|What we’ll cover in this blog…|
|The Fife Summerhouse Review Rules|
1. Anchor Timber Buildings
2. Central Fife Sheds
4. Premier Sheds and Garages
EXCITING TIMES, Sheddies! I’m writing my first review blog!
I’ve spent the past three months on a massive shed-learning curve, being instructed in the finer points of Shedlife by the good people at Gillies & Mackay. I’ve learned A LOT and also learned that there’s a WHOLE LOT MORE to learn. It feels like I’ll be learning about sheds for the rest of my life because these guys have 30+ years of experience when it comes to timber garden buildings. They know EVERYTHING! But I’m starting to be someone who knows about sheds.
I’m actually the perfect person to write a review blog, because as well as my in-house sheducation, I’ve done a whole lot of Googling over the past few months. I’ve researched shed companies near and far, and I’ve looked up different types of summerhouses and puzzled over words like dwang and donk. Sometimes shed companies just don’t make it easy for people like me and you to find out about their products. I understand that shopping for a summerhouse can be a complicated business, and finding a company you can trust is an important part of that process.
So to make things simpler for you, Dear Reader, today I’ll dive into the wonderful kingdom of Fife, and see what their summerhouse companies have to say for themselves.
The Fife Summerhouse Review Rules
Rules help control the fun, this isn’t a lawless land – so let’s lay down some ground rules before we kick things off.
|Rule 1: We don’t talk about ourselves. Gillies & Mackay do not appear in this blog. There’s a whole website about us and you know where to find it. This blog is not us sneakily bamming ourselves up. It’s an honest and impartial review.|
Rule 2: As far as possible, this blog compares like for like. I will choose one size of summerhouse and review products that are as similar as I can find. I’m not adding any optional extras to the buildings.
Rule 3: Everything I write is based on my personal experiences and opinions as I research each company. I’ll be as transparent as I can be about my process and my findings.
Rule 4: This review is based on desk research only. I’ve got access to the same information that you would have as a would-be customer looking online.
These are the companies that we are going to review:
I’m writing this review in an 8’ x 8’ rectangular summerhouse with a pent roof, so that’s the model I’m going to compare. Let’s get cracking!
How easy is it to find the summerhouses?
No one wants to be searching the internet for hours, so first things first I’m checking how easy it is to find things on the websites.
Anchor Timber Buildings
This is a beautiful-looking website with a clean design that features attractive photos of Anchor’s buildings. Anchor is having a sale. It’s clearly advertised on the home page, with two different offers until the end of May. There are five images to click through – two advertising their sales, and three directing you to other parts of the website. The navigation menu is easy to see and has a manageable number of options.
I’m immediately curious about their show village, mainly because it’s a cute name which conjures up cosy rural living with rosy-cheeked bairns running around playing and a welcoming pub. It’s not quite as romantic as I imagined but I was impressed by the scale of it. You can go and see “Over 120 timber buildings on display all under one roof.” I like that I could go and thoroughly explore and find the right building for me.
The News page feels a bit redundant, since the last post is from April 2021, and previous posts are pretty infrequent.
On to the Full Product Range page. I can see now why they need such a huge show village! Anchor has all sorts of timber structures, from sheds to playhouses to animal houses to barbecue cabins. Summerhouses are in there at the bottom, and I click on them to discover that Anchor has a dizzying array of summerhouse models.
Central Fife Sheds
Another great-looking website with a clear navigation menu. I was able to head straight to the Summerhouses section of the site and browse the different models available. The initial pictures of these models in the menu page aren’t very clear, but once I clicked through to the main page for each model I had a much better idea of what they offer.
Maybe I’m needing a visit to Specsavers, but I found the Forest Craft website really wee. Wee pictures, wee writing, just…wee.
Bonus points for the red highlight of the Products section in the navigation menu – this is exactly what I needed. Clicking on the Summer Houses section took me to a gallery of the different models available. All very easy and straightforward…or so I thought!
Premier Sheds & Garages
Premier’s website looks quite basic compared to the other companies, but there is a link to Summer/Play houses on their home page, as well as a Summer House link in the navigation menu.
Both of these links took me to the same page. However, this page features some photographs of various summerhouses, and that’s it. No descriptions, no model names, and nothing more except a Contact Us link.
Even better, the Contact page not only has phone numbers and an email address, but it also has a postal address, along with the invitation to write to them or visit.
I’m sorry, Premier. I’m a Millennial. I don’t even know where you buy stamps.
And before you dismiss me as a young whippersnapper who’s just out of nappies, let me remind you that Millennials are now in their 40s. We have jobs and kids and houses, and most importantly for you guys, gardens.
While there might be people out there hipster enough to write to a summerhouse company to ask what models they have, I don’t think we should encourage that sort of thing!
Please just give us a wee description of each summerhouse that you sell, along with the sizes, prices and specifications. That’s all we’re looking for.
Although prices are not the only important thing, we hate when you can’t find a price on a website. So we’re comparing price, and how easy it is to find.
Anchor Timber Buildings
The price of the Sunningdale 8’ x 8’ pent summerhouse from Anchor is clearly listed as £2499.
Optional extras include heavy-duty roof felt (+£96), 15mm log lap cladding (+£624.75) or 18mm cladding (+624.75). You can also upgrade the flooring to 18mm for an extra £112. And prices are given for two different sizes of the veranda. There are also two different base options.
You can pay for this summerhouse online, with extras and building costs separately.
All in all, the pricing is clear, easy to understand and accessible. There is no doubt how much things will cost.
Central Fife Sheds
The price of the 8’ x 8’ Fully Glazed Pent summerhouse from Central Fife Sheds is £1989.
There are two price lists. One lists all the available sizes of summerhouses with 15mm cladding, then a second lists all the available sizes of summerhouses with 19mm cladding.
It would be easier to see this information if it was listed as a single table with an extra column for the thicker cladding. But this is a minor criticism – all the information needed is there.
Oh, Forest Craft, you’re not making this easy for me, are you?
On my desk here at shedquarters I just so happen to have a Forest Craft brochure and price list. However, the rules of this blog are clear! I’m reviewing the information that I (and you) can find on their website.
So it was very frustrating for me not to be able to find a price list on the Forest Craft website. Fortunately for you, I’m extremely stubborn, so I combed the website until I found a price for my chosen summerhouse…in the “Sheds & Workshops” section of the website!
Come on, Forest Craft, save yourself and your customers a load of hassle. Put the summerhouse prices and sizes next to the pictures of the summerhouses, in the summerhouse section of your website.
Not everyone has the gimlet-eyed tenacity to search through your entire website for what is absolutely crucial information that you’ve hidden away. Most people will just bounce back to Google and find another summerhouse company.
When I found the price list I was a wee bit baffled by it.
If I’m perfectly honest, by the time I’d managed to locate it I had forgotten the model name of the summerhouse I was looking for. I then had to go back to the summerhouse section of the website in order to find the correct model name then back to the price list to sift through the tiny print to find the size I was after.
Only at this point did I discover that I can in fact have the summerhouse I’d selected in the 8’ x 8’ size (phew!) Up until then I was eyeballing it from the photo and hoping with fingers crossed that I wouldn’t have to start all over again with a different model.
There is a teeny tiny sentence at the bottom of the price list saying “other variable sizes available on request,”. Of course, it was against the rules of this blog to contact them. But even if it wasn’t, I honestly wouldn’t have bothered because I was so annoyed at having to search for the information I needed.
But after all that, I’m finally able to tell you that the price of the 8’ x 8’ Spey pent summerhouse from Forest Craft is £2536.
Premier Sheds & Garages
Although when it comes to pricing information, Forest Craft seem positively transparent compared to Premier Sheds & Garages!
The pricing page gives “an estimate of costs that may differ depending on individual requirements.” However, since these estimates are listed only for various sizes of sheds and garages, there’s nothing I can tell you about their summerhouse prices. Chaps!
We’ve compared similar-sized buildings – but that doesn’t mean they are all built the same.
Anchor Timber Buildings
- Full-glazed joinery double doors with antique (sic) hinges, ornate handles and lever lock.
- 2 Front fixed windows.
- 4 Side Fixed windows
- Double Doors
- Toughened glass throughout
- Roof overhang 300mm
- Door Drip
- Plain Fascia Boards
- Standard 20kg Mineral felt
Like a lot of summerhouse specification listings, this list appears to give lots of information but doesn’t actually include much that’s useful. While it’s good to know how many windows and doors there are, this is usually pretty obvious from the photo.
The “Additional Information” tells us a bit more; the thickness of the cladding, flooring and framing are listed, but there’s nothing here to answer the all-important question you need to ask when buying a timber building in Scotland – what type of timber is the building made from?
What type of cladding is best for a summerhouse?
Here’s what you need to know: You need 16mm cladding on a timber garden building in Scotland. Anything thinner won’t keep the weather out, and your building will be more susceptible to damage from the wind.
This summerhouse needs that extra £624.75 spent on it to upgrade to either the 15mm loglap cladding, or the 18mm premier cladding. The problem is, we don’t know what we’re getting for our money here.
You have a whole load of options when it comes to cladding on a timber building. It seems from the photos of this summerhouse that it has tongue and groove cladding. This is the best option for a Scottish summerhouse. However, is the standard 12mm cladding also tongue and groove? Is it only the premier cladding that’s tongue and groove?
It’s also unclear whether the cladding upgrades are applied to the roof and floor, or only to the walls. These are crucial pieces of information – the difference between a watertight summerhouse and one which will let the water in. So please, Anchor, let us know this information upfront.
What size of framing is best for a summerhouse?
The dimensions of the framing used for the summerhouse are also important, especially if you’re looking for a building that will last. The framing holds the building together and supports its weight. 60mm x 30mm is the minimum we’d look for, preferably pressure treated (this is sometimes called dressed framing.) Anchor’s framing is 44mm by 32mm – not totally flimsy, but not as sturdy as I’d like either.
Central Fife Sheds
Now we’re getting somewhere! Definite bonus points for telling us that the summerhouse is made of redwood, but marks off for not specifying where that redwood is from. Slow-grown redwood from cold, stable climates is the durable, high-quality stuff. If it’s Scottish pine it will be susceptible to the same problems you see with whitewood.
The “About Us” page of Central’s website reveals that Scandinavian redwood is used, but it shouldn’t take any extra searching to find this vital piece of information.
One point that’s worth making is that the thickness of the cladding and framing will make a difference to the quality of the building. The 12mm cladding and 44mm x 32mm framing offered as standard by Anchor isn’t quite as sturdy as the 15mm cladding and 33mm x 45mm framing offered by Central. However, it’s still much less sturdy than the 60mm by 30mm minimum we’d recommend.
Central offer a cladding upgrade for an additional £400, and their upgrade is to 19mm – a solid, good-quality choice. They are also clear about the cladding profile – tongue & groove all the way.
Central Fife Sheds are clear that it’s a 3-lever lock, as opposed to the “lever lock” described by Anchor, and we’re told that 4mm toughened glass is used.
All in all, there’s more detailed information here about the spec of the building. Central are using Scandinavian redwood, tongue & groove cladding, with a modest but reasonable framing. Based on these details we can clearly see that this is a better quality summerhouse. These are the sort of details we need!
Central sit in the middle of the market in terms of specification – there are higher-spec buildings out there that you can expect to pay more for. But their price and specifications match up pretty well.
I’m a wee bit confused about why the description tells us it’s the same specification as another summerhouse, then repeats the specification exactly. But hey, at least there’s a specification!
We’re given the thickness and profile of the roof cladding, but not the wall cladding. However, once again, there’s no information about the type of timber being used.
When companies don’t include this I immediately get suspicious. Maybe I’m a paranoid weirdo. But all of this could be avoided if they’d just tell me about the damn wood!
Another massive glaring omission in Forest Craft’s listing is the dimensions of the summerhouse. Remember the long, arduous quest I undertook to find the price of this summerhouse? Only there did I discover that the Spey is available in two sizes, one of which is the 8’ x 8’ I’m looking for.
When I visited the Summerhouse section of their website, I couldn’t find this information. It would be much easier if I could see the available sizes in the specifications instead of having to search for it.
Forest Craft’s 19mm tongue & groove wall cladding is a great choice – IF it’s good-quality redwood. Again we see framing that is modest. This is a summerhouse that will last ten years or so, but it may need a bit more maintenance than a higher-spec building.
Premier Sheds and Garages
Sorry, Premier, you can’t sit with us for this part of the blog.
You haven’t given us model names, descriptions, prices or even clear photographs of your summerhouses, so a specification seems like a step too far.
The “About Us” page points out that “Our constructions are built using 2” by 2” framing and we include 13mm weatherboarding and OSB boards for roofs, as standard. We can also install tongue and groove hard flooring for you, as an optional extra.”
It’s like a wee puzzle where you get a clue here and a clue there, and if you work really hard you might just about be able to piece together bits of a summerhouse specification. Still nothing about the type of timber, or whether the optional extra of a floor applies to all of the building types they produce.
OSB is not a material we’d recommend for summerhouse construction. If the roofing felt fails, that OSB roof will soak up water like crazy. It then expands and can crack, and is a bugger to dry out again. OSB is a great insulating material, but don’t expose it to the elements.
Their website also states that “All of our products are made from quality 2”x2” framing with optional extras.” That’s 50.8mm x 50.8mm framing, which is pretty heavy-duty compared to the other summerhouses here, but since we have no idea what that framing is made of, or even what type or size of building is available, this information isn’t particularly helpful.
Can one of the optional extras be a description of an actual summerhouse?
What Do The Reviews Say?
As well as us reviewing, it’s good to figure out what their customers have to say.
Anchor Timber Buildings
Anchor posts fairly regularly on Facebook and Instagram and has recently joined TikTok.
Facebook reviews have an average of 4.8/5 stars and there are plenty of satisfied customers sharing photos of Anchor’s products.
Their Google reviews have an average rating of 4.3/5 stars, based on 85 reviews. Negative reviews tend to focus on customer service and logistics rather than on the overall quality of the products.
Anchor guarantees the buildings they supply for 6 months. This covers defects under normal circumstances but doesn’t include any issues with the roofing felt or natural changes to the timber. There are no further details about this guarantee and what happens if there are any issues after this 6-month period.
Central Fife Sheds
Central Fife Sheds are on Facebook and Instagram, but social media doesn’t seem to be their thing. Facebook posts are generally about sales or closures, and their Instagram account has only four posts.
However, their Facebook reviews are stellar, with a 5-star rating. Google reviews reveal a similar story – lots of happy customers delighted with their products and a 4.8/5 star rating based on 45 reviews.
Negative reviews are again either about customer service, lack of communication or long lead times. There are no negative reviews about the products themselves.
In terms of a guarantee, the website says “We give a guarantee on all our buildings, giving you peace of mind and the assurance of good after-care service.” This is good to know, but I can’t find any more details than this. I’d like to know how long the guarantee lasts, what it does and doesn’t include, and what they mean by aftercare.
On average, Forest Craft posts weekly to Facebook. Their posts are generally of buildings they’ve installed and offers or sales.
Forest Craft doesn’t have a star rating on Facebook, as there are only two reviews – one from 2021 and one from June 2022. However, these are both positive.
There are no Google reviews. This is interesting because a previous review blog looking at shed manufacturers discusses their Google ratings. However, Forest Craft no longer has a Google Business Profile, so there are no reviews to check.
I can’t really think of a reason why a business wouldn’t have a Google Business Profile. It’s free, and really helps customers to find you. Since Forest Craft had a rating of 4.3/5 stars from 63 reviews in November 2022, I’m a bit confused as to why there are now none.
I also can’t find any information about Forest Craft’s guarantee, or whether any aftercare is included.
Premier Sheds & Garages
Premier include a link to their Facebook page on their website, but the latest post is from November 2017. This made me concerned that they may not be operating anymore, but I phoned and they’re still in business.
Google gives them 4.4/5 stars based on 24 reviews, with lots of happy customers. Negative reviews are around aftercare and customer service.
Once again, Premier ask you to contact them to discuss prices and services. Without getting in touch, there’s no information about service, a guarantee, or aftercare.
Who’s the best summerhouse company in Fife?
Based on the information I’ve been able to gather about these four companies, I’d go for Central Fife Sheds.
Their website is easy to navigate and while their specification was slightly hard to find out about, I have enough information to assess the quality of their products in order to decide whether or not I want to buy from them.
Lastly, their reviews are largely positive, and they’re the only one of the four companies reviewed who mention a guarantee, although I would like more information about exactly what this involves.
My next steps would involve calling or filling in their contact form, which is easily accessible on their website.
I’d also be interested in seeing their buildings in person. Their website doesn’t mention a show area or demonstration buildings, but I’d definitely want to take a look before buying.
Fife – it’s been a JOURNEY. But if you’re looking for a summerhouse in Fife, you now have a ton of information about where to go and what’s on offer. But if you still have questions, check out our Learning Centre where any question you can think of relating to sheds, summerhouses, garages or garden rooms will be answered. If the answer to your question isn’t there, please let me know, and I’ll get on it.