Sheds buying guide

Garden sheds can be a lot of things these days: a quiet corner for that DIY project or hobby, a useful space to store your outdoor equipment, a tidy for your garden tools and even a garden office if you’re working from home. These versatile buildings are suitable for keeping your sports equipment safe, your family’s toys dry and they can even give you shelter as you work on the garden during the winter months.

Varied sizes and construction styles, as well as different materials such as plastic, metal and wood sheds can all be found on the market to suit these different functions. Ask yourself if you’re more concerned with strength and security or just keeping things dry all year round. Consider aspects like location and whether you’re using a shed as a comfortable space away from the house or simply for traditional garden storage that you access regularly. If you’re trying to decide which shed is suitable for your garden, read on for our advice on the what, where and why of garden sheds.

Location

One of the biggest factors when you’re looking to buy a shed is where to place it in your garden. Generally speaking, try to choose a sheltered spot where your shed can benefit from additional protection from the house, fences and walls, or it gains natural shelter from hedges and trees.

It’s not a good idea to place it in direct sunlight, especially if you will be spending any length of time inside, as both wood and metal sheds can get very hot. However, if you’re using your shed as a summerhouse for outdoor entertaining, and you have plenty of ventilation (opening windows, for example) then south facing is a good position to catch the sunlight, making it a pleasant space to use at different times of day.

Allow a width of 3ft around the shed to ensure you can get in and out, and try to install near a path if possible, to make access easier and less muddy in the winter months.

Think about what you need to do in and around your shed. Storage for frequently used items like bikes will need to be in a position for quick access, so plot a route from your drive or back gate. Power tools will require a nearby plug socket, while watering cans for plant pots and flower beds need to be filled up at a tap, meaning you may want to site your shed near the house if you’re using it as a workshop or gardening base. However, if you want a quiet retreat, or don’t want to overlook your shed from the house, scope out a position where it will be hidden from view.

Size

Shed sizes usually denote the size of the shed base or floor area. Standard solutions usually come in at 6ft x 4ft and are perfect if you have a small lawn, or you just want to store a few garden tools and handheld sports equipment. Those looking to create a workshop or space for potting plants might want the extra footage of a 6ft x 8ft shed. Families might find it hard to squeeze in all their beach gear, outdoor toys and bikes, and still have space for the lawnmower, so you could look at large garden sheds of 10ft x 8ft – these are also better if you have patio furniture and deck chairs.

If you’re planning a garden office or extra living space, the biggest sheds range up to 20ft x 10ft, though style-wise, you might want to opt for more of a summerhouse design, with plenty of windows to let the light in. Height is another consideration if you have tall items to manoeuvre in and out of your shed.

Plastic, metal or wooden sheds?

Wooden sheds are the most common type for domestic gardens and for good reason: they stay warm in cold weather, they are often easier to match with garden furniture and they bring an attractive feature to your outdoor area.

That said, they require a little more effort to waterproof than other materials. You can buy wood stain and will need to re-apply every 2-3 years to maintain, although some models come pre-coated with stain or a ‘dip-coat’ that is applied to the wooden slats before they are assembled.

Metal sheds are a good choice if your priority is secure garden storage and they are frequently constructed from steel or aluminium. More expensive sports equipment, bikes and larger lawn equipment can be locked away and protected from the weather in a robust metal structure. Generally longer-lasting than wood, metal sheds are durable but they might still need to have rust protection or treatment applied. Sheet metal is also not as visually appealing as wood cladding.

Plastic sheds are a handy solution if you just want something quick and easy to erect. They’re lightweight and can be relocated without much hassle, but again, they don’t always have the look that homeowners are after. Check how easy it is to get replacement parts for your new shed as these may be slightly more difficult to source than with wood and metal.

Wooden shed cladding

If you do opt for a wooden shed, consider the way it’s constructed before you buy. Overlapping wood panels create a series of sloping surfaces running down the sides, great for draining rainwater. Assembly is simple, meaning a comparatively low price but overlap sheds are still very stable garden buildings.

Tongue and groove panels can be better at preventing leaks, as they interlock and are consequently very strong. They also add a more decorative feel to the shed’s exterior. A similar construction is shiplap cladding, which has an extra ‘lip’ between panels and is therefore doubly resistant against bad weather.

Garden shed design

Garden sheds generally come in two distinct types. An apex shed has a roof that slopes down on either side, and makes more of a focal feature, resembling a summerhouse in design. This type of shed is also practical in terms of channelling the rain off the sides, and you could add in some guttering to collect water for a water butt. Look for an overlap apex shed for additional drainage.

Lean-to, or pent style sheds have a flat roof, which is slightly sloped at one side. These sheds work well next to other buildings or the main house, as they allow any water to run off, as well as looking neat in design. They also give you extra headroom if you’re working inside the shed.

Shed bases

Most ready-made sheds and self-assembly packs come with a shed base included, but some types of sheds won’t necessarily need them. If you’re siting a metal shed on concrete or a patio, then you can use this as a suitable base, or even lay down your own purpose-built slabs. However, sheds that are being used for more than garden storage might require a more comfortable, warmer floor.

Wood sheds should ideally be placed on top of timber bearers. These are pressure-treated wooden structures which elevate a garden building so that damp or rot can’t get in so easily. If they don’t come with your chosen shed, you can buy these shed bases separately.

Assembly tips

If you’re buying a shed, you will receive most of the materials you need in the pack but there are some tools that will make the job easier. You’ll need a hammer, power drill and nails – although these fixtures might be provided in the kit – along with measuring tools like a spirit level to make sure you’re putting it together correctly. You might also want to kit yourself out with protective clothing and gloves, as well as a step ladder if needed.

Generally, you will need at least two people to assemble a shed as parts can be heavy or awkward to handle alone. If you’re applying any kind of wood treatment, do this first, before assembling. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but as a rule, work upwards, starting with the base before tackling the walls and finally, the roof.

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