Moving A Utility Shed
A couple of crazy guys lift a
shed off it's base, hitch it to a truck, and take it for a
10 Hours, and then some.
Bruce W. Maki,
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
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
||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
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
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.
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.
|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.
||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.
||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
||We used several old pieces of 1" steel pipe
as rollers. These pipes tended to roll erratically, not in a
|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.
||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
|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
These screws can also be driven by hand (the way I've always
installed ordinary lag screws) with a ratchet wrench and socket, but
||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
||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
- A heavy vehicle, with the parking brake on. Perhaps one of the
- 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
|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
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!
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