Choosing an Allotment Shed

Now that I finally have a base ready for the allotment shed, the time has come for me to go shopping! Ever since I took on a plot that was big enough for me to have both a greenhouse and a shed, I’ve been evaluating options. I started out planning to get just a standard ‘run of the mill’ 8×6, which is what most people choose for their back garden.

Time spent working the plot since I took it on has given me the time to think about what kind of shed will work for me, and what I need it to accomplish. The biggest realisation for me is that an allotment shed needs to accomplish far more than a garden shed.

What will your allotment shed be used for?

Garden sheds are typically used for storage and little else. Kids toys, bikes, perhaps tools and more often than not – a load of junk! Allotment sheds, however, often function more as huts than typical sheds. They are somewhere to shelter from the rain, prepare a hot drink and simply relax.

A cosy interior! From @SuesAllotment on Instagram

For some, this means simply having enough space for a foldable chair and a camping kettle. I’ve seen people use sheds as small as 3ft x 5ft for this purpose – but there really is only room for one person and not much else!

Most find that a standard 8ft x 6ft shed is more than adequate. Two people can comfortably fit inside, leaving room for a small ‘kitchen’ area.

In my case, I’m hoping to fulfil three objectives. Firstly, a place to prepare food & drink. Secondly, a place to relax and unwind – hopefully, keep warm during the winter months too.  Finally, a small workspace – somewhere I can write and plan.

New, Used or Build?

A Free Shed may need a ‘bit of work’!

It’s common to see used sheds offered for sale (or free) locally, usually on the proviso that you can dismantle and take it away. More often than not, these are the standard 8×6 size. They will usually need some form of repair work. If you’re handy with tools and have the means to transport, this can be a cheap way of acquiring a reasonably sized shed. For the particularly able, you may consider building your own shed instead. Having considered that option myself, I’m not convinced it works out a great deal cheaper than buying something ‘off the shelf’ though. Unless of course, you’re building from recycled (and free) materials, such as pallets.

Personally, I’ve discounted the idea of building something myself as I’m not confident I have the skills required. As it will be used not only by myself but also my children, being structurally sound is important.

Metal, Wood or Plastic for an Allotment Shed?

The majority of sheds are made of wood. Metal and Plastic offerings have increased significantly in recent years though, so it’s worth considering those too. Metal sheds won’t rot or burn down and are potentially more secure. However, they’re generally not aesthetically pleasing and attract condensation – limiting what you could store in them. Modern plastic sheds are more attractive and have the advantage of not requiring maintenance. However, with both metal and plastic options, you’re limited in terms of customising them to suit.

A wooden allotment shed allows you to customise relatively easily. Shelving and other accessories are easily fitted to wood. Wood, however, does require annual maintenance if it’s to last.

Pent versus Apex

Here in the UK, we typically have a choice of two roof options – Pent or Apex. There are a few ‘barn’ style options, which is a popular style in the US. However, those tend to be much more expensive.

For most people, the choice comes down to personal preference. Apex is more ‘traditional’, or classic. A pent shed has a single slope – usually the highest point being at the front. An Apex shed is tallest in the middle, sloping down on either side. It’s said that Pent is better for Storage as the highest point is more evenly distributed. With a pent style, you also have maximum headroom at the entry point.

However, if you plan to work in the shed, or use it for recreation, Apex is more suited. With an Apex style shed, the maximum headroom is in the centre. That allows you to perhaps have storage along one length, and work tables along the other.

Quality versus Price

Spend any length of time browsing websites or catalogues, and you’ll quickly realise that sheds of the same size can vary in price massively. Usually, the price is dictated by the quality of materials used and the way they’re used.

At the cheapest and lowest quality end, you usually find the roof and floor made of OSB, which is more prone to ‘sagging’. Budget sheds are also more likely to use ‘overlap’ cladding. A better quality shed will use Tongue & Groove timber, particularly for the walls and floor.

If you can, it’s worthwhile viewing a selection of sheds in person to get an idea of how the materials affect the overall structure. Most ‘big shed’ DIY stores have a display with a variety of styles to view.

Check for Extras

It shouldn’t be assumed that when your shed is delivered, you’ll have everything you need. Roof covering, such as felt, is often extra, for example. Padlocks are rarely provided too. Also bear in mind that most sheds are simply ‘dip treated’ upon delivery, so you’ll need to paint and/or treat it as soon as possible.

While many suppliers will deliver for free, some do charge. The charge can be significant too, so it’s worth checking before you commit. Also, check whether the supplier will deliver to your allotment. Some suppliers will only deliver to the billing address. No good unless you live next door to your plot!

When considering your options, think about how these extras add up.

Consider the Future use of your Allotment Shed

For a while, I’d set my sights on a particular model. That model just happened to have a pent-style roof. As I thought about it some more, and my future plans, I realised it would be completely unsuitable. Why? Because at some point I want to add solar panels – and given where I intend to put my shed, a pent style would mean the roof facing North. Not ideal for solar generation!

Consider also whether you’re likely to want to ‘spruce up’ the exterior of your allotment shed. Do you want to add some decorative edging around the windows, for example? T&G walls make this far easier than overlap.

While many will say ‘it’s just an allotment shed’ – consider how much time you’ll spend in it. How you’ll use it. How likely is it to be vandalised? If your plot is in an area at risk of vandalism, it probably makes sense to ‘make do’ with the cheapest you can. If your site is secure and you’re a frequent visitor, the extra cost spent on your allotment shed will likely be worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

Lee Bailey
lee@forkmojo.com

Organic Allotmenteer, RHS Student, Husband, Father & Programmer

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