A suburban observatory in Worcestershire, UK based on a metal garden shed

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  Construction 1 - Planning and Preparation



This is probably the largest building project I have ever undertaken.  Planning it took a lot of effort, with many hours spent reading books, sending e-mails and mostly looking up things on the net.  For a list of resources I found useful in planning and designing the observatory, see the Useful Links hyperlink at the top of the page.  From the initial decision to build an observatory to cutting the first sod took six weeks.  In then took over four months of sometimes back-breaking working to get a working observatory.  On many weekends I would put in 8 to 12 hour days and worked for several hours some evenings after work as well. 


I have to thank my wife Ilona for all her encouragement, hard work and forbearance during the long construction process.  I also have special thanks to Chris Livingstone of Livingstone Telescopes, to Martin Nelson for showing me his!, and to everyone at for their kind words and ideas.


After much deliberation, a roll-off roof design based on a cheap metal shed design was chosen.  I did consider making a dome, but decided against because it would be too dominant in our small garden and because it advertise to the world " Look, expensive equipment within".  I also worked out it would cost at least £500 more to construct than a roll-off roof design.


For working out what size of shed I needed I first worked out the what I wanted to do in it, and came up with the following criteria.


  • I must be able to comfortably sit on my observing stool at the eyepiece.
  • I needed a desk at least 430 mm deep so that I could fit a computer screen on it and have the facility (if I should ever need it) to put a copy of  deluxe version of the Sky Atlas 2000 laid out on the desk and/or to put a laptop on it.

  • The walls needed to be high enough to block out direct light from local streetlights and neighbours' houses, but low enough to maximise the amount of sky visible.
  • The walls needed to be high enough so that a person could comfortably walk under the roof run-off rails.  This was because we wanted to build a patio under this area.

After much measuring, the solution I came up with was to use a 2.4 metre x 2.1 metre (8 foot x 7 foot) 'Bedale' shed made by StoreMore and to raise it up on 150 mm x 25 mm (6 inch  x 1 inch) joists to give the necessary head room under the roof run-off rails.  Be aware that the size of most garden sheds is described size of the roof, not the internal floor, and that this can be significantly different, depending upon the shed design.. 


The first job was to completely re-lay the main path down the garden.  This involved taking up and re-laying seventeen  600mm x 600mm (2 feet x 2 feet) concrete slabs.  This was back breaking work that took about 10 days to complete.


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Last updated -  26th April 2013

Copyright© 2006-2013 Michael Morris