Area 51 Location - Steve's Shed Behchoko:


Project from the Great White North, submitted by Steve Smith, NWT.

After leaving Northern Alberta and moving further north into the Northwest Territories, I left behind an Area51 facility which was a great spot for working on projects. Upon arriving in my new community in the winter of 2014, the prospects for a new Area51 facility were grim… Alas, good things come to those who wait!  In the late summer of 2014, I was able to commandeer a decrepit shed.  It had been built in the early 70’s and had not been maintained in quite a few years.  It was not really being used for anything other than storing junk.

I struck a deal and started work on making this my new shop.  The shed measured 11 feet wide by 13 feet long (I know, weird size!).  It had a barn style door on the front which was 6 feet high by 4 feet wide, just BARELY wide enough to squeeze Project Rincon through! The inside there was a lot of wasted space, so I started by ripping out an old 13 foot work bench and a closet in the back corner.  With the shed now cleared of all junk, I began assessing what this place would need.  There is no electricity running to the shed, so that would be a priority.  With electricity comes heat, with heat comes tools!

I bought a long 12 gauge extension cord and ran them from a nearby building which got me started.  fortunately the shed was mostly insulated.  The only exception was part of the ceiling and the floor.  The floor was built with 3/8" inch plywood which had seen better days.  I took a box of wood screws and attempted to patch up the floor temporarily.  Winter was fast approaching and I was running out of time. I picked up 2 radiant heaters from Canadian Tire.  These units were 1500 produce watts of  heat and have 2 bars so you can turn on one or both at the same time.  Very convenient when it comes to power saving, or more importantly, not tipping breakers!  I had limited power, just 2 15 amp breakers at my disposal, so I had to be creative.  I picked up a second 12 gauge extension cord and ran it to the 2nd 15 amp breaker I had at my disposal which allowed me to run 2 heaters at the same time without overloading. 

I brought in Project Rincon and my Big Red which would be stored here for the winter.  Over the winter I began to plan, prep and pick-up supplies for a Spring renovation. Given this was not my shed I would have to make a pitch for some budget to get this going! With a plan put to paper and a pitch in mind, I was able to secure funds to get the shed going.  My budget meant I would have to source some recycled materials to make this work.


The most time consuming aspect of this project was getting the structure level.  Frost in the ground causes heaving and plenty of it.  This shed was previously laid on 4x4 posts front to rear under the shed. Unfortunately, there was no other foundation or stone laid just the ground she sat on. I started by measuring corner to corner and using a long level and found the floor was off a lot. With my base measurements done, I jacked up one side of the shed and dug down, backfilling with crush stone and tamping it down for a solid base for my new footing.  I made blocks from pressure treated 2x6 in an ‘L’ shape on the corners, laminating 2 together to give a 3" inch increase in height.  I made a block for each corner and a double 2x6 by 3 foot for each side in the middle.

After jacking up the rest of the shed, I pulled out all the 4x4 and continued to level the ground, backfilling with crush stone, tamping it and ensuring it was all level. Between work and shed work, this all took a couple of days, but the end result was a level structure.  I made new sills and put the 4x4’s back in the middle to support the center of the floor. 

With the shed now level and on a solid base, I went to work on the floor.  I ripped out the entire front of the shed and went to work laying out my grid of 2x4’s, using PL Premium and wood screws to anchor them to the floor.  I then cut out the 2 and a half inch foam to fit between the 2x4 grid and again used PL Premium to hold it down.



Once I got a 4x8' section done, I laid a 4x8' sheet of ¾ inch plywood over the top and screed it down.  I continued this until the entire floor was done and now I have a strong floor and will be insulated from the cold Arctic winds!

I made a trip to a local salvage yard and scored 2 old insulated galvanized steel doors.  They each measure 6.5 feet by 3 feet which was perfect!  With 2 of these, I would be able to roll any project in and out with ease.  I also found 3 sections of old galvanized steel stairs which measured 4 feet by 2 feet.  Conveniently this measures 6 feet wide and will make a perfect ramp to get projects in and out of the shop.


With the floor done, I went about building a new front wall for the shed.  I framed everything to work with the new doors and test fit them to ensure they fit with no issues.  Success! With the wall finished, I sheeted over using 3/8 inch plywood and the screwed the doors in place,


I used lag bolts and a padlock to secure the doors.  The door on the right is a secondary door which is locked to and bottom inside and the door on the left is the ‘main door’.



Next up was the ramp.  I used a piece of 2x4 as a base and screwed it into the front of the shed below the doors.  I then trimmed the ramps to fit and made brackets for each to be bolted together and then subsequently bolted to the 2x4 and the front of the shed.  It worked pretty well and with the ramps being bolted together and into a bracket, they are now hinged together and can be lifted up in the event I need to get under them, such as dropping keys.


I decided to freshen up the outside by replacing a couple of panels that were starting to rot.  Over the years, no one had maintained the shed and the paint had worn away.  With the boards replaced, I moved onto paint.  New wood really soaks up the paint, so I needed to pick-up some more on a second trip to town.  With the exterior completely painted, the shed looks almost like new!

One of the doors had the opening for a door handle and deadbolt.  I opted not to use this and had to come up with a way to cover the hole and insulate it.  I used some left over pink foam, cut to fit and put it in and used silicone to keep the moisture out.


With the inside stripped and finished, I went about painting the floor.  I used a kit from Canadian Tire that was designed for garages and is resistant to gas and oils and made a texture on the floor to reduce the chance of slipping and falling.  The final product was quite nice; I had the paint tinted brown so it wouldn’t show the mud as easily.

I continued the painting trend and went about painting the inside.  I had a left over 10 gallon bucket of paint in the basement in a cream colored white.  Three coats later, the inside was done and much brighter that the old brown paint.  The only part left to paint is the front wall which I'm waiting to finish some electrical work first.


Over the summer my Dad was up for vacation and we went to work running electrical in the shed.  Electrical outlets were placed inside, 1 for each heater and others in the sides and front including an exterior grade ground fault outlet outside the shed.  Lighting was installed and a light switch for both the interior and exterior lights put in place. A day later it was all done, everything was hooked up and running well. 


With the electrical finished, I insulated the front wall, put up vapour barrier and sheeted it over with some 3/8" plywood.  I finished it all off by giving it 3 coats of the same cream coloured paint.

Last (for now) on the project list was shelving.  Given the size of the shed, I wanted to make something custom that would support the weight of engine parts and such, but small enough not to take up too much space.  I sourced some old steel shelving for free and fitted 3/4" plywood for each shelf. The end result was a nice 4' wide by 18" deep shelving unit.

Cheers, STEVE

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Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith