Garden Sheds – a Buyers Guide
There are many sheds on the market made from different materials, and there is a place for each of them. The deciding factors as to which is best for you will come down to just two key points – what do you want a garden shed for and how much you can afford.
What do you want a garden shed for?
You may think this to be a stupid question, but it is your starting point. Will it be used for storage, and if so how valuable are the items and are they perishable; will they be affected by damp? Will you use your shed just for storage, or for gardening tasks, as an office, or as a den to hide away? Whatever your reasons keep them in mind when reading the remainder of this guide.
There is an old saying, ‘Always buy the best you can afford’, and this certainly applies to garden sheds. Consider not only the cost of the shed but include the installation of a concrete base (always the best) or paving, delivery charges, and installation costs. And of course check if VAT is included, particularly if you are buying direct from a timber mill.
Most retailers and particularly garden centres include a 40% profit margin in the price you pay. If possible buy direct from the manufacturer to get the best value.
It is surprising how much the value of a sheds contents can amount to. Years ago it was several hundred pounds, but today it is more likely to be several thousand pounds. You should make a check on the value of the items you store in the shed. Thieves do not discriminate between rural and urban areas, any shed is game, and the least secure it looks the more likely they are to break in.
Some sheds may be advertised as high security, but if it has a padlock or windows thieves will be in in seconds. The average shed break in takes only twelve seconds. Consider how much noise would be required to break in. Windows can be broken with just one strike, a tyre lever can wrench a hasp and staple or a hinge from a wooden door with just one pull; all the noise is over in a flash and no-one pays any attention. If the thief has to make several strikes it becomes too noisy and they move on, they do not like noise. Make sure none of the screws and bolts that hold the shed together are accessible from outside the shed, if they are a thief will have an easy time and make no noise at all!
A light directed at the shed and switched by movement may be helpful at night, but most thefts occur during daylight hours.
Cheap wooden sheds, and some of the expensive ones, are made from soft, fast growing timber that soon starts to degrade. You will need to make regular checks for any structural damage to the walls or roof after any extreme weather and act quickly before the contents are damaged. Felt roofing requires more battens than are generally supplied, and sheds that are nailed or stapled together should have the fixings replaced with brass screws. Treat all timber with paint or stain at least every two years to help it last for the period of the guarantee.
Unless you decide to build your own shed from scratch it should come with a manufacturers guarantee. This will provide you with some idea of how long the shed will last provided you perform the maintenance required and it is not otherwise damaged from the weather or thieves. If it does become damaged are replacement parts or panels available?
If you need to store anything that could be damaged by rust or suffer from mildew in damp conditions you need to think hard about the material your shed is built from. When the air is cooler outside than it is inside and has above average humidity condensation will form. Steer clear of anything that is not a good insulator, steel in particular is a magnet for condensation, and plastic sheds also suffer badly. The condensation than adds to the humidity in the shed. It is unlikely that condensation will form on the inside of a wooden shed, but the wood does absorb any moisture which can keep contents damp and is ideal conditions for mildew.
Make sure there is good ventilation. Consider installing a fan to keep the air moving if the problem persists, condensation does not form in moving air.
\any timber used should be sourced from responsibly manged forests. Other substances such as wood stain, metal and plastic have an environmental cost, particularly if they have to be replaced every few years.
If you are replacing an old shed you should consider if you want the new one in the same position. How will it impact on the rest of the garden space, the ease of access, will there be sufficient airflow to minimise condensation? Can it be seen from the road or watched from the house?
A new shed will always look its best, but how will it look in a few years’ time? Do you want the shed to ‘disappear’ into the background or do you want it to be a feature?
What material is best? The options are wood, steel, brick, TPR and plastic.
New wood always looks smart, but it does need looking after. There is a huge range in prices for wooden sheds so you should find something to suit your budget. Try to avoid the cheapest, you would probably have to retrieve it from your neighbours’ garden after the first storm! Consider the limited lifespan and the high maintenance required. Wood breathes, that means it moves with the changing weather; doors and windows can become a problem to close or fasten. Hardwood sheds will overcome some of the problems associated with the softwood ones and will require less maintenance, but be prepared to spend mega money for the best hardwood shed.
Value 1/10 – 6/10
Appearance 2/10 – 9/10
Available from garden centres, timber mills and on-line.
Steel sheds are generally more secure than wooden ones provided they have a good quality built-in locking system and not just a padlock. They are maintenace free but cannot be drilled without affecting the guarantee and they suffer badly from condensation.
Value 3/10 – 5/10
Security 2/10 – 7/10
Available from various retailers, garden centres and on-line.
TPR is a modern composite that’s a sustainable alternative to concrete without the disadvantes of concrete. Life expectany is over 100 years and it is maintenance free. Most models weigh over a ton when assembled. Impessive security features and the only garden building to have passed the police Secured by Design award. Expensive, but includes delivery and installation. You get what you pay for.
Available exclusively from www.brodco.co.uk
A permanent structure may seema a good solution, however the doors, roof and windows can suffer the same maintenance problems as with other sheds. Condensation may be a problem and it will not be cheap either.
Available from local builders built to your specification.
If you are trying to keep costs down plastic could be an option. They’re not pretty, good for the environment or secure, but they are maintenace free. Expect it to last a few years unless there are any big storms or hot weather in the summer.
Available from various retailers, garden centres and on-line.
If you are confident in your DIY skills and fancy a challenge there are plenty of designs available fro free on the internet. You could end up with a bespoke shed ideal for your needs, or you could end up with something completely different! If you decide to take on a self build project prepare your budget carefully, then add at least 10% for the unexpected costs.
Avilable from www.secretsofshedbuilding.com and www.coolhouseplans.com