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Shed Buying Guide

Installing a backyard shed is a simple, practical and sensible solution for many people who are looking to create additional storage space. It can be used to store many different items, and not just those associated with gardening like hand tools, composts and lawn mowers.

In addition, shed space can be used to create a workshop - large or small - that can help with your DIY projects.​

Before you rush out and buy one, give some serious thought to all the uses your shed could be put to first.

  • Will it be used just for general storage – garden tools and sundries, paint cans, wood off-cuts for example? Or something more individual?
  • Do you need to house specialized machinery such as a sit-on lawn mower or motorcycle?
  • Would it be useful to have enough room to work inside if the weather is poor?

When you know all the uses you could put a storage unit to, there are several other factors to consider.

  • Where and how will it be located?
  • How big does it need to be?
  • What design style do you want?
  • What materials should it be made of?
  • How will you build it?

Shed Location

If you intend to have some form of storage building in your garden, and before you go out and buy one, you should check that your plans comply with all the local building codes.

Failure to get a proper permit could result in you having to dismantle the structure at some stage if full compliance hasn’t been met.

Having said that, here are some tips about where to build a shed:

  • When you consider the spot where you intend building your shed, ensure it can be accessed easily by all who intend to use it.
  • Locate it in the best possible position for its planned use. Summer house or greenhouse usage would require it to be placed where it would get the most amount of sunshine. If it were to house small pets or you intend to use it as a workshop, then you would probably need to locate it in a cooler place.
  • Consider any drainage issues. Locating a shed at the base of a slope or where surface water collects is ill advised. It would require you to raise it higher off the ground with suitable run-offs for the water to disperse, and to provide adequate ventilation beneath, to minimize wood rot or mold.
  • Don't erect a shed where cables or pipes run underneath.
  • It is best to avoid locating it beneath overhanging branches as these can eventually cause surface wear as well as a build-up of leaves which could cause damp.

Ask yourself a few questions about the planned location:

  • How easy will it be to move heavy items to and from the shed?
  • Will the lawn mower get from shed to lawn without having to negotiate garden obstacles?
  • Will the shed block a view or conceal a drain cover?
  • Will there be adequate access around the shed to do routine maintenance?
  • If an elderly person needs access will it be convenient for them?
  • If young children will be playing in the shed will you have line of sight to where they are?

Shed Size

This might be determined by the size of your backyard, but when you are considering the size of shed to buy, think ahead. It is easy to underestimate the amount of space you will need or the headroom required.

This is especially true if you want a ‘working shed’ with a worktop and space for tools or office equipment, as well as for storing other items.

Remember also that local area building codes may influence the size of shed you can build on your property.

Shed Design Style

If you have a large yard area in which to locate your storage shed, then budget aside, you will have a lot of choice over the size of structure you build.

If you have a limited amount of space in which to locate your shed, the design of the building can take on added relevance depending on the uses you plan for the space.

A traditional backyard barn design, even on a small footprint, can provide a lot more overhead storage space in the roof void. This may not be suitable for some heavy items, but with careful planning a lot more can be stored this way.

Some other basic design features should be considered.

  • Do you want windows, if so how many and should they be opening or fixed?
  • Do you want a skylight? And what about doors? Would you prefer a single or double opening?
  • Do you plan to use your shed as an office, an artist’s studio or craft area? If so you will probably appreciate being able to install some insulation to make it more comfortable year round. You will also need to run a power source in for lighting.

What Material Should it be Made Of?

The main materials used in shed construction are wood, plastic (sometimes called vinyl or resin sheds) and metal. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Wooden Backyard Sheds

Wood is the traditional material used to build sheds and has been the most popular. It is a natural material that blends in well in a garden or backyard environment.

You can paint or stain it so that it matches the style of your own home and the personality of the garden it sits in. It is generally easier to work with than metal or plastic types, and most people have the basic tools needed for working with wood.

It can be a heavy material to work with, especially if you buy a prefabricated shed – four walls, roof section/s and base. You would generally need at least two people to assemble it properly. And it’s probably going to take longer to assemble overall.

There will be more maintenance required with a wooden garden building though. More waterproofing and pest prevention but you will be dealing with a natural material that looks good.

Wooden storage buildings are also a lot easier to fit out as screws and nails can be put in almost anywhere. And if any custom designing is needed, wood is so much easier to do this with than plastic or metal.

Plastic Sheds​

These have gained immense popularity in recent years due to their quick and easy assembly, low maintenance and light weight.

Advances in plastics technologies have created material that doesn’t get damaged by sunlight or heat, and does not give off toxic vapor, as could happen in the past.

Plastic sheds can also withstand harsh winter weather such as snow and heavy rainfall.

Weather damage is much reduced as parts do not rust or rot, as can be the case with wood or metal buildings, and they are extremely waterproof due to the snug fitting of components.

Their light weight makes them easy to assemble. The only downside to this is that in areas of high winds some models may require more adequate anchoring to the ground. Some sheds are supplied with anchoring kits but not all. Bigger sheds will have an integral floor.

​Some sheds are expandable by adding shell modules, and a variety of storage accessories are available - corner units, shelving hook racks and so on. Having said that, plastic sheds are not as customizable as wooden sheds, due to their method of construction.

​Smaller plastic sheds are often used indoors – in garages, utility areas and on a patio as they have a pleasing appearance and clean easily.

Metal Sheds​

Metal garden sheds are a robust alternative to wood and plastic. They are good value for money, durable and don’t require a great deal of maintenance, which is mainly dealing with corrosion.

​They handle temperature extremes well and don’t warp. Roof strength is an important factor though, and needs to be considered if you live in an area of heavy snowfall.

Cosmetically, they are better looking than they have been in the past as the panels are galvanized or vinyl coated which also makes them last longer. They are cheap which makes them a popular buy - you get more shed for your money - but they do have some disadvantages.

​They can be more complicated to assemble depending on size, and can take two or more people to put them together. Also, metal is not an easy material to work with if you need to modify the shed in any way.

​To appraise the quality of these sheds you should consider the metal thickness together with its corrosion resistance guarantee.

Common Factors When Buying a Shed​

Your shed will require a base to rest on. This could be made of wood or concrete. Go by the recommendation of the shed manufacturer. Not all sheds are supplied with a floor so you may have to prepare this yourself as well.

Whatever material the shed is made of, check its thickness and durability and manufacturer’s warranty.

Shed Building​

Broadly speaking you have three ways to go about building a shed.

  • Work from shed plans and build everything from scratch. If you buy from a reputable supplier you would be provided with a plan, list of materials you need to buy, lumber cutting list and detailed assembly instructions.

    Wood is the material used here. Ideally you would have an good understanding of woodworking and have a range of suitable shed building tools to complete the project.

    This option gives you the most choice over how your shed will look, but it will take the most time as you have to do everything yourself. You may still require an extra pair of hands to help with some parts of the construction.

  • Buy a shed kit. This is a simplified version of above. In addition to a plan, materials and cutting lists and building instructions, you get a supply of custom made connectors. This last item is what makes the building easier - you don’t have to cut lumber to many different angles. All wood can be straight cut and the wood connectors provide a quick and easy way to erect the shell of your shed.

    You don’t need to be an experienced woodworker, but you will need some help with putting it all together to avoid parts twisting out of shape.

  • Prefabricated Shed Kits. This option gives you the widest choice of materials - wood, plastic or metal sheds. All parts and materials are supplied either pre-cut or assembled and just need bolting, screwing and/or clipping together.

    By far the majority of sheds are bought this way. Specialized tools are often not needed,  and a basic understanding of DIY is all that is required. You will need to have help in assembling the parts but they can generally be put together in a few hours.

In Conclusion

Your choice of shed will ultimately be based on your needs, wants and budget. Where you live may affect your choice as well, in respect of any relevant local building codes or restrictions.

Consider everything your shed could be used for before you make a purchase. Plan it well and you will  get the best use out of it. 

Finally, buy the best shed you can afford - it will be better for you in the long run.


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