How To Build a Propane Tank Enclosure for Your Off Grid Home

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We live off grid, our new home still needs work, and today was a good day for building a propane tank enclosure. Despite projects on deck which range from writing about the thugs attacking Sarah Palin to the Milwaukee politician who didn’t know Arizona shared a border with Mexico to completing my wife’s bedroom in our new home…sorry. Back burner, y’all.

This enclosure would be right next to the house. That isn’t done with the larger truck-supplied tanks, of course, but we’re off grid, and Arizona law does not allow dealers to place propane tanks where the (gasp!) homeowner did all the work without a (horrors!) official license.

If you’re hosting a 500 gallon tank filled with potentially explosive LPG, a bit of distance is obviously required. But we’ll not likely ever go that route. In the interim, a propane cookstove and a propane refrigerator will be supplied from smaller, portable tanks. You know, like they do with RVs. For now, we’ve got a couple of 40-pounders in place, the kitchen stove hooked up via rubber hose, and a fridge on the way.

Time to get a-building.

Step 1: Pick a spot. In this case, just outside the north wall and slightly west of center…yeah, that seemed about right. Nothing scientific except, of course, the hose would reach.

Step 2: Cut a floorboard. The shed (enclosure) will be cobbled together from 15/32″ sheathing board and 2″ x 4″ framing lumber. The footprint will be 44 inches wide by 20 inches deep.

Step 3: Cut and attach skids, underboards, joists, whatever you want to call them. Only 3 inch sheetrock screws are used as fasteners–because they’re cheapest at Home Depot when purchased in the 25-pound bucket size, and because nails just don’t hold that well in desert heat and monsoon moisture.

Step 4: Drill 9 holes in the floorboard and pound foot-long 100d spikes through the holes to help the shed resist being moved by strong winds. Not every day is super-windy around here, but there are a number of 75 mph, near-hurricane episodes every year.

Step 5: Cut and attach floor-topping framing lumber around 3 sides. The front will remain wide open and does not get its own 2″ x 4″ in this case.

Step 5: Cut and attach floor-topping framing lumber around 3 sides. The front will remain wide open and does not get its own 2″ x 4″ in this case.

Step 6: Cut and attach the back wall board. The height in this case was set at 60 inches for a couple of reasons. It provides easy access and also stands tall enough to accept the bigger 100 pound beasties if we eventually go that route. For the propane-sucking fridge, we probably will.

Step 7. Cut and attach the appropriate framing plus the side boards, angling everything so that the shed roof angle will match the house roof angle–just to look cool. And to dump rain in the right direction, naturally.

Positioning notes: The shed is spaced exactly two feet away from the house wall in order to make changing propane bottles a simple matter. Then when the shed’s roof was added, it was extended forward a bit so that rain runoff from the house roof will splash down off that back of the shed instead of falling in front of it.

Step 8. Cut and attach the shed roof board and then the final framing board (which goes up front, top center).

Step 9. Paint it before the summer monsoon rains come!

Step 10. Tuck the tanks out of sight.

Done!

North wall of the Border Fort, our off grid home in southern Cochise County, Arizona.

North wall of the Border Fort, our off grid home in southern Cochise County, Arizona.


The floor board in position.

The floor board in position.


Using a variable speed drill as a power screwdriver.

Using a variable speed drill as a power screwdriver.


Below-the-floor boards attached.

Below-the-floor boards attached.


Hold-down spikes and next layer of framing lumber in place.

Hold-down spikes and next layer of framing lumber in place.


Viewed from one side.

Viewed from one side.


Back wall board applied.

Back wall board applied.


 A longer view showing the Huachuca Mountains in the background.


A longer view showing the Huachuca Mountains in the background.


Both sides up.

Both sides up.


Now the roof.

Now the roof.


A closer look; all carpentry is now complete.

A closer look; all carpentry is now complete.


One coat of paint applied. One more coat, let it dry, and the propane enclosure will be good to go.

One coat of paint applied. One more coat, let it dry, and the propane enclosure will be good to go.


Final paint applied and dried, tanks in place and out of sight.

Final paint applied and dried, tanks in place and out of sight.

Considerations

Some readers may wonder, quite logically, whether or not it might be dangerous to have the shed’s open side facing the home’s exterior wall from a distance of only two feet. It the tanks blow up, aren’t they likely to blow a hole in the wall and kill us all?

Good question. In this case, no. That would not happen. Why? Because the home is faced with (a) a layer of concrete stucco never less than an inch thick in any spot, (b) earthbags eleven inches thick and compressed as hard as rock, (c) fiberglass insulation, and finally (d) a layer of sheathing board. Any explosion has to first cross the two feet of open space and then somehow manage to pierce all that “fortress wall”? Not when there’s only a single layer of sheathing board right behind it. Perfectly safe.

My wife discovered something worth knowing, though–or at least she thought so. Since childhood, she’s been a “closet hider” when stressed. Tough day? Can’t find my 95 pound, five-foot wife? Go look in the closet! The moment the roof was on the shed today, here she came, checking it out. She stepped inside the enclosure, leaned on one wall, and her eyes lit up.

“I could live in this!” She exclaimed.

She wasn’t really kidding, either. When you’ve survived three years of homelessness in your forties, as she did, you never lose your appreciation for a snug, cozy little shelter.

Hope she doesn’t evict the tanks….

6 thoughts on “How To Build a Propane Tank Enclosure for Your Off Grid Home

  1. “you never lose your appreciation for a snug, cozy little shelter.” Nope you dont. 🙂 thank you for this how to.

  2. WOW,,the place is really shaping up nice. I sent you an email but I was taking some pain meds and the next day I read what I sent and it had lots of spelling mistakes etc.,but it is basically what I have been through last two years and still here for some reason? I guess I haven’t done all I supposed to do yet ?
    How are things in your area these days ?

  3. Thanks, Roy. As a matter of fact, the place is shaping up even more nicely than it shows here. Those propane sheds were built years ago and have now been yanked as I’m getting ready to run a “regular code type” underground gas line. A local propane company sold me a 330 gallon tank and will be happy to keep it filled when I’m done. Also, there are small enclosed porches (rooms) added at front and back, the front serving as a mud porch and the rear housing a standard 50 gallon propane hot water heater (which receives pre-warmed water from a solar heater enclosure I built that did pretty well but not quite well enough to keep the wife happy). We also have a solar generator, which has relegated the gas powered generators to backup status except for the summer months when a Honda generator runs the AC that keeps Pam’s room cool.

    I have a post on most but not all construction projects. Lately, I’ve been so jammed for time that slowing down long enough to write and publish has been a bit problematic–although the first 41 chapters of the western fiction novel, Tam the Tall Tale Teller (available for free here under Western fiction) should be heading off to the printer pretty soon. We expect the finished book to be available on Amazon before year end.

    Yeah, with what you’ve been through, there’s no way you’d still be here if there weren’t, as you say, “some reason”.

    Things are pretty good here. Had a backhoe guy dig about 300 feet of the 400 feet of trench needed for the gas line–half of that being needed for the lengthy run over to the steel shed that houses our laundry washer and dryer. But that still left roughly 100 feet of digging to do by hand, in and around and under the French drain pipe in 4 separate places, under the septic pipe once, and under the warm water line twice. Not places one wants a backhoe mucking around. I have that (the pick and shovel part) about half done, pecking away as I can, 2 to 3 hours per day for the last 4 days in heat running as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Eight tons of bedding sand (to cushion the polyethylene gas line in the trench) will be delivered on Wednesday. The pipe is all ordered and should be in any day. Tuesday will be a wipe out (med appointment for Pam), but the rest of the week will (with luck) be reasonably productive.

    Pam’s anorexia is finally starting to get its butt kicked a little bit; she’s managing to hold at least 84 pounds most days now and ate really well today. Goal is 95.

    We’re both really looking forward to getting the gas line installed and operational. Right now, we’re running 5 appliances (hot water heater, kitchen range, fridge, wall heater, and clothes dryer) on propane with a separate 100# tank for each (except the range only gets a 40 pounder). They run out a lot, leaving my wife nervous about taking a shower in case the water suddenly runs cold or taking a trip in case the fridge might heat up while we’re gone. Getting powered by the single 330 gallon tank will eliminate all of that fretting. (Not to mention trips to get the 100# tanks filled.) We’ll only need to have the new tank topped off twice a year, max.

  4. I hope you deleted my first message ? It was a real mess . Pain is not a nice thing to have 24/7.

    Roy

  5. Roy, I don’t remember deleting it–but I don’t see it, so maybe it magically deleted itself? You are one thousand percent correct that pain is not a nice thing to have 24/7; Pam knows all about that.

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