Moving a garden shed with a pickup truck.

Backyard Makeover:

Moving A Utility Shed Across
The Yard

 

 
In This Article:

A couple of crazy guys lift a shed off it's base, hitch it to a truck, and take it for a short drive.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 3-4 Time Taken: 10 Hours, and then some.

By , Editor

 

Introduction:

I have a contractor-friend who bought a house with an extra-large piece of property. The city zoning laws allowed him to subdivide the land into two parcels, which meant that he could build a house on the new piece of land.

There was a 10' x 12' garden shed on the back section of the property, and he wanted it moved closer to the original house.

 

The shed in its original location.

 

From the inside I could assess the structure. It was framed with 2x2's (kinda flimsy) but sheathed with 1/2" plywood.

There was a floor made of plywood under this shed, but around the edges the plywood was badly rotted.

To get an idea of what supported the shed, we dug around the outside.

We didn't find much.

 

We dug a small trench and placed a hydraulic automotive floor jack in the hole to try lifting the shed.

Note that the jack is sitting on a scrap of lumber in the hole (red arrow). Something sturdy (wood, concrete, steel) needs to be placed under a jack to spread the weight over a large area of dirt. Otherwise  the jack will sink into the soil.

 

After we raised one corner we could see daylight coming through below the wall. It became apparent that this shed was rather flimsy, and the bottoms of the 2x2 studs just rested on the rotten plywood base.

We went around the shed, lifted each corner, and stuck blocks of wood under the studs at several locations.

With the shed raised up by an inch or two, we attached some long pieces of wood to the studs (red arrows). We used 2x6's and 4x6's, because... that's what I brought along.

We attached these boards with 3" deck screws. Since doing this job I've learned about some better fasteners that are fast and slick, if you have the right tools. More on this later.

Lag screws would be an appropriate fastener, especially for a larger building. Deck screws are somewhat brittle and could snap when loaded in shear.

Why use these "Lifting Planks"? 

It's important to brace the structure so it doesn't flex too much when lifted or moved. These heavier pieces of wood will help spread the load. If done properly, I would be able to lift at any point along those planks and the shed should rise without flexing.

But... this was not the best approach I could have used. In hindsight, it would have been smarter to bring along some 2x10 or 2x12 planks the same length as each side of the shed, so the planks ran all the way into the corners. 

I keep a stash of 2x10's because they are useful for scaffolding. 2x8's or even 2x6's might have worked just fine on this light-duty shed. But heavier buildings, such as garages or small houses, would likely need much heavier material, perhaps 4x12's, parallam beams or structural steel channel.

 

We placed some 4x4 posts across the corners, and used a pair of hydraulic bottle jacks to raise the shed a few inches higher off the ground.

 

We placed blocks of wood under these diagonal 4x4 chunks of wood.

My reasons for lifting this way were:

1. I wanted to support the shed near each corner, but far enough from the wall that we could get access to repair the framing at the bottom of the studs.

2. I didn't really have a clue what I was doing. So I just tried something.

Lifting a garden shed off the base.

I you have any inclination to lift or move buildings, sheds would be a good place to start. I figured that if I destroyed this shed, the cost to my friend would be minimal. In fact, if I ruined the shed I could have had another project, building a new shed. Hmmm... Wait, I don't need any more work right now!

The view from outside. The arrow points to the small gap visible between the shed and the base. The shed was only about 3 or 4 inches off the ground.

 

Base Repairs:

I attached treated 2x4's to the bottom of the studs, to make a proper bottom plate. I toe-nailed the studs to this plate, using 3" deck screws. I guess that's really called "toe-screwed".

 

The same thing. 

Note the ragged, decayed edge at the bottom of the plywood wall sheathing. That is the result of leaving non-treated wood close to the ground for many years.

 

Once the new bottom plate was attached, we:
  • Placed these blocks of wood beneath the walls,
  • Raised the jacks again, 
  • Removed the interior support blocks, and... 
  • Lowered the shed down.

 

The same blocks as seen from the inside

 

It's Hip To Be Square:

We measured the diagonals and discovered that the shed was out-of-square by a couple of inches.

So I laid some pieces of 4x4 post on the ground (they were fence posts that the homeowner had just removed) and placed the bottle jack in the middle. I pumped the jack a few times and in no time the diagonal measurements were the same.

Note that some bottle jacks won't work on their sides. With this jack I had to rotate it until I found a position that worked. I guess the small cylinder (the mechanism that is pumped by the handle) has to be below the body of the jack, which contains the reservoir for the hydraulic fluid.

Posts and hydraulic jack used to push shed diagonals to make building square.

Important Part:

Cross-bracing in shed to keep walls stable during move. Once the shed was squared up, we installed a pair of 14' long 2x4's for cross braces. This is important. Without adequate bracing the shed could easily break apart during the move.

 

At the request of the homeowner, I repaired the lower parts of the walls. I clipped off the vertical corner boards and nailed 2x4's to the outside of the wall.

This is not an ideal solution, because water can get behind the 2x4 and cause further decay. I later caulked the joint where the 2x4 met the wall. The proper solution is to cut back the siding and insert some sort of flashing material (such as aluminum Z-flashing) behind the plywood and on top of the 2x4. Using a 1x4 would be smarter, too, but the owner wanted the extra structural strength of the 2x4.

Drive Time:

Dragging a shed across the lawn with a truck and chains. The fun part:

I connected one end of a long 5/16" chain to the front bracing on the shed, and the other end to the Class III receiver hitch on my Dodge Dakota.

 

The chain was wrapped around the bracing that spanned across the door opening, and looped onto itself with a grab hook.

 

We used several old pieces of 1" steel pipe as rollers. These pipes tended to roll erratically, not in a straight line.

 

When a pipe rolled out the back end, it was picked up and moved to the front. Sometimes we had to use pry bars to lift the shed so the pipe could be inserted beneath.

With these pipes it was so easy to roll the shed that we could push it by hand. This of course could be a problem if the pavement had any slope to it.

In about 5 minutes we had the shed moved to its new location, about 75 feet from the original position.

 

Looking back: The original untreated plywood base. What a lame foundation.

 

The front view:

Mission accomplished. Or so I thought.

 

When my friend asked the city to let him subdivide this property, the Building Department wanted him to correct a problem. It seems that years before somebody had put in a driveway illegally. The house is on a busy street and the city wants to keep all the driveways in the alley behind the houses, or on the side streets. So to cooperate with the city my friend agreed to tear out the driveway completely, and that meant the pavement under the shed. 

So he asked me to move the shed out of the way.

 

When I moved the shed the second time, I had purchased some automotive tow hooks. 

I attached a pair of tow hooks to the sturdiest part of the base, using some long 3/8" diameter lag screws. Bolts and nuts would be even stronger.

 

 

These tow hooks are big steel forgings, some are chrome-plated, others are black painted, that can be bolted onto the frame of a car or truck. Since these are heavy enough to tow a truck, I figured they would suffice to move a shed.

I believe you can buy these at Wal Mart, Tractor Supply Co, and many auto parts stores.

 

 

I used two sections of 5/16" chain to connect the tow hooks to the trailer hitch of my truck. Moving a shed with chains, tow hooks, and a truck.

 

I just put the truck in Drive and drove forward. I didn't even use any pipes for rollers. I think it slid so easily because in the peak of the summer the lawn was mostly dead.

 

Note how the chain was connected to the tow hooks. There are at least two ways of doing this: 1. As shown here, where a grab hook is used to make a loop in the chain. 2. Where a slip hook (a big, open, circular hook) is used to pull directly on the tow hook.

 

For the third move, I used these Simpson Strong-Drive Screws to attach the tow hooks. 

Note the self-drilling point on these screws.

 

These are awesome fasteners, but you need a heavy-duty drill to drive them. I used my big 'ol Milwaukee 1/2" slow-RPM drill. I think the motor is rated at 8 Amps, which is pretty powerful. 

It takes a lot of horsepower to drive these screws without pre-drilling, and a drill with a side-handle is absolutely necessary, or else you'll sprain your wrist when the tool kicks back.

These screws can also be driven by hand (the way I've always installed ordinary lag screws) with a ratchet wrench and socket, but that's boring.

The tow hooks were lag-screwed into the sturdiest part of the shed's base.

 

I didn't have the long 2x4's I originally used for cross-bracing, so I used 8-foot 2x4's, joined at the middle.

 

I just drove one Simpson Strong-Drive Screw at each end point of the X-bracing. I used several screws at the center of the X.

With the bracing in place, I proceeded to move the shed for the last time. In this case I was not able to get my truck into position to pull the shed, so I used a "come-along", or manual cable winch to move the shed.

One big problem with using winches is: what do you hook the other end of the winch to? Some thoughts:

  • Large trees. Wrap the chain around the base as close to the ground as possible.
  • Telephone poles. Risky. You could damage phone lines or power lines. Wrapping a chain around any power pole with a conduit running down the side could get you in trouble if you damage the conduit. Some of those conduits may contain wires carrying thousands of volts.
  • A heavy vehicle, with the parking brake on. Perhaps one of the best anchors.
  • I don't think a fence is a good anchor, especially if the neighbor owns it.

 

After some maneuvering, I got the shed close to the fence. Note how the shed was still not parallel to the fence.

 

In this photo the other end of the winch was hooked to my truck.

In order to move the shed diagonally, I experimented with some different chain arrangements. Note in the above photo how there is one chain that goes from left tow hook to right tow hook, and the second chain grabs the first chain near the middle. I tried hooking this second chain at different points along the first chain, until I found a point that let me pull the shed on an angle that worked for me.

By moving the second chain farther to the right in the above picture, I was able to bring the front of the shed closer to the fence (what would appear to be a "right turn" if you were "driving" the shed like a vehicle).

My friend can't ask me to move the shed again, because now the base has been locked in place with concrete. Hah!

 

 

Tools Used:

  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Heavy-Duty ½" Drill
  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • 5/16" Chain With Grab Hooks, Slip Hooks, and Openable Links
  • Tow Hooks
  • 2 Ton Cable Winch
  • Truck

 

Materials Used:

  • Lumber, 2x4x8'
  • 16d Galvanized Nails
  • 3" Deck Screws
  • 3/8" Lag Screws
  • Simpson Strong-Drive Lag Screws

 

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Copyright © 2002  HammerZone.com

Written November 13, 2002