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How to buy the best shed

By Jade Harding

Our expert garden-shed buying guide reveals the different types of sheds, typical prices and sizes and even explains how to build a shed

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The best sheds can provide a stable, waterproof and secure home for your tools and gardening supplies and could even make for a cosy work office. The worst will be inaccessible, damp and flimsy.

Use our expert advice to help you decide on the most suitable type, the features you should look out for and how to build and maintain your garden shed.

In this article:

Garden tool reviews: see our independent reviews and buying advice for everything from lawn mowers to grass trimmers.

Types of sheds 

Sheds are typically categorised by the material they are made from. We run through the pros and cons of the three most popular shed types:

Wood sheds

As a popular option in the UK, there are plenty of different shapes and sizes of wooden sheds to choose from. They are typically made from softwoods – usually pine (sometimes referred to as redwood or red deal) or spruce (white deal). A few are larch or Douglas fir and, in theory, these should be slightly more resistant to rot. Most rot-resistant of all are cedar sheds, but these are almost twice the price of pine ones.

To keep a wooden shed in good condition and free from rot you’ll need to give it a treatment every year which can be pricey, or you can pick a shed that’s been pressure treated.

And if you’re handy you could even build and personalise it yourself.

Pros

  • Plenty of choice
  • Versatile – can be personalised, altered or added to easily
  • Can assemble at home
  • Easy to repair if needed
  • Good insulator – stays cooler in warm weather and warmer in cool weather

Cons

  • Most will need to be treated regularly – extra time and costs
  • Typically less secure making them more vulnerable to thieves

Metal sheds

Made from either steel or galvanised aluminium, metal sheds can really differ in quality. Cheaper options made with thin panels can be extremely flimsy, while more quality metal sheds will be strong, less prone to rust and more secure.

Once they’ve been assembled they won’t really need any maintenance, bar the odd bit of grease in the door hinges.

However, when it’s warm the inside temperature of the shed will quickly rise making them a poor choice for home offices or working sheds.

Pros

  • Budget options
  • Maintenance free
  • Durable – won’t rot or get eaten by insects

Cons

  • Usually no floor surface
  • Can be tricky to assemble
  • Not as sturdy – you may need fixtures to anchor down
  • May rust over time
  • Not breathable – the temperature inside will change with the weather
  • Not easily customised
  • Condensation will occur if there isn’t a built-in ventilator

Plastic sheds

Made from vinyl, plastic sheds are typically very light. This is perfect if you’re manoeuvring the shed around the garden or for lifting to assemble but not so helpful in stormy weather. Opting for a shed with anchors to the floor should help keep it sturdy.

Maintenance free, durable and easy to assemble – most will snap in place – plastic sheds are becoming more popular, however they can be tricky to customise and there are more limited sizes and shapes.

Pros

  • Light
  • Durable – rot and rust-free
  • Maintenance free
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • Flimsy
  • Hard to customise
  • Limited shapes and sizes
  • Hard to secure
  • Not environmentally friendly
  • Not breathable – the temperature inside will change with the weather

Other types of sheds

Potting sheds – feature a large sloping window made of thin glass or plastic, to allow heat and light to travel through.

Lean-to sheds – sheds that lean against a solid structure like the house. Ideal if you’re low on space.

Corner sheds – designed to sit in the corner of the garden.

Sheds with a greenhouse - perfect for keen gardeners that want to make one structure work for both storage and growing your veg.

Types of shed roofs

  • Pent shed – single sloping roof with the highest point situated on the door side.
  • Reverse pent shed – single sloping roof with the highest point situated at the back.
  • Appex shed – two sloping sides that meet down the middle of the shed.
  • Reverse apex shed – two sloping sides that meet in the middle along the entire length of the shed.

Types of shed bases 

All sheds will need to be sat on a sturdy, level surface otherwise the building will shift and misalign. If you want to position your shed on grass it will need a shed base.

Shed bases typically come in metal or plastic. Or you’ll find sheds that have metal frames which can be filled with concrete or covered to create a floor and a base in one.  

If it's a greenhouse you're looking for instead, head straight to our guide on how to buy the best greenhouse

How much do I need to pay for a good shed? 

To get your hands on a quality, medium-sized shed you’ll need to spend upwards of £150/£200. But the average price will all depend on the material, the size and the extra features.

You’ll typically spend more for wooden sheds than you will for metal or plastic – a larger wooden shed can cost more than £500, while small plastic storage sheds can be found for less than £100.

Spend more and you should expect a stronger roof, better wood, thicker frames and sturdy doors. But if you’re just looking for somewhere to store the odd gardening tool, a cheap, plastic storage shed should be fine.

Where to buy a shed? 

Both generalist retailers and dedicated garden shops offer a wide range of sheds. To make sure you're buying a shed that's well built and safe to use, only shop with trusted sellers online or in-store.

Ideally, you'd get to see the shed in-store before buying, but if this isn’t possible, find out as much information about it as possible before investing.

For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty equipment, see our online shopping advice.

Popular shops that sell sheds include:

Shed sizes 

Sheds come in a variety of sizes, but here are a few of the most popular sizes:

It’s important to remember that these are exterior measurements; therefore you will probably have slightly less usable floor space in the shed.

You will also be able to find much smaller and bigger sheds if the above sizes don’t suit your needs.

Think about what you’ll be using the shed for, the tools you need to fit in and how much space there is in your garden. You should also make sure you can access the door easily.

Single doors range from about 3ft wide to just 2ft 2in. The wider the opening, the wider the items you’ll be able to bring inside. If a shed you like has poor access, check whether higher eaves (allowing extra headroom) and/or a wider or double door are available as optional extras.

Do you need planning permission for a shed?

Most small to medium-sized domestic sheds will not need planning permission but whenever you’re doing any significant work to the interior or exterior of your property it’s always worth double checking.

Some factors that might mean you should seek planning permission include:

  1. The shed is used for anything other than domestic purposes.
  2. You live in a listed building.
  3. The shed is bigger than half the total area of the property.
  4. The shed is in front or on the side elevation of the house that faces the road.
  5. The shed is or exceeds 4 metres high.
  6. The eaves height is or exceeds 2.5 metres and is within 2 metres of the property boundary.
  7. The shed sits within the surrounding 3.5 metres of the boundary of a road to the rear of house.
  8. If you live in a house within a world heritage site, area of outstanding natural beauty or national park
  9. The building is used for keeping pigeons.

If you’re still unsure, here’s the Government’s planning permission advice for outbuildings and structures.

Shed features and accessories 

  • Shed paint or stain – used to brighten up or improve the appearance of your shed. Opt for a paint made for sheds to ensure it’s durable, protects the shed and can withstand weather conditions.
  • Flooring – some sheds will come with flooring included, while others will have a base that's plenty for what you're using it for. If not, you can choose from materials such as rubber, wood and plastic for your floor. 
  • Shed insulation – will help you keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • Gutter kit – leads rainwater away from the shed and into a water butt to reuse for watering plants or other gardening jobs.
  • Storage – from shelves to hooks and boxes, there are loads of storage options to choose from.
  • Loft shelf – if you’re short on space, add some roof storage.
  • Ramp – will help you get heavy machinery in and out of the shed.
  • Tool rack – to hang all your tools up neatly and safely. 
  • Locks – keep your shed secure with a sturdy locking system; choose from rim locks, pad bolts, door bars and hasp and staples.
  • Shed door bars – offer an extra level of security. They run along the width of the door so it can’t be pushed inwards.
  • Alarm systems/lights – for extra security you can fit alarm systems or security lighting.
  • Lighting – solar or battery powered lights are easy to use. However if you plan to be in the shed a lot or you’re creating a shed office then you’ll need to get a qualified electric to connect it to the mains.

If you’re looking for a recommended electrician you can trust, visit Which? Trusted Traders to find someone near you who has been through our rigorous background checks.

How to build a shed 

Most sheds will get delivered in pieces that will need to be installed. Before setting up your shed you should have prepared your shed base.

Here’s a basic step-by-step guide on how to build a wooden shed:

  1. Read the instructions carefully.
  2. Lay out all the components – this is a good time to check nothing is missing.
  3. If a floor is included, lay this down and secure following the instructions.
  4. Lay the front panel down and fit the hinges onto the door and screw them into the door battens.
  5. Place the front panel and side panels onto the floor and screw them into place (you’ll need another pair of hands to hold the panels steady).
  6. Leave some screws slightly loose so the shed has a bit of give while you align the components.
  7. Add the back of the shed, check everything is level and screw in fully.
  8. If your shed has a window, now’s the time to slot it into place.
  9. For an apex roof design fit the wooden baton across the top to the back of the shed.
  10. Measure and cut the felt, then tack it down over one side at a time with some overhang on both ends.
  11. Nail down the wooden batons which frame the roof and cut the remaining overhanging felt.
  12. Finally, secure any remaining wooden batons to the joints.

For metal and plastic sheds the process shouldn’t be much different but always check and follow the manual instructions.

If you’re not keen on DIY then check if the manufacturer offers an installation service.

Maintaining your shed 

Regular shed maintenance will prevent bigger repair jobs and lengthen its lifespan.

  • Clear dirt, plants and debris away – this will stop moisture building up and creating rot issues, while also deterring fungi and mould which can cause damage to the shed.
  • Treat any moss on the roof
  • Fit guttering – to avoid water soaking the sides and rot setting in.
  • Apply protective treatment to the wood every year. You can also get protective treatment for metal sheds.
  • Grease hinges – they can seize up easily so keep them well lubricated.
  • Repair any holes – to avoid leaks, rot and rust.

Shed security 

Sheds can be very tempting to thieves especially if they look unsecure or you can see expensive items are stored inside.

Aside from ensuring you’ve taken relevant steps to deterring criminals, always make sure your home insurance covers your shed and its contents.

Sheds are generally covered under buildings and contents policies as 'outbuildings"' though definitions and cover levels can vary between insurers and policies.

Here are our top tips to keeping your shed safe and secure:

  • Bolt the roof down – many criminals will get into the shed through the roof.
  • Get a sturdy, fully framed door – with a proper locking system.
  • Add external hinge locks – to make it harder to get into.
  • Add a door bar - so the door can’t be pushed inwards.
  • Lock up any valuable items in the shed with lockable storage drawers or units.
  • Install a shed alarm – and/or security lights.

Want to know more about home insurance? Here's home insurance explained.  

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