How to choose a garden Shed
Written by Matt W (Greenhousestores) on 24th Nov 2015.
Unless your garden is exceptionally small, or it’s a no-man’s land you rarely visit, there’s probably a good reason to have a garden shed somewhere on your property. You might use the shed to store a lawnmower or gardening tools, to grow or pot plants away from the elements, to house recreational items like footballs, bikes, or sleds, as a playhouse for the children, or even as a calm spot where you can escape from the family for a few minutes. You may only want a small structure with one room and a single door for access, or you may find that something fancier with windows, a shingled roof and even electrical power better meets your needs.
Whatever the purpose or size of your garden shed will be, it’s important that you choose a garden shed structure which will last for many years, and be able to withstand the often extreme variations of our British seasons. Choosing the right shed requires some advance thought and planning, though. This guide will help you sort through the possibilities, as we explore how to choose a garden shed.
The Legalities and the Basics
It’s unusual to need permission to put up a garden shed, because building regulations don’t normally apply to small detached buildings. However, if you’re taken with a shed which is really larger than a shed, or if you plan to sleep inside, there are regulations to be aware of. Here is a quick summary:
- Floor area less than 15 square metres: No restrictions as long as there isn’t any sleeping accommodation in the shed.
- Floor area between 15 and 30 square metres: No restrictions as long as there is no sleeping accommodation, and the shed is EITHER made from non-combustible materials OR is at least one metre away from all property boundaries.
- Floor area over 30 square metres, or sleeping accommodations included: Building regulations apply; consult http://www.planningportal.gov.uk for more information.
You aren't required to have a solid foundation for your shed if building regulations don’t apply to you although it’s still a very good idea, particularly if you've chosen a wooden shed. A concrete slab is best, but you can also use solid concrete blocks, pressure-treated timbers, pavers or even gravel to protect the floor of your wooden shed from rotting. Plastic and metal sheds won’t degrade structurally without foundations, but may sit unevenly if they’re seated on dirt or grass.
The size of your garden shed will naturally be constrained by the amount of space you have available, but here’s something to consider. A 6x8 shed will have twice the floor space of a 6x4 structure; so if you can extend either the length or width of your shed by a little more than a metre, you’ll have oodles of extra room for storage or work.Robert Frost wisely counselled that good fences make good neighbours, but he never addressed the neighbourly impact of adding a detached building to your garden. For a shed smaller than 15 square metres, no regulation requires you to keep the structure at least a metre away from your neighbours’ property. It’s still best to do so, though, both out of consideration for their property and to ensure that you’ll have a clear path in and out of your shed. In fact, leaving at least a metre of open space all the way around the structure will give you enough room to manoeuvre and perform any necessary maintenance, while also allowing sunlight and wind to reach the shed and help keep it dry. You’ll also want to avoid (if possible) low-lying areas where water will pool. One final thought: think about where the door will be and how it opens. The last thing you’ll want to do is reposition your shed after it’s in place, simply because there’s not enough space in front of the door to wheel in a cart or lawnmower.
Types of Sheds
Three types of sheds are the most commonly-purchased structures in the UK for gardens: plastic, metal and wooden. They each have their advantages and disadvantages; some are obvious and some may not have crossed your mind. We’ll first check out the pros and cons, and then take a more in-depth look at each of the alternatives.
Plastic Sheds: Pros and Cons
Pros: Plastic sheds are affordable, often the most affordable of the three choices. They can also be the most durable, especially if they’re placed on a level foundation, and if you spend a little extra to get a top-quality plastic structure made of thick material with steel reinforcement which won’t tip over in high winds or lose a battle with a stubborn herd of deer. They are the easiest type of shed to assemble, they’re easy to modify (for example, cutting a hole to add a ventilating fan), there’s no need to treat or coat plastic (as you must do with most wood or metal sheds), and in most cases no maintenance work must be done. And with a plastic shed, you don’t have to worry about fire, snow, moisture or rot, rust or insects.
Cons: There’s one major drawback to plastic sheds. No matter which model of plastic structure you choose, even if it’s an attractive colour, has a gable roof with a sunlight, features side panels instead of solid plastic sheets, or has a unique design – it still won’t look as rustic or charming as a wooden one. Many people want to make a statement with the structures they place in their garden; the statement a plastic structure makes is that the owner chose function and convenience over sheer beauty. However, that choice (and the price tag that goes with it) often makes perfect sense. Other negatives to consider are that some plastics will warp or buckle in extreme heat, and that plastic structures are easy for people to break into unless they’re steel-reinforced and have steel locks.
Metal Sheds: Pros and Cons
Pros: Once again, cost is the first advantage to consider. Metal sheds aren't much pricier than plastic ones, and some metal models are even less expensive than comparable plastic structures. Most metal sheds are relatively sturdy because their aluminum, steel or iron side panels and roof are supported by a strong, central metal frame. As long as you don’t choose an extremely cheap and flimsy option, metal should stand up over the long haul, particularly since most sheds sold these days are galvanized and then covered with either vinyl or several coats of weather-resistant paint. Metal structures eliminate any concerns about fire, bugs, mildew and mold, and don’t require much maintenance. They’ll also handle extreme hot or cold temperatures without a problem, and if they have a strong frame or are reinforced they will stand against strong winds. Most metal shed kits are pretty easy to assemble, too.
Cons: Two words: corrosion and rust. Galvanized, rust-resistant metal and durable outside coatings have made today’s metal sheds much less susceptible to these two problems than they used to be, but over a period of time all metal sheds may begin to corrode or rust. It’s crucial to have an iron-clad (pardon the pun) rust and rot warranty when buying a metal structure. We've already mentioned that metal sheds can stand up to strong winds if they’re thicker and are reinforced, and that comes with a higher price tag. Less-expensive models can be at risk if you live in a windy climate, their roofs may collapse under the weight of a large snowfall, they’ll dent fairly easily, and a flimsy structure will look and feel somewhat flimsy as well. Speaking of appearance, metal sheds are similar to plastic ones in that department; even if you purchase the most beautiful metal structure you can find, it still won’t look as striking as a wooden one. Finally, modifications to metal sheds are difficult and definitely not for weekend do-it-yourselfers, unless they happen to own tools like welders and angle grinders.
Wooden Sheds: Pros and Cons
Pros: The primary drawback to plastic sheds – their appearance – is the obvious advantage to wooden ones. A wood shed looks traditional, solid and beautiful; the statement that it makes is one of quality and style. Wooden structures are easy to paint or stain in any colour you choose (making them the easiest building to match the look of your house or garden), they are available with an endless number of design options, and they are much easier to customise than metal ones. We’ve mentioned that wooden sheds look solid, and that’s because they are. There’s no stronger or more durable choice for a garden shed. They’ll stand up to almost anything, and will last virtually forever. There’s one more advantage to the thick walls of these structures: wood is a terrific insulator, so it’s the best choice to keep the cold or heat out if you plan to use your shed as a work area, retreat or playhouse. A wooden shed is also the right choice for the environmentally-conscious.
Cons: We’ll start with the most important one: price. Wooden sheds are considerably more expensive than metal or plastic ones. Wood may be a more desirable material for your garden shed for many reasons, but a Jaguar is also more desirable than a Dacia or a Kia - that doesn’t mean you can afford a Jag. If a wooden shed is within your means, there are other major negatives to consider. Wood is subject to rot, warping, wear, and pest damage so it requires continual maintenance, including regular inspections, periodic painting or varnishing and replacement of damaged wood or shingles. Wooden sheds are also more challenging to assemble than the other alternatives.
A Closer Look at Plastic Sheds
When you first visualize a plastic shed, you may picture a monochrome monstrosity or an oversized, flimsy dollhouse. You owe it to yourself to investigate further. It’s true that a plastic shed will always look more “functional” than an expensive, charming wooden garden shed. But today’s plastic structures are available in a wide selection of beautiful colours or attractive contrasting tones, and there are options for structural features such as apex gabled roofs, skylights, windows and integral floors.
We focus on the look of a plastic shed because when you choose a plastic structure, it is likely to be in your garden for a long, long time. Most models from reputable manufacturers will carry a ten-year warranty, but will probably last much longer because they’re made from strong polycarbonate or polyethylene material – and the best plastic sheds also have steel reinforcement for the walls and roofs. As we’ve already mentioned, they’re virtually indestructible because they can’t be damaged by rain or moisture, pests or rust, children or pets, and high-quality models will also stand up to heavy winds and snowfall. The only maintenance they should ever need is an occasional hosing when they get dirty.
To get a better idea of what modern plastic garden structures can look like and what they have to offer, check out the selection from Lifetime Plastic Sheds. You may be surprised to see that the smaller two-toned units do have a certain charm to them, while some of the larger ones resemble small upscale cottages, with slatted apex roofs, multiple doors, shatter-proof windows and skylights, screened vents and integral shelving.
The collection of Palram Plastic Sheds shows you another way these structures can dress up your garden. They come in a striking choice of green, grey or amber with side panels that look like shiplap panels, and their roofs have an unusual feature which lets sunlight flood in during the day even though they appear to be made from solid black polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is shatter-proof, so therefore a great material for a garden shed. The UV-treated sheds from Suncast Plastic Sheds are made with integral reinforced floors, double doors and transom windows, with some even featuring side panels with a wood-grain appearance.
A plastic shed isn’t anything like the boring shell that many people imagine – and its durable construction and materials let you, as they say in TV commercials, “just set it and forget it.” And at a price well below that of a wooden garden shed, it’s many people’s first choice.
A Closer Look at Metal Sheds
Metal sheds aren't just for industrial and commercial use anymore. True, they’re the type of functional and inexpensive units which work well for businesses. However, top manufacturers of metal sheds have put a lot of work into designing structures which will dress up almost any garden while standing firm against not only normal wear, but also inclement weather and strong winds.
A terrific example of what can be done to transform a simple metal shed into a lovely addition to your garden is the line from Emerald Metal Sheds. Strength is provided by a thick, zinc-coated steel frame, galvanized steel cladding and a corrugated steel roof, with two layers of hot dipped coating to protect against the elements. Perforation rot is always a concern with metal sheds, but the Emerald line comes with a ten-year warranty against it. And you can choose from attractive green or anthracite grey colours with white trim. That’s a far cry from a dull industrial shed, and a bargain compared to the high prices of wooden sheds.
If you purchase a metal shed it’s important to realize that despite its strengths, it will still be subject to the effects of oxidation that any metal suffers over time – in other words, rust. Proper care of a metal garden shed, though, will extend its life greatly. Ventilating your shed, or buying one which already has vents, is an important first step. Areas at greatest risk for rust are those which become dented or damaged; inspecting the exterior and interior of the shed regularly is the best approach to maintaining a metal shed. When you find problem spots, immediately clean and sand them, apply rust inhibitor, and then repaint. Your shed, and your garden, will thank you for it.
A Closer Look at Wooden Sheds
The only look you might need is a glance at the price tag of your dream wooden shed, which may show you that it’s beyond your reach; high-quality wood garden sheds are far more expensive than comparable metal or plastic units.
However, many people picture a beautiful wooden shed in their garden, and if they can afford the price it will unquestionably be a wonderful addition to their property. There’s another issue that buyers often don’t consider until after the fact, though: maintenance. Not much has to be done to plastic or metal sheds, but wooden garden sheds must be inspected and maintained in much the same manner as houses. Windows must be sealed, the entire shed needs an annual treatment with water-resistant sealant, all trees and shrubs around the structure must be kept pruned and well away from the shed, and the roof must be checked regularly and fixed as soon as there are any signs of damage.
Ready to sign up for the high price and the continued maintenance work? Great – in that case you can find plenty of stunning wooden sheds, any one of which will be a sturdy structure for years to come and a delight to look at in your garden. Your choices will be endless: rustic overlapping cladding or professional tongue-and-groove siding (which is even more expensive), pent, apex or flat roofs, any colour you could imagine, and a huge range of design options. You can see wonderful examples of what’s available in wooden garden sheds by investigating the enormous line of Cotswold wooden sheds products.
Before deciding what type of shed to choose, consider your budget and how willing you are to spend time maintaining the structure. Once you’ve done that, you won’t need to figure out how to choose a garden shed – the correct shed choice for you will be obvious.