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Concrete vs. Brick vs. Timber Garage: Which is best?

Sheddies, you wouldn’t believe what an EPIC QUEST this blog has been!

Brick vs Concrete vs Timber Garage seemed like it was going to be straightforward, but writing this blog has involved some serious investigations into life, the universe, and everything. There have been hard sums and Physics lessons and all sorts on my quest to deliver you the best information about garage building materials.

You just want to know which garage will suit you best, but I have the kind of brain that needs to know WHY. Don’t worry – I’m happy to share! Let’s start with the most important difference between concrete, brick and timber garages: whether or not they collect condensation.

Why do garages get condensation?

It’s common knowledge that concrete and brick garages are more prone to condensation than timber garages. But why is this the case?

Condensation is caused by warm, moist air hitting a surface that is cold. The wetter the air, the less of a temperature difference between the air and the wall is needed for condensation to occur. To prevent condensation, you want to keep as much moisture out of the air as possible, and the temperature between the air and the walls as similar as possible.

There are lots of different ways to achieve this goal. You can build walls that are really thick. You can ventilate the space so that warm air and moisture are able to move out of the building. But the best way is to ensure that your structure has a balance between good insulation and good ventilation.

Insulation keeps heat in. Simples! If a material is a good insulator, it traps heat. If it is a poor insulator, it lets heat escape via conduction.

Concrete vs brick vs timber garage: is concrete a good insulator for garage walls?

Quite simply, no. Concrete is strong, and the cheapest option for a garage, but it is not a good insulator. Concrete buildings easily conduct heat out through their walls. Concrete walls are usually cold to the touch, which is exactly why condensation is likely in a concrete garage. 

Heat always moves towards cold (just ask the second law of thermodynamics!) So warm air inside a concrete garage will move towards the cold walls, taking the moisture in the air with it. The water in the air will condense on the cold walls, either staying as a film on the wall or running down the wall to pool on the floor. 

Do you need me to tell you what happens next? Mould and damp will have a good old time growing anywhere that there’s water and poor airflow. Once either of these problems starts, it’s a difficult and expensive business sorting them out.

Is brick a good insulator for garage walls?

Brick is a better insulator than concrete – in fact, it’s about three times as good. I can show you my hard sums if you don’t believe me! 

If a brick garage is attached to a house, or if you add further insulation and lining on the inside of the brick wall, problems with condensation are far less likely. A free-standing, uninsulated brick garage is much more likely to end up with cold walls that lead to condensation. 

Is timber a good insulator for garage walls?

Timber is the best insulator of these three materials –  better than both brick and concrete. However, a timber garage shouldn’t simply have timber walls. In order to stay fully watertight, a timber garage needs layers.

Our garages have three layers that we can look at for their insulating properties. First, we have timber cladding. Next, we have an air gap – air is an excellent insulator. There’s a damp-proof membrane that is there to keep water out, and lastly an OSB layer. OSB is just as good an insulator as timber is. 

The combined insulation properties of all of these materials mean that our 5cm thick garage walls are three times better insulated than a six-inch concrete garage wall, and one-and-a-half times better insulated than a 10cm brick wall. 

Layered timber walls usually feel warm to the touch because they keep heat inside a building much better than brick or concrete. Because of these insulation properties, you would only experience condensation in one of our timber garages if the air inside was unbelievably humid and the temperatures outside were dramatically cold. Better insulation also means that the garage walls can be much thinner than a brick or concrete equivalent.

Concrete vs brick vs timber garage – how thick should concrete garage walls be?

The photo shows the exterior of a single apex concrete garage, with harled walls and a white door. There are lantern-style lights on the front of the garage, and two trellises on the side wall.

A concrete garage has thick walls –  a minimum of 10cm, and often as much as 23cm thick. This helps limit the speed at which heat is lost, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that concrete loses heat much more easily than either brick or timber. 

Thicker walls also limit the amount of space you have inside your building. A 3m x 5m concrete garage will take up 15m2 in your garden, but provide only 11.5 m2 of space inside your garage. A building that measures 15m2 internally would take up 16.8m2 in your garden. 

How thick should brick garage walls be?

Brick garage walls are usually 10cm thick, which gives you less of a difference between external area versus internal area. However, a single, uninsulated wall is susceptible to condensation. A brick garage that takes up 5m x 3m of your garden would provide 13.4m2 of internal space. Or, an internal area of 5m x 3m would mean a building that takes up 16.64m2 in your garden. If you’re adding a layer of internal insulation (and you should) this will also decrease the space available inside your garage.

How thick should timber garage walls be?

I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again. If you’re buying a timber garage, the crucial thing to remember is that it must have layers. The layers are what keep the weather out. 

It may seem like thicker timber means better insulation, but once timber cladding is thicker than around 20mm, any movement or swelling of the timber has a much greater potential to cause gaps and leaks in your building. If this layer of timber is the only thing separating the contents of your garage from the rain and snow, all the issues caused by condensation will be caused by leaks instead. Leaky timber buildings are susceptible to rot, meaning that you’ll have more than just mould to deal with if water is getting into your garage.

While our specification is 50mm thick, there are other layered specifications out there. Make sure to keep in mind that when it comes to timber garage walls, layers beat thicker timber cladding any day of the week. 

How long does a concrete garage last?

10-year structural guarantees are pretty standard for concrete garage manufacturers, but you should expect to get 25 years+ from a concrete garage. Of course, the more often your building has moisture in it, the shorter its life will be. This will undermine the structural integrity of the garage, leading to problems over time.

How long does a brick garage last?

Again, a 10-year guarantee is standard, but brick garages should last a lifetime if they’re solidly built and kept dry. Guess what I’m going to say – make sure you insulate your brick garage! As with any structure, keeping condensation and moisture out of your garage isn’t just about keeping the contents safe – it’s also about protecting the structure itself.

How long does a timber garage last?

The commonly-held belief is that timber garages don’t last as long as concrete or brick garages. However, this is only true if you’re talking about a big shed. Single-skinned garages won’t last nearly as long as concrete or brick counterparts. 

That’s one of the reasons that we don’t build single-skinned garages anymore. A decent specification, tiered-wall timber garage should last just as long as a concrete or brick garage. 

Remember that timber garages generally need more maintenance than concrete or brick garages do. You’ll have to repaint the building every few years, depending on the weather where you are.

How much does a concrete garage cost?

Concrete garages are generally the cheapest option. If you’re not concerned about condensation and you’re on a budget, this may well be the best option for you. If you’re thinking of storing expensive or delicate items inside a concrete garage, be aware that keeping them dry and free from mould or rust is an issue. 

Sectional or prefabricated concrete garages are usually cheaper than concrete block garages, but prefab garages are also more prone to condensation. 

Finding a ballpark price has been really difficult. Estimates and calculators state that the price of a concrete garage per square metre ranges anywhere between £150 to £400! 

Using this as a guide, a 30m2 garage will cost between £4,500 and £12,000. This is the largest size garage you can build without involving Building Control.

How much does a brick garage cost?

The photos shows an apex brick garage on a concrete base. The door is open or hasn't been fitted yet. There are grass and trees in the background.

Again, prices are difficult to find online, but a rough estimate is £300-£450 per square metre for a brick garage. Using our 30m2 garage as an example, this means that brick garage prices range from around £9,000 to £13,500. 

Remember that it’s a good idea to add insulation to a brick garage – if you do this you’re unlikely to be troubled by condensation. This will add to the cost of the project.

How much does a timber garage cost?

I know, I know, I’m repeating myself. But it’s worth repeating: timber garages should not be single-skinned if you want the building to stay watertight. The prices I’m discussing here are for a layered (tiered) garage. You know we love sheds, but garages are not big sheds.

Our timber garages cost between £450-£500 per square metre, making them the most expensive option discussed here. As with brick and concrete garages, each project is different, and the price will depend on various factors. 

How much does a garage base cost?

Concrete vs brick vs timber garage actually has a sneaky fourth competitor to consider: a garage base. Garage base quotations can be a bit of a shocker. This part of the project usually costs more than people expect. 

Like everything else, the price of garage bases has risen quite a bit over the last few years. If you’re asking around and someone tells you that their base cost £2000 six or seven years ago, you’re in for a surprise when you contact a groundworks firm for a quote.  

As of August 2023, we’d suggest a starting budget of £5000 for a concrete plinth for a garage. However, some garage bases are as much as 50% of the cost of the timber garages they’re built for.

The only way to confirm how much a base will cost is to get in touch with a reputable groundworks firm and have them come for a site visit.

Whichever type of garage you choose to build, be aware of this cost – any good building needs a good base.

How do I choose between concrete vs brick vs timber garage?

Ultimately your choice will come down to your personal preference, your budget and your priorities.

If your garage is a space at the bottom of the garden for storing things that aren’t perishable and don’t have to be kept bone dry, a concrete garage will be absolutely perfect. As long as you’re aware of the potential problems with condensation, and you’re happy to deal with those, get going with your concrete garage project!

Or if you really want a brick garage, but your budget is tight and storage is a priority, maybe a concrete garage is what you need right now. 

Perhaps you prefer the look of brick garages over timber or concrete, or you live in a brick-built house and want the garage to match the overall look of the property. If you’re willing to insulate your brick garage its contents will be much safer from condensation, and you’ll have a long-lasting structure that will stay dry for decades.. 

You may have fallen in love with our beautiful timber garages (they are seriously good-looking) but you were concerned that a timber garage wouldn’t last as long as a concrete or brick garage.

If that’s the case, worry no more. Come on down and see us at our Show Area in Errol, where we’re based. You can see our show garage in the flesh (or should that be in the timber?) and talk to our team about your ideal garage project. 

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