Gardening tips: Choosing a shed
Although many gardeners improvise for some time by storing their garden tools in the garage or in a disused coal bunker, most eventually come to realize that a garden shed is a necessity. The storing of tools is just one of the functions for which a garden shed will prove ideal.
Choosing a shed
When choosing a garden shed, you must consider first and foremost the purpose, or purposes, for which you intend to use it. For instance, a shed required merely for storage or as a tool shed needs no windows, but one to be used for potting will need some light. If the shed is intended primarily as a workshop, both light and ventilation are essential. A shed for the storage of fruit and vegetables needs little light, but there must be some ventilation and also good insulation against frost. It is possible to buy divided sheds, one half being designed without windows purely for storage, while the other is well-lit and ventilated, making it suitable for a workshop or potting shed.
Your choice of a garden shed is likely to be determined to a large extent by cost and this depends largely upon the materials used in its construction. The cheapest type available today is made of pinewood, while among the dearest are sheds with cedar cladding. The more modern aluminium types are generally mid-way in price between these two extremes.
It is a good idea to shop around as much as possible before buying your shed. Otherwise, you might end up paying more than you need to. When looking at sheds, pay particular attention to the type and quality of materials and the method of construction employed.
Examine the manufacturer’s or supplier’s specifications carefully, because some supply locks, glass, putty, nails and floors, and treat the wood with preservative, while others make some or all of these ‘extras’. Similarly, some manufacturers quote the wood dimensions after planing, while others give the dimensions before planing.
Siting a shed
Generally, the best place in a garden in which to position a shed is where it is least obtrusive, although it can be partly concealed by growing plants, such as runner beans or fan-trained trees, over it. At the same time, if it is to be used for any purpose other than a tool-shed or a fruit and vegetable store, it must have good light. Avoid a heavily shaded position, as the site would be damp and the inside of the shed would be dismal.
Always site your shed on firm, level, well-drained ground that is free from tree roots, which might undermine it, and provide firm foundations.
To give good, safe access to the shed, for both yourself and your wheelbarrow or other tools, it is also essential to lay a good, firm path to it.
Before you erect a shed, it is advisable to find out from the local authority whether there are any restrictions. Usually there are none, provided that it is erected not less than 1.8 m (6 ‘) from other buildings; that it does not exceed 28.3 cu m (1,000 cu ft) in capacity; that is not more than 3 m (10 ‘) tall; and that it does not have a chimney or flue.
If you are a tenant, there may be a clause in your tenancy agreement which compels you to obtain your landlord’s permission before erecting a shed.
Finally, make sure that your proposed building will not annoy your neighbours in any way.
Erecting the shed
Normally sheds are delivered with all the necessary nuts and bolts, etc, to enable them to be easily erected, preferably by two people for at least part of the time. Suppliers claim that this can be done in times varying from 30 minutes if the roof is pre-felted to an hour or more if the roof felt has to be laid on and secured, in both cases the site being prepared beforehand.
Some suppliers will carry out the erection in a place convenient to their works for an extra charge which is counterbalanced by the fact that when this work is done by a contractor there is no VAT to pay.
Sizes of sheds
These range from 85 cm x 85 cm x 1.6 m (34” x 34” x 5 ‘ 4”) for ‘mini-sheds’, to 2.8 m x 4.5 m x 2.05 m (9’4” x 15 ‘ x 6 ‘ 10”) for large individual sheds. When buying, be sure that the headroom is adequate.
Basic types of sheds
There is a bewildering variety of different designs of shed on the market today. The major differences lie in the arrangement of the windows, which should relate to the principal purpose of the shed. Our list (below) gives a good cross-section of shed types.
A mini-shed: this is little more than a tool cupboard. It has a ridge roof and a single small window or no window at all.
An inexpensive shed with a ridge roof, a double fixed window.
A shed with a pent or a ridge roof, a double fixed window and an extra wide door.
A shed with a pent or ridge roof, and two windows, each consisting of two fixed lights and two opening ones. A shed with wrap-around windows, making a good workshop or playroom. This may have ridge or pent roof. A shed that is divided into a store and a workshop by means of an adjustable separating wall. There are two doors giving separate access to each section, and windows for each section. These sheds are available with either a ridge or a pent roof.
A shed and a greenhouse in one, which is space-saving, but makes for only a small lean-to greenhouse. A modular shed is available, which enables you to start off buying a small shed, and to extend it subsequently by adding on extra units, or ‘modules’.
Choice of materials
Timber is the material most commonly used for making sheds. The types of wood most frequently used are ‘coniferous timber’ (generally likely to be larch), whitewood, redwood and western red cedar.
The most usual form of construction is a timber cladding fixed to a deal framework. Deal is fir or pine sawn into boards, and makes an inexpensive but strong framework. This usually consists of 5 x 2.5 cm (2 x 1”), 5 x 3 cm (2 x 1-½) or 5 x 5 cm (2 x 2”) timber, according to the size of the shed.
There are two main types of cladding: rustic overlapping and rebated weather-boarding, and fully interlocked tongued-and-grooved matchwood boarding. Sheets of exterior-grade plywood and hardboard may be used as cladding instead of the whitewood, western red cedar and other woods mentioned above. All these woods, except western red cedar, must be treated with a wood preservative, such as Solignum or Cuprinol Green: red cedar must be treated with a special cedar preservative.
Some modern sheds have a cladding of pre-coated aluminium panels which are bolted to an aluminium framework. Because it is so light, a shed made of this material must be anchored to its foundations, for which purpose the makers provide anchor plates.
Other materials are occasionally used to make sheds. It is possible to obtain pre-cast concrete sheds. These are hard work to erect, but are very strong and long-lasting. They have a particular advantage if you want the shed to be near the house, as they are available in simulated brick or stone finishes, to match the walls of the house.
One recent development is a shed made of laminated fibreglass. This is durable, lightweight and virtually maintenance-free. The manufacturers claim that it takes only 45 minutes to erect on a firm level site, and that a concrete base is not necessary.
Plastic-coated or galvanized steel sheds are also easy to erect and almost maintenance-free. Sometimes, in an old garden, there may be a disused brick WC or air-raidor an obsolete greenhouse boiler house, which you could convert into a storage shed, provided it is not damp or in danger of falling down.
This is usually made of timber up to 2.5 cm (1”) thick, according to the size and quality of the shed. Floors may be made from sawn boards, overlapping rebated boarding or fully interlocked tongued-and-grooved boarding. The floor is nailed to 5 cm x 3 cm (2 x 1-1/2”) joists which run across the width of the shed. To prevent seepage of rainwater, it is advisable to raise the floor on 7.5 x 5 cm (3 x 2”) timber floor bearers, which most manufacturers will provide as extras. These are positioned on level ground to run across the floor joists. Alternatively, you can raise the floor on bricks or concrete blocks.
The floors of fibre-glass sheds consist of 1.8 mm weatherproof chipboard encased in a resin-bonded fibreglass sheath. No floor bearers are needed.
Sheds can be erected on a concrete base without a wooden floor, in which case the supplier will advise regarding size and other details.
It is imperative that the ground under a garden shed is level and firm. If it is, a shed with a floor can be erected on grass or(supported by wood, brick or concrete pillars or ‘bearers’) but it is more satisfactory to bed it firmly on solid foundations made up of hardcore (stones, broken bricks and other rubble) with a layer of concrete above on which the floor and floor bearers can be laid.
An alternative, when a separate floor is dispensed with, is to lay a base composed of concrete slabs embedded in cement mortar, to form the floor of the shed. These slabs are set so that they stand at least their thickness above the level of the surrounding ground.
When laying a concrete shed base, aim for a thickness of at least 7.5 cm (3”) and ensure that the concrete finishes just short of the sides and ends of the shed, so that rainwater will not run off the sides and on to the concrete, resulting in water seeping through into the floor area.