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By Amy Hanlon on 22 Jan 2024

How to buy a good shed.


What do you need to know to buy a good shed?

Sometimes it seems like a game of chance dealing with the construction industry. Will you get great service, excellent work and an end product that you’re delighted with? Or will you be left with a shoddily-built situation that’s going to cause problems for years to come? And most importantly, how do you tell the difference?

Buying a good shed is easy if you’re an expert in sheds. But this is a pretty niche situation. Most people don’t want to get a degree in Shedology just to have a decent place to keep their lawnmower. 

But what if it was easy? What if there was tried and tested expert advice available that you could easily understand and apply as you shop for a shed? Today is the day that dream comes true!

We are Gillies & Mackay. We’ve been designing, manufacturing, installing and improving sheds for more than 30 years, and we hate when people can’t find out the information they need to decide whether or not a shed is a good’un. 

So let’s get started, eh? First things first. Where is the best place to buy a shed anyway?

Should I buy a shed from a manufacturer or a supplier?

A Gillies & Mackay wooden garden shed stained brown. it has steel box profile roofing, two windows and a door, and sits on a slabbed base surrounded by gravel.

When you look online at garden buildings, most of the listings you see are from suppliers. These companies buy wholesale sheds from large manufacturers to resell to you, the customer. They don’t build sheds and may not even install sheds. They’re responsible for sales, not for construction.

We always recommend buying a shed from a manufacturer rather than a supplier.

OK, you’ve got us. Gillies & Mackay is a timber building manufacturer. Are we biased towards manufacturers? We definitely are, but here’s why. 

When you buy from a manufacturer, you’re dealing with the people who designed and constructed your building. If anything goes wrong, they’re the ideal people to contact. They can reassure you that a sticky door will sort itself out when the weather changes, or they can help you adjust the door. They can diagnose and solve any problems quickly and easily, because they know their buildings well.

If you buy from a supplier they have only a limited knowledge of the products they sell. They’re most likely not experts in building or repairing sheds. So if there’s a problem with your building, they might contact the manufacturer on your behalf to find out what you should do, but you may not be able to talk directly to the people who built your shed.

On the other hand, sometimes suppliers will direct you to the manufacturer, leaving you to sort out the situation. This means contacting two parties rather than going straight to the people who can help.

Plus, companies who build their own sheds are more likely to offer a decent guarantee and aftercare service. If you want to deal with an expert, buy from a manufacturer. 

How do I find a shed manufacturer?

A Gillies & Mackay wooden pent garden shed stained golden brown. It has steel box profile roofing, two windows and a door.

It can be surprisingly difficult to find out who builds the sheds that companies sell. As a general rule of thumb, look at the number of different buildings sold by a company. If you can choose from 800 different shed models, chances are you’re looking at a supplier. Also, if the company sells sheds but also has a range of other garden and home products on sale, you’re looking at a retail supplier website rather than a shed company.

Smaller manufacturers will usually offer a smaller range of products, but they’re also usually better quality. Plus there’s that aftercare we mentioned. 

Websites can be sneaky about exactly who builds the sheds on sale. Generally speaking, smaller manufacturers will let you know very clearly that they’re responsible for building your shed. Another rule of thumb is to assume that it’s a supplier unless you’re clearly told that it’s a manufacturer. 

If you’re not sure, make sure to ask who builds the sheds and where they’re built. Mass-produced sheds from a country that has a very different climate to Scotland may not be suitable for withstanding our weather. 

Once you know that you’re dealing with a shed expert rather than a salesperson, where do you start? 

What do I need to do before I buy a shed?

A Gillies & Mackay pent wooden garden shed. It is painted pale blue and has a door and four windows. It sits in a grassy space next to a fence.

We know – you’re raring to go and desperate to get started. But before you start thinking about sheds, there are two extremely important things to consider first.

What size of shed do I need?

The first decision you need to make is about the size of your shed. Decide where the building is going to go and measure the area to make sure you know what will fit. There’s no point buying a 16’ x 10’ if your garden only has space for an 8’ x 6’.

Do I need a base for my shed?

Next, consider your base. You can buy the Rolls Royce of sheds, but if you put it on an unsuitable base, you’re wasting your money and time. 

How do you build a good shed base? The ideal base for your building is level slabs on top of well-compacted Type-1 hardcore. Ground screws may also be suitable depending on the quality of the ground. 

We could go on – in fact, we have loads of blogs about shed bases and who to hire to build them for you. But knowing what your shed is going to sit on is just as important as buying a good shed in the first place.

What should I look for in a shed?

OK. Time to get down to business. Because there’s a lot of information in this next part, we’ve made things easy for you. Our Shed Buyer’s Checklist gives you a quick overview of all the elements you should look for when you’re buying a shed. Here it is.

The Gillies and Mackay Shed Buyers Checklist

How long does a shed last?

Our Shed Buyer’s checklist was created for people who are looking for a serious shed. If you follow the advice in this article and use the checklist as you shop, you’ll end up with a shed that will last for 30+ years if you look after it properly.

But not everyone is looking for a lifetime shed. If you want a short-term storage solution that doesn’t have to stay bone-dry, then this checklist might seem like overkill. 

A good shed should last for a decent amount of time. Cheap sheds last around 5-6 years in this part of the world, and if that’s all you need, you don’t need to spend thousands of pounds on a palatial garden building. 

But if you’re looking for a forever shed, here’s what you need to check:

What type of timber makes a good shed?

A large Gillies & Mackay apex wooden garden shed in a grassy garden next to a hedge. It is painted pale blue and has steel box profile roofing, two windows and a door.

If you want to buy a good shed, this starts with the timber used to build it. Cheap sheds are usually built of spruce, also known as whitewood. Really cheap sheds are built of spruce that’s grown in a warm, wet climate.

In Scotland, long-lasting sheds are built of Scandinavian pine, also known as redwood. When you’re browsing, look for both of these terms – Scandinavian AND redwood/pine. Sometimes a sneaky shed company will talk about Scandinavian wood without specifying whether it’s spruce or pine. And if they don’t tell you what kind of timber the shed is built from – ask. 

What’s the best cladding profile for a garden shed?

A weatherboard panel with a close-up in a circle showing the detail of the boards.

Cladding is the boards that make up the walls of your shed. They’re usually horizontal boards fixed together to form panels. The way that the boards attach is really important if you’re interested in keeping the weather out of your shed. In fact, sometimes these boards will be referred to as weatherboard.

The key term to look for here is tongue and groove. This describes the shape of the boards that make up the cladding. One edge has a groove, and the other has a tongue. These slot together to form a decent seal against moisture. 

Cheap sheds use overlap cladding, where the boards are simply overlapped and then nailed together. This isn’t nearly as sturdy or waterproof as tongue and groove cladding.

Pay particular attention if the shed uses shiplap cladding. This profile has a machined tongue that overlaps, but it doesn’t slot into a groove, meaning that it has the same issues as overlap cladding. And just to make things complicated, tongue and groove shiplap cladding also exists. To be clear – just shiplap will mean a soggy shed in the long run. Tongue and groove shiplap is absolutely fine. 

How thick should shed walls be?

A timber Gillies & Mackay potting shed, stained dark green.

The thickness of shed cladding is also very important. The thinner the cladding, the flimsier the shed. 5mm cladding creates a building that could very well blow away on a blustery day. The cheaper the shed, the thinner the cladding will be. 

There is a sweet spot when it comes to cladding – making sheds with more than 20mm thick cladding is counterproductive – you’d be better off spending the extra money needed for the thicker cladding on a building with multiple layers.

Because of this, look for cladding that’s between 16-20mm thick. Anything else won’t stand up to the weather. 

How thick should shed framing be?

The interior of a Gillies & Mackay wooden garden shed showing the framing of the building.

Think of the frame of your building as its bones. Good strong bones make a good solid structure. The cladding and roof are supported by this vital component of the building, so the thickness of the timber used to build the frame is really important.

Again, cheaper buildings will use less substantial timber to save on costs. This results in a flimsy building that won’t last long.

For the longest life, look for a shed whose framing is at least 40mm x 50mm. This is the absolute minimum you should consider for a decent shed. The thicker the framing the more solid your building will be. 

Should I buy a shed with pressure-treated framing?

Sticking with framing, check to see if this is pressure-treated. While pressure-treated cladding may not be the best option, pressure-treated framing is a great feature for your shed. 

Pressure treatment makes timber stronger and resistant to rot and insect damage, but it also increases its porosity. If you want to expose wood to water without damage, pressure treatment is a fantastic idea, but if you want to prevent water from soaking through that wood, pressure treatment is not your friend. 

Since shed framing won’t be directly exposed to moisture, you should go for the benefits of pressure treatment. 

Should a shed have a timber roof?

Close up of the steel box profile roofing on a Gillies & Mackay apex wooden garden shed.

This question sounds a little bit crazy. There are various roofing materials you can choose for a shed, and timber isn’t one of them. But underneath the felt, shingles or steel there should be a timber roof. More importantly, there shouldn’t be an OSB or plywood roof. 

This is another cost-cutting measure that impacts the quality of a shed. Ideally, the roofing material on top of the building is 100% watertight and moisture never ever gets through the to materials underneath. In this case, what does it matter what the roof is made of? 

Well, unfortunately, we get a whole lot of rain around here. Steel and shingles have a much better chance of keeping water away from the inside of your shed roof than felt does, but in extreme cases, this inner roof may get wet. And if it does, and it’s made of OSB, you’re in for a world of shed pain. 

OSB is made from wood slivers that are glued together to form sheets. This processed wood is great for insulation, but it’s a disaster if it gets wet. The wood slivers act like sponges and the glue prevents the water from evaporating out of the sheet. Once OSB is wet, it’s almost impossible to dry, and this trapped moisture leads to rot. 

Cheaper sheds have OSB roofs, and unfortunately, cheaper sheds also tend to use roofing felt rather than shingles or steel. Don’t risk it. Ask what material the shed roof is made from, and if it’s OSB, move on. 

Why should I buy a shed from a manufacturer?

Hang on! Didn’t we already discuss this? We did, but wait…there’s more!

The final two points on the Shed Buyer’s Checklist are benefits you’ll find if you buy from a manufacturer rather than a supplier. Not all suppliers offer these benefits.

Should I build my own garden shed?

If you’re a joiner or have lots of relevant construction experience, there’s no reason why you can’t build your own shed. But if you haven’t the faintest idea how to square a building, or don’t know your claw hammer from your sledge, it’s a really good idea to have an expert assemble your shed. 

Again, most manufacturers offer this service. Many suppliers also offer an assembly service, usually at an additional cost. If you’ve never assembled a shed before and have no relevant experience with this task, it’s very unlikely that you’ll end up with a square, solid, watertight building. Timber can be tricky, and even custom-built sheds may need adjustments as they’re assembled. If you want a long-lasting shed, step aside and let the joiners do it.

Do garden sheds come with a guarantee and aftercare?

A Gillies & Mackay apex wooden garden shed, stained golden brown. Its door is open and an Alsatian dog is sitting inside the building.

Always read guarantees very carefully so you know what you’re getting. One extremely common trick you’ll see is an anti-rot guarantee of 25 years or more. This sounds like your shed is totally protected against rot, and therefore against water getting in.

Nope.  

This guarantee means that the shed has been pressure-treated. This pressure-treatment process has an anti-rot guarantee of 25 years. However, there are tons of other ways that water can get into your shed (including through the pressure-treated cladding) and this guarantee doesn’t cover any of them. 

Buying from a manufacturer gives you a clear point of contact if anything goes wrong with your shed, and most manufacturers also offer a clear guarantee and aftercare. 

You can go right back to the person who made your building and ask them why there’s a fault and what they’re going to do about it. Good luck trying that with a garden centre chain. 

How do I buy a good shed?

You use the checklist, of course! Look for these qualities before you part with your cash. The more boxes you can tick, the higher your Sheddie Score will be, and the better your shed will be. 

There’s a “Things to Avoid” section too, which applies to the same qualities we’ve discussed here. To buy a good shed, look for a high Sheddie Score and a low Shoddy Score. 

And you may not tick off every single item on the checklist. If you’re on a budget, use it to find as many of these items as you can find in a shed that you can afford.

Or if you’re looking for a perfect Sheddie Score and a zero Shoddy Score, come and see the seriously good-looking sheds here at our Show Area in Errol. Make sure and ask our Sales Team all about our shed specifications. 

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