Any outdoor building represents a considerable investment – in time and effort, as much as hard earned cash – so it pays to make sure that you get the right one. While much of that depends on what you expect it to do, there are a number of general things to consider when selecting any kind of building for your garden.
Choosing Wooden Buildings
The useful lifespan of any wooden building depends on the quality of the timber used and the standard of construction, making the old adage that “you get what you pay for” a very good general guide. It is always worthwhile looking at finished examples of the buildings you are thinking about buying, if you possibly can, before you make up your mind and comparing them carefully to see what the difference in cost actually buys you. Most suppliers and big outlets will have “show” buildings and any time spent looking round them will be worth it in the long run.
Inspect the cladding from the inside to see if any gaps allow daylight through – this will give you a very good indication of the overall build quality. There are many types of cladding including tongue-and-groove, feather-edged weatherboard, rebated weatherboard, waney-edged and ship-lap. Of these, tongue-and-groove, rebated weatherboard and ship-lap give the best general weather protection; overlapping waney-edged and feather-edged weatherboard can warp if they are too thin and are generally a little less weather-proof than the more expensive styles of cladding.
Other features to look for in the best quality wooden buildings are strong internal frames, solid, cross-braced doors with strong hinges and locks, well-fitting windows, a strong roof covered in thick felt and a firm floor. The timber itself should ideally be naturally rot-resistant, such as cedar although cheaper sheds made from properly pressure treated softwoods can be very good alternatives, especially if well cared for and regularly treated and maintained.
Choosing a Greenhouse
The most common form of free-standing greenhouse is the apex-roofed variety and this can often be the best choice for the first-time glasshouse grower because it gives the greatest overall flexibility. Alternative designs such as lean-to greenhouses, circular, pyramidal and geodesic domes are also available and most of the usual outlets – including larger DIY stores, garden centres and catalogue shops – have versions for sale.
One of the biggest considerations when choosing a greenhouse is the amount of vacant space, which can be a serious limit in some gardens although even so, it is usually possible to do something. Since the confines of the sort of 6ft x 4ft greenhouse often sold as a “starter” are almost always outgrown in double-quick time, it really is important to pick the largest you can afford and accommodate.
Most modern greenhouse frames tend to be either metal – usually aluminium – or wood. Aluminium-framed greenhouses, sometimes “glazed” in Perspex rather than glass, are the most common type seen on offer by general retailers and can sometimes be obtained by mail order too. The huge numbers sold gives a measure of how successful the design has been in practice and for many gardeners, the ease of construction and relatively cheap price tag makes them ideal.
Timber-framed greenhouses tend to be available from more specialist companies and large garden centres and there is often a large assortment of costs and qualities to pick from – ranging from “budget” versions to wonderfully finished and very substantial buildings. Superb cedar wood greenhouses, for instance, look amazing in any garden, but a strongly-built example might cost more than five times as much as a cheaper softwood equivalent.
Where you live can also be a factor to take into account. A particularly wet climate, for example, may call for a higher degree of weather-proofing than elsewhere while very windy sites need sturdy and robust greenhouses – and, despite the additional expense, toughened glass is a definite must!
A good outbuilding is a great asset and can help extend the scope and enjoyment of your garden. With very few exceptions, you do get what you pay for, so it is worth taking the time to make sure you get the best value for your money and end up with the sort of building that is really going to meet your needs. After all, a well maintained garden building should still be with you for many years to come.