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7 questions to consider when building a shed

09 March 2015

Garden sheds are always a useful addition to the garden. Before you get started, read our frequently asked questions to help plan your build.

Garden shed faq

Before you buy and build your shed, and the outlay could run into hundreds, maybe even thousands of pounds, decide why/what you want the shed for. If it’s simply to store clutter, maybe you’re better off simply decluttering.

If you see it as an office ‘retreat’ or a grand garden summer house, remember that you’ll then have to consider insulation, heating, perhaps LED lighting rather than just a bulb and socket, and that however nice it might seem on a sunny July afternoon, a November evening is quite another thing. It’s always better to build too big than too small.

Saga Home Insurance provides cover that goes beyond what you might expect. For more information and to get a quote click here.

Do I need planning permission for a garden shed?

A shed is deemed to be an outbuilding and you don’t need to seek planning permission, however there are restrictions. Simply because it’s made of wood with a felt roof doesn’t make it a shed if it’s 25m high, takes up most of the garden and boasts four bedrooms.

Your shed must be single storey with a maximum height of 4m, no nearer than 2.5m to the main house. It cannot take up more than half the garden.

Contact your local council planning office if you are not sure. Or visit visit Planning Portal and search for permission/commonprojects/outbuildings.

Self-build shed vs buying a shed kit

Building from scratch offers you freedom of design, choice of material and the satisfaction of ‘all my own work’. With kit-build you are at the mercy of the supplier’s eye for design and materials and your shed will look just like an off-the-peg outbuilding. However, kit-build should be relatively stress-free, even more so if the supplier will erect it for you, too. These extras don’t necessarily come cheap, particularly electrics etc.

imber is not cheap so before you embark on a custom-made shed cost it very carefully. Then cost it again. Don’t do anything on spec. Draw up your design and stick to it. Have all your materials and tools ready before you start and ensure that you have extra labour at hand if you think it’ll be necessary. And plan your time carefully.

Saga Home Insurance provides cover that goes beyond what you might expect. For more information and to get a quote click here.

Where should I position the garden shed?

Any shed must be built at least 2.5m away from the main house. It’s advisable to be able to walk round all four sides, or however many you choose. This gives you access for decorating and repair.

Butting your shed right against a garden fence doesn’t allow the shed room to ‘breathe’ and is an invitation for damp to set in. You also need all-round access for painting and any future repair.

Don’t use a shed side as a replacement fence side. Your current neighbour may have no problem with it, a future neighbour may well do. And if there are territory disputes you may find yourself having to move the whole shed rather than a fence panel or two. Also, a neighbour may not look too kindly on water from the guttering or straight off the roof landing in his flower beds. You may want to attach a water butt to your shed - read our guide to fitting a water butt.

Keep it away from an area which collects water. You don’t want to be traipsing mud and leaves in. Set it next to a paved path if you can, or add stepping stones to the grass leading up to it.

Are there any trees nearby? That young beech or ash may look pretty but build too near it and before too long you’re sharing floor space with its roots, which will buckle your shed floor before you know it.

Find out how to improve garden shed security

What should the shed's base be made of?

First level the ground. If you have an old building, flower bed, coal bunker etc on the site, take it down and remove the materials yourself. Shed-kit suppliers will to do it for you but at a cost. That goes for levelling the ground, too.

If a shed-kit supplier arrives to erect it for you, they won’t do it unless the ground is level. That will probably mean them doing it themselves, at extra cost. Suddenly unexpected costs are mounting up. If you don’t think you’re capable of levelling (or doing any other part of the job), budget for someone else to do it. If it means hiring an excavator (and maybe a man to run it), then do so. A smallish outlay early will save you misery later.

Like most things in life, a solid foundation is everything. Solid concrete blocks or wooden ‘skids’ will do the trick. Do not use old ‘hollow’ decorative garden wall blocks as they will probably crack under the weight of the shed (and what you put in it). Allow a gap of around 15cms off the ground on which to lay your wooden floor base.

Don’t use any old square of plywood for the shed's floor. Use pressure treated wood. Give it two good coats of damp proof paint on both sides before you lay it down.

How should the shed be lit?

Shed-kits should come with windows ready to assemble, but if you’re building your own then decide how many you want and where. If you’d prefer the window spaces to be taken up with shelving, you could opt for a skylight, but be careful when you come to felting the roof.

If you want electric light and/or heating get a qualified electrician to do the job. This goes for shed-kits, too. The supplier may offer the services of their own electricians. Ask what the cost is and then compare it with a couple of independent electricians, too.

You may want to put your shed within reach of a motion sensitive security light, both for deterring intruders and making it easier for you to access after dark.

Find out about garden security lighting options

What should the shed roof be like?

Roof felt will do a good job if fitted properly but be careful as it can tear quite easily. If you’re overlapping sheets ensure you use plenty of duct tape to hold the two edges. Water can easily seep in otherwise. Ensure it’s a sloping roof and that the guttering on the lowest side runs into a water butt or drains freely away, and not into your neighbour’s garden.

Will my insurance cover my garden shed?

Check that your home insurance covers not only the shed itself but the contents. If you keep valuable tools in the shed but leave the door unlocked you won’t get much sympathy from your insurance company. Saga can offer extra protection for your shed and gardening equipment. Get a Saga Home Insurance quote now.

Make sure your shed has fire cover, and that the electrician who fitted your wiring is licensed.

And if your shed is with tree-falling distance find out who owns the tree. The council, perhaps, or your neighbour, and if the shed it damaged by trees falling during a storm, who is liable.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.