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Are plastic sheds maintenance-free?


If you regularly spend time keeping everything in your garden trimmed, weeded, pruned and looking ship-shape, this blog isn’t for you. You don’t need a maintenance-free shed, because you’re in your garden all year, and any signs of wear and tear on a garden building are quickly noted and dealt with.

This blog is for the folk who want to put a building in their garden and leave it alone. You’re looking for a shed that you can install and then put out of your mind. You’re busy with other things, and you need a storage building you can rely on. So you’ve been exploring plastic sheds.

And there’s no judgment here. One category isn’t better than the other. You’re just two different groups of people, and because of this, your shed wish lists are going to look very different. 

So if you’re someone who forgets that their garden exists when it isn’t sunny outside, or if you’ve got far too many other things going on in your life to spend time bothering about your shed, this one’s for you. Because plastic sheds are often advertised as maintenance-free. Are they the perfect solution to your problem?

What are the pros and cons of plastic sheds?

A small blue plastic apex shed with double doors, sitting on a slab base.

I’ll be perfectly honest; we don’t have much truck with plastic sheds around here. We’re timber die-hards forever. 

But one of the main selling points for plastic sheds is that they’re maintenance-free. If you buy a good-quality plastic shed you’re told that you can shove it in the garden, fill it up with whatever you’re storing, and forget that it’s there.

Will a plastic shed fulfil your dream of a zero-maintenance garden building?

What are the pros of plastic sheds?

Whatever it’s made of, when you build a shed you’re looking to achieve two things: a solid building and a weather-resistant building.

Plastic doesn’t absorb water. This is the main benefit of making a garden building from plastic. Whether it’s vinyl, polycarbonate or high-density polyethylene, these materials are all completely waterproof. 

And water can wreak havoc on garden buildings. So using a waterproof material for said building seems like it solves a whole lot of problems.

Another major benefit of a plastic shed is that it doesn’t have to be painted or treated to stay waterproof. This definitely gives it points for being low-maintenance.

The waterproof materials used and the lack of maintenance are the two major selling points for plastic sheds. 

What are the cons of plastic sheds?

A screenshot of the House Keen article referenced in this blog.

Since I’m not an expert in plastic sheds, I took to the internet to find out what can go wrong with these buildings. 

I quickly found that these two principles (a solid building and a weatherproof building) are sometimes achieved with plastic sheds. I was also curious about the claims that plastic sheds are maintenance-free.

Take this article here, from Home Keen. It breaks down the lifespan of several popular brands of plastic sheds. I like this article – it’s clear, imparts lots of really useful information and the author is trying to be unbiased and honest. BUT…

There are SEVERAL points that I have questions about. Let’s look at these one at a time. 

“Plastic sheds can last up to 20 years or even more if used for the right purpose and regularly maintained.” 

Firstly, the rest of the article discusses sheds from Keter, Duramax, Palram, and Rubbermaid. Keter and Rubbermaid are described as lasting 20 years, but Duramax and Palram range from 10-15 years. In other words, the brand you buy and the quality of the building will impact how long the shed lasts. 

Some plastic sheds can last up to 20 years, but this isn’t a blanket statement. Other sources state that plastic sheds last between 5 and 7 years. In other words, it very much depends on the individual shed. 

Also, a plastic shed can last up to 20 years or more if it’s regularly maintained. This rather puts the kibosh on the idea that plastic sheds are maintenance-free. If you look after your plastic shed, it will last longer than if you don’t look after it. If you think you’ve bought a building that needs absolutely no looking after, you may well be disappointed by a plastic shed.

“Factually, plastic sheds may not last longer than metal sheds (25 years) but are ideal for harsh climatic conditions compared to wood sheds (8-12 years).”

Ohhhh, Home Keen. How we disagree!

Most metal sheds are plagued with condensation and extremely prone to rust and corrosion. A metal shed that’s both solid and weatherproof is a rare beast indeed, and one that lasts 25 years is practically a miracle. I’m genuinely curious to see what kind of metal shed has a life as long as this.

And as for wooden sheds lasting 8-12 years? Maybe if you’ve bought a cheap whitewood  DIY job, or even a mid-price whitewood DIY job. But once again, all sheds are not created equal. That’s why it’s imperative to understand the specifications of any building that you choose. 

Are there wooden sheds out there that will be ready for firewood after 8 years? DEFINITELY. But since we have ploughed 35 year’s worth of time, energy and expertise into making sheds that last a lifetime, we take great exception to the notion that all wooden sheds have such a short lifespan. 

“How long plastic sheds last also depends on the surrounding environment and place of location. Indoor sheds tend to last longer and remain rigid compared to outdoor sheds.”

Wait…WHAT? 

Who’s got an indoor shed? Is that even a thing? It’s right there in the name – garden shed. 

I’m a bit flummoxed by this statement – OF COURSE a shed will last longer if you keep it inside. A timber or metal shed would last forever if you put it in your spare bedroom! 

Also, indoor sheds remain rigid compared to outdoor sheds. This disadvantage of plastic sheds comes up again and again. Depending on the type of plastic used for the building, over time a plastic shed can become brittle and crack. How long this takes depends entirely on the materials and quality of the building, and how much sun it’s exposed to. 

“One of the reasons why people choose plastic sheds is that they are maintenance-free.”

This statement has already been contradicted – a plastic shed will last up to 20 years if it’s maintained properly, remember? 

And just in case you don’t believe the author the first time, this statement is followed by an entire section devoted to plastic shed maintenance. To keep your plastic shed in shape you should

  • Clean the walls and roof with soapy water and a cloth.
  • Brush leaves and debris off the roof of your building, scrubbing to remove any fixed dirt.
  • Regularly sweep the floor of the shed and mop up any spillages, especially liquids.
  • Apply a protective spray to prevent fading and cover scratches.

Did I just happen upon an article that’s particularly down on plastic sheds? 

Dismayed, I Googled the phrase “plastic shed maintenance” and found a whole host of articles advising the same measures. There’s even one about repairing cracks using epoxy resin. And the Home Keen article continues:

“Even though plastic sheds are weatherproof, over time, they can appear shabby and may need polishing.” More maintenance. 

“Overexposure to metallic stored equipment may lead to rust which can contaminate the walls of the shed. Wiping stains is therefore important.” Hang on… I thought plastic sheds were rustproof?

“Do Frequent Leak Checks: Check on wall cracks, joint leaks, and possible floor leaks caused by flowing surface water.” It doesn’t matter how waterproof your building’s walls are – if there are cracks or leaks in the walls, floor or roof, water will get inside the shed. 

What’s the verdict? Obviously, plastic sheds aren’t maintenance-free.

These maintenance tips exist to prevent damage, deterioration and rust, meaning that plastic sheds are susceptible to all of these problems. 

“To stop condensation, here are some advisable measures to undertake:”

And finally: condensation. Remember how plastic is completely waterproof? This means that a plastic shed keeps water IN just as well as it keeps water OUT. 

Condensation happens when warm, moist air hits a colder surface. Plastics are great insulators – they keep the heat inside the building well. But because they aren’t breathable, they also keep any water inside. 

If your shed walls are colder than the moist air inside the building, the moisture from the air will end up on your walls. Even if the walls aren’t colder than this moist air, the moisture will stay in the air, potentially impacting the contents of your building.

Atmospheric moisture also causes problems like rust. Many plastic sheds have aluminium frames. Aluminium doesn’t rust but does corrode in the presence of oxygen and water. You know, like when there’s moist air inside your shed. 

Steel frames are susceptible to rust, and if you’re storing other metal items in your shed, these are too. 

Make sure that any framing is embedded inside the plastic walls and roof, otherwise it can rust or corrode.

The advisable measures that Home Keen suggests to keep condensation out of your plastic shed are pretty much identical to the measures that we suggest to keep condensation out of your timber shed

Are plastic sheds solid and weatherproof?

Remember those two guiding principles? A good garden shed should be as solid as possible and as weatherproof as possible. 

The solidity of your plastic shed will depend entirely on the quality and specifications of the building you choose. A steel-framed building will be heavier than an aluminium-framed alternative. Similarly, while polycarbonate is a popular choice because of its durability, this material is extremely lightweight. 

It’s usually recommended that you anchor plastic sheds to the ground because the lightweight materials used mean that strong winds can literally blow them away. 

Interestingly, many listings for plastic sheds state that, like our timber sheds, they are “weather resistant” rather than “weatherproof.”

Do maintenance-free sheds exist?

All buildings require maintenance of some sort. 

I often describe buildings as ongoing challenges to Nature. We construct them in clever ways to keep the elements out as best we can, but that doesn’t protect the exterior from the sun, wind and rain. We do our best to minimise the impact of these forces – and in Scotland, they’re pretty mighty forces – but ultimately we have to stay on top of maintenance to prevent the building from falling apart. 

So how do we solve this problem? Are we doomed to give up our precious time weekend after weekend, spending hours on a shed that was advertised as maintenance-free?

How do I minimise shed maintenance?

A Gillies and Mackay apex shed, painted in pale grey with darker grey trims and door. It sits next to a pale green shed, and is on a concrete base with a gravel border.

The simple solution is to install the best-quality building you can afford.

A good-quality plastic shed – like this double-wall steel-reinforced model from Keter will need far less maintenance than a poor-quality timber shed – like this dud from B&Q.

Similarly, a good-quality timber shed will need less maintenance than a poor-quality plastic shed. While the timber shed will have to be painted every 3-5 years, a poor-quality plastic shed will have to be replaced after 3-5 years, a hassle and expense that nobody wants. 

If you’re after a 100% weatherproof, condensation-free shed, check out our 3-Tier Sheds. These larger buildings are constructed in the same way as our Garages and won’t let any water into the building. 

Is a plastic shed maintenance-free?

If you’re in the market for a plastic shed, please be aware that these buildings are not maintenance-free. 

Like any type of shed, the building specifications and quality are the most important factors you should consider. 

To minimise maintenance, look for the best-quality plastic shed you can find. As I’ve pointed out before, plastic sheds aren’t always a cheap option, especially if you’re buying from better-quality brands like Keter and Rubbermaid. 

And if you’re feeling blue about all that shed maintenance that’s ahead of you, remember that there are professionals out there who can help, especially if your shed only needs a coat of paint to keep it sorted. We recommend RG Painters & Decorators for painting your G&M building, and you can always contact us for other recommendations in your area.

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