What does a shed look like? If you had a shed at home when you were a kid, you’ve probably got a wooden structure in mind – perhaps even something approaching a miniature log cabin. But these days, there are many more options available.
Corrugated metal has been a go-to material for sheds needing to be erected quickly. In fact, after World War II, hundreds of thousands of corrugated iron backyard bomb shelters found a new peacetime life as garden stores and sheds, and you’ll still see light-weight sheet metal sheds in stores today.
Allotment sheds, which have to survive from owner to owner, are often stone-built, though more modern ones tend to go for the convenience and speed of breeze blocks over brick or stone.
For a ready-made or self-assembly shed, you’re most likely find a choice between wood and plastic. Both materials are good value, lightweight and relatively easy to handle, but which one is best?
Here’s our take on the plastic vs wooden shed showdown.
Why go plastic?
The first reason you might want to look at a plastic shed is your pocket. As with everything, you get what you pay for, and whilst you can invest in high-quality, high-cost plastic sheds, the general rule is that plastic will not set you back as much as its wooden or metal equivalent.
Plastic should also be free from on-going costs. A quick wipe down with a damp cloth is all the shed care you’ll need, and there are no wood preservatives or rust guards to invest in.
While plastics have, in the past, been relatively flimsy materials, modern material science has done wonders to produce a product that will last through many a long, wet British winter. Look for weather-resistant resins in the cladding – polycarbonate is a common material. Good quality plastic sheds will often feature a steel frame that adds durability and wind resistance. Check the warranty on any sheds that you inspect – you could find out that your plastic shed is guaranteed to last a decade or more.
Most people garden for fun. For some, that means indulging in major construction projects. If that’s not you, the ease of putting a plastic shed together will be a major attraction. You won’t need any saws, workbenches, or allen keys with a plastic shed – most of them click into place as easily as a kid’s construction kit.
Very light. This means manoeuvring parts into position is relatively easy and pain-free. It also means you can easily shift your shed into the right position once it’s in place. If you want to check out your siting options during the process of putting your shed up, then a plastic shed allows you to look at things from all angles. And when the time comes to pack up and move on, your shed is ready to go in just a few minutes! Being a lightweight of the shed world does have its disadvantages, though, particularly on exposed sites – use a base or weight your structure down if necessary, you don’t want it flying across the garden!
The many possibilities
Sheds become hiding places, man caves, hobby shops, treatment rooms, writing offices, rehearsal halls and much more once they’re in the garden. Plastic is great for those who want to make the shed of their own particular dreams. Modular design and construction means you can often tailor your shed to the exact shape of your shed-shaped site, and even add an extra wing as your ambitions grow with time.
Wood also comes in one colour: cut timber coloured. But plastic sheds are available in a rainbow of shades that match their functional and construction variety – if you want bespoke, then plastic is the material for you.
What’s in the wood?
Perhaps a plastic shed just doesn’t cut it for you. One of the chief attractions of wood is its look. While a plastic shed can be off-white or day-glow pink, most of our gardens are designed to celebrate the natural world, and this is where a wooden shed shines. It sits in the garden looking as natural as the trees and plants surrounding it.
That ‘natural’ feel extends to an area with very real consequences for us all: sustainability. Check your wooden shed for its Forestry Stewardship Council accreditation marks and you can be sure that you’re buying something that has a low impact on the environment. What’s more, it’s likely that you’ll find a second use for your shed or its constituent parts after it’s no longer working in the garden. The same isn’t true of plastic, however. No matter how responsibly you dispose of your waste, plastic can no longer be considered a sustainable, long-term material.
Inside your wooden shed, you’ll notice a natural advantage: no matter what the weather, it will be cool. This is in stark contrast to the oven-like properties of a poorly placed metal or plastic shed.
You’ll also love wood if you ever fancy putting up shelves. Even an inexperienced handyman can patch up a wooden shed without damaging its looks – some people might say it adds to the charm.
In most cases, plastic sheds will leave you with more bang for your buying buck, but wooden sheds are by no means expensive. Buy a small kit with overlap cladding and no preservative treatment – or just dip treatment – and you’ll find you can get quite a decent sized shed for next to nothing.
For a no-compromise approach, invest in tongue-and-groove cladding and pressure treated timber and you’ll have a construction with a lifespan that will match anything plastic.
And there’s no rule that says you have to stick to staining – paint your wooden shed, run trellis up the sides and watch roses or edible squash go rambling up the walls and over the roof, nail up any number of trinkets, stones, signs, and mementos. A wooden shed can be a blank canvas for an imaginative gardener.
So, a plastic or wooden shed? We’ll leave that one to you.