Make your shed fit for purpose

Sheds these days come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but make sure they’re cosy.

A sylvan workshop footed in climbers in fainting romantic blue. A loyal shiplap defender of garden tools and mower. The garden shed is as versatile and varying as the rustic vision of its owners.

There’s a seductive resinous snuff to the air in a new timber shed that frees up thoughts of some relaxed outdoor eccentricity along with the horticultural possibilities.

Men, with their primal understanding that the garden is essentially a place to hide, are the first to place a forgotten chair at the lolling open door of the proud little outbuilding. As soon as you place any manmade object in the garden, however quaint, it becomes a focal point. External styling really counts.

Sheds come in a wide choice of designs and materials. Today you can replace the transient joys of timber with a concrete panelled shed (astounding for security and rot, rodent, rust and fire proof), plastic, (horrible- sorry), or steel (honest, edgy, secure and bounding through the borders for popularity).

The apex roof gives maximum headroom, but the modest ‘pent’ with one gentle slope has a pleasing traditional guise for an unpretentious working garden shed.

Overhung ‘verandas’ offered with the more ambitious ‘garden room’ are charming if you fancy posing out of the drizzle like a Black Forest figurine. The great allotment survivor — the potting shed, features a large area of glass for starting tender young plants. As a timber hybrid of a glasshouse and shed it is obviously not as secure as a full shed.

A COSY DEN

If you want to spend significant time say, crafting in an exploded armchair or reading a book, you’ll need to at least approach some level of habitable comfort.

On warmer days a bald wood shed will soon feel stuffy and a smaller metal shed will be unbearable for more than a few minutes. Retro-fitting insulation adds some control to the internal environment, reducing draughts, damp and stabilising the ambient temperature.

This one step, without the addition of any form of space heating, can extend your shed-dwelling season by months. Metal sheds condense damp on their cool surface. Non-sweat surfacing (a slightly furry finish) tackles the problem collecting and wicking the wet away, but this won’t warm things up.

Mineral wool or glass fibre batting can be stuffed into the wood frame behind sheets of MDF or plywood. If you’re concerned about loose insulation fibres add a seal of builder’s plastic with your trusty staple gun.

The next step up cost-wise, for wall and roof insulation, is rigid board insulation material of 65mm to 75mm or reflective roll quilting which would lower heat retaining ‘U’ values even further.

For a lasting job, start by lining the inside walls with breathable membrane stapled to the walls over slim battens to handle any wet that would cause fibre or board insulation to sag. 25mm is the standard gap advised for air to circulate between the membrane and shed walls.

To complete your insulated void, improve the spring and feel underfoot. In an existing shed where retaining height for standing room is vital, old carpet laid over sheets of 50mm polystyrene is often sufficient. This time use a fully waterproof membrane of even builder’s plastic on compacted stone. If you’re putting in a new shed, the floor can be framed out to lift it up and off the ground on bearers which are then insulated and finished with plywood or something similar with a structural integrity resistant to warping.

Once you have tightened and tailored insulation, it’s vital to keep an eye on ventilation, especially if you’re utilising any sort of heating or simply spending long periods with the door shut. Most un-insulated sheds are draughty enough to cope with the humidity caused by your breath, but if you opt for the cheapest solutions of naked bubble wrap set straight on the walls, and have installed rigid polycarbonate secondary glazing, pop the door open regularly.

Reduce the chance of rodent attention by keeping the shed clean of clutter, crumbs or stored foodstuffs. If you’re determined on a more ambitious out-office or ‘chalet’ expect a whole other level of internal finish to including full wiring, insulation and even a tiled roof.

SHED DRESSING

It seems a shame to gussy a shed up to the point that it’s indistinguishable from a fully civilised room in the house (and chances are, in a modest project it will come over as a pretty poor effort). Retain that air of unashamed rusticity with natural materials, easy finishes and robust, honest storage ideas.

A garden room feel is ideal for recycling materials be they structural sound but shabby furnishings or chipped ornaments to gather on a rough wooden table.

Wooden crates or wire baskets nailed up as box shelving are practical and attractive in terraced groups. A thin wash of emulsion paint can dress up timber, ply and MDF if the all wood surrounds are too much for you. Remnants of your favourite fabric set on taut curtain wire over the window offer a sense of escape to play, and cost next to nothing. It’s possible to use an emulsion on the exterior of your timber shed too, but keep in mind this will not tackle the fungus, mould and weathering as well as a dedicated outdoor product.

Consider muted shades drawn from the earth, sea and sky over the wendy house assault of pinks and yellow.

DIY TIPS

10 savvy shed-buyer tips

¦ When buying a timber shed or sourcing timber framing and siding, ensure they are not peppered with large knot holes. These can fall out over time reducing the integrity of the building. Check for irregular gaps between boards, bows, bends, odd angles, protruding nails or screws and split timbers.

¦ A large shed should have at least five uprights along the long walls and four at the ends. Get rough with the show shed. Jump up and down and lean on the walls with your entire weight. Wood bearers should be made from pressure treated timber securely fixed to the base of the building.

¦ Timber cladding comes in rebate ship-lap, T&G cladding, rebate weatherboard, and feather edged overlap. In terms of a tight build, T&G offers a better start for a regularly lived in shed.

¦ If you want to use the shed as a workshop ensure you choose a model with a large window that opens, to provide plenty of natural light and ventilation.

¦ Steel sheds will keep your investment tools safe. Prices from around €1,200 for a 6’x 10’ shed with opening window.

¦ All hardware should be galvanised. Take a look at the hinges, locks and handles of the door. Is the door well fixed and secure?

¦ Roofing felt should be of a good thick grade and attached with the correct tacks. Eaves should overhang the building by a minimum of 5cm. Check gutters are well secured and of reasonable quality.

¦ Extras in sheds include double doors, alternative roofing materials (felt is generally standard), extra windows, and a finished floor. Extra headroom will make the shed infinitely more practical as a staging post for DIY projects.

¦ Install a firm, level, area of gravel, concrete pavers, a concrete base or a prefabricated timber base before delivery.

¦ A garden shed can be built without planning as long as it does not extend out in front of the building line of your house, does not exceed 3 metres in height, and is less than 25 metres in floor area. For more information log onto www.environ.ie

BURST INTO BLOOM

Bloom 2014, kicks off in the Phoenix Park this coming Thursday, and features a world of events, products and activities for the whole family. Whether you are laying paving, staging a shed, tailoring borders or looking for the latest development in horticulture and garden design, there’s so much to enjoy. This year includes 30 sumptuous show gardens to inspire visitors to tame and beautify those domestic jungles.

¦ Tickets from €11.50 — kids go free. www.bloominthepark.com


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