Choosing the right garden shed for your needs
A fixture of back gardens up and down the country, the humble wooden shed shows no sign of losing its popularity. From storing tools to (occasionally) escaping from the kids or the other half, sheds are, quite simply, inherently useful.
Indeed, sheds and garden buildings have become so popular, the range of options available from the big DIY stores and online specialists can be quite bewildering, with a vast array of types, materials, sizes and prices. So, before you begin the process of choosing a shed, it's important to be clear about what your particular needs are - and to make sure that you keep the neighbours and council planners on side!
Staying on the right side of the rules
If all you're looking to erect is a traditional, single-storey shed or summerhouse in your back garden, it's likely that it will fall within what's known as 'permitted development', meaning that you won't need to obtain planning permission from the local authority.
Once you go above certain heights and sizes, however - or if you happen to be in a designated area such as a National Park or conservation area - your planned shed may require planning consent. The rules do change from time to time, so the safest course of action is always to check the UK government Planning Portal, where you can find the latest easy-to-follow information on what's allowed or not.
Even if your proposed garden building doesn't require planning permission, it's still worth keeping your neighbours abreast of your plans - especially if the shed will be near the boundary with their property.
Choosing the right spot for your shed
The traditional spot for a shed is the bottom of the garden, but there are various issues you should think about when choosing the optimal location.
For example, placing it in a sheltered spot - close to a tree, hedge, fence or other building, such as a garage - can prolong the life of your shed by protecting it from the elements, like rain and wind. However, this needs to be balanced with maintenance considerations, so retaining enough space to walk around and re-treat all four sides of your shed - and to access any dodgy loose panels a few years down the line - is often wise.
Consider day-to-day access from your house and the rest of the garden too. For instance, if your garden path doesn't currently reach the chosen spot for your shed, you might want to think about extending it. You will, in any event, need to make sure that the shed itself is positioned on a firm base of either concrete or paving slabs.
Don't forget what the shed will be like to use, either - if natural light is important, and you're opting for a shed with a window, it's probably best not to build it in the shadow of a tree in the darkest corner of the garden. And if your garden building is intended to be a place to sit rather than toil - such as a summerhouse - then you want to position it with the best views into your garden (and not, preferably, your neighbour's).
Shed loads of choice
Though modern sheds are available in a wide range of materials - including metal and plastic - the traditional wooden shed remains understandably popular.
Whether you prefer a rustic-looking shed that will weather over time in keeping with your garden, or a quirkier one that you can turn into a bold statement and focal point with a colourful paint job, there's no shortage of options. The smallest sheds will easily store your tools and bicycle, while larger ones can offer plenty of wall and workshop space as well.
There are also two main types of finish for wooden sheds to be aware of: overlapping timber - also known as shiplap - which is cheaper and more rustic; and tongue and groove, which gives an improved finish and damp resistance, but is often a little more expensive.
When making your choice, think about your needs both now and in the future - there's little point in opting for a compact sentry box shed if it's going to be too small to store the kids' bikes a few years down the line. Similarly, if you have your eye on a workshop-type shed, make sure that you don't end up buying something that's too big for your needs, or that detracts from the rest of the garden.
Enjoy your shed - and keep it safe
Once you've got your chosen shed, you can look forward to plenty of days of pottering in the sunshine - and occasionally, of course, sheltering from the unpredictable British weather.
Amid all this fun, it's easy to overlook the need to keep your shed - and everything that you have inside it - safe and secure. Unfortunately, gardens will sometimes be a target for thieves, but we can all do our bit to make it harder for them. Wooden sheds come with a hasp for a reason, so at the very least make sure that you keep your shed padlocked when not in use. Similarly, if your shed has a window, look at storing your most important valuables out of site. And going back to the earlier issue of location, there's certainly merit in situating your shed in a spot that's at least partly overlooked by you or your neighbours, rather than a shady corner where potential thieves can operate unseen.
Should the worst happen, you also want to make sure that your shed is protected by your home's buildings and contents insurance. As a 'fixture', damage to your shed may well be covered by your buildings policy, but you'll also need to make sure that your contents insurance includes garden cover for all the important tools, bikes and garden furniture that you store inside it - as well as all the other valuable belongings that you have dotted around the garden.
So, armed with the right knowledge, and by knowing what to look for, you can make sure that you not only end up with the perfect shed for your needs, but that it keeps on giving you pleasure - and a secure place for all your stuff - for years to come.
Photo credit: Graham Soult