Shed loads of room

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You may think that a shed is just a shed, but it doesn’t have to be. It can also add value and provide useful living space, albeit in the garden, says Julia Gray

Traditionally somewhere to keep DIY and garden tools, bikes and outdoor furniture (and a refuge for dad), sheds can be used for much more than just storage space.

If you’ve outgrown your home and don’t want to move, a garden shed can become a useful living area, as long as it’s easily accessible from the house and (preferably) has water, heat, power and insulation.

Because it’s separate from the house, it can be a good place to do quiet or noisy activities, such as playing the drums.

You can turn a shed into a drinks bar/entertaining space, workroom/studio, music or games room, home office or gym, or playroom/den - pretty much whatever you and your family needs.

Cuprinol runs an annual Shed of the Year competition (there’s a link to this year’s winner at www.cuprinol.co.uk) and the entrants include some amazing examples of what sheds can become.

Fitting out a shed with everything needed to make it useable and comfortable won’t necessarily be cheap, but it should be cheaper than moving home.

You can convert an existing shed, or buy one tailored to your needs with all mod cons. Specialist companies do bespoke designs, including much more contemporary garden buildings than traditional sheds. For information on planning rules and building regulations for garden buildings, click on the shed on the interactive house at www.planningportal.gov.uk.

Garden sheds are usually wooden, but you can get metal ones. These are often easier and quicker to build and tend to be better value for money. However, if your metal shed requires a concrete base to form the floor (wooden sheds need a firm base but come with a floor), as many do, and you’re getting a builder or garden expert to construct the base, it can be quite expensive, especially for a large shed, so you may end up spending what you saved on the purchase price.

One of the best things about metal sheds is that they require very little maintenance, while wooden ones first have to be treated with wood preserver (unless they’re pre-treated) and a garden-wood stain or paint, and then maintained with more coats from time to time to prevent the wood from rotting and warping.

Metal sheds are more resistant to fire, rodents and insects than wooden ones, although they can be less able to withstand storms and high winds, are noisy when it’s raining and are hot inside in summer and cold in winter. If you’re worried about corrosion, check out the Yardmaster range at Screwfix - these metal sheds have a 10-year anti-rust guarantee.

While metal sheds certainly have advantages, the look of them isn’t for everyone. To many people, wooden sheds are more aesthetically appealing and because they’re made of a natural material, they blend into the garden better. It’s also easy to enhance them with colour.

Garden-wood paints have come a long way since brown ruled supreme, and you can make quite a statement with your colour choice. Stripes, for example, are brilliant for a beach-hut effect, while cream and pastel greens and blues are perfect for a pretty pop of colour that isn’t too jarring. Cuprinol, Ronseal and Sadolin do some lovely garden colours, so check out their ranges.

Now’s a good time to paint your shed because it will be weatherproofed ready for winter, so don’t delay!