Everything you need to know about sheds ;
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Guide#2 Everything you need to know about sheds

Sheds seem to be all the rage right now, although some devotees say that they’ve never gone out of fashion. So what makes them so appealing?

Having a shed is a bit like having a dog – once we have one, we don’t know how we ever managed to live without it. Our sheds become our haven, our sanctuary – an escape from the pressures of everyday life.

Be it a place for pottering, gardening, DIY, crafting, gaming, brewing beer, reading, or simply getting away from it all, there’s no denying that a shed is much more than just four rickety timber walls and a roof plonked at the end of the garden.

Our essential guide looks at everything from the types of shed available and the planning permission required, to how to power your shed and keep it secure. Simply scroll down or click on each section to read more.

You can also keep a copy by downloading a PDF here

  1. 1.
    WHAT SHED IS BEST FOR YOU?

  2. 2.
    DO I NEED PLANNING PERMISSION?

  3. 3.
    POSITIONING YOUR SHED

  4. 4.
    SECURING YOUR SHED

  5. 5.
    POWERING YOUR SHED

  6. 6.
    LOOKING AFTER YOUR TOOLS

  7. 7.
    CONVERTING YOUR SHED

  8. 8.
    SHED TRIVIA: TOP 10

     

1.
WHAT SHED IS BEST FOR YOU?

 

You’d think buying a shed would be a piece of cake. Pick one you like the look of, a size that works for you, and Bob’s your uncle, you have yourself a shed. However, there are a few variables you should be aware of before parting with your cash.

2 garden sheds 
  • Wood

    Most sheds in the UK are made from wood – soft woods such as pine or spruce are the cheapest. But if you want your shed to last and not succumb to rot then it’s worth paying a bit more and going for a high quality, treated wood, like cedar.

    The advantage of a wooden shed is that it’s a natural material and the internal temperature of the shed is generally consistent, even at the height of summer. The only downside to timber is that it will shrink and expand due to the moisture content within the wood, caused by changing weather conditions. The good news is any extreme changes will usually revert back over time.

    If you want a draught-proof timber shed, then go for tongue and groove or interlocked shiplap cladded sheds over featheredge boards, which may be cheaper but have a tendency to warp and let in draughts.

    Most wooden sheds come with a base coat of wood preservative already added. However, you should always treat a new wooden shed straight away with a good quality, water–resistant wood treatment. Then, treat it again annually or every couple of years to protect it from the elements and keep it in tip-top condition.

  • Metal

    Metal sheds are rot resistant and require little or no maintenance – some even have anti–rust and fire resistant properties. However, inside, they will be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. You may also have condensation issues inside when the weather is scorching, which could lead to corrosion.

  • Plastic

    A plastic shed is generally the easiest to assemble and won’t rot, rust or need treatment. You just need to ensure that it’s secure and won’t blow over!

Man painting a shed 

Most wooden sheds come with a base coat of wood preservative already added. However, you should always treat a new wooden shed straight away with a good quality, water–resistant wood treatment. Then, treat it again annually or every couple of years to protect it from the elements and keep it in tip–top condition.

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2.
DO I NEED PLANNING PERMISSION?

 

You don’t need planning permission for most garden sheds, which are classed as outbuildings in the UK. You just need to ensure they meet the following criteria:

  • Sheds should be single storey and have no balconies, platforms or verandas.
  • Sheds with dual pitched roofs can be up to 4m high – otherwise the maximum height of your shed should be 3m.
  • If your shed is within two metres of your property, it can only be 2.5m high.
  • Sheds and any other outbuildings cannot cover more than 50% of the land surrounding your original property.
  • If you live in a conservation area, you’ll need to apply for planning permission for a shed.
  • Outbuildings cannot be used for residential accommodation without permission.
  • If you have ‘grand designs’ for your shed, check with your local authority to see if planning permission is required or you risk being fined and made to rectify or completely deconstruct the work. Visit http://www.labc.co.uk/our-services/find-your-local-council
A woman sat in the doorway of a shed with gardening equipment 

If your shed is within two metres of your property, it can only be 2.5m high.

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3.
POSITIONING YOUR SHED

 
Half built shed

LOCATION

If you’re using your shed as a summerhouse, then south–facing doors and windows will get the most sunlight. Otherwise, it’s best to pitch your shed in the shade so it doesn’t overheat in the summer. It’s also worth considering whether you need electricity in your shed. If so, then position it near your home to avoid having to dig up your whole garden for cables. You’ll need a qualified electrician to run an outdoor cable from your house and install sockets and switches. (See section 5).

Half built shed

FOUNDATION

Ensure you clear any tree roots, stumps and debris before you position your shed, and make sure your chosen spot has good drainage and isn’t prone to flooding.

If you’ve bought a small shed then chances are you won’t need to worry about laying foundations – you can pop it straight on to a patio or decking. Bigger sheds (over 8ft x 6ft) will need a dry, level, solid foundation – such as concrete or paving slabs.

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4.
SECURING YOUR SHED

 
Garden spades leaning against a shed

Shockingly, research shows as many as 20% of all garden sheds aren’t locked – making them easy targets for opportunistic thieves. Thankfully there’s a number of things you can do to keep your garden retreat secure:

  • Install a shed door which is thick and hardwearing; it will need to be able to resist kicks and physical pressure.
  • Use a good, strong padlock or hasp to keep your shed locked. If using a hasp, ensure the screws are covered and can’t be undone with a screwdriver.
  • Also ensure hinges can’t be easily unscrewed by covering them with safety studs.
  • If your shed has windows, cover them up at night with blinds or at the very least stick some bin bags over them to prevent thieves from scoping out what’s inside. If your shed holds valuable items, consider fitting the windows with laminated glass or Perspex for an added security measure.
  • Chain items such as bikes, ladders and lawnmowers to a strong anchor point or to each other and use a closed shackle padlock.
  • Property mark items such as tools and lawnmowers with your name and postcode to deter thieves.

20%

As many as 20% of all garden sheds aren’t locked

Source: Daily Telegraph

Garden spades leaning against a shed
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5.
POWERING YOUR SHED

 
7 lightbulbs 

Whether you’re planning on storing your power tools or creating an office space, you’ll want to wire your shed with electricity. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts:

DON’T run an extension lead from your house to your shed. This might be OK as a one–off in dry weather, but it’s not a safe or practical solution.

DO decide what you want to use the power for. If it’s just lighting and a socket or two, then you’ll need considerably less power than for a fully functioning workshop that requires power for lighting, heating and equipment.

DO comply with Part P building regulations, which are necessary for all major domestic electric installations. This includes the laying of any electrical cable from your house to a garden building. Find out more at planningportal.gov.uk

DON’T do it yourself. If you want the job done properly and safely, hire a certified electrician who will supply a certificate of work at the end of the job.

DO ensure you dig a deep enough trench from your house to your shed for the electricity cable. To comply with building regulations it needs to be at least one metre deep.

DO consider alternative energy systems such as solar panels and wind generators to power your shed or outbuilding.

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6.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR TOOLS

 
Tools in a shed

Five simple ways to expand the lifespan of your garden tools:

1. HANG THEM UP

Rakes, hoes, spades and forks can be stored against a wall inside the shed, but better still, install some large tool hooks and hang them up – saving floor space and avoiding damp, which causes rust.

2. USE STORAGE CASES

By storing your power tools in their original cases you’ll increase their longevity. Leaving them out on a workbench in your shed will only make them prone to moisture, leading to rust. If power tools do get damaged, have them repaired professionally.

3. KEEP 'EM CLEAN

It might seem like a chore having to clean your tools after a hard day in the garden, but it will pay off in the long run. Most tools can be wiped down with an old rag, but you can remove stubborn dirt with old–fashioned soap and water – providing you dry the tool fully afterwards. Metal tools can be spritzed with WD40 and then wiped.

4. TREAT WOODEN HANDLES

Lots of tools have wooden handles, which can dry out over time and cause splintering. Protect handles by using a rag to wipe them down with linseed oil. Oil wood handles at the end of each season and they should last for years.

5. GET SHARP

You don’t need to be Ray Mears to know that keeping your tools sharp will help keep them in tip–top condition. Blunt blades should be sharpened using a fine metal file, but badly damaged or worn blades will need to be replaced. To sharpen blades of secateurs or knives, use a fine sharpening stone from a hardware store.

6. PROTECT YOUR ASSETS

Don’t forget to check your buildings and contents insurance to ensure your shed building is covered as well as the expensive items within it, such as tools.

1. HANG THEM UP

Rakes, hoes, spades and forks can be stored against a wall inside the shed, but better still, install some large tool hooks and hang them up – saving floor space and avoiding damp, which causes rust.

2. USE STORAGE CASES

By storing your power tools in their original cases you’ll increase their longevity. Leaving them out on a workbench in your shed will only make them prone to moisture, leading to rust. If power tools do get damaged, have them repaired professionally.

3. KEEP 'EM CLEAN

It might seem like a chore having to clean your tools after a hard day in the garden, but it will pay off in the long run. Most tools can be wiped down with an old rag, but you can remove stubborn dirt with old–fashioned soap and water – providing you dry the tool fully afterwards. Metal tools can be spritzed with WD40 and then wiped.

4. TREAT WOODEN HANDLES

Lots of tools have wooden handles, which can dry out over time and cause splintering. Protect handles by using a rag to wipe them down with linseed oil. Oil wood handles at the end of each season and they should last for years.

5. GET SHARP

You don’t need to be Ray Mears to know that keeping your tools sharp will help keep them in tip–top condition. Blunt blades should be sharpened using a fine metal file, but badly damaged or worn blades will need to be replaced. To sharpen blades of secateurs or knives, use a fine sharpening stone from a hardware store.

6. PROTECT YOUR ASSETS

Don’t forget to check your buildings and contents insurance to ensure your shed building is covered as well as the expensive items within it, such as tools.

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7.
CONVERTING YOUR SHED

 

Long gone are the days when the humble garden shed was used purely as a storage space for lawnmowers, garden tools and old bikes. Today, sheds can be transformed into offices, hobby rooms, studios, workshops, outdoor living spaces, and much more.

Take inspiration from these innovative shed owners whose efforts were rewarded at the Shed of the Year Awards 2014.

The allotment on the roof shed

A shed with a garden on its roof 

Joel Bird from Tottenham in London won the overall Shed of the Year 2014 prize for his innovative Allotment Roof Shed. Joel built the shed from recycled materials and grows vegetables on the roof.

The disco shed

A shed with decks in decorated with music posters 

DJs Paddy Bickerton and Aidan Larkin converted their modest shed into a disco room, complete with glitter ball and decks.

The cinema shed

A cinema inside of a shed 

Film lover Paul Slim from the West Midlands turned his shed into a mini–cinema, with surround sound, comfy sofas and movie memorabilia.

The pub shed

A pub inside a shed 

If you’ve ever had a burning desire to own your own pub, converting your shed can make your dreams come true. Mark Appleton converted his shed into The Appleton Arms pub as a tribute to his late dad, a pub landlord.

cartoon image of a TV

For more shed conversion inspiration tune into Channel 4 this summer for Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year, where George Clarke and his team choose their favourite garden sheds.

football

Cash in the shed? Top five ‘useless’ items kept in sheds* just in case they ‘might come in handy’ or ‘be worth something’ one day*:

  1. Old Tools
  2. Rusty bikes
  3. Old house furniture
  4. Broken deck chairs
  5. Old sports gear

*Based on 2015 Shedonomic research

false teeth

Most unusual items people admitted to having in their sheds*:

  • Dead rodents
  • Relatives' ashes
  • Ex-husband's old footwear
  • Old bird food
  • A stuffed owl
  • Punctured paddling pools
  • False teeth

*Based on 2015 Shedonomic research

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8.
SHED TRIVIA: TOP 10

hopefully, this short guide will have given you a taster of how you can go about successfully building and maintaining an outdoor grown-up den, where you can indulge in hobbies, hardware, or just hanging out in your own, individually imagined space. but before you go, here are just a few interesting facts about sheds:

The word shed in quptation marks

The word ‘shed’ has the same origin as ‘shade’. In Anglo–Saxon times a ‘scead’ was a place of rest in a shady place.

12 Million

There are about 12 million sheds in Britain

1/3

of men think having a shed has a positive effect on their relationship!

Book icon

Authors Rudyard Kipling, Agatha Christie and Roald Dahl all wrote in their sheds. Dahl famously banned children from entering his shed by telling them that ferocious wolves lived inside!

In Slavic folklore, the shed is feared, as it is believed to be the home of Baba Yaga, a witchlike character who flies around in a mortar, wielding a pestle and kidnapping children.

1995

In this year, a 15–year–old boy was arrested for trying to build a nuclear reactor in his parents’ shed. He wanted to earn his Boy Scout Merit Badge and thought that was the best way to do it.

5o sheds of grey

The parody, written by Colin Grey, tells the story of a man torn between his wifes sexual adventurism and spending time in his beloved shed. The book is a bestseller!

Shed icon

The garden shed was voted into the Millennium Dome’s national identity display as one of the top symbols of Britishness.

Shed icon

Brits admit to spending time in their shed to escape their partners, with 21% of people preferring to spend time in a shed than with their in-laws.

12%

of Brits feel at their happiest when spending time in their sheds.

The word shed in quptation marks

The word ‘shed’ has the same origin as ‘shade’. In Anglo–Saxon times a ‘scead’ was a place of rest in a shady place.

12 Million

There are about 12 million sheds in Britain

1/3

of men think having a shed has a positive effect on their relationship!

Book icon

Authors Rudyard Kipling, Agatha Christie and Roald Dahl all wrote in their sheds. Dahl famously banned children from entering his shed by telling them that ferocious wolves lived inside!

In Slavic folklore, the shed is feared, as it is believed to be the home of Baba Yaga, a witchlike character who flies around in a mortar, wielding a pestle and kidnapping children.

1995

In this year, a 15–year–old boy was arrested for trying to build a nuclear reactor in his parents? shed. He wanted to earn his Boy Scout Merit Badge and thought that was the best way to do it.

Shed icon

The garden shed was voted into the Millennium Dome’s national identity display as one of the top symbols of Britishness.

Shed icon

Brits admit to spending time in their shed to escape their partners, with 21% of people preferring to spend time in a shed than with their in-laws.

12%

of Brits feel at their happiest when spending time in their sheds.

5o sheds of grey

The parody, written by Colin Grey, tells the story of a man torn between his wife’s sexual adventurism and spending time in his beloved shed. The book is a bestseller!

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SHEDS WITH A PURPOSE

For many, garden sheds represent much more than outdoor buildings – they provide sanctuary. Men’s Sheds is a social woodworking project started in Australia to combat loneliness and isolation among retired men. There are now Men’s Sheds groups around the world, including a number in Britain. Find out more at menssheds.org.uk

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