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Choosing and Erecting a Shed

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 20 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
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The humble shed is perhaps one of the most versatile of all garden buildings. You’d be hard pushed to find a British garden that isn’t also playing host to a shed. When you consider the popularity of sheds, it’s not then surprising to learn that for the average shed-buying consumer, the choice on offer is vast. This article looks at a range of popular generic shed models on offer, and offers advice on choosing and erecting the right shed for your needs. Whether your shed is intended as a playhouse, a hobby or relaxation area, or as a workshop, the chances are you can find exactly what you need.

Assessing Your Needs

Sheds can range from very basic functional models, to more opulent and decorative affairs. But the first consideration you should make is what size shed you’ll need. For instance, shed dimensions from self-build or installed kits tend to be available in standard sizes. These usually range from 6ft x 4ft, 7ft x 5ft and 8ft x 6ft for smaller storage sheds all the way sheds worthy of workshop spaces at 20ft x 12ft and 27ft x 12ft.

The size of your shed is one of the most important and primary factors in choosing the right model for you. This is because from a design perspective, it should fit in with existing structures and buildings around it – a shed that looms over otherwise small and quaint surroundings will definitely look amiss.

Space is also important because you need a space that will function in the best possible way for its intended purpose. For instance, if your shed is going to be used primarily as a storage building for garden equipment, then you’ll need about a foot of manoeuvring space around each piece of equipment, as well as space for shelving. However, if you intend to use your shed as a workspace, you’ll need around 3 feet between any equipment and workbenches. You should also consider installing durable load-bearing flooring, such as a hardwood or plywood.

Choosing a Site for Your Shed

Sheds are fairly lightweight compared to other buildings, so the footings or foundations needn’t be as substantial. However, an important consideration when choosing a site for your shed is the soil type. If you have particularly loamy or sandy soil, you may well need to incorporate a layer of hardcore or gravel about ¾ into the soil to introduce some more structure. Clay soils and areas that waterlog easily are also a potential problem, and you’ll have to consider drainage. Building the shed on slightly raised foundations that slope away will encourage draining and also combat other problems such as frost heave and rot.

Think about the position of your shed in relation to trees – permanently shady areas may cause problems with damp and rot, whereas areas that are exposed to sun all day may heat up in the summer. Deciduous trees will also shed their leaves and rot into a mulch, so its important to have access around all sides of your shed.

From a planning permission perspective, you will most likely not be restricted to erecting your shed. However if the shed or workshop is particularly large (over 10 cubic metres in volume), takes up more than 50% of the area within the boundaries of the original house, then you may have to apply. If you’re in any doubt, check with your local planning authority as restrictions may vary from locality to locality.

Laying a Base for Your Shed

The shed will need to be erected on a solid, level base. If your garden is sloping, then you’ll need to level out a slope with various hardcore materials and soil. Storage sheds will probably only need to be erected on gravel or sleepers, but if you intend to use the space more frequently, then it’s perhaps a better option to opt for a stronger, more durable base such as concrete or paving slabs. To avoid damp on clay soils, you could also opt for erecting the shed on raised, stacked concrete blocks.

Choosing a Design for Your Shed

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most shed designs are the same. In essence they are – they tend to be constructed from wood, have a door and most will also have a window or two. If you’re building a self-assembly shed, then your options are less limited (although still vast) than if you were to design yourself from scratch. Of course, you’ll need a strong skillset and level of competence if you want to take this route, otherwise self-assembly sheds or building from plans is the way to go.

But on closer inspection, there are many different subtle and not-so-subtle differences to shed designs. For instance, roofing materials can vary and each creates a different look. Roofs are the most common indicator of architectural style (for instance, gambrel, gable and saltbox), and so are an important architectural consideration. The most common options are shingle felting, cedar shakes, standing-seam material, and agricultural ribbed metal. It’s best to try to match the style of the building with the materials.

Decorative Features

The materials for your sidings are also important in creating a ‘look’. Most economy sheds are constructed from softwood – usually pine or spruce. These are less expensive because the wood is faster growing. However, more expensive slow-growing hardwood such as oak, ash or birch will be much more durable, stronger and have a beautiful natural grain. A compromise is the naturally decay-resistant red cedar and redwood softwoods.

House-like features such as painted timber, glazed sash windows, porches and other decorative features give the shed a less utilitarian appearance. A simple difference between vertical and horizontal sidings, or panelling such as reconstituted wood product panels or plywood will make all the difference to appearance and durability.

So if you’re a keen gardener, and just want a functional space to store your tools and pots, then a classic softwood pine shed with a Perspex window is most likely the best option. If you’re more interested in architectural style and want to incorporate your shed along as a more decorative feature in your overall gardening design scheme, then you may want to add extra features such as an area to display flowers, a window that opens, a decorative roofline or a porch. The choice really is entirely yours!

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