Your cottage-building dreams start from the ground up… literally! To get you off on the right foot, we’ve put together this easy to follow guide to take you through all the steps of choosing your location and foundation type, and getting your site ready for your new Jamaica Cottage Shop building.
Choose a site that is both level and accessible. Take into consideration water drainage from both the land and the building. Pitch the water away from the shed. Moisture will cause decay and rot, significantly reducing the life of the building.
Will I Need A Permit?
Each town is different. Most do not require a permit for a building less than 150 square feet. A set back of 25 feet from the property line is common. Jamaica Cottage Shop will help and advise our clients, but we consider compliance with all local and state requirements to be the responsibility of our clients. Make sure you have your permits squared away before ordering! You can check out our GUIDE TO PERMITS to help you out.
Here are a few questions you should ask when contacting your local clerk:
• What are the required set backs?
• Is there a maximum size allowed to be built without a permit?
• How much will a permit cost?
• Will engineered stamped plans be required?
• What foundation types are allowed on my property?
Site preparation varies from site to site. The goals in preparing your site are to make sure that your site is level and will drain properly. A building that is not level will cause the doors to function improperly and the ramp to not fit correctly. If the slope is greater than 6 inches, it is suggested to have the site leveled in advance. To get the surface as level as possible, remove any sod, soft dirt or weeds.
The area should be solid to minimize the chance of the building sinking out of level. We recommend using a transit when leveling your site. If one is not available you may also use a 8’ level. The dug out area may then be completed with a 3 to 4 inch compacted gravel bed. Digging out and leveling the area in which to place the gravel will leave you with a bed that is level and flush with the landscape, as opposed to appearing as a mound above the landscape.
When leveling your site, it is also important to take into consideration your shed entrance and ramp. The site must be level for approximately 5’ in front of your entrance door so that the ground that the ramp sits on is level with the building. If this area is not level, your ramp may not fit properly or may be too steep for its intended use.
If using a gravel bed, we recommend compacted gravel as opposed to loose. This is, again, to minimize the chance of the building shifting or sinking out of level. The changes in the seasons can cause the earth to heave and give, pushing the shed out of level. If this happens the building can be re-leveled by manipulating the site or using wood shims.
Poor drainage can be overcome by first laying a gravel bed regardless of the foundation options you choose. A 3 to 4 inch gravel bed is always encouraged. Poor drainage will result in a reduced building life. Proper site preparation is encouraged; hiring a professional excavator before the building arrives will prevent the cottage from being “perched”. An improperly prepared site will void our warranty.
You can also pour a concrete slab or piers, which will provide a safe and solid foundation, but it’s a little more costly.
It is economical and durable to have the small building sit on heavy skids and rest on cement blocks. This is the way the majority of our buildings are installed. We use 4x8x16″ solid concrete blocks when delivering fully assembled buildings, and we recommend this type for our pre-cut kits as well. Each building will require a certain number of blocks depending on how many points the building has.
And yet another choice would be to lay a slab of concrete, brick or patio stone and build your walls off of it, eliminating the need for a wood floor. A 12″ thick compacted gravel pad should be in place before you lay your slab. The slab should be a minimum of 4″ thick in the center, reinforced with wire mesh, and at least 6″ thick on the edges where it will bear the weight.
How do I attach my building to a concrete slab foundation?
Our buildings weigh an average of between 3,000 and 6,000 lbs and are crafted with 6×6 pressure treated sill plates. Therefore, these buildings will not go anywhere unless you are in an area with extremely high winds. If you do find it necessary to fasten your building to your slab we suggest that you use metal strapping. When your slab is poured you can have flexible metal strapping installed to fasten the building to the concrete slab. Another option for attaching your building to a concrete slab foundation is with J-bolts. Typically you would immerse J-bolts while concrete is still wet, J-bolts are used to attach the sill plate to the slab foundation. J-bolts will be included with the hurricane package.
If you have an existing concrete slab, you can attach your building by using a ramset, which is a high powered nail gun. Or you can drill and attach concrete anchors.
Cement piers that reach below the frost line are fine for the foundation of your new shed. This choice requires playing with concrete and having the ability to square the tubes. A deck that is not square will cause the entire structure to be untrue. When placing an order ask for the dimensions for the concrete piers that will correctly fit your size building.
Ideal for cabins, cottages, or any building where a basement would be beneficial. A full foundation can be used as dry storage, additional living space or as a work area.
To install, pour the foundation slab so it has 12” deep Rim Footer and 12” deep footers under the support posts. Cast a pocket for the beam to sit in. Allow extra depth to so the beam can sit on a piece of Pressure treated lumber to isolate it from the elements. Set the finish height to match the Sills. Cast J- bolts into the top of the foundation, to attach the sills to. Use Sill sealer between the Foundation and the sill plates.
Piles are giant metal screws that are installed in the ground. These function similarly to concrete piers but are adjustable. Great choice for areas that experience frost heaves. Easily removable if building site needs to be relocated with minimal environmental impact.
If you choose this option, we recommend the company Goliathtech. For 15 years they have been an industry leader of helical pile engineering and manufacturing. To find a certified installer near you, visit here.
Achieve a taller wall height using a block wall for buildings that do not have a floor system. A block wall can be created using concrete, cement blocks, brick or stone.
Care & Maintenance
Protect your investment by preserving the building. Paint or stain to match your satisfaction. For a deep rich natural finish we recommend a clear coat preservative such as linseed oil that will enhance the rustic charm of the product. This will leave you with a fully protected building from moisture, decay and insect contamination. We suggest the cottage be left to cure for a season before treating and be maintained with a coat every five years. The materials we use are rot resistant, but wood is a natural substance that will fall prey to Mother Nature if not taken care of.
It is important to make sure that the trees, saplings and shrubbery do not overgrow your shed. You want your new cottage to maintain as much airflow as possible, so as to allow it ample ability to dry out. Also, if your building will be in a heavy snowfall area, such as Vermont, you should take into consideration the pine trees surrounding it. If your shed sits under pine trees, the sap from these trees will inhibit the roof from properly shedding the snow. This can cause serious damage to your shed if the snow gets too heavy and is not removed.
You should never stack firewood, or anything else that will prohibit airflow, up against your shed. Never leave your shed’s doors open in the rain. Also, do not allow debris such as mulch, grass cuttings, etc. to pile up in or around your building. Anything that holds moisture should be kept away from your cottage.
The cottage is strategically placed off the ground to prevent moisture build up and encourage air circulation. Many clients have opted to use lattice to shield the sight of the foundation supports, however we suggest a field stone foundation dry laid under the perimeter walls. This will enhance the aesthetics and give an impression of a much more substantial look. The false dry laid foundation will fit in with the décor and the authentication of the building materials. A true country charm is created.
Please visit the FAQ page on our website for more information.
Termite and Pest Control
We recommend an aluminum termite shield for termite prone areas. The shield is installed between the cement blocks and the skids it should extend 2” out from the cement block on all sides and then descend on a 45 degree angle, extending another 2”. This forms a metal barrier that will prevent termites from building their mud tunnels up the foundation. You can read more about preventing termite infestations here.
In order to keep pests from making their homes in your new shed, Jamaica Cottage Shop suggests a solar powered pest repellent using ultra sonic sound. No maintenance required as with other pest controls such as changing batteries and or fooling around with poisons. Creepers, climbers, saplings, shrubbery and other vegetation should not be permitted to overgrow the building. Likewise pushing the cottage tight to a fence, building or tree will inhibit air circulation and or create a passage for insects. To prevent pests from finding a way into the building we have a few suggestions. Instead of strapping under the metal roof request a solid sheathed roof, or change the roofing material from corrugated metal to asphalt shingles. More on repelling insect pests here.