Of all the garden outbuildings, the shed remains one of the most popular and frequently erected. Whether used as a simple store for garden equipment, as a true potting shed or as a multi-functional space acting as combined tool storage, workshop and general household overspill, a shed is always a valued investment.
Summerhouses are not far behind in popularity and as many people have come to realise, this type of outdoor building can bring huge benefits for relatively modest cost. Far from being “the poor-man’s conservatory”, although they do have much in common, the summerhouse has a character and charm all of its own.
With almost every DIY shop, garden centre and even many of the catalogue shops offering designs of both, it can sometimes be a little difficult to know which to chose and, as always, a lot depends on how you intend to use yours once you have built it. However, the up-side of this breadth of choice is that whatever you do want to do, there is almost certainly a version to suit.
The Garden Shed
With very few exceptions, there are two general types to be seen – the apex-roof and the pent-roof – and each has its advantages. With a roof in the shape of an inverted letter “V”, the apex version offers maximum height in the middle of the building and makes a good choice for a shed which is to have workbenches to the sides.
The pent roof slopes from front to back, which provides good upright storage space against the higher wall, which can be an advantage if particularly tall items needs to be accommodated, such as tree-pruning tools or long lengths of timber. Beyond this, there is very little to choose between them and mostly the decision comes down to personal choice and where the shed is going to be sited.
Wood is, without a doubt, the most commonly used material – especially for self-assembly sheds – and consists of overlapping or interlocking cladding attached to a frame. There are many different styles of cladding available, including tongue-and-groove, waney-edged and ship-lap, built to suit a range of budgets.
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for, so a very well finished, heavy-duty shed will cost many times more than its flimsy counterpart; knowing the sort of use you need it to stand up to is a vitally important factor in the selection process.
Naturally rot-resistant sheds made from the likes of cedar tend to be the most expensive – while the more common softwood types are considerably cheaper. However, softwood sheds can enjoy a long useful life, especially if their timber has been pressure treated, rather than just painted with preservative, and they are regularly maintained.
Metal sheds have been gradually becoming more popular. Mostly made out of aluminium panels, they are ideal for self assembly and once in place require little maintenance. They typically do not have windows as they are principally intended as tool stores.
The typical modern summerhouse is a close relative of the shed – but with more glass and generally less junk lying around! Although any plot can benefit from one, summerhouses really come into their own in smaller, north-facing back gardens, where the evening sun in particular can be difficult to enjoy, even at the height of summer.
By carefully locating your summerhouse as far to the north as you can and aligning it to face in a broadly westerly direction, you should be able to catch the best of the light through the late afternoon and evening. With a bit of imaginative planting in and around the summerhouse, a very pleasant haven can be created without too much effort – making it a perfect spot to unwind after work.
Much of the same considerations apply to summerhouses as to sheds in terms of quality and price – though with so much more glazing involved, for safety’s sake, it is a very good idea to make sure that this is the best quality you can afford and take care if you build it yourself.
Both sheds and summerhouses are valuable outbuildings in their respective ways and can add a great deal to the enjoyment and usefulness of any garden. Although the larger versions inevitably offer the greatest flexibility and scope, some very good designs have been made with the smaller garden in mind – so however little space you have, these buildings are well worth considering.