For today’s DIY project I’m going to help you take a condemnable exterior structure and upgrade it all the way to trashy. The goal here isn’t beautification. It’s preservation. We’re not looking to enhance the neighborhood, we just want to try and make the structure last one more season.
What you’ll need:
- Random Assortment of Nails and Screws in Varying Sizes
- Electric Drill
- Wooden Shards
- Dilapidated Structure
- Low Budget
Step 1: Assess the Project
In our backyard, we have a shed that doubles as both a storage repository and a haven for stray cats. Within its angled walls we’ve managed to squeeze in lawn chairs, a snowblower, sporting goods, garden tools, a lawnmower, a table, umbrellas, cabinets, a weed trimmer, beach toys, recycle bins, ladders, and shelves that will empty once we have a dumpster delivered.
The doors are held together by haphazardly-nailed hinges, the windows are missing most of their panes, and the roof cascades the kind of natural sunlight that’s only possible with the passing of enough time and degradation.
When we first bought our home, we planned on toppling the shed and replacing it with a garage. Two years later, it still stands.
While the walls are still pretty vertical, the roof is soft like a mattress. Instead of hearing the crack and rolling of walnuts as they fall from the trees above, it’s more of a thumpy mushy sound as they embed themselves in what remains of the shingles.
On sunny days, it’s not an issue. Everything inside stays nice and dry. But when it rains, or snows, or mists, the roof works about as well as one would if it were assembled with Swiss cheese or OJ’s alibi. What we’re left with are soggy possessions, shelf puddles, and the potential for moldy cats.
We’re the first to admit that the thing has to go. It’s an eye sore. In fact, it’s only saving grace is that it isn’t easily spotted from our property because it’s so well camouflaged by the weeds. To put it in perspective, if a home were in this condition, it’d have long been razed.
We pursued estimates for building a garage and after getting quotes that ranged from the mega thousands to the “may as well be millions,” we decided to opt for the $40 temporary fix.
Our only goal here is to keep our stuff dry. While an eleventy-thousand dollar shed could certainly do the trick, so can a $40 tarp and a little ingenuity.
And this little stroke of genius was the very inspiration behind today’s Telling Dad DIY project: Operation Tack ‘n Pray.
- Seller’s Real Estate Agent; September 2010
Step 2: Buy a Tarp That’s Too Small
Our intention was to cover the entire roof with a tarp so that water from the rain and snow couldn’t get inside. To do so, we needed to measure the roofline, which I found to be an unnecessary hassle.
There are two ways to measure when determining which size tarp you’ll need. The first, is to use a measuring tape, which takes way too long. The second, is to let your husband “eyeball” it, which results in a 4-foot swath of uncovered roofing.
TellingDad DIY Tip: Things get longer the more they are pitched.
I suppose I could have returned the 12×20 tarp I purchased and exchanged it for the 16×20 tarp we needed but folding one of these things back up would have been like folding a giant road map. It just can’t be done and I don’t believe Lowe’s accepts balled-up returns.
If this were a real DIY project, I’d probably advise you to drag the tarp up to the Returns desk and slump it over the counter, but it’s not worth the hassle for a quick fix. Instead, when faced with this dilemma, you just need to move everything inside the shed forward about 4 feet and then position the tarp strategically so that you maximum its roof hole coverage.
Step 3: Shroud the Structure
Have your spouse, neighbor, friend, or hired hand hold one side of the tarp while you hold the other. Then, just as you did with parachutes back in elementary school, flutter the tarp violently up and down until you’re able to gently nestle it atop the roof.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t work. We couldn’t get it to do that either. Instead, climb a ladder and just stuff the tarp over the top of the roof so that it’s at least up there. Do NOT climb on the roof unless you want to be splayed across the shed floor.
While your helper grips the tarp on one side of the shed, take your pitchfork and jam one of the tines through the last grommet on your side of the tarp. Drag the tarp by pulling the pitchfork down the length of the shed until the tarp is completely rolled out. Like a condom. Which is actually quite accurate considering the structure you’re covering will get softer and softer the more time you take.
TellingDad DIY Tip: Don’t use pitchforks to unroll condoms.
Once the tarp is rolled down one side of the structure, repeat the same procedure on the other side of the shed while balancing on an ant-infested unstable woodpile. In sandals.
Step 4: Leave the Toy Plane Where it Is
If you’ve done Step 3 properly, the tarp should now be covering all but 4 feet of the roof as well as a toy plane that had been errantly thrown by an overzealous child.
You can retrieve it during demolition. It’s not worth unrolling all of your hard work to get a toy that’s probably been forgotten.
Step 5: Hammer and Drill the Shizzle Out of It
Because the strong winds will be tugging and pulling at your new tarp throughout the seasons, it’s best to anchor the edges with driftwood and other wooden scraps. In our case, we opted to use a combination of antique yardsticks and crown molding.
Rouse up a bunch of nails and screws, and then proceed to hammer and drill to your heart’s content. You’ll find that most of the nails could be pushed into place by an infant due to wood rot so try to find the elusive hard spots.
TellingDad DIY Tip: Do not employ infants.
When you do find a hardened area on the structure, abuse the hell out it by impaling it with dozens of nails and screws. It’s your only hope.
Wherever possible, lay a piece of scrap wood over the tarp and repeatedly hammer and screw things into it to form a sort of brace. This will slow tarp destruction and help make the structure look as ghetto and gnarly as possible. Remember, even if it looks trashy, it’s still an upgrade.
Step 6: Hammer and Drill Some More
To further anchor your newly placed tarp, curl the material that overlaps each side and screw the ruffles into the side of the structure. Not only will it help keep the walls in place, but it’ll keep your tarp from twisting and tearing in the wind. Ideally, you’ll want to add approximately 1/2 of the structure’s gross total weight in nails and screws.
TellingDad DIY Tip: If you think you’ve hammered enough nails and screwed enough screws, you haven’t.
If done correctly, you will have won a temporary victory over water damage thanks to a $40 tarp and an excessive amount of hardware. Throughout even the harshest of rainstorms and snowstorms your stuff should remain nice and dry, and your feral cat families should stay warm and cozy. Just as they’d expect from us humans.
Optional Bonus Step: The Cast-iron Bathtub
If you really want to hit the trashy target, see about adding a cast-iron bathtub that you scored off Craigslist. Not because you need it, but because you got a steal on it. Wrap said bathtub in another tarp, cover it with old kitchen cabinet doors, and hold everything together with bungee cords. With that, your transformation from productive citizen to perceived white trash will be complete.
Armed with this tutorial, you’re now ready to tackle your own Condemned-to-Trashy upgrade, and I’d love to hear about your success stories.
Just be careful up there. It’s dangerous work.
Especially when you’re dealing with something that has the structural integrity of tissue paper.