathing.

Step 13: Assemble the Doors and Lids

Photo by Kolin Smith

Because the framing pieces for the roof lids are not screwed to one another, the roof frames are held together only by the sheathing attached to them. So to build the roof lids, you need to assemble the frame, then keep it aligned and square until the sheathing is screwed down. For this you'll need a jig, a template that surrounds the frame pieces and secures them. Screw 2x4s, square to each other, along the corner of your work surface to act as the first stops.

Instead of building separate lids, build one solid roof and cut it in three. Cut two deck boards to 80 inches and lay them parallel and against the stops. Between these two rails, evenly space four deck boards cut to 20 inches. Screw scrap wood to the table, tight against the frame, to complete the jig.

Cut enough siding boards to fit across the frame, making them 37 inches long. As with the siding, dry-fit the pieces. Make sure that a seam doesn't fall on a middle framing board.

Rip the first board down to size on the groove side. Starting at the left side, glue and nail the board to the frame with its tongue facing to the right and the bottom edge flush with the frame.

Install the rest of the roof sheathing in the same manner as on the sides. Face-nail the last board.

Flip the roof over. Screw 1 5⁄8-inch deck screws through the framing and into the sheathing for added strength. Measure and mark a line down the center of each of the two middle framing pieces. Using a jigsaw, cut the roof into three parts at these two marks.

Build the doors in the same manner as the roof. Start with two long boards cut to 80 inches. Separate them with five boards cut to 27 inches. Create a new jig for this frame. Sheathe it with boards cut to fit from the ground to the underside of the roof, minus the ¾ inch needed to create a gap at the base. Cut the sheathed frame apart to make four doors.

Step 14: Attach the Caps and Lids

Photo by Kolin Smith

Rip down siding boards to cap the exposed framing at the front of the shed frame (sheathing included), on top of the back crosspiece, and on the sides of the roof framing. Glue and face-nail the front caps before attaching the top caps.

Install two 4-inch door hinges to the top edge of each of the three lids. Set each door in place, and install the hinges through the back crosspiece.

Tip: When hanging a door, lift its top outside corner a hair before screwing on the hinge. This will throw off the balance of the door enough to make it more likely to swing closed when left unattended.

Step 15: Install the Front Doors

Photo by Kolin Smith

Install a 30-inch piano hinge between the pairs of doors, knuckle facing the inside framing. Rest each bifold door on a scrap piece of siding as you attach it to the inside edges of the opening, thus leaving a ¾-inch gap at the base. Use two 4-inch door hinges on each side.

Attach a scrap 2x4 near the top of each door framing with a single 2½-inch screw. When the doors are closed, lift the lids to spin these blocks behind the front crosspiece and lock the doors.

Shopping & Cut List:

  1. 2x4 to frame the shed and build the doors. Get eleven 8-foot boards.
  2. 1x6 tongue-and-groove siding. Pick up prestained boards or stain them yourself before installation. Get enough to cover about 75 square feet.
  3. 1 ¼x6 pressure-treated decking to frame the doors and lid. Get seven 8-foot boards.
  4. Construction adhesive to glue the sheathing.
  5. 4-inch door hinges to attach each lid and the bifold doors to the framing. Get 10. Continuous (piano) hinges to create the bifold doors. Get two stainless steel 30-inch hinges.
  6. 3½-inch stainless-steel deck screws
  7. 2½-inch stainless-steel deck screws
  8. 1 5/8-inch stainless-steel deck screws
  9. 1 5⁄8-inch stainless-steel siding nails

Tools for this Project: